Working as a Computer Security Professional

By Eric Hammer

Working as a computer security professional can be both challenging and rewarding. The reality is that as long as our world continues to rely on computers, there will be a need for computer security professionals, people who know how to make sure that your information cannot be hacked by others who might want it for various reasons.

In fact, McAfee Associates, a company that specializes in computer security says that they have to update their virus definitions on an almost daily basis because of the fact that there are so many new attempts to breach virus protections every single day. The Israeli government, a constant target for cyber terrorists reports that they are attacked in some way almost one every 10 minutes and that they are constantly working to create new defenses to make sure that their critical web sites and infrastructure remain unaffected.

Another interesting fact about working in computer and Internet security is that often times the people hired to protect sensitive networks were themselves hackers. In fact, some companies actually pay former hackers to try to crack their systems surreptitiously just so that they can learn about potential vulnerabilities. The catch of course is that even though this is a good way to get a well paid job as a computer security professional, it’s an even better way for 99.9% of the rest of the world’s hackers to land in jail and do some serious hard time.

How Much Can You Make?

According to, the average annual salary, as of 2010 for a computer security professional (technically referred to as a "chief information security officer") ranges from around $108,000 per year to as much as $224,000 per year. However, this is for someone who is in a senior position and who has worked their way up through the ranks to become responsible for the computer security department at a major corporation or government facility.

More typical is the range for IS (Information Systems – another term for computers) security professionals, which ranges from $74,000 per year to as much as $128,000 per year. Starting salaries may be lower still.

Ways to Make More | Related Opportunities | Tips

While you can certainly take a salaried job after earning your degree, there are other ways to make money in this business. For example, you may work as a security consultant for various companies, coming in either to help them set up and secure an in house network or helping them to solve specific security problems that they may have encountered.

You may also work with companies that don’t wish to work on security but instead want to work with you to secure their systems against certain visitors. Hulu for example does not allow visitors from outside the United States to view their content and they employ a method known as geoblocking, which blocks country specific IP addresses. In this case, you are not securing against threats but instead against those who are not authorized to use the content in question.

You may also work with companies such as Apple, Microsoft and Adobe on coming up with new ways of securing content such as digital music, television and book downloads, using something called digital rights management.

In all cases however, it is important to keep your finger on the pulse of the computer security world as it is a field that changes quite rapidly. What you learn in school about being a computer security professional and dealing with specific threats will likely be obsolete by the time you graduate, though the skills you learn in school hopefully will not be.

Qualifications / Requirements

Typically, you will need a master’s degree in computer science to get into this field. A PhD is not usually required unless you want to work in the research side of the field, though it may be helpful for some types of computer security jobs.

First Steps

Start by reading up about computer security and the kinds of threats that exist today. Visit the web sites for places like McAfee Associates and Symantec, companies that work regularly in the security field and read their warnings about the latest threats. Then, look for a good school. You will need to earn at least a bachelor’s degree and probably a master’s degree to work in this field, unless you happen to have alternate experience that could be valuable to a company looking to hire you (such as a misspent youth hacking into web sites, though again, in 99.9% of cases, this is a sure way to end up doing hard time and not a way to land a job).

Resources - Symantec Security Blogs – Another blog from the home of Norton Internet Security Suite. - McAfee Labs – A blog from the original creators of an antivirus program for personal computers.,296884,sid14,00.html - Information Security Magazine – A magazine dedicated to the world of computer security professionals.

If you liked this page please let others know with one of these...

Other Relevant Pages

Computer Support Specialist

Online Profits and Paychecks

Some Good Jobs to Have

Some Good Businesses

Every Way to Make Money | Working as a Computer Security Professional