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Security specialists protect an organization's computer and network infrastructure. They diagnose security threats and defend systems from viruses and cyberattacks.
These cybersecurity professionals repair security breach damage and suggest future improvements. They also test systems to bridge vulnerabilities and upgrade computing equipment to improve safety.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), information security analysts earned a median annual salary of $103,590 as of 2020. The BLS projects a job growth of 33% for these professionals from 2020-2030, a much higher rate than average.
This detailed guide explores what a security specialist does daily. Discover the profession's typical tasks, nonstandard duties, and expectations.
What Is a Security Specialist?
Since the birth of the internet in the 1970s, the cybersecurity field has grown exponentially. The need for security specialists rose to protect business networks from evolving cyberthreats.
Security specialists — also known as cybersecurity specialists — track, analyze, and fix computer network security problems. These experts may specialize in one organization's computer and network infrastructure. They often collaborate with decision-makers to develop solutions to security threats.
Security specialists usually work on teams with other tech professionals. They often collaborate with computer system administrators and network architects. Together, these specialists design and maintain efficient, secure systems.
Cybersecurity specialists usually hold a bachelor's degree in computer science, information security, or a related field. Added certifications can help these professionals develop specialized skills and advance their careers.
What Does a Security Specialist Do Daily?
Cybersecurity specialists defend and improve computer and network systems. They help government agencies, military organizations, and companies of all sizes secure their data. These specialists collaborate with other computer personnel to bolster technology systems. They also meet with executives to suggest ways to improve system security.
Although their key responsibilities remain the same, a day in the life of a cybersecurity specialist may vary. One day, a security specialist might test network vulnerabilities. The next day, they might stop an active cyberthreat and install new counterattack software.
Responding to cyberattacks and preparing computer systems for future prevention require adaptability. Quick thinkers with strong problem-solving skills often thrive in this role. Experienced security specialists may move into managerial positions.
Staying up to date with technology and best practices can challenge security specialists. Full-time cybersecurity workers can update their knowledge and skills through certifications and continuing education.
Below, discover standard and nonstandard duties for cybersecurity specialists.
Main Duties of Security Specialists
- Secure Computer and Network Systems: Cybersecurity specialists monitor computer systems and respond to potential threats. They also define privileges to prevent unauthorized system access. Daily tasks for this role, like penetration testing, reporting, and system upgrading, support the overarching goal of network security.
- Identify Vulnerabilities: Security specialists use penetration testing to identify security vulnerabilities. They use their findings to design and install upgrades and software to prevent future cyberthreats.
- Respond to Active Threats: When active cyberthreats happen, security specialists provide a front-line response. Their specialized knowledge helps them block unauthorized access and create workable solutions. They also log data about the danger to enhance trend reporting and future prevention tactics.
- Install Prevention Software: Security specialists install upgrades and software designed to prevent attacks. These specialists may work with an IT team to create proprietary software that targets a specific vulnerability.
- Report Findings: Cybersecurity specialists report their test findings and security procedures to their points of contact. These reports detail attempts to secure systems and test weak points. The specialist may also use their report data to offer solutions for system improvement.
Nonstandard Duties for Security Specialists
- Establish Security Teams: Large organizations sometimes often employ network and operational security teams. A cybersecurity specialist with leadership experience may recruit, train, and manage these teams.
- Periodic Security Audits: Cybersecurity specialists complete occasional in-depth security audits. Specialists may examine in-house security issues like access privileges and potential violations. Other audits might cover vulnerabilities in consumer data storage or external data transfer.
- Software and Hardware Development: Security specialists sometimes work with software and hardware development teams to track product security. These parties collaborate to design and install software and hardware that meets an organization's data protection needs.
- Professional Development: Security specialists might pursue professional development depending on their position and company. They may attend workshops, seminars, and certification programs. These opportunities can boost a professional's knowledge of critical security topics and new research. Cybersecurity specialists may also continue their education through degree programs.
- Suggest Security Improvements: Computer system upgrades allow organizations to adapt to new technologies and security threats. A cybersecurity specialist may suggest security improvements based on analytics and testing results. These suggestions often happen during scheduled meetings with decision-makers.
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What Is it Like to be a Security Specialist?
A security specialist's job description includes analyzing computer security vulnerabilities, reporting findings, and implementing new security measures. Career security specialists work closely with other technology personnel like IT support specialists and network administrators.
What is it like to be a security specialist? Here's an example of what a typical day might look like:
- Log into a security dashboard to review overnight analytics.
- Complete penetration testing to identify potential weak points.
- Respond to any reported threats and vulnerabilities.
- Oversee technical teams to monitor security procedures.
- Attend a meeting with chief information security officers and hardware engineers to suggest a hardware upgrade.
- Install and set up new software for cloud security.
A day in the life of a security specialist often varies, especially when new cyberthreats happen. Security specialists must halt emerging threats quickly and protect against them in the future.
These jobs do not always run on a 9-5 schedule. Sometimes, cybersecurity specialists must work overtime to react to security threats or track vulnerabilities found through testing or analytics. Professional training may also happen outside of typical work hours.
Where Security Specialists Work
Government and corporate settings typically employ security specialists. General duties remain the same across most industries. However, government agencies may require specialized knowledge and different security levels than corporate employers.
Technology companies employ the highest number of information security specialists. Business management, credit-related services, and technical consultant services are also top-hiring industries. Other major employers include insurance, data processing, telecommunications, and online retail.
Cybersecurity specialists can find work across the United States. However, some states offer higher employment than others. According to BLS data, Virginia employs the most information security analysts, with 16,160 positions as of 2020. Texas, California, and Florida follow.
A tech-forward state, Virginia boasts the country's highest concentration of tech workers. Other states employing cybersecurity specialists, like Texas and California, also nurture bustling tech economies. Metropolitan areas known for their tech industries, like Washington, D.C., and Newark, New Jersey, provide work for thousands of security specialists. Rural areas may offer fewer opportunities for these tech-driven jobs.
Security specialists should expect lower wages in states with less demand. For example, Mississippi employed 440 information security analysts as of 2020. These workers earned an average annual salary of $74,360. On the other hand, security specialists in Virginia and California — states with high demand for the profession — earned average annual salaries of $116,920 and $125,990, respectively.
Should You Become a Security Specialist?
People interested in a cybersecurity career may appreciate the industry's high salary potential and fast pace. Most days on the job vary, as computer systems need constant fine-tuning to prevent cyberthreats. Security specialists must adapt to frequent changes.
In contrast, people who prefer a more predictable workday may find a day in the life of a cybersecurity specialist too dynamic.
The path to becoming a security specialist is also important to consider. Most security specialists can enter the field with a bachelor's degree. Still, professionals may need to pursue more certifications, education, or training to meet a company's specific needs. This process takes time and money.
Cybersecurity careers can lead to advanced opportunities as workers gain experience. Potential jobs with higher earning potential include chief security officer and computer systems manager.
How to Prepare for a Career as a Security Specialist
Organizations trust security specialists to protect their computer and network systems. Therefore, employers look for candidates with relevant, specialized skills and educational backgrounds.
Explore accredited cybersecurity degrees that develop practical skills through hands-on projects. Programs should feature current tools and languages and offer a collaborative environment. A concentration like vulnerability management or security management may help you reach your goals.
Cybersecurity certifications can help job applicants stand out. However, certification programs require time and dedication. These commitments can take a mental toll on professionals with full-time jobs.
Many certification programs offer self-study options or evening and weekend training to fit around your work schedule. Look for study programs to help you understand key concepts and practice exams to prepare you for certification tests.
Learn More About Security Specialists
What Is a Security Specialist?
What does a security specialist do daily? This guide details the profession's daily responsibilities, necessary skills, and potential career paths.
Salary and Career Outlook for Security Specialists
Cybersecurity professionals like security specialists enjoy a promising job outlook and salary potential. Use this guide to learn what you can expect from the career.
Frequently Asked Questions About Cybersecurity Specialists
What is the job description of a security specialist?
Security specialists protect an organization's computer systems from cyberattacks and vulnerabilities. These cybersecurity experts track, test, and improve system security. They also suggest solutions to company decision-makers.
Is a day in the life of a cybersecurity professional stressful?
A security specialist's work day can be stressful, especially when an active threat is in progress. Cybersecurity specialists must curb threats quickly. Quick thinking and adaptability are crucial. Sometimes, these professionals must work extra hours to manage a threat.
What skills do you need to have a career as a security specialist?
Security specialists need in-depth computing and programming mastery. Their jobs demand strong critical thinking and problem-solving abilities. Written and oral communications skills can also help when providing solutions and summaries to executives.
How many hours does a security specialist work?
Most security professionals work a full-time, 40-hour weekly schedule. However, the job's ever-changing demands sometimes call for more hours to complete an upgrade or curb a cyberattack.
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