Network Security Careers

Read on to learn about typical courses, resources, and careers in this field.

Staff Writer

2022-09-0825 min read

Securing online information and data is essential as web technologies, computer systems, and databases evolve and dominate every aspect of our lives.

Now, more than ever, companies and organizations require cybersecurity specialists to safeguard their information and protect sensitive data.

However, most network security roles require a bachelor's degree from an accredited institution and specific certifications. But before you select your dream college, you need to understand everything about this lucrative career path first.

This resource explores network security careers, degree options, salary figures, job outlook, and other helpful information to improve job prospects.

Keep reading to discover everything you need to begin your network security journey today.

Why Choose Network Security?

Cyber attacks and malware threaten the growth of many businesses and organizations. Reports reveal that the top three targets of ransomware attacks are the insurance industry, consumer goods and services, and the telecommunications sector.

IBM Security's global study showed how the average data breach cost increased from $3.86 million to $4.24 million within a year.

So, why choose a career in network security?

Well, for one, it's a lucrative industry. And you join a community of security professionals whose life mission is eradicating cybercrimes and protecting user data.

Network security experts understand core IT concepts and love solving complex problems. They can also explain technical terms to lay audiences. So, why not explore this career if you can do all these things and more?

How to Start your Network Security Journey

A degree from an accredited college is the first step to beginning your network security career.

You need an associate's or bachelor's degree to qualify for many industry certifications, management, and consulting roles. Advanced degrees like a master's and doctorate pave the way for expanded career opportunities.

Education Requirements

Associate Degree

An associate degree includes foundational knowledge and principles on network infrastructure defense, routing and switching, Microsoft server administration, and more.

Most programs offer at least 60 credits and last about two years. You can also enroll in accelerated online learning tracks and graduate in less time.

An associate's degree qualifies you for entry-level roles as network support specialists or systems administrators.

Bachelor's Degree

Most bachelor's degree programs provide students with advanced learning opportunities in digital forensics, cyber law, cloud technologies, and more. You also develop technical communications and applied statistics skills.

Several colleges offer a personalized curriculum that allows their students to specialize in particular fields that fits their professional ambitions. For example, some students can major in information assurance and minor in project management.

A bachelor's degree qualifies you for jobs like IT auditor, cybersecurity engineer, ethical hacker, information security analyst, and more.

Master's Degree

This program is perfect for professionals who wish to break into management positions in the IT field. Most master's degree students graduate within one to two years with 30 credits in advanced network security courses.

It includes courses on wireless networks, malware reverse engineering, ethical hacking countermeasures, data risks and benefits, and more. With a master's degree, you can apply for jobs like network security architect, information security manager, or consultant.

Doctorate in Network Security

A doctorate in network security is the highest academic achievement in this field and requires around 60-120 credits before graduation. Most institutions offer four to six-year programs that improve strategic performance and develop management skills.

You can either become a doctor of science (D.Sc.) and increase your business competencies or a doctor of philosophy (Ph.D.) and focus on applied research. With a Ph.D., you can conduct original research in cyber-infrastructure, digital forensics, social engineering, and more.

Employment Prospects

Network security students have numerous job prospects after graduation, from entry-level support administrative roles to security analysts and managerial positions.

Most businesses and organizations use high-speed internet connections and wireless routers that are prone to attacks if not appropriately secured. As a result, the need for network security professionals increases daily with more technological advancements that cybercriminals can exploit.

These professionals design and build solid network security that reduces the risk of theft, sabotage, or data loss.

Network Security Career Forecast

BLS data projects a 35% employment growth in information security careers within the next decade, with over 19,000 job openings yearly.

The rise in cybersecurity threats and attacks is due to the increasing adoption of cloud services by companies and businesses worldwide. And as a result, it will create a demand for network security professionals to design innovative solutions to manage the situation.

Thanks to the shift to remote work and the rise of eCommerce, and digital health services, most industries have a network security professional on their payroll.

And with more technological advancements, network security roles will always have high demands.

How to Boost your Network Security Career

Most network security careers require continuous learning processes, so your job doesn't end after earning a degree. Developing new skills and accruing practical experience can lead to career advancements and higher salaries.

Certifications from certified professional cybersecurity bodies show employers that you have the necessary skills to excel at your job.

While some programs are vendor-specific, like Microsoft, others are vendor-neutral, like ISACA and ISC. Here are some of the best ones you'll need:

Most of these certifications are valid for 2-3 years, so you'll have to recertify to maintain their status.

In addition, you can pursue graduate programs or technology-focused online courses from Google, edX, Udacity, or Coursera.

Lucrative Network Security Jobs

Network security is a booming sector thanks to cybercrime, consumer fraud, identity theft, and more.

Here are some of the high-paying job roles in this field.

Network Systems Administrator

Network systems administrators are responsible for computer networks' daily management and operations. They install, organize, and support different communication systems, from Local Area Networks to Wide Area Networks and Intranets.

While some companies only require an associate degree or post-secondary certificate for this role, higher-paying jobs demand a bachelor's degree and professional certifications.

Average Salary

Network systems administrators earn over $80,000 in annual median wages, with the highest 10% earning more than $130,000 yearly.

Roles and Responsibilities

  • Install network software and hardware that solves an organization's system needs

  • Manage network and system security

  • Perform necessary upgrades and repairs to computer networks

  • Update network security permissions and train other users on system protocols

  • Analyze and optimize system performance.

Industries Employing Network Systems Administrators

Thanks to the continued expansion of cloud computing and investment in faster mobile networks and technology, more industries are employing network systems administrators.

These industries include:

  • Computer and Peripheral Equipment Manufacturing

  • Financial Investments and Monetary Authorities

  • Securities, Commodity Contracts, and Other

  • Telecommunications

  • Data Processing, Hosting, and Related Services

  • Cable and Other Subscription Programming

Digital Forensics Analyst

Digital forensic skills combine information technology, criminal justice, and forensic science to analyze compromised computer networks.

Like other cybersecurity roles, digital forensics' jobs have ample growth opportunities, with an 18% growth rate within a decade. However, most employers require a college degree from job candidates.

Furthering your studies and earning postgraduate certifications can help advance your career since there's a lot to learn in this field.

Average Salary

According to ZipRecruiter, PayScale, and Indeed, digital forensic analysts earn between $50,000 to $150,000 yearly. However, the pay scale varies based on location, experience level, and qualifications.

Roles and Responsibilities

  • Investigate past cyber-attacks and use threat intelligence to prevent future vulnerabilities

  • Identify system vulnerabilities

  • Recover encrypted or deleted data from networks, storage devices, or applications

  • Assemble evidence files and ensure data integrity

  • Present findings to upper management

Industries Employing Digital Forensics Analysts

While most digital forensic analysts work with law enforcement agencies or the government, some work for private firms and state agencies. They include:

  • Accounting firms

  • Private investigation outfits

  • Financial institutions

  • Law firms

  • Data processing, hosting, and related services

Information Security Analysts

Information security analysts protect computer networks from unauthorized access and cyber-attacks by anticipating and responding to threats before they happen. In addition, they create disaster recovery plans for organizations to follow in emergency cases.

You can qualify for this role with a bachelor's degree and professional certification in network security or information technology.

Average Salary

Information security analysts earn annual median wages of over $100,000, with the lowest 10% of employees making around $61,000.

Roles and Responsibilities

  • Check for network vulnerabilities

  • Test and evaluate systems

  • Research the latest IT security trends

  • Install firewalls and safety protocols to protect computer networks

  • Monitor networks for data breaches and investigate possible threats

  • Prepare reports and documentation on security protocols

  • Create disaster recovery plans for organizations

Industries Employing Information Security Analysts

Most companies and firms employ information security analysts to protect their computer networks from breaches and malware.

Some of these industries include:

  • Finance and insurance

  • Computer systems design and related services

  • Remediation and other waste management services

  • Information sectors

  • Securities and commodity contracts

  • Management of companies and businesses

  • Administrative and support services.

Ethical Hacker

Ethical hackers or penetration testers analyze network security strengths and vulnerabilities and suggest measures to improve their client's networks. These "white hat" hackers follow emerging trends and digital techniques to prevent security breaches in different industries.

A bachelor's degree in network security or other IT-related fields is a great place to begin your ethical hacking career. However, professional certifications also increase your chances of securing high-paying jobs in this sector.

Average Salary

Based on salary aggregates from ZipRecruiter, Indeed, Glassdoor, and PayScale, most ethical hackers earn median salaries of $67,000 to $160,000.

Of course, experience level and relevant certifications also affect your earning potential, with professionals with 5-9 years of experience making over $160,000.

Roles and Responsibilities

  • Perform advanced penetration tests

  • Identify security flaws and breaches

  • Improve network security

  • Suggest network upgrades

Industries Employing Ethical Hackers

With cybercrimes on the rise, most companies and organizations hire ethical hackers to protect their networks from attack.

Industries employing ethical hackers include:

  • Financial institutions

  • Security contractors

  • Big Tech companies

  • Government outfits

  • Data processing, hosting, and related services

Cybersecurity Engineer

A cybersecurity engineer combines electrical engineering and computer science to create and manage software, hardware, and security policies to protect systems and networks.

Professionals in this field demonstrate their mathematical, engineering, and computer programming skills to design secure systems for various industries.

A bachelor's degree in cyber engineering from an accredited college gives you a solid foundation in cybersecurity basics.

Average Salary

Cybersecurity professionals command lucrative salaries thanks to the increased demand for professionals in this field. Employment websites like ZipRecruiter, PayScale, and Indeed show that most cybersecurity professionals in this space make over $90,000 yearly.

Roles and Responsibilities

  • Troubleshoot network and security issues and optimize performance

  • Implement high-tech solutions to fight malware and ransomware

  • Identify system vulnerabilities

  • Respond to all network security breaches

  • Build security networks and systems

Industries Employing Cybersecurity Engineers

These top-paying industries have some of the highest concentration of cybersecurity engineers:

  • Computer systems design and related services

  • Financial institutions

  • Scientific research and development services

  • Retail and manufacturing

  • Government agencies

IT Auditor

An IT auditor assesses a company's technological infrastructure to uncover security management, efficiency, and compliance issues. And thanks to regulatory compliance requirements like Sarbanes-Oxley, the IT auditor role is a fast-growing occupation.

You can qualify for IT auditor roles with a bachelor's degree in computer science or information technology. Certifications in your specific industry will also increase your earning potential.

Average Salary

IT auditors earn annual median wages of around $40,000 to $180,000, with entry-level auditors earning less than managers.

Roles and Responsibilities

  • Evaluate cybersecurity infrastructure for effectiveness and compliance

  • Identify network and security weak spots

  • Ensure data and records are secure

  • Analyze internal IT controls and processes

  • Prepare findings and results and present them to stakeholders or regulatory bodies

  • Recommend best practices to improve network processes

Industries Employing IT Auditors

IT auditors can work in the following sectors:

  • Finance

  • Healthcare

  • Technology

  • Education

Network Security Architect

Network security architects design and oversee the creation and configuration of computer networks. This role combines programming and policy development with hardware and software knowledge.

You can qualify for a network security architect job with a bachelor's degree in computer science or similar fields. And with a few years of work experience and industry certifications, you can apply for managerial positions.

Average Salary

According to PayScale, network security architects earn average salaries of around $130,000, with entry-level professionals earning over $70,000.

Roles and Responsibilities

  • Design, create, and maintain network security

  • Create IT security policies

  • Research potential threats

  • Implement security measures

  • Deploy information networks

Industries Employing Network Security Architects

High-paying sectors with network security architects include:

  • Computer and Peripheral Equipment Manufacturing

  • Security Outfits, Commodity Contracts, and Other Financial Investments and Related Sectors

  • Data Processing, Hosting, and Related Services

  • Semiconductor and Other Electronic Component Manufacturing

Network Security Engineer

Professionals in this field identify and manage security gaps in computer security networks. The role is highly technical and requires a degree in computer science or other related IT fields and certifications to advance your career.

Network security engineering roles are versatile as they plan, design, troubleshoot, and optimize the efficiency of their company's network security systems. Extensive computer software and hardware knowledge and a multi-branched IT background prepare you for this job.

Average Salary

Network security engineers earn between $60,000 to $140,000 yearly.

Roles and Responsibilities

  • Manage and update security policies

  • Maintain servers, routers, firewalls, protocols, and more

  • Resolve vulnerabilities and security issues that occur

  • Inform the organization of the latest technologies and safeguards

  • Ensure that computer security systems are fully up and running

  • Perform network-based security assessments and design new solutions

Industries Employing Network Security Engineers

These top-paying sectors have some of the highest concentration of network security engineers:

  • Computer systems design and related services

  • Management of companies and enterprises

  • Finance and insurance

  • Other information services

  • Data processing, hosting, and other services

Chief Information Security Officer

A chief information security officer is the brains of their organization's IT security teams. They handle team operations and make higher-level decisions that improve the company's network security.

Like most managerial roles, this job requires advanced education and certifications to show your expertise in the field. In addition, strong communication, leadership, and analytical skills are essential qualities you need as an information security manager.

Average Salary

Most information security managers command six-figure salaries, with the highest-earning managers making over $150,000 annually.

Roles and Responsibilities

  • Monitor the organization's network operations and infrastructure

  • Manage regulation compliance and implement new technology

  • Collaborate with executives to create IT policies and standards

  • Create departmental budgets

  • Hire and train new IT security personnel

  • Supervise the investigations of security breaches and cyber-attacks

Industries Employing Information Security Managers

  • Securities and commodity contracts

  • Computer systems design and related services

  • Management of companies and businesses

  • Information sectors

  • Administrative and support services

  • Finance and insurance

  • Remediation and other waste management services

Information Security Consultant

Information security consultants are specialists that assess the security strength of computer applications, networks, and systems. Then, they design solutions from their findings and implement them according to their client's needs.

You can qualify for this job with a relevant degree in information technology, experience with security standards and compliance, and cybersecurity certifications.

Average Salary

According to ZipRecruiter and PayScale, information security consultants earn over $80,000 yearly in median wages. High earners in the 90th percentile make over $160,000 annually.

Roles and Responsibilities

  • Evaluate computer systems and networks for vulnerabilities and security breaches

  • Perform malware analysis and penetration tests

  • Recommend software and hardware upgrades based on results

  • Prepare security programs and implement IT controls for authentication

Industries Employing Information Security Consultants

Industries with high demand for information security consultants include:

  • Computer systems design

  • Management of companies and businesses

  • Information and communications

  • Software publishers

  • Data processing, hosting, and related services

Pros and Cons of Network Security Careers

Network security is a broad field with opportunities for professionals to work in different sectors and industries. However, it's not without its downsides.

These are some pros and cons of network security careers:


  • Numerous career options

  • Remote-friendly

  • Interesting work

  • Opportunities for career advancements

  • Impressive salary and benefits

  • High demand for network security professionals.


  • Continuous learning requirements

  • Long on-call periods or demanding hours

  • The pressure to prevent cyber attacks

  • Poor work-life balance

  • It's hard to secure entry-level roles without an IT background or functional skills.

Skills You'll Develop With Your Network Security Degree

A network security degree offers you essential skills to enjoy a lucrative career, from an advanced understanding of computer networks to analytical and programming skills.

Here are some of them:

Risk Analysis and Management

Network security personnel are always prepared to respond to cyber-attacks. With adequate risk analysis skills, you can identify and understand security threats before they cause harm to computer networks.

After understanding the security risk, the following steps involve safeguarding assets and implementing data security controls.

Most programs teach you to identify various risk types and stage proper countermeasures when necessary.

Analytical and Diagnostics Skills

Most network security roles involve gathering data from various sources, analyzing, and learning from it. And to have a successful career in network security, you need proper analytical skills to solve complex problems.

Developing this skill helps improve your career options since it shows you're a pragmatic thinker with problem-solving abilities.

Data Analysis

Data analysis skills are relevant for several IT roles as they involve evaluating digital information for patterns and trends. In addition, they help you gather and validate security information in large sets and utilize data visualization techniques.

Network security professionals can apply this skill to different industries, including healthcare administration, finance, supply chain management, etc.

Programming Skills

Even though some network security roles don't require extensive coding skills, it pays to be proficient in this area. Programming knowledge opens up more job opportunities and career advancements.

You'll learn control structures and object-oriented programming at an associate level, while higher levels teach you to implement and manage operating systems.

Python is a popular programming language for network security since it's more user-friendly and multifunctional. Other essential coding languages include HTML, JavaScript, SQL, C, and C++.

Understanding of Computer Systems and Networks

Most programs teach students how to manage computer networks as part of their foundational courses. Network security professionals benefit the most from this skill since their job requires them to navigate different security protocols while managing threats.

It becomes easier to keep computer networks secure when you understand the architect behind their designs.

How to Prepare for a Network Security Career

  1. Invest in a Bachelor's Degree

While an associate's degree qualifies you for entry-level positions, a bachelor's in network security or related fields increases your earning potential.

Most companies and organizations prefer candidates with higher degrees, and it's usually a prerequisite for several industry certifications.

You can also pursue advanced degrees and learn more about computer networks, firewalls, and endpoint security.

  1. Get a Network Security Certification

Certifications from professional cybersecurity bodies demonstrate to employers that you have what it takes to secure their networks and databases. For example, a CompTIA Security+ or Certified Ethical Hacker certification would show your knowledge of IT network best practices and operational security.

Most of these credentials require renewals every two to three years.

  1. Build your Technical Skills

Technical skills like scripting, network security control, cloud, DevOps, and more, improve your hiring potential and prepare you for various roles in the field.

These skill sets will help you assess network vulnerabilities and respond to cybersecurity incidents efficiently.

  1. Gain Industry Experience

You can land your first IT role with a technical support job. This field is a great career starter for numerous information technology roles. So, start small and climb the corporate ladder with advanced education and certifications.

Technical support jobs deal with front-line issues and provide an excellent opportunity for college graduates to gain industry experience and hone problem-solving skills.

Every tech department has technical support positions, so you can learn everything you need to advance your career.

  1. Join a Professional Organization

Networking with industry professionals is an excellent way to advance your network security career because you learn from experts and get pointers.

You can join professional network security organizations like:

Don't sleep on online networking since you can find top network security experts on social media and web forums.

Sign up for open source or community projects and get acquainted with as many professionals as possible.

Network Security Resources to Help Your Career

You can find numerous educational and professional resources online to advance your network security career. You can learn cloud computing and leadership skills with open courseware from top colleges like NYU and the University of Washington.

Professional organizations like Cloud Security Alliance, Computing Technology Industry Association (CompTIA), SANS Institute, and more help you network with other industry professionals. They also provide research funding, webinars, and easy access to certification programs.

You can also stay updated on technological advancements and cybersecurity innovations with journals and publications like:

How to Switch to a Network Security Career

Moving from general IT roles to network security jobs is easier than you'd think. With a master's degree or relevant security certification, you can make the change in less than two years.

You have two options if you're switching from a non-IT background.

  • Pursue an associate's or a bachelor's degree in network security or information technology fields, or

  • Apply for certifications.

Going the certification route is shorter and allows you to demonstrate your skills to future employers and apply for entry-level roles. But, you'll still have to improve your skills and knowledge with open courseware from accredited institutions.

You won't go far in the security industry if you lack the passion and drive to learn the necessary technical information for this role.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is network security?

Network security combines multiple defense layers to protect underlying network infrastructure from cyber-attacks, theft, or unauthorized access.

Network security personnel design innovative solutions to protect the integrity of computer software and hardware from potential threats.

What certification do I need for a network security career?

You can qualify for entry-level network security jobs with an associate's degree. However, you get higher-paying roles with a bachelor's degree or other postgraduate certifications.

The following professional certifications enhance your skillsets and offer competitive advantages over other candidates:

Can I get a network security program online?

Yes, you can.

Several accredited colleges and institutions offer online cybersecurity and network security programs, from associate to postgraduate. An associate degree lasts about two years and introduces students to foundational knowledge on network infrastructure defense.

Bachelor's programs offer advanced learning opportunities in cloud technologies and cyber law, while a master's degree prepares you for managerial roles.

What fields can network security work in?

Network security professionals can work in different industries, depending on their education, skills, and experience.

Some lucrative network security sectors include banking and finance, healthcare, information technology, telecommunications, government organizations, and more.

Is there a high demand for network security majors?

Network security roles are in high demand, with over 19,000 job openings yearly and a 35% employment growth. The Bureau of Labor Statistics cites this increase as a result of rising cybersecurity threats and technological advancements.

Final Thoughts

A network security career opens you to many opportunities and innovative solutions in the tech industry and other sectors. And, as cyber-attacks become more advanced and refined, network security professionals remain invaluable.

The job outlook and employment prospects in this field are promising, with thousands of job openings yearly and remarkable career advancements.

So, are you looking to break into the cybersecurity space? Do you already have IT experience in relevant fields? If your answer is yes, this guide is for you, as it has everything you need to enjoy a lucrative network security career.

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