Computer Security

According to statistics released by the group Internet World Stats, 2.4 billion people worldwide are now connected to the internet. That means that over 34 percent of the world’s population is checking their email, downloading their bank statements and making use of online entertainment services such as Netflix through their personal computers and internet connections.

That’s a lot of virtual traffic – containing a lot of information that needs to be kept secure.

Since the World Wide Web became available to the general public in the early 1990s, the pace at which technology has evolved is mindboggling. With sensitive data such as bank and credit card information and medical records all being routinely stored and accessed digitally, it is more convenient than ever for thieves to steal that information and use it for illegal purposes.

Computer security experts are the first line of defense against these kinds of cyber attacks. They develop and implement programs designed to encrypt sensitive data, and to track its access points to make sure only those with legitimate permission to access such information are able to do so.

Areas most at risk for online security breaches are the healthcare and financial industries. Therefore, demand for qualified professionals in computer security will be the highest in these sectors.

Education Requirements

Those who work with computer security must learn the ins and outs of hardware and software of computers, as well as how the internet and other technology work in order to do their jobs effectively. There are a variety of options available for this training, both online and in traditional classroom settings.

An associate degree in computer security will take between 18 and 24 months to complete. Associate degree programs of this nature are most frequently offered through community colleges and trade/technical schools. They are designed to teach the basics of computer security, which includes managing and administering computer networks, creating and managing accounts and how to configure network routers. Coursework will include network security policy and cyber security strategies, as well as creating and implementing a disaster-recovery plan.  Most candidates who possess an associate degree in computer security are eligible for entry-level jobs within the industry.

Bachelor degree programs take four years to finish and will take the basics provided in an associate degree program and build on them. Students will focus on information technology and cyber ethics, as well as advanced security techniques designed to keep online users safe during personal or business transactions. Undergraduate degree programs also offer training in how to pursue cases of computer fraud and security breaches.

Master degree programs are not required to work in the industry; however, candidates who possess them are qualified to work in management positions within the computer security field. This level of education often requires the declaration of an area of concentration, such as network security or risk management.

Regardless of the level of degree being pursue, students are encouraged to choose a program that has received accreditation from a reputable accrediting agency. Agencies most often tasked with accrediting computer technology programs include the Accrediting Commission of Career Schools and College Technology, the Computing Science Accreditation Board and the Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools.
Future Outlook

According to data provided by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment opportunities for computer security professionals are expected to increase by 12 percent between now and 2022.
The majority of computer security professionals is employed by the finance and insurance industries, and earn on average $77,370 annually.

The average annual salary for all computer security experts is $72,560 as of May 2012.

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