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Organizations rely on their data in order to conduct business, making it an imperative to ensure that all of this information is protected. Information assurance professionals are the people charged with keeping business data secure by designing and developing systems to safeguard a company's information, implementing and operating these systems, and troubleshooting any problems that occur within the networks.

Degree program in information system in Information assurance help prepare students for these responsibilities by giving them an understanding of data protection, computer forensics, network security, and the ethical and legal responsibilities associated with this type of work.

Overview of Information Assurance Degrees

Students enrolled in an information assurance degree program typically study topics such as crafting and implementing a security plan to protect an organization's data, the security challenges that organizations face when using different types of technologies, and how to audit information to ensure that its integrity has not been breached.

The curriculum of an information assurance program usually includes courses such as:

  • Internet and network security - Students learn how to successfully design and implement a secure system for a company's voice and data communication networks, as well as industry standards for Internet communication protocols. Topics include how to develop security policies for an organization, defense models, authorization and authentication techniques, firewalls, virtual private networks, and wireless network security.
  • Software security - This course examines how to protect an organization's software from possible security threats. Students learn topics such as the characteristics of a secure software program, how to conduct security testing on a piece of software, how to develop a software program so that it's safe from threats, and how to identify a security breach and fix it.
  • Network and computer forensics - This course is designed to teach students how to apply their technical skills to legal issues, such as computer crime investigations. Students explore subjects such as the legal standards that apply when investigating computer components, the tools and technical methodologies used to examine computers and networks, and the challenges that arise during forensic investigation of a network or individual computer.

Along with completing the core curriculum, students enrolled in graduate level information assurance degree programs may also be required to write a master's thesis or a Ph.D. dissertation.

Information Assurance: Career Outlook

Data security professionals are needed in a wide range of industries. Those who earn a degree in information assurance can pursue several potential career paths, including:

  • Network or computer systems administrator - Network and computer systems administrators tend to the daily operations of networks in organizations. This job, which generally requires a bachelor's degree, entails evaluating the network and computer system needs of an organization, installing networks into a company's computer system, training users how to use hardware and software when they're doing their jobs, and ensuring that networks and computer systems in an organization are running properly. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), demand for networking computer system administrators is projected to increase 12 percent nationwide between 2012 and 2022. Their median annual wage in 2013 was $74,000.
  • Information security analyst - These professionals are responsible for locating and fixing network security breaches in an organization's systems; installing firewalls and data encryption programs and ensuring that they work; testing a company's systems to look for vulnerabilities that could be exploited by hackers; evaluating a company's current systems to suggest upgrades and enhancements where necessary and training employees of an organization on how to use its systems based on best practices. Candidates are generally required to at least earn a bachelor's degree. The BLS projects employment of information security analysts to grow 37 percent nationwide between 2012 and 2022. These professionals earned a median annual wage of $88,590 in 2013.

In addition, information assurance majors may also be able to find work as chief security officers, security managers, or security architects.

"Network and Computer Systems Administrators," Occupational Outlook Handbook (2014-15 Edition), Bureau of Labor Statistics, January 8, 2014, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/Computer-and-Information-Technology/Network-and-computer-systems-administrators.htm
"Network and Computer Systems Administrators," Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Employment and Wages, May 2013, http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes151142.htm
"Information Security Analysts," Occupational Outlook Handbook (2014-15 Edition), Bureau of Labor Statistics, January 8, 2014, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/computer-and-information-technology/information-security-analysts.htm
"Information Security Analysts," Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Employment and Wages, May 2013, http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes151122.htm

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