The extensive use of computer systems in all types of industries means that cyber security is increasingly a priority for organizations. Although technological advances have made labor-intensive operations, such as financial transactions, e-commerce, and access to personal records, easier to perform, they have also made them more vulnerable to security breaches. To combat the rise in cyber attacks, organizations are turning to information technology (IT) auditors. Read on to learn more about becoming an IT auditor.
What Does an IT Auditor Do?
An IT auditor assesses the security risks of a network and computer systems. Typically, this professional fulfills the following responsibilities:
- Evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of IT operations
- Monitor internal performance controls
- Present findings to management
- Collaborate with the IT department to mitigate risks
- Ensure regulatory compliance
An IT auditor also implements recommendations from management, oversees the design of revamped controls and other functions meant to reduce vulnerability, and verifies that any proposed changes align with strategic goals.
Steps to Become an IT Auditor
There are many possible paths to become an IT auditor. Someone with the right education, experience, and technical skills will encounter a variety of distinctive career opportunities.
Step 1: Attain a Bachelor’s Degree
Most organizations expect job candidates to have a bachelor’s degree from an accredited college or university. Many IT auditors have backgrounds in information systems, business administration, computer science, accounting, finance, or related fields. Students who want to become an IT auditor may also consider an online bachelor’s degree in cyber security.
The curriculum of a cyber security degree typically focuses on digital forensics; response and malware analysis; cyber law, policy, and compliance; ethical hacking; and the relationship between cyber security and business practices. Students also gain a solid foundation in accounting, management, and finance, since these areas tend to be vulnerable to flaws in operating systems.
Step 2: Acquire On-the-Job Experience
Most IT auditors start their careers in entry-level positions in related professions. With the omnipresence of technology, graduates should consider relevant openings in financial institutions, government offices, healthcare organizations, and major corporations. The following are examples of entry-level positions for a career in IT auditing:
- Network and computer systems administrator. Responsible for the organization, installation, and support of the computers in a workplace. Duties include selecting the necessary hardware and software; maintaining, upgrading, and repairing networks and computer systems; and solving operational problems that may impede workflow.
- Database administrator. Responsible for the management of databases and ensuring their smooth operation. A major responsibility is implementing security measures to prevent hacking and data breaches in the database.
- Computer systems analyst. Responsible for evaluating computer systems and devising ways they can be optimized for maximum efficiency. Computer systems analysts brainstorm ways to tweak their existing IT infrastructure to be more effective or recommend new systems that may be better suited for organizational goals.
Entry-level employees interested in becoming IT auditors may need at least five years of work experience before being qualified for the position. Employers expect candidates to have acquired the necessary skills and hands-on training to face the complex problem-solving that the position requires. Graduate degrees may speed up their career advancement.
Step 3: Earn a Master’s Degree for Advancement (Optional)
While a master’s degree is not required for a position as an IT auditor, many find that a graduate degree, such as an online master’s degree in cyber security, helps them develop the leadership skills and business acumen to reach their career goals faster.
A master’s degree in cyber security educates students on the latest news and trends in the world of complex operating systems and software platforms. Since technological advancements and their risks change frequently, those who have devoted their time to staying up to date may have advantages over competitors. By expanding their understanding of related subject areas, such as business and finance, IT auditors can also approach their task holistically, with the objective of understanding how weaknesses in the system can affect the whole enterprise.
The master’s curriculum includes topics such as:
- Cryptography and network security
- Incident handling
- Legal issues
- Application development
- Forensic science
Aspiring IT auditors may find that a master’s degree increases their chances of securing senior positions and earning higher salaries.
Skills an IT Auditor Needs
IT auditors are known for being detail-oriented problem solvers who are well-versed in various software programs and operating systems. In addition to these fundamental skills, they must also be proficient in the following:
- Independent and creative thinking. The ability to work with minimal oversight and review is key. Management is relying on the IT auditor to not only untangle a host of issues across their operating system but also anticipate risks and implement necessary controls. Security breaches can sometimes be hidden; the IT auditor must unearth them.
- Excellent written and communication skills. Since IT auditors must present their findings and recommendations to management, it is imperative that they be clear, informative, and persuasive. Not all staff members will be tech savvy, so IT auditors must be adept at making complex information accessible to a general audience.
- Professional certifications. Professional certifications may help a job candidate become more desirable to prospective employers who want to ensure a high level of proficiency in their workforce. Some are general information security certifications, such as the Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP) from ISC2; others are more specific to their roles, such as the Certified Information Systems Auditor (CISA) from ISACA. Requirements may include passing an exam, previous work experience, and a commitment to continuing education.
IT Auditor Salaries
What IT auditors do for their organizations is invaluable, and thus their skills are in high demand. The number of positions for IT auditors and other information security analysts is expected to grow 28 percent from 2016 to 2026, and the median salary for these professionals is about $95,510, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Those who progress to management or executive positions may earn in the six-figure range.
Employment Outlook for IT Auditors
An advantage of a career as an IT auditor is that many industries need them owing to the rise in cyber threats. Small and medium-sized businesses are turning to cloud-based solutions and looking to safeguard their data. The healthcare industry is expanding its use of technology as well and will require experts to help protect sensitive data.
Start the Journey to Becoming an IT Auditor Today
Those interested in a career as an IT auditor may wonder what kind of plan can help them achieve their professional goals. They should feel encouraged that they are embarking on a career that is already in high demand and whose importance in organizations is likely to increase. To learn more about how to become an IT auditor, explore the online bachelor’s degree in cyber security program at Maryville University.