IT Security Professionals See Increasing Demand, Salaries

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Wall Street has developed an appetite for network security specialists in response to federal compliance mandates and consumers vulnerable to the surge of PIN numbers, online banking and crafty hackers.

Robert Half International, the Menlo Park, Calif.-based recruiting firm, recently reported that for 2006, IT auditors are expected to see the biggest average pay increase of any accounting or finance job title: 11.2 percent, to salary levels of $67,000 to $94,250 annually. Network security analysts aren't far behind, with a projected salary increase of 5.2 percent to $67,500 to $94,750. Meanwhile, data security analysts will earn 4.2 percent more than they did in 2005, with salaries ranging from $71,250 and $96,750.

Even entry-level internal auditors at small companies can count on average pay increases of 9 percent, bringing them salaries of between $35,500 and $43,250 per year. That's compared to an average 3.1 percent increase for starting accounting and finance positions overall.

Frazier Davidson, regional sales director for Nexum, a Chicago-based boutique information security service provider, with about half of its clients in the finance sector, said that even in smaller markets, specialized network security engineers can command salaries of $150,000 to $200,000.

This demand for talent comes at a time when Sarbanes-Oxley deadlines are looming for smaller financial service institutions, and all companies are required to meet annual compliance deadlines. Plus, the public just wants to feel its money and personal information are safe, says Melissa Maffettone, Robert Half Technology branch manager.

"Integrity of data and security of data are the two most important things for any chief technology officer and IT manager we speak to," Maffettone says. "Clients and customers are demanding to know their information is protected from identity theft."

Desired skill sets for auditors include a strong mix of IT and accounting. Professionals with a CPA are especially attractive, Maffettone says. And interpersonal skills are paramount. "Outside of hard technical skills, they also need people with really strong communication skills," she says.

The financial world is always on the lookout for IT security specialists with track records of safeguarding internal systems and networks from viruses and intrusion, Maffettone said. And those who can troubleshoot on a dime command top dollar. "If a financial services company has an IT problem, they need it fixed and they need it fixed at that moment," Maffettone said. "Other industries have time to analyze and solve problems, but that kind of time in the financial service industry is costly to them and costly to the client."

Industry insiders say the demand for these positions will not wane anytime soon. "As long as there is regulation - and there is going be more and more regulation - there is going to be a need for network security experts," Davidson believes. "As long as banks have money to protect, there's going to be a demand."

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