IT Security Named 'Hottest' Job of the Year

Forget being called a nerd back in high school. It's time for the techies to have the last laugh.

IT security specialist has just been named the hottest job for 2003 and 2004, according to Challenger, Gray & Christmas, a Chicago-based international outplacement firm. And the post of chief privacy officer just got the nod for the highest-paying hot job, bringing in an average salary of $122,360. An IT manager or security manager came in ninth on the list of high-paying hot jobs with an average salary of $91,470.

Security is simply hot this year.

The security industry came in second, just behind preventative health care, for the hottest industry of this year and next.

''Anti-terrorism measures will increase the need for security personnel,'' reports Challenger, Gray & Christmas. ''There is also growing concern among companies to protect their greatest asset: information. Additionally, employers are increasingly concerned about the people they are hiring, which will give rise to investigative services.''

Security and IT managers are earning salaries of more than $91,000, according to the report. And a survey of top corporate information systems security executives for Fortune 500 companies found that the average overall compensation level was $237,000.

''Corporations are collecting more information than ever due largely to the data-gathering capabilities of the Internet,'' says John Challenger, chief executive officer of the outplacement firm. ''Companies will need individuals to make use of this information, but more importantly, they will need people to protect this information.''

Gordon Haff, an analyst at Illuminata, an industry analyst firm based in Nashua, N.H., says he sees no signs of the security industry cooling off any time soon.

''Security, in terms of IT employment in general, was one of the few relatively bright spots all the way through the big IT downturn,'' says Haff. ''Certainly 9/11 created a lot of sensitivity to security. Viruses continue to increase. All of that has created a lot of awareness of security needs.''

But Haff remains somewhat skeptical that awareness will actual translate into spending.

''The question comes: There's a lot of awareness of security but how much are individual companies really going to be willing to pay to implement better security?'' Haff asks. ''How much real change in process are they willing to make? For it to remain a hot job, companies as a whole need to demonstrate that they're willing to continue spending on it in the long term as opposed to doing some quick fixes.''