Security Administrator Career Overview
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Security administrators prevent cybersecurity attacks and mitigate damages after breaches. For this work, these professionals receive an average annual salary of $68,080, according to August 2022 data from Payscale.
Security administration jobs can include managing firewalls, developing security policies, and monitoring activity on the network to identify potential threats. It can be challenging work, but keeping sensitive information safe from hackers is vital.
Typically, a security administrator holds a bachelor's degree or higher in cybersecurity or computer science. They may also hold a professional certification such as CompTIA's security+ or the EC-Council's certified ethical hacker. Security administrators' careers are constantly changing as technology advances, so security professionals remain up-to-date on cybersecurity trends.
Discover more about this career path in the guide below, including salary information and what kind of education new professionals need to get started.
History of Security Administrators
While the term "security administrator" is relatively new, the job itself has existed in some form for centuries. In ancient times, security administrators were responsible for the safety of government officials and important dignitaries. In medieval times, they oversaw the safety of castle walls and fortifications.
With the advent of the public internet in the 1990s, security administration largely moved online. In the early 2000s, security threats multiplied and diversified, and the modern cybersecurity profession was born. Today, as network security administrators safeguard computer networks, global security has become a $139.77 billion industry.
Contemporary cybersecurity experts work in corporate espionage, cyberwarfare, and customer data protection.
Similar Specializations and Career Paths
Security administrators typically work in network security to protect organizations' data. However, these professionals can hold many types of security administrator jobs, including working in information security and heading up physical security.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects that employment for information security analysts will grow by 33% from 2020-2030. In particular, banks, healthcare institutions, and small businesses increasingly need cybersecurity professionals.
States with companies that store concentrations of financial or federal data, such as Virginia, Texas, Florida, and New York, serve as hubs for information security professionals. The following table explores a few similar careers to a security administrator.
|Career||Description||Required Education||Required Experience||Average Annual Salary|
Chief information security officers serve as the top executives over organizations' security teams.
7-10 years of related experience
Security managers oversee information security departments, including hiring employees and developing policies.
Bachelor's degree or Master's degree
Varies by job
Security engineers work with other cybersecurity experts to build the systems that keep organizational data safe.
Five-plus years of related experience
Cryptographers protect sensitive information by creating or cracking encryption codes.
Varies by job
Sometimes called "white hat hackers," these professionals identify security vulnerabilities using hackers' tools and techniques.
Bachelor's Degree or Master's Degree
Varies by job;
Source: BLS, Payscale, ZipRecruiter
What Does a Security Administrator Do?
Security administrators fill one of the most crucial roles in information technology (IT). They oversee many responsibilities to ensure their organizations' computer networks and systems remain secure. Through their work, security administrators create safe digital environments for IT personnel and other employees to work effectively.
Without proper security measures, organizations remain susceptible to cyberattacks from hackers, terrorist organizations, and foreign governments, who often aim to steal data or money. In some cases, cyberattackers infiltrate an organization's computer network, lock users out, and demand ransom money. Security administrators and their colleagues work to curb the threat of cyberattacks.
These professionals develop policies, systems, and technologies 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 may also handle responses to unwanted intrusions.
Key Soft Skills for Security Administrators
Communication: Security administrators must be able to speak the professional languages of app developers, IT team members, and business management professionals. They need to effectively translate ideas between teams and departments. Critical Thinking: Security administrators must apply problem-solving methodologies and technology theories to new problems as they arise. These professionals need to develop multiple solutions, evaluate each outcome, and make an appropriate decision. Continuous Learning: To progress in their careers, security administrators need to be lifelong learners. While continuous learning could mean adding a master's degree in cybersecurity, it might also require earning a professional certification or participating in an advanced cybersecurity bootcamp. Calm Under Stress: Like other cybersecurity professionals, security administrators often work under pressure in a closely monitored environment. To perform their jobs, these professionals need strong boundaries and resilience during stressful situations.
Key Hard Skills for Security Administrators
Vulnerability Assessment: Security administrators must be able to determine when a pattern of activity differs from typical operations. They use logic and programming languages to determine when an organization's information is at risk. Identity Management: Security administrators authorize and manage employees' online identities, allowing the right people to access the right information at the right time. They identify policy violations and address potential problems before breaches occur. Intrusion Detection: These professionals flag and address suspicious activities. They should know how to use network intrusion and host intrusion detection systems. Risk Management: Security administrators identify, evaluate, and address security threats. Administrators should also use select solutions to prevent cybersecurity breaches.
A Day in the Life of a Security Administrator
A typical day for a network security administrator may include monitoring network activity, investigating suspicious actions, updating security software, and responding to security incidents.
The morning might start with updating security patches or installing new network security solutions. In the afternoon, they perform penetration tests or monitor online traffic for suspicious activity. Before heading home, a security administrator may attend a meeting of top managers to provide technical advice on network security.
Security Administrator Salary and Career Outlook
Information technology ranks among the country's highest-paid career fields. According to the BLS, network and computer systems administrators (similar careers to security administrators) earned a median income of $80,600 per year as of May 2021.
Salary data also indicates especially high pay for IT professionals working in security. According to the BLS, information security analysts made a median yearly salary of $102,600 as of May 2021.
Some top-paying industries for computer systems administrators include the computer equipment manufacturing, financial services, and natural gas sectors. For information security analysts, waste management, information, and computer equipment manufacturing are the top three-paying industries. Security administrators and similar positions can expect to earn the most in Maryland, California, and the District of Columbia.
Security administration is a lucrative profession, and its rapid growth should create new jobs for recent graduates. The BLS projects a 5% increase in employment growth for network and computer systems administrators from 2020-2030 and a 33% projected increase in employment for information security analysts over the same period.
Annual Median Salary
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How to Become a Security Administrator
Education requirements for security administrators vary by employer, job title, and job description. Many entry-level security administrator jobs require candidates to hold bachelor's degrees in information technology-related fields. Information security professionals pursuing management positions often need master's degrees, such as an MBA or a master's 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 cyberthreats 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 developing work experience, future security administrators can build up the hard and soft skills employers desire.
Security administrator positions do not require certifications, but these credentials can help applicants impress hiring managers and land job offers. Graduates can earn certifications verifying their expertise in areas like penetration testing, ethical hacking, and information security management. They may also pursue more general credentials.
Discover the higher education, certification, and professional experiences you need to become a security administrator.
Find out which colleges and universities offer the top four-year degrees in information assurance.
Explore the nation's best graduate degrees in information assurance, including costs and admission requirements.
Discover how to earn a bachelor's degree in information technology, including common coursework.
Find out more about the costs, requirements, and benefits of the top master's degrees in information technology.
How is IT management different from other computer science degrees? Learn this information and more here.
What are the best computer science degrees? Explore the top online and in-person programs.
How is information systems security different from other cybersecurity specializations? Learn more here.
Professional Organizations for Security Administrators
Learn More About Security Administrators
Frequently Asked Questions About Security Administrators
What is a security administrator?
A security administrator manages an organization or business' network security. Security administrators may move into general technology administration or become software security engineers.
Is a security administrator's job difficult?
A security administrator's job is to protect networks and systems from cyberattacks. They identify vulnerabilities and implement appropriate security measures while remaining up-to-date on the latest security threats and trends.
Are security administrators in demand?
Yes. Security administrators are in high demand due to the ever-growing need for companies to protect their data. The BLS projects that employment for information security analysts, a related career, will grow by 33% from 2020-2030.
What does a security administrator do?
Security administrators oversee the overall security of organizations' networks. They plan and implement security measures to protect data and systems from unauthorized access or theft. Security administrators also monitor networks for security breaches and respond to incidents.
Darnell Kenebrew is a first-generation graduate from San Francisco State University's class of 2020. He graduated with a bachelor's in computer science, which helped him kick off a career in tech and pursue roles within data and engineering.
Currently, he's a data analytics engineer at Meta and an executive captain for COOP Careers — a nonprofit for overcoming underemployment. Kenebrew strongly believes in giving people a chance and that everyone should have an equal opportunity within the job market. He believes that COOP Careers helps this equality materialize.
Kenebrew is passionate about how the industry is shaped with data and how data can be leveraged in many aspects of business decisions to meet goals. In addition, he's passionate about inclusion, community, education, and using data for good. He hopes that he can pivot business decisions to make a positive, meaningful impact and that his work will positively impact end-users, as well as meet business goals.
Darnell Kenebrew is a paid member of the Red Ventures Education Integrity Network.
Page last reviewed Aug 22, 2022
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