Career Spotlight: Network Security Architect

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Female network security architect holding an tablet stands in a room full of computers and technology.

Because high-profile data hacking is a well-publicized concern, network security has become a top priority. But the internet wasn’t built with security in mind and only recently has cyber security begun to receive the attention it deserves.

“Although IT security has emerged as a high-profile, headline-grabbing issue, the concept of securing data has traditionally been secondary at best,” writes Jeffery Schilling of the Forbes Technology Council. “Developers are typically focused on other elements, such as design and functionality. As a result, attitudes about the need to ingrain adequate security protocol into software, applications and beyond are only now beginning to shift.”

Network security architects are the professionals responsible for designing and building a company’s security networks and supervising others, such as security auditors, who test the systems, according to Cyber Security Education.

They should have a strong overall understanding of a company’s technology and information systems, according to Cyber Degrees, so they can successfully plan, research and design robust security architectures; perform security assessments; and research security systems and authentication protocols.

Becoming a network security architect requires knowledge, experience and highly specialized skills. In addition, a growing number of employers prefer candidates with advanced degrees. University of North Dakota’s Master of Science in Cyber Security online program offers a solid foundation for careers as network security architects.

What Network Security Architects Do

Network security architects advise on how to build safe networks and make existing networks less vulnerable to threats. As Schilling points out, the internet was developed without an eye to security, leaving cyber security experts with the task of researching ways to protect networks after the fact.

“When I served in the operations center that managed cyber security for the Department of Defense networks, I went to work every day feeling as if I were fighting a design and architecture problem,” Schilling writes.

“Our best military generals throughout history have been masters at using the terrain to gain the advantage on enemies and allow the good guys to outmaneuver their opponents in the battlefield. Unfortunately, this proven tactic has gone by the wayside when it comes to cyberspace.”

So what exactly does a network security architect do? Cyber Degrees lists these tasks:

  • Research security standards, security systems and authentication protocols
  • Develop requirements for local area networks (LANs), wide area networks (WANs), virtual private networks (VPNs), routers, firewalls and related network devices
  • Design public key infrastructures (PKIs), including use of certification authorities (CAs) and digital signatures
  • Prepare cost estimates and identify integration issues
  • Review and approve installation of firewalls, VPNs, routers, IDS scanning technologies and servers
  • Test final security structures to ensure they behave as expected
  • Provide technical supervision for (and guidance to) a security team
  • Define, implement and maintain corporate security policies and procedures
  • Oversee security awareness programs and educational efforts
  • Respond immediately to security-related incidents and provide a thorough post-event analysis
  • Update and upgrade security systems as needed

Network security architects also work with other departments to develop three- to five-year technology roadmaps for a company’s projected needs.

“In a nutshell, the goal of a network architect is to design efficient, cost-effective network infrastructures that meet the long-term IT and business goals of an organization, while also permitting the organization to meet its short-term goals and financial obligations,” Ed Tittel and Kim Lindros write in Business News Daily.

Career Requirements, Salary and Job Outlook

Most network security architects come to the position with a minimum of three to five years of experience not only in IT, but in business planning, systems analysis and application development. Many also hold Cisco, Red Hat or other relevant certifications. An increasing number of employers give preference to candidates with a cyber security master’s degree.

Salaries can vary depending on location and years of IT experience. Payscale shows a range of $96,000 to $153,000 annually. Bonuses can range from $13,000 to $21,000 for total packages of $99,000 to $163,000. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports a median pay of $109,020 in 2018 for the occupation of computer network architect.

Employment in the computer and IT fields is projected to grow 12% from 2018 to 2028, according to the BLS, much faster than the average for all occupations.

“These occupations are projected to add about 546,200 new jobs. Demand for these workers will stem from greater emphasis on cloud computing, the collection and storage of big data, and information security,” the BLS notes. Network security architects should continue to be among the most sought-after employees.

University of North Dakota’s Master of Science in Cyber Security Online Degree

Choosing the right online cyber security master’s program is crucial. The best programs offer courses that stay current with today’s cyber security issues and concerns and offer concentrations that can help graduates be attractive to potential employers.

UND’s online cyber security master’s degree program is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission and ranked by U.S. News & World Report as one of the Top 25 Most Innovative Schools (2018), alongside such prestigious institutions as Stanford, Harvard and MIT.

UND prepares students for careers in cyber security with concentrations in Autonomous Systems Cyber Security, Cyber Security and Behavior, Data Security, and General Cyber Security. For more information on UND’s MSCS online program, visit the program’s website.


Building a Strong Foundation: How Network Architecture Dictates IT Security Forbes

How to Become a Security Architect Cyber Security Education

What is a Security Architect? Cyber Degrees

How to Become a Network Architect Business News Daily

Average Security Architect, IT Salary Payscale

Computer and Information Technology Occupations Bureau of Labor Statistics