Information Security Analyst vs. Database Administrator: Designing Tomorrow’s Computer Systems

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Humans generate a mind-boggling amount of data each day, and the numbers keep growing. According to the World Economic Forum, by 2020, there will be 40 times more bytes of data stored around the globe than there are stars in the observable universe. That data can come in the form of emails, social media posts, or internet searches — all generated by apps, financial transactions, store purchases, and more. Every click, GPS ping, and Spotify stream is data. All this information is then kept on servers and in cloud storage around the globe.

As the amount of data grows, so does the need for technical professionals who know how to manage and protect it. Information security analysts and database administrators interact with big data and ensure sensitive information stays where it belongs. Both careers involve technical knowledge and programming abilities, and data protection is one of their primary goals. However, these professionals focus on different aspects of security and often have different job responsibilities. Keep reading to discover more about these in-demand and financially rewarding careers and how to land a job in the information security (infosec) field.

Information security analyst reviews hardware

Information Security Analyst Overview

Companies and security software developers hire information security analysts to design ways to protect sensitive data. Infosec analysts have knowledge of both hardware (e.g., servers) and software (e.g., cyber security programs) that help them protect organizations from all kinds of threats to their networks. In some cases, they even design their own software to meet the needs of new companies. Information security analysts perform penetration tests, during which they act as hackers and attempt to access secure databases –– not to steal data but to expose vulnerabilities. They’re also responsible for monitoring security threats, writing reports, and staying up to date on the latest software that meets evolving cyber security threats. In companies, infosec analysts might collaborate with other IT staff and develop company security standards.

Information Security Analyst Salaries and Job Outlook

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports the median annual salary for information security analysts at $98,350 as of May 2018. The lowest 10% earned below $56,750, and the top 10% brought in more than $156,850 per year. The BLS indicates there were 100,000 information security analyst jobs in the domestic market in 2016 and expects that number to grow to 128,500 by 2026. That’s a growth rate of 28%, which is four times the national job market average of 7% over that span.

Database Administrator Overview

Databases are collections of data, sorted in a manner that facilitates retrieval and search queries. An accounting spreadsheet is one example of a simple database, but modern corporations use databases that consist of terabytes and petabytes (1×10^15 bytes) of data. Database administrators understand how to store and protect data, back up information, and protect it from external security threats. They work heavily with Structured Query Language (SQL) and Not Only SQL (NoSQL) programming languages, which help them sort through information from different database types to meet the needs of users and clients. Database administrators ensure, for example, not only that a bank’s customers are able to access their information from the web but also that the same information is available only to those customers and bank employees — never to hackers.

Database Administrator Salaries and Job Outlook

The BLS reports the median annual salary for database administrators at $90,070 as of May 2018. The lowest 10% of salaries were under $50,340 per year, and the top 10% were above $138,320. Overall, there were 119,500 database administrators in the U.S. in 2016. By 2026, the BLS projects there will be 133,200 database administrators, a growth of 13,700 jobs (11%).

Similarities Between Information Security Analysts and Database Administrators

One of the biggest similarities between information security analysts and database administrators is their typical academic backgrounds. An undergraduate program such as Maryville University’s online Bachelor of Science in Management Information Systems includes the curriculum necessary to begin a career as an information security analyst or database administrator. Courses in cyber security principles, database design, networks and security, and programming put graduates in the position to pursue either career. Both professions require knowledge of large database systems and potential weaknesses in SQL and NoSQL software. In addition, in each profession, individuals typically work in an office setting, either in small companies, where the job might include more general IT responsibilities, or in larger corporations in a more specialized role.

Differences Between Information Security Analysts and Database Administrators

While data protection is a key part of both jobs, there are several key differences that set the two careers apart. Specific job responsibilities, potential employers, and certification paths all change depending on which path one chooses.

Job Responsibilities

Database administrators are responsible only for the databases they maintain, rather than the greater security risks of their company. While security is part of their job — ensuring there aren’t any weaknesses in their databases or SQL/NoSQL systems — they’re also responsible for the general maintenance of the data structure itself. They have to make sure the SQL systems work as expected so customers can reliably access their data.

Information security analysts work with database security as part of their job, but their responsibilities involve more than just databases. They work with firewalls and encryption programs, as well as network security, protecting entire hardware and software systems from external attacks, such as viruses, malware, or denial-of-service (DDoS) attempts.

Industries

The BLS reports 28% of information security analysts work for companies that design computer security systems, serving as internal security testers to ensure a product works before it gets shipped out. Another 19% of information security analysts work in the financial sector, helping protect valuable banking and monetary data.

Database administrators are much more likely to work in educational services, with 10% of the workforce employed at state, local, and private schools. Database administrators are also more likely to work for retail companies, helping manage shipping and inventory databases, as well as purchase histories and customer information.

Certifications

Both jobs can benefit from optional certifications that show employers a candidate is proficient in important areas. However, those certifications are different for the two careers. Database administrators can benefit from certifications in Microsoft SQL, Oracle MySQL, IBM database administration, and SAP HANA. IBM and Microsoft certifications are the most popular, according to Business News Daily.

Security certifications for information security analysts include CompTIA Security+, GIAC Security Essentials (GSEC), Offensive Security Certified Professional (OSCP), and Certified Ethical Hacker (CEH). Many of those certifications require only a course or proficiency test, but others also require several years of work experience.

Information Security Analyst vs. Database Administrator: Which Is Right for You?

Information security professionals are in demand, evidenced by their expected employment growth in the coming years. Information security analysts and database administrators play critical parts in protecting and managing data in an IT landscape that is constantly growing and changing.

Ready to meet the future of data administration and information security? Find out more about Maryville University’s online Bachelor of Science in Management Information Systems and how a degree can propel you toward a career as an information security analyst or database administrator.

Sources

Business News Daily, “Best Database Certifications for 2019”

CIO, “Top IT Security Certifications 2019”

Digital Guardian, “What Is a Security Analyst? Responsibilities, Qualifications, and More”

Guru99, “What Is Database? What Is SQL?”

Maryville University, “Management Information Systems Careers”

Tech Republic, “What Does a DBO Do All Day?”

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Database Administrators

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Information Security Analysts

U.S. News & World Report, “Database Administrator Overview”

U.S. News & World Report, “Information Security Analyst Overview”

World Economic Forum, “How Much Data is Generated Each Day?”