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Information technology (IT) and cybersecurity both offer various in-demand, high-paying positions in tech. Before you choose an education or career path, understanding the differences between the two is crucial.
Although they overlap in many ways and share similarities, they are not identical. Information technology is a broader field. Cybersecurity is one component of IT security.
IT professionals use computers and other technology to store, retrieve, and manage information. Information technology also deals with IT security, which includes all aspects of keeping physical and digital data secure.
Cybersecurity is a more specialized field of study. Cybersecurity focuses on keeping computer systems, networks, and data safe from unwanted breaches and cyberattacks.
What Is Information Technology?
Information technology encompasses many job titles and skill sets. IT professionals focus on building, managing, and protecting an organization's computer systems and networks.
Computer programmers, software developers, and chief information officers are all IT workers. Cybersecurity professionals are also a type of IT worker.
IT is a rapidly growing field with high demand. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects that overall employment in computer and IT occupations will grow 15%, much faster than average, between 2021 and 2031. The agency projects about 418,500 job openings each year in this time period.
People interested in a career in information technology can consider exploring an IT certificate or IT management degree program.
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What Is Cybersecurity?
Cybersecurity professionals help their organizations avoid and respond to unwanted computer and network breaches.
The field encompasses job titles like information security analyst, security engineer, and security director. Important skills vary by position, but may include scripting, hacking, critical thinking, and collaboration.
As cyberattacks increase and organizations put more of their data online, the demand for cybersecurity professionals has gone up. Currently, there are not enough cybersecurity professionals to fill the number of open positions.
The BLS projects very strong demand for information security analysts, one type of cybersecurity professional. Between 2021 and 2031, the agency projects 35% job growth, much faster than average.
People interested in a career in cybersecurity may want to consider completing a cybersecurity certificate program, degree, or bootcamp.
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Information Technology Jobs vs. Cybersecurity Jobs
The table below highlights the differences and similarities between IT and cybersecurity jobs.
|Information Technology Jobs||Cybersecurity Jobs|
|Focus||Supporting or creating computer systems, networks, and applications||Protecting digital information, assets, and networks from attacks|
|Required Skills||Communication, project management, problem-solving, coding, computer networks, hardware and infrastructure||Problem-solving, preventative measures, incident response, risk management, system evaluation|
|Required/Preferred Degrees||Bachelor's degree required; master's can be helpful or necessary to advance to some higher roles.||Bachelor's degree required; master's can be helpful or necessary to advance to some higher roles.|
|Helpful Professional Certifications|
|Common Employers||Software and hardware companies, finance and insurance, healthcare, IT service providers, retailers, government agencies||Government agencies, finance and insurance, healthcare, IT service providers|
|Job Titles||Software developer, computer programmer, IT director||Information security analyst, cybersecurity director, penetration tester, security architect, cryptography engineer, cloud security|
Careers in IT
IT directors lead the IT operations for their organizations. This may include providing technical expertise to company executives, managing other IT employees, and choosing new technology solutions. This requires advanced IT and business skills. Professional IT certifications can help these professionals advance.
- Required Education: Bachelor's degree
- Average Annual Salary: $122,630 (October 2022)
IT Program Manager
An IT program manager often works in the IT department of their organization. They need technical IT skills and leadership ability. Most positions require a bachelor's degree at minimum, but an associate degree may suffice in some cases.
- Required Education: Bachelor's degree
- Average Annual Salary: $115,000 (October 2022)
Chief Information Security Officer
A chief information security officer is a high-level career that requires advanced expertise in information management, cybersecurity, and technology. This role oversees their organization's information systems and ensures they remain secure. Duties may include developing security policies, creating budgets, and leading teams.
- Required Education: Bachelor's degree; Master's degree may be preferred
- Average Annual Salary: $172,000 (October 2022)
Careers in Cybersecurity
An information security manager looks at the big picture information security-related issues for their organization. Daily tasks vary depending on the size and type of employing company. Security managers need a combination of technical and business skills. Some employers prefer security managers with a master's degree.
- Required Education: Bachelor's degree
- Average Annual Salary: $120,000 (October 2022)
Information Security Analyst
Information security analysts help their organizations protect their computer systems and networks from unwanted intrusions. They investigate security breaches, use security software programs, and research IT security trends. Security analysts can advance to roles like computer and information systems manager or chief security officer.
IT Security Architect
An IT security architect designs systems that keep computer networks safe. A graduate degree or professional certifications can develop additional expertise and lead to more and better-paying job opportunities. Common employers include the computer systems design, telecommunications, and management industries.
IT vs. Cybersecurity: Which Career Path Is for You?
Still trying to decide on IT vs. cybersecurity? Think about your existing interests and skills, degree requirements, and options for career advancement in the future.
Also consider your potential salary, long-term job security, and level of prestige can also guide your decision.
Cybersecurity and IT are both likely to continue to see strong demand. If you want to develop a more focused skill set that can help you apply for specialized roles, consider cybersecurity. If you want broader knowledge in a wider field, think about choosing IT.
The fields of cybersecurity and IT cross paths, overlap, and are in some ways dependent on one another. Just because you choose one now, does not mean you can not choose the other in the future.
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Questions About IT and Cybersecurity
Which career path is better, general IT or cybersecurity?
One career path is not necessarily better than another, and in some cases they overlap. When choosing a career in IT vs. cybersecurity consider your skills, strengths, interests, and career goals.
Does cybersecurity or information technology pay more?
Cybersecurity and information technology both offer opportunities to earn high salaries. The amount you can expect to make depends on your job title, industry, and employer. Other factors that can impact earnings include education, experience, and location.
Can you work in cybersecurity with a background in IT?
Yes, it is possible to work in cybersecurity if you have a background in IT. In fact, previous IT experience can offer excellent preparation for many cybersecurity careers. The specific cybersecurity positions you may qualify for depends on your level of education, experience, and skills.
Do some jobs use both IT and cybersecurity skills?
Yes, many jobs use both IT and cybersecurity skills, and there is significant overlap in cybersecurity and IT skills.
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 Oct 17, 2022
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