As an information assurance professional, you will be responsible for planning and carrying out security measures that protect your organization’s computer systems and networks. As the complexity and numbers of cyberattacks increase, information assurance and information security analysts are seeing an increase in their job duties.
For example, information assurance professionals today are heavily involved with creating the disaster recovery plan for their company. This is a procedure that information technology professionals need to follow if there is a cyber attack or related emergency.
Such plans allow for the IT department and the company overall to continue to function. A disaster recovery plan typically includes active, preventive measures, such as regularly copying and storing critical data to a location that is off site. Also, information assurance professionals are skilled in restoring IT functions after a disaster.
What Is Information Assurance?
Information assurance is the process of enacting and enforcing security measures to protect an organization’s computer and IT systems. Some of the duties of information assurance professionals include:
- Monitoring the networks of an organization to check for security breaches and to look into cyber attacks when they occur.
- Install and use advanced software, including firewalls and data encryption, to protect the most sensitive company information.
- Prepare cyber attack reports that document any security problems that have occurred. Also, the degree of damage caused should be explained.
- Do penetration tests; this is where the information assurance manager simulates cyber attacks to probe for vulnerabilities in the computer systems.
- Conduct research on the latest security trends in information technology to prevent cyber attacks.
- Develop high security standards and best practices for the company
Information assurance professionals must stay current in information technology security measures, as well as on the latest techniques that hackers use to penetrate vulnerable computer systems.
The future is bright for information assurance and information security professionals. The Bureau of Labor Statistics or BLS reports job growth for these workers will increase by a huge 28% by 2026. This is a much faster rate of growth than average.
Demand for information assurance workers is growing quickly because technology is more important than ever today for companies and consumers. Cyberattacks are becoming more frequent. Information assurance managers and related professionals are needed to prevent hackers from gaining access to vital company information, and/or creating serious problems for critical computer networks.
Financial institutions and banks and many types of other companies will need to enhance their information security as cybersecurity threats grow in number and complexity. Also, healthcare companies are expanding their use of EHRs or electronic medical records. It is very important for information assurance professionals to ensure that patients’ data and privacy is protected. It is highly likely that more information assurance workers will be needed to devise safeguards to protect patient data.
Information assurance professionals and related workers held approximately 100,000 jobs in 2016. The biggest employers of these professionals were in these industries:
- Computer systems design and related services: 28%
- Finance and insurance: 19%
- Management of enterprises and companies: 9%
- Information: 8%
- Administrative and support services: 6%
The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports the median salary for information assurance and information security professionals is $92,600 as of May 2016. The salary range depending upon degree and experience was $53,700 to $147,200. Salaries broke down by industry as follows:
- Finance and insurance: $94,000
- Computer systems design and related services: $93,400
- Information services: $92,900
- Administrative and support services: $92,800
- Management of companies and enterprises: $87,500
Payscale.com also reported the median salary for this profession is $72,900 with a range between $52,000 and $110,000. That website further noted the average salary for a worker with less than 5 years of experience was $62,000, and $82,000 with five to 10 years of experience. An information assurance professional with 10-20 years of experience earns a salary of $97,000.
With a degree in information assurance at the bachelor’s or master’s level, you will have the skills that are in demand to work in almost any industry. Some of the top employers for information assurance professionals today are:
To obtain an entry level position in information assurance, it is common to earn a bachelor’s degree in information systems or computer science with a concentration in information assurance. This type of degree will provide you with the foundation that you need to excel in business and technology. Students typically learn to manage computer and technology operations that are critical to ensuring the integrity of a company’s information and informational assets. This degree also will provide you with the skills to identify and neutralize serious threats to company data and knowledge. Common courses in this bachelor’s program are networks, network security, information security planning, digital forensics and cyber security.
A master of science in information security will prepare you for a career in commercial, industrial and/or governmental information assurance and security. After you graduate with this advanced degree, you will have the knowledge to ensure the complete protection of information of all kinds in any type of organization. Students with this master’s degree know how to secure and harden network systems, prevent damage to critical networks, do risk assessments and make plans for disaster recovery. Coursework is in operating system security, database security, organization system security, business continuity management and directed management.
A bachelor’s or master’s degree in information security and information assurance can be a great fit for the working professional who wants to go to school and continue to work at least part time. This type of online degree will help you to learn the skills and knowledge needed to security the critical assets and information for public and private organizations.
All universities will establish their own requirements for admission, but at the master’s level for information assurance, below are some of the common admission criteria:
- Undergraduate degree in a technical field
- College transcripts
- GMAT or GRE scores may be required, unless you can qualify for a waiver
- Three letters of recommendation
- GPA of 3.0
- Resume with related work experience
Some of the common classes that you may take with a master’s program in information assurance include:
- Network design and management
- Ethical hacking
- Forensics and network intrusion
- Disaster recovery
- Security policies and standards – best practices
- Risk management
- Secure network design
Earning your degree in information assurance and/or cyber security can be an expensive endeavor. You will have to deal with what the degree costs, including tuition and books, and also may have to continue to work. Even if you are able to take an online program in information assurance, there can be a lot of financial obligations to juggle. But there is much need for these technology professionals today, so you should be able to find scholarships and grants to ease the financial burden. Here are some good potential financial assistance options:
- ISC2 Graduate Cybersecurity Scholarship: Up to $5000
- ISC2 Undergraduate Cybersecurity Scholarship: Up to $5000
- Cisco Global Cybersecurity Scholarship: Various amounts
- Cybercorps Scholarship for Service: $34,000
- International Association for Intelligence Education Scholarship: $1500
- Ratheon’s Women Cybersecurity Scholarship Program: $8000
- SWSIS Scholarships for Women Studying Information Security: $10,000
Also, your specific university will probably offer various scholarships and grants that you can take advantage of. Be sure to check with your financial aid office for scholarships specific to cybersecurity and related fields.
Below are some of the best technical certifications that you can obtain in cybersecurity and information assurance:
- Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP): This is an advanced certification for IT professionals who want to work at the upper levels of information security management.
- Certified Information Security Manager (CISM): This is another top certification for IT professionals who are in charge of managing, overseeing and developing information security systems.
- CompTIA Security+: This is a highly respected and vendor-neutral certification whose holders are known to have top technical skills and broad knowledge of information assurance protocols.
Professionals interested in a career in information assurance and cyber security may wish to participate in some of these associations in the field:
- Association for Information Technology Professionals
- Network and Systems Professionals Association
- Information Systems Security Association
The information assurance field is growing very quickly. Getting a bachelor’s or master’s degree in this field will put you in competition for some very highly paid occupations.
- Information Security Certifications. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.tomsitpro.com/articles/information-security-certifications,2-205-4.html
- Information Security Analysts. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.bls.gov/ooh/computer-and-information-technology/information-security-analysts.htm#tab-2
- 15 Hottest Tech Companies in America. (2017). Retrieved from https://www.cnbc.com/2017/05/18/the-15-hottest-tech-companies-in-america-according-to-linkedin.html