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How to Land a Security Role: Planning Your Security Career
By Debbie Christofferson, CISSP, CISM

With an exploding online criminal frontier, mounting regulations, and a slew of viruses and spyware, security holds center stage. Demand and pay offer excellent career choices.

Skills and Experience

Today's market requires technical knowledge to be hired in Information Technology (IT) security roles. Business and communication skills are critical. Hiring at all levels follows very pure technology lines.

Certifications are expected. Technology degrees count, and a Masters of Business Administration (MBA) in management ranks. Hot security certifications:

  • CISSP - Certified Information Systems Security Professional
  • CISA - Certified Information Systems Auditor
  • CISM - Certified Information Security Manager
  • Network product certifications like CISCO

For an executive summary from a recent IT Security Hiring Panel, send email to DebbieChristofferson@earthlink.net with "Security Hiring" as the subject.

Who Will Be Happy in Security

This role involves:

  • Analysis
  • Consultation
  • Influence
  • Communication (written and oral)
  • Problem solving
  • Project management
  • People interaction
  • Ambiguity
  • System and network administration
It's governed by regulations, and bound by policies and standards that you help design and deploy. To align organizational risk and security needs, you are tethered to the business. Some positions take 7x24 support. Openings exist for a wide array of skills.

Where the Security Jobs Are

Security most often fits larger companies, or those bound by regulations. It's integrated into IT otherwise.

Exceptions: IT and security providers and product vendors, or consulting and audit organizations. Big US job pools exist in government security, the defense industry, public companies, and finance and health sectors.

Technology experts are in most demand, in securing the network and IT infrastructure, forensics, auditing, consulting, and instructors at colleges and training groups. Project leadership, sales engineering, and system administration of networks, web sites, databases, desktops, or wireless present other entry points.

Examples: Jobs that transition easily to security, from this week's local classifieds:

  • Technical Administrative Assistant for a software company
  • WiFi Project Manager in a small town
  • Junior Network Administrators for two local businesses

Junior means less pay, but grants entry.

In Computerworld's recent article on the IT worker of 2010, the need to move toward versatility is noted, rather than becoming a pure technologist.

Your Window of Opportunity is Now

Security job demand and earning potential are high. It's growing in visibility and significance to the global economy.

Enter the field today, grow your current position, or plan for a Chief Information Security Officer (CISO) role in the future. If you master what the market wants, you win.

How to Land a Security Role

When seeking a position, let friends, family, neighbors, business associates, security folks and management know. The best leads come from those around you.

Visit Information System Security Association (ISSA) or Information Systems Audit and Control Association (ISACA) local events and web sites to:

  • Keep abreast of the fast-changing environment
  • Learn new skills
  • Make contacts
  • Find "hidden" jobs

Many organizations post jobs to their web site. Security-specific, visit:




Visit specific government web sites for city, state, county and federal listings.

Other entries: Physical security, investigations and background checks, security project management roles, and disaster recovery, business continuity planning and incident response.

Internships support all of these, plus identity management, remote access, desktop support, and system or network administration.

To move into the field, take on security responsibilities in a current role, or teach some aspect of security. Speak with your manager, and those in security or IT, to uncover opportunities.

Most CISOs report to IT. Convergence is occurring in some sectors, where a single role heads of all aspects of security. Your best bet for a management role is to evolve it internally.


Opportunity abounds and it will be up to you to mine it. Keeping your skills up to date is critical for your future.

Coming next: Business communication is critical to success and one of the skills that hold many technology employees back. Find out what you need to succeed at the board level and how to get ahead in any technology career.

Best Regards, Debbie Christofferson. CISSP,CISM

Subscribe to “Career Briefings” for leading edge tips to guide your career. Send your name and email to me at DebbieChristofferson@earthlink.net or phone 480-988-4194.

Debbie shares 20 years of Fortune 500 management experience across the US, Europe and Asia. She consults, speaks and writes on security, technology and career growth strategies.

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