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5/13/2010
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6 Hot And Sought-After IT Security Skills

What companies and government agencies are really looking for in today's IT security professional

The IT security job market is booming -- but that doesn't mean everyone is automatically getting a job, or the right job. And just like the threat landscape is rapidly evolving, so are the qualifications and qualities needed for positions in the security profession.

There's a conundrum between supply and demand: Employers are looking for security candidates who can fill a specific need, such as incident response or risk management, while security pros on the job hunt want to build on their existing skills and advance their careers. "But employers don't want to hire someone to get experience on their dime," says Lee Kushner, president of LJ Kushner and Associates, an IT security recruitment firm.

"In general, there are more qualified people than jobs. And in specific terms, there are fewer qualified candidates for the jobs people are hiring for," says Kushner, who also co-founded InfoSecLeaders.com.

Getting the right person for the job is as difficult as getting the right job. According to a report by Booz Allen Hamilton last year, only 40 percent of government managers say they are satisfied with the quality of applicants they're seeing for federal IT security jobs, and only 30 percent are happy with the number of applicants.

And employers are looking for security pros who specialize in specific security disciplines. The days of the Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP) certification guaranteeing employment are over, security career experts say. Security jobs are becoming more specialized, so a general cert doesn't carry the same weight it once did. "CISSP used to be a must-have. Now it's more of a 'nice-to-have,'" says David Bump, portfolio manager for security certifications for Cisco Systems' Learning@Cisco program.

So what do employers in the federal and private sectors want in a security pro today? The most in-demand qualifications basically mirror the types of attacks, breaches, and threats these organizations face today, as well as the regulations that help dictate their defenses: They're looking for experience in incident-handling and response, compliance, risk management, business-side acumen, security clearance for sensitive government work, and leadership.

Let's take a look at each.

Kelly Jackson Higgins is Senior Editor at DarkReading.com. She is an award-winning veteran technology and business journalist with more than two decades of experience in reporting and editing for various publications, including Network Computing, Secure Enterprise Magazine, ... View Full Bio

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