How Do I Become a Chief Information Security Officer?

Gabriele Sturmer
Gabriele Sturmer
Woman with hand on her hip
Woman with hand on her hip

A chief information security officer holds a critical position in a company's information technology department and has a large impact on managing security risks. He or she may report to other higher-level executives and uses both technical and business skills in his or her daily duties. Although it is not easy to become a chief information security officer, there are steps you can take to ultimately gain the title. You'll need to earn a bachelor's and, possibly, a master's degree; gain significant experience in an information security role; and obtain any necessary information security certifications. The information security field is always evolving, so continuing your education throughout your career also will be important.

To become a chief information security officer, you'll find that most employers require at least a bachelor's degree in a field related to business and technology. Depending on your experience, you may even need a master's degree to be considered for some positions. Some useful degree programs include management information systems, information security, information assurance, information technology and computer science. You'll also want to take some businesses courses if you choose a major that is mostly technical. A good combination of courses in business management and information security will prepare you for both the technical and business aspects of the job.

Many chief information security officer positions require that you gain an advanced information security certification. The certifications required to become a chief information security officer vary, but the Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSPĀ®) is considered the industry's standard. The exam covers access control methods, application security, recovery planning, physical security, network security and the legal aspects of information security. Before you can take the exam, you're required to have a number of years working in information security or have the right combination of education and experience. There also are recertification and continuing education requirements to meet.

There are significant experience requirements for those who to become a chief information security officer. The required experience can range from five years to more than a decade and some may require that these years be in an information management position. Some employers make exceptions for candidates who have the CISSPĀ® and a master's degree or higher, but there will still be a reasonable amount of experience required. The difficulty of becoming a chief information security officer without experience means many work for a significant length of time in other information technology roles before going for the new title.

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