Cybersecurity Job Titles 101: Roles and Responsibilities Explained
If you keep an eye on what experts in technology are talking about, you are well aware of the importance of cybersecurity. With so much of our daily work and operations tied to computer networks, cyberattacks and data breaches are becoming a common hazard for businesses and organizations. Of course, most organizations aren’t planning on sitting back and taking an information security pummeling; they want to be proactive in the prevention and mitigation of damaging incidents.
This makes the cybersecurity field an appealing potential career path for IT professionals. That said, cybersecurity is a large field that covers many roles and niche areas of expertise—you’re not going to see everyone working under a one-size-fits-all “cybersecurity specialist” job title. So what’s out there? If you’d like to get a better handle on some of the more common cybersecurity job titles and what they do, you’ve come to the right place.
Exploring 7 cybersecurity job titles you may encounter in the field
1. Information security analyst
Information security analysts protect an organization’s digital assets from cyberattacks. This typically involves monitoring networks for security breaches and investigating them, implementing security software, conducting penetration testing, and creating security practices for the company.1
Most cybersecurity analysts need a Bachelor’s degree in a computer-related field, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).1 Common degree areas include computer science, information assurance, programming or a related field.
2. Penetration tester
Sometimes the best way to improve a security system is to play the villain and try to break into it. Penetration testers attempt to breach existing security systems to help an organization learn about vulnerabilities and root them out. These professionals are also sometimes known as ethical hackers or assurance validators.
As you might imagine, it takes a great deal of skill and know-how to be an effective penetration tester. Employers are likely to prefer candidates with a formal cybersecurity or information technology-focused education as well as significant experience in related roles.
3. Data recovery professionals
Sometimes even the best laid plans go awry, and the experts in this role know it. Data recovery professionals (DRPs) are the people you’ll want to call to save information from damaged hard drives or other media. They also care for computer hardware, fix mechanical issues, perform forensics and create plans for disaster data recovery.
In the context of cybersecurity, these professionals often focus their work on large scale enterprise data recovery and damage mitigation efforts. In a large organization, a lot of data is generated in a short amount of time. To minimize this data loss, backups are regularly created to help avoid catastrophic loss.
4. Network security engineer
Another critical role you’ll find in the mix of cybersecurity jobs is that of a network security engineer. This role, while not always uniformly defined, is often tasked with key tasks revolving around the design, planning and implementation of network security measures. This requires a strong grasp of network administration and systems administration—you have to know how things work and interface with each other to develop and design a secure infrastructure.
Additionally, these information security professionals may conduct audits or assessments of current network security measures. This process can provide a documentation trail of what went wrong and what needs to change. Some engineers may assist with presenting these reports to key stakeholders in order to secure funding or buy-in for security initiatives.
While perhaps not the most common cybersecurity job title, cryptographers play an important role in data security by building and deciphering encryption codes and algorithms. You’ve probably heard a thing or two about data encryption in recent years; cryptographers are the experts behind those security-enhancing algorithms.
These professionals are often sought after by organizations dealing with highly-sensitive data—think financial institutions, healthcare providers, government agencies and the military. Their work requires a strong background in mathematics and an understanding of computer science principles.
6. Security awareness training specialist
Even the best designed security systems can fail if someone lets an intruder into the front door. Cybersecurity professionals know that the weakest link in a digital security plan is the human element. Security awareness training specialists, or security awareness officers, lead a company’s security awareness education. They reduce risk by teaching employees to understand security threats and follow security protocol.
These professionals need to understand cybersecurity inside and out—and they also need to understand people. They will develop security awareness programs, conduct trainings, assess risks and overall work with people to encourage the safest possible behaviors.
7. Chief information security officer (CISO)
When it comes to cybersecurity issues and initiatives in an organization, the buck stops here. Chief information security officers are executive suite professionals who oversee an organization’s entire digital security efforts. They take responsibility for every angle of cybersecurity, prevention, backup plans, investigations and training.
Given their position at the apex of the information security field, CISOs often possess a blend of blend of technical knowledge and business acumen. They need to have strong functional understanding of the work of the cybersecurity practitioners who report to them, while knowing how to navigate business planning, budgeting and decision-making. As you might expect, that typically requires a strong education background—many pursue graduate degrees—and plenty of years of experience.
Cybersecurity jobs take many forms
As you can see, working in cybersecurity offers tons of different focus areas to choose from. And this list is far from comprehensive. Cybersecurity experts can specialize in pretty much any aspect of information security you can think of. If you are interested in defending against cyberattacks or working in one of these roles, check out “Is a Cyber Security Degree Worth It? Analyzing the Facts.”
1Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, [accessed June, 2021] https://www.bls.gov/ooh/computer-and-information-technology/information-security-analysts.htm Information represents national, averaged data for the occupations listed and includes workers at all levels of education and experience. This data does not represent starting salaries. Employment conditions in your area may vary.