How to Become a Security Administrator
| CyberDegrees.org Staff Modified on June 27, 2022
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Security administrators oversee issues related to IT security and safety — they make sure their organizations' computer systems remain protected from all types of cyber threats. Since most organizations rely on computer networks every day, security administrators can find work in most industries. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), computer systems administrators earn salaries exceeding $83,500 per year.
Prospective security administration professionals should read on to explore this exciting career in more detail. This page covers how to become a security administrator, including the types of college degrees, certifications, and professional experience graduates need to enter the field.
Read on to learn about what employers look for when hiring security administrators. This page also covers some of the major career paths cybersecurity students follow, along with the salaries they can expect after graduation.
What Does a Security Administrator Do?
Security administrators fill one of the most crucial roles in the information technology (IT) field. They take on a variety of responsibilities to ensure their organizations' computer networks and systems remain secure. Through their work, security administrators create a safe digital environment, allowing IT personnel and other employees to work effectively.
Without proper security measures, organizations remain susceptible to cyber attacks from hackers, terrorist organizations, and foreign governments, who often aim to steal data or money. In some cases, cyber attackers infiltrate organizations' computer network, lock users out, and demand ransom money. Security administrators and their colleagues work to curb the threat of cyber attacks.
These professionals develop policies and systems to protect their companies' and customers' sensitive data. They may implement regulations to govern how information travels between employees and outside the office. Typically, security administrators work in teams to identify their networks' weak points and install firewalls, site-blocking programs, and anti-malware software. Security administrators handle responses to unwanted intrusions, as well.
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Steps to Become a Security Administrator
Aspiring security administrators should prepare for a complicated, lengthy process. Read on to learn about security administrator education options, experience requirements, and industry certifications. This section also explores some possible job opportunities for college graduates looking to work their way up to becoming security administrators.
Education requirements for security administrators vary by employer, job title, and job description. Many entry-level security administrator jobs require candidates to hold their bachelor's in an information technology-related field. Information security professionals pursuing management positions often need master's degrees, such as an MBA or a master's degree in information systems.
Cybersecurity professionals often hold degrees in information technology, information assurance, computer science, or IT management. Such degrees demonstrate to potential employers that graduates understand the intricacies of various cyber threats and security strategies.
Aspiring security administrators can demonstrate preparedness through prior professional experience. Security administrators often have work experience in lower-level information technology jobs, such as those in database administration. Some graduates work up to security administration positions through junior-level cybersecurity jobs. By logging work experience, future security administrators can build up the hard and soft skills employers desire.
Security administrator positions don't require certifications, but these credentials can help applicants impress hiring managers and land job offers. Graduates can earn certifications verifying their expertise in a particular area of cybersecurity, such as penetration testing, ethical hacking, or information security management. They may also pursue more general credentials. To learn more about cybersecurity certifications, check out this page.
Top Required Skills for a Security Administrator
This section explores the hard and soft skills security administrators need to find jobs, excel at their day-to-day duties, and achieve long-term success in the cybersecurity realm. College programs help students develop some skills, but on-the-job experience builds others. As mentioned in the previous section, security administrators can also choose from certification options to beef up their abilities after earning their degrees.
Security administrators, like many other technology professionals, need to hone their hard skills to perform their jobs adequately. Hard skills set the foundation for a successful security administrator career, and only administrators with measurable technological abilities move on to management roles. Aspiring security professionals may need to pass technical skills exams when applying for jobs, as well.
These professionals must understand router and firewall configurations, along with operating systems such as Windows and Linux. They must also know protocols including TCP, UDP, SSL, and DNS. Additionally, security administrators must know how to configure and implement security programs that detect and prevent intrusions. Cybersecurity professionals often benefit from encryption knowledge and abilities. All together, security administrators use their technical skills — in collaboration with their teams — to prevent, deter, and respond to cyber attacks.
In terms of soft skills, security administrators must demonstrate good written and oral communication, since they need to communicate security concerns to their fellow security workers and other company managers.
Security Administrator Salary
Information technology ranks among the country's highest-paid career fields. According to the BLS, network and computer systems administrators earned a median income of $83,510 per year as of May 2019. BLS data also indicates especially high pay for IT professionals in security. According to the bureau, the nation's information security analysts made a median yearly salary of $99,730 as of 2019.
The top 10% of computer systems administrators earn over $132,500 per year, while the bottom 10% make less than $52,370 annually. This discrepancy can have to do with differences between locations and industries. Some top-paying industries for computer systems administrators include oil and gas extraction, financial services, and specialized design services. Security administrators can expect to earn the most in Maryland, New Jersey, California, and the District of Columbia.
Security administration is a lucrative profession, and its rapid growth should create lots of new jobs for recent graduates. The BLS projects a 4% increase in job opportunities for network and computer systems administrators from 2019-2029, translating to over 16,000 new jobs.
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Note: Take a look at our Guide to Cybersecurity Certifications for more information and advice.
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