How to Become a Security Architect
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Security architects oversee IT and cybersecurity teams to develop organizations' secure networks. Cybercrime Magazine reports this sector will see 3.5 million job openings globally in 2025, indicating strong continued demand for professionals with security architecture skills.
Similar roles include computer network architect, security director, and IT project manager. Most security architects follow similar education and career paths, and qualifying for these positions can take around a decade.
Though finding work in this field can be a lengthy process, security architects earn higher-than-average salaries and these jobs have faster-than-average growth projections. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that information security analysts, a broad career category that includes security architects, earned a median annual salary of $102,600 as of 2021. The BLS also projects 33% growth from 2020 to 2030 for these careers.
This guide offers a step-by-step pathway for how to become a security architect. We explore experience and education requirements for security architects, job responsibilities, and available certifications in the field.
What Is a Security Architect?
Security architects handle cybersecurity issues for public and private organizations. They review and test existing security systems, implement new security methods, and manage teams of IT professionals. Government groups, including the military and other defense agencies, rely on these workers to keep sensitive data secure from foreign and domestic hackers.
These cybersecurity professionals work in offices and remote settings. The scope of their work differs from other IT and computer science professionals. While security auditors, penetration testers, and ethical hackers perform individual tests of security systems, security architects spend much of their time building these networks.
Security architects also oversee budgets related to security software implementation. They communicate with C-suite workers like chief information security officers and chief executive officers about ongoing security concerns.
Education Requirements for Security Architects
Most security architects have at least a bachelor's degree in cybersecurity, computer science, information technology, or a related field. Some employers seek candidates with master's degrees, such as MBAs in information systems. This additional education demonstrates advanced knowledge of the field, so master's degree-holders typically earn higher salaries.
Master's-level professionals may need less experience to obtain jobs as security architects, as education can stand in for employment. Professionals with bachelor's degrees in other areas may also need master's degrees in computer science or cybersecurity to pursue these roles.
Security architecture certifications may also substitute for experience. These credentials often require continuing education, which keeps security architects' skills updated with ongoing developments in the cybersecurity field. Like advanced degrees, certifications validate employees' knowledge and can lead to higher earning potential.
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Experience Requirements for Security Architects
Security architect is a senior-level role requiring significant experience. At minimum, most employers seek five years of professional experience in IT, with a focus on cybersecurity for a majority of their work. Some employers may require up to 10 years of experience.
Fortunately, professionals can develop education and experience at the same time. Cybersecurity bootcamps are intensive programs that aim to develop career-ready skills. Though they do not confer formal degrees, these programs feature practical, real-world projects. Some employers substitute bootcamps for educational and experience requirements.
Internships, which may offer payment or college credit, allow students to gain experience in entry-level roles while pursuing their education.
Current students, recent graduates, and aspiring professionals looking to develop experience can pursue internships in the field. These practical learning experiences typically occur at tech companies and cybersecurity firms on a temporary basis, with some available over summers to suit college students' schedules. Most internships last 2-4 months, and interns shadow professionals and perform entry-level security tasks.
Some internships offer payment, while others offer only experience. Though some workers find unpaid internships exploitative, they allow interns to gain experience and network, which can help them find full-time employment after graduation. Some schools offer course credit for internships.
Noteworthy cybersecurity internships include:
Required Certifications for Security Architects
Though certification is not required to work as a security architect, individuals can pursue credentials to validate their knowledge and increase their competitiveness in the job market. Most credentials require candidates to pass a test, and some include experience or renewal requirements.
Note that certifications are different from cybersecurity certificates. While independent organizations offer certifications through testing and other methods, schools typically confer certificates after completing a sequence of courses.
The following list includes some certifications for security architects:
How Do I Become a Security Architect?
Most security architects hold at least a bachelor's degree in computer and information technology, cybersecurity, or a related field, which usually takes four years of full-time study. Some employers prefer candidates with master's degrees in information systems, information technology, or cybersecurity, which takes an additional 1-2 years of full-time study.
Security architects typically need 5-10 years of experience, including cybersecurity-related work. Prospective security architects can hold network, security, or systems administrator positions to develop relevant experience. Though professional certifications are not universally required for security architect careers, some employers count them as experience.
Below, we outline how to become a security architect:
Steps to Becoming a Security Architect
Earn A Bachelor's Degree: Working as a security architect typically requires a bachelor's degree at minimum. Common majors include cybersecurity, computer science, and information technology. A bachelor's degree typically takes four years of full-time study. Find Employment: Because security architect is an advanced role, aspiring professionals must begin in entry-level positions. They commonly enter the workforce in jobs like systems administrator, IT technician, or information security analyst. Develop Experience: A significant portion of a security architect's experience should occur in cybersecurity. Though these professionals often need 5-10 years of general IT experience before advancing into the role, they should accrue security-related experience when possible. Earn Certifications: While certifications are not required for security architects, earning these credentials can increase salaries and job opportunities. Some certifications require renewal and/or continuing education credits, like the CISSP-ISSAP credential. Most certifications include tests or experience requirements. Get Hired as a Security Architect: Many tech employers hire from within, allowing employees to climb the ladder at their own companies. Security architects typically need significant experience before advancing into these roles. As they work, employees can network with supervisors to find future employment opportunities.
Should I Become a Security Architect?
As they work toward security architect positions, professionals move from theoretical concepts in the classroom to real-world experience in the field. These jobs suit detail-oriented professionals looking to manage teams of information security and cybersecurity workers.
While gaining experience, cybersecurity workers should determine whether they prefer handling tests and individual security measures independently or overseeing big-picture efforts. People more suited to the former may prefer roles as security auditors or penetration testers, while individuals interested in overseeing these professionals will likely be drawn to security architect positions.
Though it can take more than a decade to qualify for the job, security architects earn higher-than-average salaries: July 2022 Payscale data indicates the average annual salary for security architects is $129,550.
The Job Hunt
Along with searching job websites, prospective security architects can consult their networks of coworkers and collaborators to find employment opportunities. Workers can also attend professional conferences like InfoSec World and the Cyber Security Summit to expand their networks.
Security architects can work remotely, which means their opportunities are not location-restricted. However, a larger pool of candidates for remote positions can make the job market more competitive.
Popular job boards for security architects include:
InfoSec Jobs: This site focuses exclusively on information security and cybersecurity positions. Job-seekers can filter by experience level, location, and region to find their ideal role. Indeed: As the largest job site in the world, Indeed can connect aspiring professionals to employers for part-time, full-time, and contract work. Glassdoor: Along with searching for jobs, individuals wondering how to become security architects can use Glassdoor to read company reviews, interview questions, and salary information. USAJOBS: This site exclusively features jobs with the federal government. Security architects commonly work with the military and other government agencies. CyberSecurityJobs.com: Job-seekers can use this website, created by cybersecurity professionals, to search for roles in the information security sector.
Resources for Future Security Architects
Questions About Becoming a Security Architect
How long does it take to become a cybersecurity architect?
Including education and experience requirements, it takes 9-14 years to become a cybersecurity architect. The career pathway begins by earning a bachelor's degree, which typically takes four years of full-time study. Next, individuals must gain 5-10 years of professional experience.
What skills do you need to become a security architect?
Because these professionals work in teams to establish security protocols, aspiring security architects should possess strong collaborative, IT, and cybersecurity skills.
Can you learn how to be a security architect without a degree?
Most employers require security architects to possess at least a bachelor's-level education, and some even prefer candidates with master's degrees. However, it may be possible to start your path by completing a bootcamp to obtain an entry-level IT position before gaining significant experience in the field.
Do you need previous experience to work in security architecture?
Yes, security architects generally need significant experience in IT and cybersecurity.
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