Information Systems Security

Block cyber threats and beef up business contingency plans with a career in information systems security.

What is Information Systems Security?

More than ever before, hackers are hard at work breaking into computer systems in companies, organizations and government agencies. No matter their location, their motive is the same: to steal information or otherwise compromise computer systems.

Just imagine this scenario: A virus infects your company’s computer system. Senior management watches in horror as it cuts off their computer access and sends sensitive company and client information offshore.

With the unprecedented rise of computer pirates, it’s more important than ever to protect computer systems and the information they contain. That’s exactly what systems security specialists do.

Computer security specialists are hard at work predicting problems, developing strategies to prevent them, and troubleshooting breaches once they’re identified. It’s an exciting career that requires business savvy and tech skills.

Who Should Get a Information Systems Security Degree

There are many different kinds of people who aspire to work in computer security, and they have different levels of expertise. The Information Systems Security Association calls out the following categories. Which one of these describes you?

Pre-Professionals: people who are interested in, but have not yet worked in, cybersecurity (former military, IT professionals, law enforcement, students).
Entry Level: someone who has worked in cybersecurity but has not yet mastered its principles and methods (associate cybersecurity analysts, associate network security analysts, and cybersecurity risk analysts).
Mid-Career: people who have generally mastered security methodologies and principles, and have chosen a specialty (network security analysts, forensics analysts, application security engineers and network security engineers).
Senior Level: individuals who have extensive experience in cybersecurity (10 or more years). They may be senior cybersecurity risk analysts, principal application security engineers, directors of cybersecurity, and more.
Security Leaders: those individuals with extensive security experience, and the ability to direct and integrate security into an organization. Some job titles are chief information security officer and chief cybersecurity architect.

Traits & Aptitudes

If you want to flex your intellectual muscle and pit yourself against hackers who want to invade your company’s computer systems, IS security is a great career option. Here are the traits that make for a great security professional:

Analytical

Identify and improve the weaknesses in computer systems.

Problem Solver

Work with your team to develop creative solutions to computer breaches.

Decisive

Consider the costs and benefits of potential actions to choose the best one.

Lifelong Learner

Keep pace with computer systems by acquiring new skills and earning certifications.

Service-Oriented

Serve your company because you know more than most just how important computer security is.

Analytical

Identify and improve the weaknesses in computer systems.

Problem Solver

Work with your team to develop creative solutions to computer breaches.

Decisive

Consider the costs and benefits of potential actions to choose the best one.

Lifelong Learner

Keep pace with computer systems by acquiring new skills and earning certifications.

Service-Oriented

Serve your company because you know more than most just how important computer security is.

Degrees in Information Systems Security

Today colleges are offering more online degrees than ever to meet market demand for information security professionals. Look for programs that cover the material you’ll need to sit for certification exams from industry giants such as Microsoft, Oracle, Linux and Cisco.

You’ll especially want to consider advanced degrees that will prepare you to sit for the Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP®) exam. In this ever-changing field, it’s crucial to keep up with the latest innovations, and the CISSP is the gold standard.

Online Degrees in Information Systems Security

When you think of college, forget the old image of impersonal lecture halls and disconnected professors. Colleges today (and the students who attend) have changed a lot since then.

Working adults are pursuing the degrees they need online, with more flexible class schedules and other 21st-century innovations. School are well aware that they need to meet the needs of today’s post-traditional students, and online schools are often the most efficient way to do this.

How It Works

An online degree in information systems security will let you learn wherever you have Internet access.

Information systems security course materials—including lectures and interactive assignments—arrive via online portals such as Blackboard or eCollege. Throughout your studies, you’ll attend lectures, post homework, and interact with instructors and other students online.

Your professors will assign group projects so you can collaborate with fellow students, just as you would with colleagues on the job. This way of teaching computer security is great because you learn to give and receive online feedback, and then incorporate it into your projects. Online collaboration is a crucial skill in the modern workplace, where telecommuting is more common than ever before.

But before enrolling in a college or university, do make sure it’s accredited. Accreditation is an assurance that your college meets high standards. And don’t forget that federal financial aid is only available to students enrolled in accredited schools.

There are several types of accreditation, but regional accreditation sets the highest standard. The best-known accrediting agency for online-specific programs is the Distance Education Accrediting Commission.

Benefits

Looking to start (or advance) a career in Information Systems Security but can’t ignore your job or family responsibilities? Consider the perks of online education:

Flexible schedules: Log in and learn wherever and whenever it fits into your schedule: before your family wakes up, after the kids are in bed, on Sunday when people are out and about.

Widely accepted: Companies are more and more familiar with online degrees. Businesses today are mostly concerned with your skills and the school’s accreditation—not whether you got your degree online or in a classroom.

Expedited degrees: Some online programs offer condensed courses that last as little as five weeks. Learn what you need to know and finish your degree a little early by taking some of these courses.

On-the-go schools: With mobile apps you have portable classes, which allow you to study whenever you have a few minutes.

Why Get a Degree in Information Systems Security?

Potential Career Paths

Once you earn your bachelor’s degree, you’re set to take on challenges in computer security for companies, organizations and government agencies.

Look for degrees that prepare you for recognized industry certifications, such as CISSP. To remain marketable, you’ll want to stay current with the latest technology. By combining certifications with your degree, you’ll be setting yourself up for success.

Job Outlook

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics foresees very strong demand for information security analysts, with the profession projected to grow 18 percent through 2024.

Salary

Information security analysts are well compensated. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics 2016-17 Occupational Outlook Handbook estimates the median annual pay at $88,890.

Lifelong Learning

Computer hackers never stand still, and neither do information systems security specialists. Most computer security analysts continue to take classes and earn certifications throughout their careers to update their knowledge and skills.

Business-Minded

A degree in information systems security will equip you to do more than just install firewalls and update passwords. You’ll learn project management skills and how to work with business intelligence professionals. The goal? Keeping your company up and running…so it can remain profitable.

Educational Paths

Certificates

Certificates are a great way to boost your skills, learn new computer languages or programs, or get continuing education credit.

Program Length

Most certificate programs in information systems security take nine to 18 months.

What You’ll Study

Polish your computer skills with a certificate program that covers the essentials of information systems security, from internal and external security testing to maintaining and troubleshooting antivirus and malware programs.

Some certificate programs deliver the knowledge you’ll need to sit for industry certification, such as the CISSP® exam. Ask schools about this before you enroll. Certifications are often administered and priced separately.

Subjects you’ll study in certificate programs in information security include security architecture, Web application security, risk management, disaster recovery and security law and compliance.

Associate’s

Associate’s degrees are a great way to get your foot in the door, and your credits may transfer to a bachelor’s degree if you decide to further your education later.

Program Length

An associate’s degree in information systems security normally takes about two years to complete.

What You’ll Study

An associate’s degree in information security will provide a foundation in business systems, security procedures and the latest security technology. You’ll discover how secure information systems support your organization’s success, and learn about the technologies that support mission-critical business information.

An associate’s degree in systems security can lead to entry-level jobs at companies across the country. Become your company’s go-to person for computer security questions. This is a field with tremendous potential. Once you get your foot in the door, learn on the job, and get the additional education you need, you can set your sights on ever-more-challenging roles.

Some of the common courses you’ll take in an associate’s degree in information systems security include IT infrastructure security, MS Windows security, security for Web apps and social networking, and cyber crime and computer forensics.

In many cases, associate’s degree classes earned in an accredited school will transfer to a bachelor’s program.

Bachelor’s

A bachelor’s degree is required for many jobs in information systems security.

Program Length

A bachelor’s degree usually takes four years to complete. Have you already earned computer science, math or engineering credits at an accredited college or university? If so, you might finish your bachelor’s more quickly. Check with schools to see what credits might transfer.

What You’ll Study

While you may be able to get into information systems security with an associate’s degree, a bachelor’s degree in information systems security will broaden your career options.

A bachelor’s degree will prepare you for work as an information security specialist, a security analyst, or a cybersecurity expert. You may work in risk management, network security, data loss prevention, and more.

Many students find the coursework both challenging and exciting. If you have the desire and aptitude, you may enjoy bachelor’s-level classes such as computer programming, MIS, security operations, computer forensics and cryptography.

Master’s

A master’s degree may give you a leg up on the competition, and often aligns with the Common Body of Knowledge for CISSP certification.

Program Length

A master’s degree in information systems security can help you move into more challenging roles.

What You’ll Study

If you’ve already worked in computer security and are thinking of job advancement, a master’s degree can help you begin a new chapter in your career. A master’s will teach you how to navigate real-world cybersecurity challenges such as setting up secure networks, securing servers and solving security breaches.

As you develop your technical knowledge and skills, you’ll also learn to integrate cybersecurity solutions into an overall business context.

A master’s degree should teach you how to develop and implement information security policies and procedures, design secure network solutions and applications, create strategies to establish secure operations and conduct computer forensics analysis, among other things.

Master’s curricula commonly align with the Common Body of Knowledge for CISSP certification developed by the International Information Systems Security Certifications Consortium (ISC)².

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