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What's the best way to get started in information security?

I have recently taken an interest in information security (specifically computer forensics), because it is an exciting field with a strong future. I would like to get a job with the government, possibly within Homeland Security or something like that. My undergraduate degree is from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in information technology. I am currently in grad school for industrial and organizational psychology at Fairleigh Dickinson University. However, I am not sure if I want to continue on this route since my new found fascination with information security. I was thinking of switching to forensics psychology when I found some schools offering a degree on forensics computing. One school I am considering is John Jay College of Criminal Justice in NY.

What do you think about a switch like this, as far as stepping into a information security career? Is it worth it to switch my Master's degree to forensics computing, or is there another route that would work as well? Is this program highly regarded in the industry? My reason for starting a degree in industrial and organizational psych was to create a background of skills for a management position in the future. I would someday like to get my MBA for management in information security. Do you think it would be wise to switch to forensics computing even though I have management in mind as a future goal?

Also, do you have any suggestions on how to find an entry-level position within information security to obtain experience?

If information security is what really interests you, the career implications of switching fields/degrees to follow your interests can't help but be positive. That said, especially if you're interested in working for the government post graduation, I'd urge you to consider the schools on the NSA's "National Centers of Excellence in Information Assurance" as your first choices of institutions. Read about the program at http://www.nsa.gov/ia/academia/caeiae.cfm; in New Jersey, only the New Jersey Institute of Technology and Stevens Institute of Technology are on that list.

Also, I'm not sure forensics computing is necessarily the right kind of degree to pursue. I'd urge you to take a general introductory information security course, or read a couple of good general books (e-mail me at etittel@yahoo.com if you want some specific recommendations) to help you understand the entire information security/information assurance landscape, before deciding on a narrow specialty like computer forensics.

But overall, you're very much on the right track, and should probably start doing some more research and taking some steps to make your move into the field that interests you most.

For more info on this topic, visit these SearchSecurity.com resources:
  • Ask the Expert: What is your opinion of the Certification in Homeland Security?
  • Ask the Expert: Advice for joining the computer forensics field
  • Careers and Certification Tip: Security certification landscape, part 2: Climbing the certification ladder
  • This was last published in April 2004

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