What it takes to become a security systems administrator

There are many more openings for security systems administrators than qualified applicants. That creates opportunities for IT professionals willing to get the training and certification.

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With 1.8 million unfilled global cybersecurity job openings by 2022, according to a recent study by (ISC)2, job hunters can often expect higher-than-average salaries than for similar IT jobs outside the security category. For those who work in IT and want a piece of the security action, there’s hope if you have skills you can leverage and are willing to get the right certifications.

Take, for example, the job of security systems administrator. The national median salary for this job is $66,517, according to Glassdoor, compared to $65,273 for a systems administrator.

And qualified applicants are hard to find, said Kennet Westby, chief security strategist at Denver-based Coalfire Systems, Inc., who has hired people for this position. "This is a highly recruited and difficult position to fill today," he said. "Every organization, even if they're outsourcing a lot of their services to the cloud, have a need for this."

Westby said that educational programs focusing on this specialty are starting to appear, but the solution is to hire someone who was previously a network or systems administrator and has a security background or has completed a security certification program. Another approach, he said, is to focus on specific security platforms and get certification from the vendors.

According to Westby, the security systems administrator is responsible for the systems that manage overall security for the organization, including the firewall and authentication and access controls for all servers and platforms. A strong virtualization background also helps.

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