Security Architect Career Overview
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Security architect jobs combine hardware and software knowledge with programming, research, and policy development. Security architects anticipate potential threats and design systems to preempt them.
As senior information technology professionals, security architects plan, implement, and supervise computer and network security systems.
Equipped with bachelor’s degrees in computer science or a similar discipline and years of field experience, security architects understand computer and network systems, cybersecurity, and risk management.
Industry certifications, continuing education programs, and graduate degrees provide additional expertise in security strategies, methods, and architecture.
Fulfilling the security architect job description requires strong communication and organizational leadership skills. Often tasked with leading teams of information technology professionals, security architects may train and deploy computer security policies and procedures across an organization.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects a 5% growth in employment for computer network architects from 2020-2030. With average salaries topping $128,000 according to July 2022 Payscale data, information technology architecture remains a lucrative position.
History of Security Architects
In 1971, Bob Thomas created a computer program called Creeper. Creeper trailed a detec¢∞ path across ARPANET, a forerunner of the internet. Ray Tomlinson came up with Reaper, a program that could track down Creeper and eliminate it. Creeper was the first computer virus, Reaper was the first anti-virus software, and cybersecurity as a field was born.
The origins of cybersecurity during the early 1970s set the foundation for keeping information safe across the ever-changing technology landscape. Combating hackers, thwarting viruses, and detecting vulnerabilities all became part of cybersecurity as threats took new forms and levels of severity.
Cybersecurity architecture developed from the need to control and monitor data: who or what holds data, and how it is exchanged across networks and channels. Security architects, also called cybersecurity architects, coordinate the lifecycle of information technology processes and policies.
Earlier cybersecurity professionals may have worried only about limited infrastructure or small amounts of data, but modern security architects must protect larger computer systems of professional and personal data.
Similar Specializations and Career Paths
Roles comparable to security architects include database administrators and architects, and computer network architects. The largest employer of database administrators and architects and computer network architects is the computer system design and related services industry.
Telecommunications, educational services, and management of companies and enterprises also employ many professionals in these roles.
People in positions as security engineers and security analysts have many of the same abilities as security architects. As a similar specialization, the BLS projects information security analysis jobs to experience a 33% growth in employment by 2030.
Security architect jobs require a bachelor's degree, although many people with the job have a master's degree. Additional cybersecurity certifications or completing a cybersecurity bootcamp can add to a security architect's overall knowledge and skills.
As a mid-level management job, a security architect works with teams of information security workers and has a comprehensive understanding of network and computer security at an organization.
An advanced degree or cybersecurity certifications can help lead to higher managerial roles and executive positions with increased earning potential.
Computer and information systems managers, per the BLS, earned median salaries over $159,000. This exceeded earnings for computer network architects, a role lateral to that of security architect, by about $30,000 as reported in May 2021.
Security architects can also advance to corporate information security officer or information security consultant roles.
|Career||Description||Required Education||Required Experience||Median Annual Salary|
Database administrators and architects develop and oversee computer systems and applications for data security and storage.
Computer and information systems managers plan, implement, and monitor an organization's computer-related practices and activities.
Information security analysts assess security measures to plan and implement security practices.
What Is the Job Description of a Security Architect?
Security architects assess their organizations' systems for weaknesses. They conduct penetration tests, risk analyses, and ethical hacks on local area networks, wide area networks, and virtual private networks. They also assess routers, firewalls, and comparable systems to determine efficacy and efficiency.
Security architects think like hackers. They push computer and network security systems to their limits. Once security architects identify vulnerabilities in existing systems, they plan and implement architectural changes to boost security structures.
These professionals often develop and implement entirely new security architectures. They blend knowledge of security hardware and software, organizational needs, and cybersecurity risks with organizational policies and industry standards.
As security architects build and maintain security systems and networks, they prepare budgets, oversee expenses, and allocate personnel resources as needed.
Security architects provide guidance to information technology (IT) security team members. They also lead IT analysts, security administrators, and security engineers to coordinate effective security protocols.
They also respond to security breaches. When incidents arise, security architects assess causes, damages, and data recovery, preparing thorough reports for their colleagues, managers, and executives. They implement appropriate changes, updates, and upgrades in response to vulnerabilities.
Key Soft Skills for Security Architects
As people who plan, implement, test, and maintain an organization's computer and network security infrastructure, security architects need good communication and interpersonal skills. They often relay technical information to colleagues with varying levels of information technology and security knowledge.
Security architects create reports, proposals, and comparable documents for review by subordinates and superiors alike. This requires clear and concise writing skills.
Because security architects oversee security projects and policies, they need to delegate duties and coordinate with fellow team members. This requires active listening, enthusiasm, and empathy.
A security architect needs to respond under pressure, especially if a cybersecurity threat arises. Security architects possess confidence and ambition. They also take responsibility, have situational awareness, and can manage themselves and others.
Communication and interpersonal skills: Security architects oversee teams of fellow computer and network security workers. They relay information to team members, but also provide verbal and written technical data to nontechnical workers. Decisiveness: Security architects make decisions about information security practices, technologies, and policies. This requires confidence in their knowledge and assessment of organizational needs. Teamwork: As part of a team, security architects need to listen, have empathy, and demonstrate optimism. They cooperate and coordinate with team members while managing their own behaviors and activities. Motivation: Security architects identify an organization's information security needs and drive to meet those needs. This requires internal motivation to complete a plan and bring a goal to fruition. Security architects respond to external motivation with enthusiasm.
Key Hard Skills for Security Architects
Security architects need to know programming languages, database management, statistical analysis, and storage systems and management.
Additional hard skills for security architects relate to computer and network systems. Depending on what an organization does, specific technologies and technical skills vary.
Security architects need a comprehensive awareness of cybersecurity protocols, cryptography, and security software. Because security architects plan, implement, and maintain security within an organization, they also need to know how to assess security risks, test systems and networks, and investigate and respond to security events.
Identity and access management, data protection, and security auditing and compliance are also areas of security architecture expertise.
Data protection: Security architects know data protection: encryption, pseudonymisation, and shuffling. They understand how and when to use these methods to safeguard against data corruption, compromise, and loss. Penetration testing: Penetration testing involves simulating a cyberattack to determine vulnerabilities within existing systems and networks. Security architects may need to practice various types of ethical hacking such as covert pen tests, internal pen tests, and open-box pen tests. Security auditing: Security audits involve a comprehensive evaluation of a company's information system security based on a specific set of criteria. Security architects help develop this criteria and oversee continued compliance once security measures are in place. Identity security: Identity security involves protecting access to human and nonhuman identities. Security architects know how to monitor, assess, and improve identity security across a computer system or network.
A Day in the Life of a Security Architect
Security architects do not work alone. Whether that requires being in an office setting is up to each company. Architects' days involve meetings with team members about new and continuing projects and reporting to managers and executives about progress and challenges.
Common daily duties for a security architect may include monitoring for security breaches, researching potential threats, and carrying out penetration tests. Security architects may also install new security software or update existing security technologies. If a security event arises, a security architect responds and investigates, as appropriate.
Security Architect Job and Salary Outlook
The BLS projects a 13% growth in computer and IT occupations from 2020-2030. Information technology security professionals can anticipate an added 667,600 new positions in the field. Computer network architects may see 9,000 new positions in coming years.
July 2022 Payscale data reports security architects earn an average annual salary near $128,000. Entry-level security architects take home roughly $79,000 annually, while their mid-level counterparts reported salaries just over $121,000. With 20 or more years in the position, security architects earn more than $138,000 annually.
Top industries for computer network architects include computer systems design and telecommunications. Per Payscale, security architects indicated that International Business Machines (IBM) Corporation paid the profession's highest salaries. Information technology consulting company Booz, Allen, and Hamilton and American Airlines offer some of the lowest salaries.
The DMV metro area contains three of the top five highest-paying states for computer network architects. Annual mean wages for computer network architects in the DMV exceed $136,000.
This data aligns with Payscale reports that security architects in Washington, D.C., located within the DMV metro area, earned almost 17% more than the average national annual salary.
Annual Average Salary
How to Become a Security Architect
There are many paths to becoming a security architect. A job as a security architect often begins with a bachelor's degree in computer science, information technology, cybersecurity, or a related field.
After graduation, taking an entry-level position in cybersecurity provides experience that might advance someone to an architect role.
Security architects often need a master's degree in cybersecurity or some comparable area. As a mid-level management role, security architects benefit from additional training and certifications in subsets of cybersecurity. A cybersecurity bootcamp may also help grow security architect skills.
The links below provide more information about how to become a security architect.
- Steps to Becoming a Security Architect
Bachelor’s in Cybersecurity Programs Master's in Cybersecurity Programs Online Bachelor’s Degrees in Information Technology Online Master’s Degrees in Information Technology Business and Technology Degree Programs Computer Science Degree Programs IT Management Degree Programs
This page provides a step-by-step guide to becoming a security architect.
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With information about types of computer science programs and careers in the field, this page offers degree guides and answers to frequently asked questions.
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Professional Organizations for Security Architects
Organizations for cybersecurity professionals, including security architects, provide opportunities for networking and career advancement. Organizations hold conferences and events for security architects to meet and discuss the field, potentially opening up opportunities for collaboration and continued communication.
Additional benefits of membership include access to training programs, educational resources, and updates about the field.
Learn More About Security Architects
Frequently Asked Questions About Security Architects
What is the job description of a security architect?
As vital cybersecurity professionals, security architects plan, design, implement, and monitor the security measures within organizations.
Are security architect jobs difficult to get?
Individuals can get a job as a security architect with a bachelor's or master's degree in cybersecurity or a related field and several years of professional experience.
Do you need to know how to code as a security architect?
Security architects need to know how to code so they understand secure code as it relates to security design and architecture structures.
How are security architects different from security engineers?
A security architect develops security systems while a security engineer provides the tools to implement them. A security architect is more strategic. A security engineer is more technical.
Reviewed by: Darnell Kenebrew
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 July 25, 2022
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