Ask The Expert

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I am a “20-something” PC technician working for a small financial services firm. I am currently in college, majoring in Computer Science. I’ve worked with computers for nearly 4 years; my question is: “What do you recommend that someone in my position should do to get started in the Network security field?” I understand networking basics, and how they all fit together, but that’s where it ends. I’m looking for your input because I want to get this advice from someone who has experience in this field and can relate to my situation. Thank you in advance for any help you can give me.




-PC Bob, Petaluma, CA





Dear Bob:


The first thing you’ll want to do is to examine your CS curriculum and see if it offers any classes on information security, information assurance, cryptography/encryption, or topics relevant to information security. If you can’t decide without help, talk to your undergraduate advisor about your interests and goals and I’m sure you can get some good pointers–perhaps to another department (MIS, computer engineering, etc.) if your CS department doesn’t offer such courses.


I’d also urge you to do some reading in the field to acquaint yourself with key topics, concepts, tools, and technologies. I’ve put together a “Computer Security Bookshelf” for, which you can access by searching on this phrase from the home page “tittel security bookshelf”. This will lead you to both Parts 1 and 2 of that bibliography, and point out some of the best books in the field from which you can learn.


Once you get your feet wet, you should then pursue an entry-level security certification like the CompTIA Security+ or the TruSecure TICSA. You’ll need to get some real, documentable job experience in security before you can pursue more advanced credentials like the CISSP, CISM, and so forth, so that will probably have to wait a while. You’ll also want to be sure to look for a job that includes at least a security component (if not an outright security focus) when you graduate from your program and start work in earnest.


This should help you find your way into this fascinating and popular field. Good luck with your studies and your certifications.



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Ed Tittel


Ed Tittel is a 30-plus year IT veteran who’s worked as a developer, networking consultant, technical trainer, writer, and expert witness. Perhaps best known for creating the Exam Cram series, Ed has contributed to over 100 books on many computing topics, including titles on information security, Windows OSes, and HTML. He also blogs on IT certification topics for numerous outlets, including and

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