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IT vs. Cybersecurity: How Are They Different?

Written by: University of Tulsa   •  Jan 22, 2024
Two cybersecurity professionals standing together looking at their devices.

IT vs. Cybersecurity: How Are They Different?

The modern business world relies on technology. Computers, mobile devices, software applications, and the internet allow business professionals to complete their tasks and achieve their goals more efficiently than ever before. This importance correlates to the high demand for qualified technology professionals. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) predicts an average of 377,500 computer and information technology (IT) job openings will be available each year through 2032.

Technology roles in business fall into several categories; two of the most prominent are IT and cybersecurity. While IT and cybersecurity share some similarities, they are different in key ways. For those seeking to pursue an advanced role in business technology, comparing  IT vs. cybersecurity, the educational paths, and potential careers can be helpful.

A Comparison: IT vs. Cybersecurity

The best way to learn about the differences between IT and cybersecurity is to examine each field separately. 

What Is IT?

IT is a broad field that incorporates all of the technology and devices that process, store, safeguard, and share electronic data. These devices range from computers connected to a system or network to Internet of Things (IoT) devices, such as smartphones or self-driving vehicles, connected via cloud technology. Professionals in the IT field focus on a system’s functionality, developing and maintaining its infrastructure, troubleshooting its performance issues, and overseeing its security. 

In business, IT professionals handle administrative tasks such as training system users. They can also offer internal and external support to resolve IT-related issues. Additionally, they work to ensure their company remains compliant with federal and industry regulations.

What Is Cybersecurity?

Cybersecurity is a specialized branch of IT. Professionals working in the cybersecurity field chiefly focus on protecting networks from cyber attacks and stored data from cybercriminals and other unauthorized users. They also proactively check for system vulnerabilities that could potentially be exploited by disruptive agents. This can mitigate the chances of data breaches as well as serious malware-driven issues like ransomware. 

Data protection can cover a wide range of areas. In business, it could relate to sensitive financial assets. In health care, it could be associated with confidential patient records. The devices cybersecurity professionals protect continue to evolve in complexity due to the increased use of new technologies such as cloud-based technologies.

IT vs. Cybersecurity: Similarities

Professionals working in both IT and cybersecurity are closely involved in the development of their company’s technology-based strategies, and their input is crucial to maintaining the optimization of the organization’s computer systems or networks. A key component of their responsibilities is to keep the organization’s sensitive data safe and out of the reach of disruptive agents.

Individuals working in both fields must possess some of the same skills to succeed. Apart from having a firm grasp of essential technical skills, they must have strong analytical skills to monitor the performance of and identify vulnerabilities in the organization’s computer systems or networks. They also must have solid problem-solving skills to efficiently troubleshoot and resolve any issues they uncover.

Because of the increased emphasis on integrating tech-driven solutions into business strategies, both IT and cybersecurity professionals can pursue roles in a wide range of industries. Common private sector employers of IT and cybersecurity professionals are financial firms, insurance companies, health care organizations, and IT service providers. IT and cybersecurity professionals can also pursue roles in various government agencies.

IT vs. Cybersecurity: Differences

The biggest difference between IT and cybersecurity is the scope of the fields. IT is a broad field that focuses on an organization’s entire technology infrastructure from its development to its ongoing evolution as it changes to stay current. The cybersecurity field focuses strictly on protecting systems and networks from data breaches and cyber attacks, relying on proactive strategies designed to stay one step ahead of would-be criminals.

Another way to think about the difference between these two fields has to do with the components they concentrate on. Professionals working in IT develop and support a company’s computer networks, systems, and applications. Those working in cybersecurity are more concerned with the digital information that’s entered and stored within these elements.

Jobs in each field require certain competencies that are unique to the field as well. IT professionals typically possess sharp leadership, project management, and resourcefulness skills, whereas cybersecurity professionals commonly have a keen understanding of risk management, are good at thinking strategically, and are detail oriented.

IT Security vs. Cybersecurity

Security is an important component of any overall IT strategy. However, individuals in IT roles have an approach to security that is different from that of their cybersecurity counterparts.

IT security professionals concentrate on building systems that ensure the data’s integrity as it is stored and transmitted among devices. The elements of this type of security revolve around what’s known as the CIA triad:

  • Confidentiality
  • Integrity
  • Availability

Adhering to this triad allows IT security professionals to achieve their ultimate goal of keeping the data safe and secure within the system’s parameters.

Cybersecurity professionals work to keep data safe by watching for potential cyber attacks that could compromise the data. They strive to stay one step ahead of cybercriminals by spotting weak points within the IT system and being mindful of the newest techniques and strategies perpetrators may use to breach the system’s integrity. 

Together, professionals in both IT security and cybersecurity build a multilayered approach to data safety and protection. The former design structures that aim to keep the data safe, and the latter ensures the data’s safety within the system as technologies evolve. 

IT vs. Cybersecurity: Career Comparison

The IT and cybersecurity fields each have different potential career paths.

Key IT roles include:

  • IT Technician: Analyze and diagnose computer issues, typically in collaboration with support specialists
  • Web Developer: Develop and maintain an organization’s website, including its functionality
  • Systems Analyst: Analyze a system’s design to spot inefficiencies and recommend streamlining solutions

Key cybersecurity roles include:

  • Information Security Analyst: Oversee an organization’s computer networks, keeping watch for potential cybersecurity-related episodes such as breaches
  • Network Security Engineer: Develop and oversee various security components within an organization’s network, such as firewalls or virtual private networks
  • Penetration Tester: Administer security tests on an organization’s tech-based systems to detect vulnerabilities

Transitioning From IT to Cybersecurity

Cybersecurity’s intense focus on proactively preventing cyber attacks may make it an intriguing field for current IT professionals to consider. There are two steps individuals can take to fully prepare to make the transition to a career in cybersecurity.

Step 1: Earn an Advanced Degree

While a bachelor’s degree is the educational benchmark for IT and cybersecurity roles, earning an advanced degree such as a Master of Science in Cyber Security can deepen an individual’s cybersecurity knowledge and skill set. This can help prepare the individual for the responsibilities and tasks of a cybersecurity role, making the transition from one field to the other more streamlined. Additionally, an advanced degree may open up more opportunities, as some employers may require an advanced degree for certain cybersecurity roles.

Step 2: Gain Cybersecurity Certification

Seeking cybersecurity certification can help an individual further refine their expertise in a specific area of cybersecurity. This could potentially prepare them to pursue the specific roles that best align with their interests. Certifications include the certified ethical hacker (CEH), certified information systems auditor (CISA), certified cloud security professional (CCSP), and GIAC certified intrusion analyst (GCIA) credentials.

Prepare for a Bright Future 

Closely examining IT vs. cybersecurity reveals both the similarities and the differences between the two fields. Professionals in both fields share the common goal of helping their companies maintain technology systems that operate on efficiency, security, and safety. As the business world leans further into tech-driven solutions to business problems, these professionals will remain vital to their organizations’ success.

The University of Tulsa’s online Master of Science in Cyber Security program can help you grow your career by fully preparing you to pursue roles in cybersecurity. Our program is designed to further your expertise in IT while also enabling you to deepen the knowledge and skills needed to stay one step ahead of would-be cybercriminals. Learn how we can help you get ready for success.

Recommended Readings

Cybersecurity Defense Strategies: The Role of Cybersecurity in National Security

Cybersecurity Ethics: Why It’s Important

The Importance of Cybersecurity Leadership

Sources:

IBM, “What Is Cybersecurity?”

IBM, “What Is the Internet of Things (IoT)?”

Indeed, “IT Skills: Definition and Examples (and How to Improve Them)

Indeed, “12 Must-Have Cybersecurity Skills (and How to Improve Them)”

Indeed, “21 Different Types of IT Careers to Explore”

Indeed, “Understanding IT Security vs. Cyber Security (With FAQs)”

Indeed, “What Is Business Technology? (Definition and Advantages)”

LinkedIn, “15 Best Cybersecurity Certifications”

TechTarget, “Information Technology (IT)”

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Computer and Information Technology Occupations

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