Jidaw Systems

Building a career in Network Security

Hello Jidaw,

I must thank you for your works. I have these questions for you because I see in you the desire to encourage, and empower people in information technology.

I want to become a network security expert. What are the career opportunities? I have a diploma in computer science. Should I invest in certification? Or should I go back to school for my degree program and then go for certification. Please I need your advice. Is there any shortcut for my desire? Some times I feel I am not as focused as I should be. Please I need your advise on what to do.




Hello FC,

Thanks for your mail and kind words.  

Career issues may be resolved faster through our site as many career questions have already been treated and published online (IT Career Focus). And in addition, because of our other commitments, we present the regular career seminars (Free IT Career Seminar) to address such issues.



Let me start by saying that a career in network security requires lifelong commitment and interest. A lot depends on your interests and career ambitions. Forget about shortcuts and passwords. Protecting networks and information is serious business. What does network security mean to you?

Today the computer is the network. Computer networks are used every day to conduct transactions and communications in all spheres of life - social, educational and commercial. Hackers, spam, hostile software, online attacks, worms and identity theft are just a few of the dangers encountered as we exploit Internet and web based opportunities. More "power" in the hands of the bad guys, has moved security to the front burner. There has never been a greater need to secure data that is accessible on network systems. Information security has become a major concern for all. Information security is no joke. It is serious business.


Network security career opportunities

Increased computer attacks and subsequent losses have heightened the demand for network security professionals. Interestingly this challenge is also an opportunity - opportunity to enter the network security arena. As organizations of all types aim for better competitive edge in the digital world, they are bound to invest in more computer and network infrastructure. Nobody wants to become a dinosaur, but who will secure these network systems? There is a need for trusted professionals that can provide network security value and solutions.

And as in any other field, there are those who are in the network security to make positive contributions and there are others who are there to make some fast money. You need to be clear on your motives. Network security is rewarding, but shortcuts will not work in a field as intense as network security.


What does a network security professional do?

The role of the network security professional is to use knowledge and skills to protect consumers, businesses, government agencies, and the society. The network security professional identifies all types of threats (internal, external, intentional and unintentional) and works to stop them. The professional performs by effectively applying networking and security expertise.



It follows that to get into network security, you must equip yourself with knowledge and skills in networking fundamentals and security basics.


Network Fundamentals

A person responsible for building network security, and protecting a network requires solid networking knowledge. Start by mastering the fundamentals of Networking. Focus first on building your Networking expertise - fundamental networking skills and knowledge (Network Security Capacity Development). Have a good grounding in the fundamentals - knowledge, skills and experience - Local Area Networks (LANs), Wide Area Networks (WANs), network gear and remote equipment. It also helps to have a good foundation in tech support.

With a foundation in tech Support / Networking - hardware and software, you can then proceed to build on that with security experience by developing your security skills and knowledge.


Security Foundation

You must have knowledge about threats to network security and how to combat them. How can you keep out the bad guys and help secure networks.  Such threats include worms, unauthorized access, e-mail attacks, malicious code viruses, availability issues, network vulnerabilities and social engineering. The technical aspects of network security, includes designing, configuring, and installing security tools.

Security professionals need to have a good grasp of encryption technologies, authentication, network security tools, firewalls, intrusion detection systems, virtual private networks, identity services, security management, as well as key information security principles and concepts.



Certifications and academic education programs are the most popular options for acquiring the knowledge you need. But consider don't certification and degrees purely as alternatives. They are best used to complement each other.

A degree program in computer science, electrical and electronic engineering or similar fields of study is a good starting point when using the formal education academic option. In such a discipline, always look for opportunities to choose network and security electives.

Certification always helps in the Networking/Security sphere.  Certifications focus more on specific skills in a particular area. Such skills are usually required and valued by industry. Training, books and practice tests are some of available certification preparation options. Internationally recognized network recognized standards include: 


Cisco CCNA Training.


Information security certifications you should consider are:  Security+, MCSE+Security, Cisco Certified Security Professional (CCSP), Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP), Certified Information Systems Auditor (CISA). Learn more about security certifications here: http://www.jidaw.com/certarticles/securitycerts.html

The certifications are all valuable but each has its own target audience. Focus on your situation and your need.

As a newcomer I will suggest that you don't aim to high as a start. Always match your certification with your level of experience. I suggest using the knowledge / certification "ladder" approach. Start with foundational certifications and follow-up with higher-level certifications as you acquire network and security experience.

Certification and degrees are both valid routes for acquiring IT education. Your need and situation should determine the route you will take. However, if you have the opportunity, it is often better to start off with your degree program. Degrees give you a broader outlook and background. And this always pays off eventually, especially as you progress in your career.

Build your career by investing in a working combination of these career options - training - experience - degree program - certification - knowledge resources (books, Internet).

For example, you can start your degree program and then add certifications to equip you with industry needs and give you the edge for future opportunity as you progress. In many areas of IT, quite a few students in university have already realized the importance of this combination by investing in certifications before they graduate. But I must emphasize that these are just suggestions - your need and situation are paramount in what you do.


Other education - ethics, law, non-tech

In addition to networking and security knowledge, I would suggest that you develop an interest in learning about cybercrime, investigations, ethics, computer crime laws, privacy, legal liability and other non-tech issues that are critical subjects within information security. It's not just about tech know-how. The security professional should have a good grasp of the issues involved. For example, to stop the attackers, it certainly helps to think like an attacker.



Note that education alone is not enough to build a career in network security. Regardless of your background, people who move into network security benefit tremendously from real-life working experience. You simply must practice what you have learnt. As you pursue education through your degree and certification programs, always look for work experience opportunities. Your education works better for you if complemented with hands-on system and network experience that helps you reinforce and focus your interests and learning much more effectively.

Beginners in particular should look for entry-level system or networking positions or internships - in cybercafes, ISPS, etc. Be ready to start from the basics and work your way up. Such opportunities can provide a solid foundation into network security.

Don't be reward-focused but be more contribution and learning (practice) focused. Always look for such opportunities as you develop your career. Your interest should be in increasing your value rather than your cost - value to clients, employers, colleagues, and to yourself.

You can also build a home laboratory for learning key skills and for more experience. Many commonly used technologies are easily available on the Internet as freeware or shareware. Practice gives you a better understanding of the theories and features of such security technologies.


Soft skills (http://www.jidaw.com/certarticles/softskills1.html)

For career growth, your professional attitude and soft skills (ability to market yourself, communications skills, presentation skills, business knowledge, leadership, etc) are also important. Education deals strictly will technical knowledge and skills. Start now especially to develop your communications (written and verbal) skills, as it will be part of your responsibility to communicate regularly with the other people (colleagues, business managers, customers, vendors, IT staff, company management, etc).

You will need such skills not only to get opportunity, but also to progress. For example as a network security professional, you may need to make presentations to management and colleagues. You've got the job - do you want to grow? It is essential to build such skills now. Furthermore such skills are critical for network security management (planning, developing and supervision). In fact expertise with a soft skills background such as project management or other administrative capability is required for senior positions in network security.



Information and network security requires an enthusiasm for lifelong learning and a lifetime commitment to information technology. The rapid rate of change in technology and security means nobody can afford to be "mister-know-it-all". Keep sharp. Keep up-to-date and sharp. Don't get complacent. Earning your security certification isn't enough. Monitor trends and attend forums that provide you with what you need to comprehend the threats and secure the networked systems of today and tomorrow. Information security is a continual learning process.


Professionalism, Trustworthiness

The network security position is a hot seat that carries huge responsibility. Ethics and professionalism can't be compromised. Degrees and certification are great but trustworthiness must be in the equation. Can you be trusted, what is your record like when it comes to integrity?


Do something NOW

Look at your situation and have a plan (http://www.jidaw.com/careerplan.html) - know where you are, know where you're going, know what to do. Can you appreciate the breadth of issues and technologies that network security professionals must address? It requires skills and dedication. And it's hard work. Who said it would be easy? Dig deep and look on the bright side - network and information security is an area with present and foreseeable demand - it is rewarding and satisfying work.

What I have presented are suggestions and information that should assist in your decision-making. When dealing with career issues, there is no formula and a lot depends on the individual in terms of attitude, ability and career focus.

The most important thing is that you start doing something now - don't wait for ideal or perfect - do something. Depending on opportunities available to you start investing now in a meaningful combination of these career options - training - experience - degree program - certification - knowledge resources (books, Internet).

All the best in your IT Career!


Jide Awe


Jide Awe is the Founder of Jidaw.com (http://www.jidaw.com) 

Jidaw.com's mission is to help you build and sharpen your career focus. Time permitting, we would be glad to answer your career questions, but before sending email, please check the IT Career Resource Center first to see if perhaps your question or problem already appears there or can be solved using the resource center 

or better still attend the next FREE IT Career Seminar..  

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comments powered by Disqus

Mar 26, 2008

Olaniyi from Yenagoa, Bayelsa State says:



Wow, this is what have been waiting for - Informative, educative and interesting. I love the article keep it up.
From your site a learnt that Cisco has change the sylabus. Based on that, I updated myself with changes and did the exam. You can't believe it I scored 1000.
I'm preparing for CWNA now, do you have help on that?

Thanks and thanks!


Mar 26, 2006

A. Aliyu from Abuja says:



So comprehensive and informative. I must seize this opportunity in network security.


Mar 28, 2006

Og from Lagos says:



Good summary for infosec enthusiasts. Computer Sc, Information Systems fresh graduates should read this. Security transcends technology.


April 20, 2006

Oladele Tunde from Ibadan says:



Wonderful! This is information i had been waiting for for years on network security.


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