Those in this profession fight against the growing threat of computer hackers.

As computer hackers continue to make headlines following massive data breaches that affect thousands of victims, a group of determined defenders work behind the scenes working to prevent such attacks from happening.

Information assurance professionals work in a variety of settings, both public and private, tasked with safeguarding data from misuse and theft. Whether an attack comes from within a business or organization or from without, as is often the case, these professionals are charged with shutting it down before it is successful and new headlines can be made.

Information assurance professionals are in high demand by employers across the country to help design, maintain and monitor computer security systems to prevent attacks. Since no system is 100% hack proof, these same professionals are also charged with creating quality controls and checks to trace incoming hacks.

While major breaches, involving thousands of victims make headlines, many attacks are much smaller and might involve not just hackers, but also corporate spies or employees bent on sabotage.

As data security becomes a major issue for organizations large and small, professionals in this arena are likely to find opportunities with a diversity of employers. Government agencies on the local, state and national level employ information assurance specialists as do private organizations. Some of the more common government agencies that hire information assurance professionals include the U.S. Departments of Defense, Commerce and Homeland Security.

Entering the Information Assurance Field

The information assurance field is technically accessible to professionals with bachelor’s degrees in computer science or a related field. Many employers, however, prefer demonstrated knowledge in the specialty field that goes beyond a typical computer background.

Advancement in the field also tends to require an advanced degree or certification along with demonstrated experience.

Educational Options

Students interested in earning credentials to launch a career in information assurance will find a number of master’s programs are available as are certification options. The requirements for each will depend on the specific program.

Information Assurance Students can expect:

At the master’s level. A rigorous program that includes such study focus areas as systems analysis and design, information systems project management, legal and ethical issues in IT, ethical hacking and network defense, and computer and network security, among other required courses.

At the certification level. Certifications that can be helpful in the field include Certified ISO Specialist and Certified Intrusion Analyst. Global Information Assurance Certification oversees these designations and provides resources for training through a partner organization. Requirements may vary based on the certification being sought, and applicants are required to sit for proctored examinations to earn certification.

Information Assurance Job Outlook

A graduate degree or certification in information assurance can open the door on a variety of different careers. Common career paths include such job titles as information security director, information security manager, chief information security officer and information services consultant.

Information security analysts on the whole earned an estimated $92,600 median pay in a 2016 national survey conducted by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. That figure included salaries for those at the bachelor’s level, as well. The anticipated job growth in the field is pegged at 18% through 2024 by BLS.

Those who attain higher levels in the field, such as the rank of chief information security officer, may earn as much as $168,000 annually, according to Learning Path.

Students interested in pursuing information assurance degrees or certifications are urged to conduct their own research. Job availability, entry requirements and potential salary may vary based on employer and geographical region.