Cyber security is a top priority for businesses, particularly as business communications take to the mobile and wireless airwaves. Online information systems security degrees offer training in the technology and procedures used to protect computer systems from breaches or data loss.
An introduction to information systems security
The IT security curriculum covers the policies, procedures and technology necessary to secure a computer network. Students learn about computer systems components and the means of protecting them against various breaches, including hacker attacks, internal attacks, malicious code such as Trojan horses, worms and viruses, government and commercial espionage, and natural disasters.
Online technology degrees in information systems security may include courses in:
- Information assurance and security operations
- Intrusion detection
- Computer forensics
- IT project management
- Database and distributed systems security
- TCP/IP network security
- Wireless network security
- Secure software design
In addition, information systems security programs may include hands-on training in particular vendor technologies. Undergraduate degree programs also include a general education curriculum covering math, science and the humanities.
Online degrees in information security
Online information security degrees offer students a means of completing formal training in IT security while they work. Students access courses via the Internet, participating in discussions, viewing lectures and demonstrations and completing projects. The format is ideal for self-motivated students who have access to computer technology through an IT job. Those new to the field can establish access to these resources by completing an internship alongside the online program.
Online degrees in information security are available at all levels, from the two-year associate to the doctorate. Students often major in information technology with a concentration in IT security. The full spectrum of college-level security programs includes:
- Associate of Applied Science. This two-year information technology degree incorporates special electives in information security.
- Bachelor of Science. The most common qualification for entry-level information security jobs is the four-year bachelor's degree. The program emphasizes general education and computer science fundamentals and culminates in specialized IT security electives.
- Master of Science. The two-year graduate credential in management information systems (MIS) or information technology includes advanced coursework and a research project in information systems security.
- PhD. The highest degree in information systems security offers the opportunity for original research and can lead to an industry research and development career or an academic teaching role.
In addition, mid-career IT professionals can hone specific skills in security by earning professional certification. Information systems security certifications are among the top-paying credentials in the field. Information Systems Audit and Control Association (ISACA), Internet Systems Consortium (ISC) and the Global Information Assurance Certification (GIAC) credentials all command average salaries at or above $100,000, according to Certification magazine's 2009 Salary Survey.
Careers in information systems security
Online degrees in information systems security can lead to various IT security specialist roles. Major job titles in the IT security sector include:
- Security administrator or director
- Data security analyst
- Information systems security manager
- Network security manager
- Application security analyst
- Web security administrator
The need for information security experts is expected to drive job growth for computer network, systems and database administrators, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Employment should increase by 30 percent for administrators in general, making this one of the fastest growing job sectors in the U.S.
According to Robert Half Technology's 2011 salary guide, salaries for IT security jobs in the U.S. in 2011 are expected to rise anywhere from 4.0 percent to 4.5 percent over 2010 wages. Systems security administrators had a salary range from $81,500 to $112,500 and information systems security managers earned from $99,500 to $137,750.
Information systems security at a glance:
- Training: The ISC2 Information Systems Security Architecture Professional (CISSP-ISSAP) is the top-paying IT certification, according to Certification magazine's 2009 Salary Survey.
- Job growth: IT security administrators can look forward to an estimated 30 percent job growth in the 2008-2018 period (BLS).
- Salary: Salaries for security professionals increased over 4 percent in 2011, with many professionals making six figures, according to Robert Half Technology.