Today, network security architects are indispensable members of enterprise architecture teams. While other architects worry about LAN (Local Area Network) cabling runs, router installations, and data storage requirements, network security architects spend their days heading off accidental or nefarious vulnerabilities with tools and techniques. They are responsible for meeting with other planners in the organization to translate business needs into functional, available systems that deliver services quickly and conveniently while incorporating a sufficient, but not excessive, level of security.
Often, job postings can be the most reliable source of what the job entails and what degree is required. Staples in Framingham, Massachusetts posted a job seeking a Network Security Architect. The primary responsibilities:
- Design and implement secure network infrastructure for critical applications
- Define infrastructure requirements for the implementation of new applications
- Work in collaboration with other departments or organizations to develop and analyze systems
- Upgrade or enhance the infrastructure to meet requirements
- Lead projects and efforts that require specialized infrastructure skills
This particular job at Staples requires 8+ years experience. However, the preferred degree is a Bachelors Degree in Computer Science or Information Systems.
Another job posting on Indeed.com is from the State of Wisconsin. They seek applicants for their Network Engineer/Architect position who have 4+ years experience. The education qualifications are an Associate or Bachelor’s degree in computer science or related field. A further review of current job posting on Indeed for Network Architects show that the predominant preferred degree is in computer science. Additional education might include a master’s degree in cyber security.
Network Security vs Cyber Security
An analogy is to think of a company as a medieval castle fortified against outside threats. Network security is concerned about maintaining security within the walls of the castle. It focuses on maintaining the fortifications, of course, but its primary purpose is to guard against problems from within. A person concerned with network security will be focusing on protecting a company’s internal information by monitoring employee and network behavior in several ways.
Cyber security is much more concerned with threats from outside the castle. Where network security is worried about what is going on within the castle walls, cyber security is watching who is trying to pass through the gate or breach the parapets. The two areas have a lot of overlap, but their areas of concern are quite different. The cyber security specialist is the crusading knight defending the kingdom (company). Cyber security focuses on the intruders at the gate.
You can start your career with an Associate of Science degree or an Associate of Applied Science in Computer and Information Science. Either of these degrees with a concentration in Cyber and Network Security will provide the knowledge cyber warfare and defense, protecting vital computer systems against inside and outside threats alike, including social engineering, hackers, malware, spyware, and viruses.
Advantage of an associate’s degree is that your local community college may offer a program in information security, cyber security, or computer science. A typical 60-credit program, inclusive of general education requirements, provides courses in information security, networking, operating systems security, cryptography, and cyber defense. You will graduate with an understanding of networking fundamentals, IT security, Linux installation and configuration, computer virtualization, and computer systems forensics.
A Bachelor of Science in computer networks and cybersecurity program, you’ll learn the operational procedures and technologies to design, implement, administer, secure, and troubleshoot corporate networks. Select a program that focuses on the network security side of IT. You will learn about Microsoft and Cisco technologies as well as other cybersecurity and digital forensics topics. The curriculum might include writing a proposal to design a network, including a plan to administer and maintain the network. Other courses may involve learning how to install and configure advanced Windows server services, implementing advanced server infrastructure, and troubleshooting IT problems.
A Master of Science in Information Technology-Network Management would apply to network architecture. Particularly with courses in enterprise systems architecture, network security, virtual systems, and network administration. A program of this type provides the skills to analyze the needs of an enterprise-wide organization, design the equipment and technologies required, and plan the implementation of the resulting infrastructure.
Another option is a Master of Science in Network Engineering and Security. Students completing this degree program have a thorough understanding of the technical and operational aspects of networks as well as the foundational theory of voice/data communications and network management.
Not be underestimated, professional certifications more than embellish a resume. One is the Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP) for those with 5+ years of work experience. Individuals lacking the experience should opt for the Associate certificate. Obtaining this certificate validates your accomplishment with employers and demonstrates your practice of security practices.
Another esteemed certificate for experienced people is the Information Systems Security Architecture Professional (ISSAP). This security architect certification proves your expertise developing, designing and analyzing security solutions. It also shows you excel at giving risk-based guidance to senior management in order to meet organizational goals. This is an opportunity to dive deep and hone your craft. And make more money. According to Certification Magazine, a 2016 survey of more than 800 certifications reported the average salary for an ISSAP at $140,550.