FAQ - Information Assurance
- Are there other professional certifications required to get a job in the Information Assurance field?
- Are there Ph.D programs in the Information Assurance field?
- What is the future for professionals in the Information Assurance field?
- Who employs me after graduation with a degree in Information Assurance?
- How can I apply for a security clearance?
Professional certification in not required to get a job. There are professional certificates including Systems Security Certified Practitioner (SSCP) and Certified Information System Security Professional (CISSP).
Many research universities have information assurance and computer security tracks in the Ph.D programs. The one at the Georgia Institute of Technology is a very good example.
The demand for information assurance specialists is expected to remain high for the foreseeable future.
Information Assurance and Computer Security professionals are probably the highest demanded specialist today. A quick search of Hotjobs.com lists over 1000 jobs and Dice.com lists over 500 jobs for Information Assurance from Information Assurance Engineer to Information Security Specialist.
Here we are talking about a security clearance granted by the United States Government for access to information considered by the government to be sensitive. Employment at many U.S. Government agencies and many companies doing business with the U.S. Government requires access to classified information and thus a security clearance.
Basically, a security clearance in not something that you can get; it is something that a person gets for you. Typically that someone is either an agency of the U.S. Government or a company that has a contract with the U.S. Government that included authorization to handle classified data. As a part of granting an employee a security clearance, the government agency or company requires an employee to complete an application. This process is called "applying for a security clearance," but what it really amounts to is the U.S. Government requesting information sufficient enough to grant you the clearance that it has already decided it will give you if you are deemed trustworthy.
To repeat, a security clearance is always associated with employment that the U.S. Government deems to require access to data that it has classified as sensitive. The clearance is either applied for after employment or, in the case of positions that require access to very sensitive data, as a part of the application for employment. In either case, the security clearance is associated with the employment.
A SECRET clearance usually involves a check for criminal records. The process of granting such a clearance typically takes a few months, but can vary widely depending on workload at the investigating agencies and other complicating factors.
A Top Secret clearance involves a complete background check, including, but not limited to, personal interviews with your family, friends, coworkers, professors, etc. - a process that usually takes about a year. Admittedly, presidential appointees and other bigwigs usually get a clearance in less that a week, but few of us have such clout.
There is one important caution about security clearances. If you quit a position in the process of applying for a security clearance, the government will assume that you have something to hide and will be very reluctant to consider you again for another clearance.