Cyber Security Architect Career Guide & Outlook

Learn What a Security Architect Does, the Requirements Needed and Job Growth

Hackers are everywhere. By now, most people have seen a hacked account on social media or have become the target of some sort of security breach. In fact, most people have had their data compromised when credit reporting agencies were hacked. In response, cyber security architects are designing comprehensive software and hardware systems to protect their firm, or client, from black-hat hackers.

In essence, cyber security architects apply their experience and knowledge to the monstrous task of protecting private databases from outside breaches. They instruct staff on how to create and protect difficult passwords, set up systems that detect hacking attempts, and keep their system's hardware up to date and matching top security specifications.

What Does a Security Architect Do?

The career of a cyber security architect often begins in the trenches of an IT department, or perhaps as a network administrator. Frequently, budding security architects start out working in cyber security. Barring that specific experience, it is possible to get started in cyber security by adding new certifications or even degrees to an existing Computer Science or Information Technology degree. Further, those who are aiming to make cyber security their life's work can be sure to position themselves so that they work on new security-related projects in their firm.

After a few years of practical experience, cyber security professionals can start to move up. If there are specific security positions in their firm, that is a great next step. However, many find that they need to move to another firm and establish themselves as cyber security professionals there. Regardless, all professionals should continually seek to develop their technical and even soft skills in order to remain competitive in the job market.

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What are Their Responsibilities, Common Duties, and Tasks?

Cyber security architects have a lot of responsibilities on their shoulders. After all, their job is to make sure the firm's intellectual property or sensitive client or customer information is safe from outside attacks. The general duty of a cyber security architect is to devise a system that will ensure absolute safety for the firm's databases, workstations, and networks.

Such security protocols will require assembling and managing a team of cyber security experts who can implement software and hardware solutions. This will likely involve new learning for the team, as security technology is constantly evolving. A cyber security architect must possess excellent leadership, management, and communication skills in order to effectively roll out new security protocols.

On top of this, security architects must be able to remain within budgetary confines and report to the upper levels, including the c-suites. Because of this, a cyber security architect must be able to communicate with both highly technical professionals and business-minded executives.

How to Become a Security Architect

Security Architects arrive at their positions after many years working with Information Technology issues. Frequently they have forged a career in cyber security while working towards their undergraduate degrees. While there are few bachelor's degrees that focus on cyber security, it is possible to take a few courses and then complete an internship under a cyber security architect.

After graduation, professionals should seek out an entry level position on a cyber security team. While it's far more common to find work as a non-specialized IT worker, a database administrator, or network administrator, it is possible to take initiative and either spearhead new security protocols or join special projects that help protect the firm's information.

Since technology continues to evolve, it is immensely beneficial to pursue certifications. There are many product-specific certifications, such as those from Cisco Systems or Microsoft. On the other hand, there are independent professional associations that offer certifications. Professionals will need to decide whether a product-specific certification or a more general credential will suit them best.

On top of a certification, it will be vital, at some point, to return to school for a master's degree. In fact, it will be nearly impossible to reach upper management or the c-suites without an MBA. Some professionals even earn dual degrees in a high-tech area and business to give them the best possible chance. Since both technical and managerial skills are vital to the profession, savvy professionals will seek both in their graduate school experience.

Typical Requirements for Hiring

Cyber security architect is not an entry-level position. Rather, it is a position that is earned through years of experience and constant learning. Employers hiring for this position need to see a wide range of skills that include network security, database security, communication, knowledge of hardware, and management.

Employers will want to see a clear demonstration of a candidate's experience regarding network security. For instance, years spent as a penetration tester will likely prove useful. However, it may be just as valuable to work against attacks as a network administrator. Even better, professionals with experience on both the attacker and attacked side of cyber security will make for an employable double-threat. Architects will also need to be up to speed regarding database security. They will need to understand how to assign permissions to end users and have a record that shows how their initiatives resulted in password security and non-breached data stores.

Communication skills will also be absolutely vital to a cyber security architect. After all, once they devise a system of software and hardware solutions to the system's needs, it will be vital to communicate these matters to their team, other workers in the firm, and the top executives. Thus, soft skills such as business writing acumen, interpersonal communication skills, and even document design will be immensely helpful when seeking a job.

To bolster these skill sets, professionals will want to have concrete examples that demonstrate their abilities. It will also be immensely helpful to show a dedication to professional growth and development. Professionals who maintain certifications through continuing education or who have earned master's degrees in either technology fields or management, if not both, will more easily attract the attention of top employers.

Skills Needed

Cyber security architects not only need top technical skills, but they also need a range of soft skills. In fact, it may be the soft skills that put top professionals above the rest.

Some of these skills include, but are not limited to the following:

  • Business Writing:
    Cyber security architects need to constantly send updated security memos, write effective inter-departmental emails, and address a range of audience types. Professionals who can convey technical security information to their team and then turn around and send an understandable, readable memo to non-technical staff will achieve the best results.
  • Interpersonal Communication:
    Cyber security professionals must be able to forge strong relationships with non-technical staff. They will also need to be able to deliver a presentation that everyone can understand.
  • Emotional IQ:
    Inherent in the need for effective written and oral communication is the need for high Emotional IQ. It is vital for professionals to have a strong sense for what their audience understands or needs, and how they come across to others. This is a good skill for any manager.

Salary

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, computer network architects earned a median salary of $109,020 in 2018. On the other hand, Payscale reports that the average salary for professionals in the position is almost $123,000/year. Their data shows that security architects with more experience can earn as much as $177,000/year, while entry-level employees in this position can earn as little as $77,000/year at the low end. Their data also shows that $86,000 is the 10th percentile and that lower salaries are uncommon. On the upper end, $161,000/year is the 90th percentile and few should expect more than that.

Professionals should also consider that salary numbers only reflect base pay. Other aspects of compensation such as health benefits, bonus payments, and other perks are not often factored in to salary calculations. Also, other things which may affect your salary are your experience level, the region in which you live, and the industry in which you are employed.

Outlook & Jobs

Cyber security is a very hot topic these days. All too often the headlines feature news of some new security breach, and firms are taking note. The government is actively seeking security professionals to help protect our national assets in the military and elsewhere in our public infrastructure. Even individuals are in need of education regarding their personal and financial data.

It's no wonder that security jobs are taking off in a very big way. Though the BLS doesn't offer numbers for cyber security architects, it does show that information security analysts are expected to grow by 32% through 2028. The agency also shows that the job sector Computer and Information Systems Managers is expected to expand by 11% through 2028. Further, a search on ZipRecruiter shows that, of this writing, they are advertising for over 16,000 jobs in response to the key term, cyber security architect.

Cyber Security Careers and Jobs

Chief Information Security Officer (CISO)

These executives oversee information systems and company-wide information security, as well as all departments associated with these systems.

Chief Security Officer (CSO)

These executives deal with information and physical security systems, controlling database and facility entry and all departments that deal with security and surrounding policies.

Chief Technology Officer (CTO)

This executive deals with technology development and implementation. They receive company-wide reports on the use and effectiveness of technology.

Computer Forensics Investigator

Analyze computers or web-based applications in the search for forensic evidence of a crime. This is done in support of the law after commission of a crime, or in efforts to support a company by assessing network vulnerabilities.

Cryptographer

Cryptographers are responsible for deciphering encrypted data. They might do after the commission of a crime. They also work to create better encryption to create stronger networks and safer data storage.

Incident Responder

Incident responders work with companies or governments to respond quickly after a possible threat has been detected. They find the source of the issue, determine if it’s a real threat, and discover how the incursion occurred.

Penetration Tester

Penetration testers seek to create an incursion. By doing so, they reveal the weak points of a security system so that these points can be secured better in the future.

Risk Analyst

Risk analysts spend their time looking for systems, procedures, or malware which could cause unintended negative occurrences, such as system crashes or slowdowns. They help create procedures to fix these problems quickly if they do occur.

Security Administrator

Administrators are responsible for dealing with all security and safety issues. They may create procedures or policies in order to maintain security company-wide.

Security Analyst

Security analysts maintain company networks and fix issues that come up during normal operation. They may also identify threats and neutralizing them as quickly as possible.

Security Architect

This position requires you to choose or design security elements, whether physical parts that will become a part of the system or the virtual system that will provide access to all the company’s data.

Security Auditor

These specialists may be kept on retainer or brought in after changes are made to a system. They provide a system-wide audit to make sure there are no chinks in the armor of the network or system.

Security Consultant

Security consultants devise plans for a company should they experience an incursion or help companies that are just getting started set up their security system from the ground up.

Security Director

The director of security helps create and review all policies and procedures related to security. They also ensure compliance with local or federal laws related to security concerns, such as the safety of patient data.

Security Engineer

A security engineer is responsible for creating computing systems which increase their company’s security and they solve any issues turned up by a security audit or incursion incident.

Security Manager

These managers oversee security staff on a day-to-day basis, making sure staffing is steady and all issues are dealt with and reported to the highest-level security professional in the company.

Security Software Developer

Specializing in security software solutions, they create software for individuals to use on home computers or advanced solutions meant for multi-billion-dollar industries or even government agencies.

Security Specialist

This is an entry-level position in which a specialist may monitor or troubleshoot system or network issues. They may perform basic test procedures, reporting all activity and feedback to their manager.

Vulnerability Assessor

These specialists test systems for vulnerabilities, much in the same way penetration testers do. Instead of performing penetration testing, they look through applications or software for possible weaknesses.

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