A network security specialist oversees computer networks for any mid- to large-sized organization, particularly those who handle sensitive data. The network security specialist analyzes the network for security threats, and then creates and implements strategies to protect the system against these threats.
This career, like most careers in the IT realm, is highly sought after in today’s market. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics anticipates that this field will grow 31% by 2029, with about 40,900 new jobs being created by organizations. With this in mind, there is no better time to enter the job market and begin an exciting new career in cybersecurity.
But what exactly do these professionals do, and how can you become one? Here’s everything you need to know about network security specialists.
Network Security Specialist Job Description
Simply put, a network security analyst implements security measures to protect an organization’s computer system. This is a complex job that requires a deep understanding of computer networks, digital threats like hackers or malware, and cybersecurity. Most network security specialists work for organizations like financial organizations or consulting firms, and they play a key role in keeping the company’s information safe and secure.
Managing a company’s computer network is no easy task, and no two days of work will be exactly alike. For many in this field, the prospect of an ever-changing work environment is exciting – but it does mean that network security specialists wear many hats in their career. They have to be analysts, software developers, manager, and general IT experts in order to succeed at their jobs.
Some of the most common responsibilities for a network security specialist include:
- Evaluating log files from traffic logs, firewalls, and Domain Name Systems to identify potential security threats
- Planning, creating, and monitoring the security software for a system, from firewalls and email security to virtual private networks
- Creating tracking documents to note vulnerabilities in the current security system
- Creating detection systems to alert the company of viruses or other threats
- Investigating hacking incidents and advising the company on how to recover from an incident
- Replacing the security system protocol and programs as needed
Like most jobs in the cybersecurity industry, most network security specialists begin working entry-level jobs and work their way up to this position. This means that there are a variety of paths to become a network security specialist, and that there is no set requirements to achieve this role.
However, there are a few prerequisites and special qualities that most network security specialists do share, including:
- An ability to thrive in fast-paced, high-stress situations
- A Bachelor of Science (B.S.) or Bachelor of Engineering (B.E.) degree in computer science, cybersecurity, or a related field
- A network engineer certification, such as CCNP Security, CEH, CISSP, or GIAC Security Certification
- Experience creating and maintaining security systems
- A thorough understanding of web applications, web services, service-oriented architecture, and elements of digital security (e.g., firewalls, anti-virus software, log management, intrusion detection systems, disaster recover methods, etc.)
- An ability to define the results of malicious code and anti-virus software and effectively communicate these results to upper management in an organization
How to Become a Network Security Specialist
Network security specialists have a lot on their shoulders in the workplace, but they are highly compensated for the work they do. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median pay for these professionals was $99,730 per year.
This salary, coupled with the prospect of working with computers on a regular basis, can be highly attractive to tech-savvy individuals looking for a career in the tech industry. But how do you become a network security specialist? All network security specialists have three things that qualify them for the job: education, certification, and experience.
To become a network security specialist, you’ll first need to go to college for a four-year degree. Most employers look for individuals with a bachelor’s degree in a computer-related field, such as computer science, information technology, telecommunications, cybersecurity, or electronics and electricals. These programs provide you with a working knowledge of computer programming, as well as technical security problems and how to solve them.
In some cases, a master’s degree in one of these fields might make a candidate more attractive to employers. However, a bachelor’s degree (couple with certification and experience) should be enough to help a cybersecurity professional land a role as a network security specialist.
Once you have your bachelor’s degree, you might be able to get an entry-level role as a cybersecurity professional. However, if you want to progress in your career and eventually become a network security specialist, you will have to get a certification in network security.
There are many cybersecurity certifications available today, and many of them can help you on your journey to becoming a network specialist. The most common certifications are:
- Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP): a certification that covers topics like architecture, engineering, and management (this is ideal for professionals with at least five years of work experience)
- Certified Ethical Hacker (CEH): a certification that covers threat assessment and mitigation against cyber attacks
- CCNP Security: a certification focused on implementing and maintaining security in routers, switches, networking devices, firewalls, etc.
- Global Information Assurance Certification (GIAC): a certification that specialists in data security, to help you stay ahead of “black hat” hackers
Finally, the last requirement for success as a network security specialist is simply getting experience in the cybersecurity industry. Many professionals start their career in entry level positions before moving up into specialist roles. Networking with your colleagues and (most importantly) consistently doing good work will help you achieve a fulfilling and engaging career in cybersecurity.
Whether you’re fresh out of college, looking for a career change, or a cybersecurity professional looking to advance, you can certainly benefit from learning more about network security and other IT fields. To learn more about cybersecurity – and to begin a training program – visit the Cyber Security School.