Key Differences between Information Assurance and IT

Businesses and organizations rely on technology to be successful, and the numbers prove it. The global information technology (IT) market was predicted to reach $3.8 trillion in 2016. The U.S. claims a big piece of that market, at more than $1 trillion, or 28 percent of the total market. *

The information technology industry has grown tremendously over the past few decades and shows no signs of slowing down. Many people consider all types of technology services to be IT, but the truth is the industry is very diverse.

For instance, information assurance is associated with IT, but it’s a separate, specialized field with distinct services that require different skills and education.

IT and information assurance have some similarities and complement each other, but they have stark differences. IT professionals primarily research and deploy technology to help businesses. Information assurance, on the other hand, ensures that an organization's technology and data are secure.

The Role of Information Assurance Professionals

Information assurance is a specialization of IT because professionals in the field must have a thorough knowledge of how information systems work. Instead of implementing technology for business functions, information assurance professionals protect an organization’s systems and information.

Data breaches are on the rise, with a 2015 PricewaterhouseCoopers report finding that 79 percent of respondents experienced a security incident in the previous 12 months. **

Data breaches are not only compromising the confidential data of corporations and governments, but also sensitive consumer information, such as Social Security numbers, financial accounts, health records and passwords. For example, multi-line healthcare enterprise Centene suffered a data breach in 2016 which potentially compromised the records of 950,000 members. These records included names, addresses, dates of birth, Social Security numbers, ID numbers and other health information. ***

Information assurance professionals develop guidelines, policies and procedures to protect this data, as well as implement security strategies to prevent data breaches. They are responsible for securing an organization’s communications as well as its network. They do that by maintaining five qualities of a system:

  • Integrity: Ensuring no one tampers with a system via viruses and malware
  • Availability: Keeping a system running and available by protecting against hackers
  • Authentication: Ensuring that users accessing the system are who they say they are
  • Confidentiality: Limiting access to sensitive information to authorized users
  • Nonrepudiation: Tracking actions within the system to ensure an individual or party cannot deny completing an action

The main services information assurance professionals provide are risk assessment, disaster recovery, IT auditing, vulnerability assessment and digital forensics.

The Role of IT Professionals

IT specialists’ primary goals are to help businesses maximize network performance, minimize downtime, improve communications, facilitate information sharing and streamline processes. Essentially, IT professionals help businesses function better through technology.

Some of the key services IT professionals provide are IT planning, local area network (LAN) and other network design, network performance tuning, cloud services, app development and enterprise resource planning (ERP) implementations.

There are several career options for IT professionals, from tech support to project management. Popular roles include:

  • Web development
  • Programming
  • Software development
  • Technical support
  • Systems administration
  • Technical management

Professional Requirements for IT and Information Assurance

What are the requirements to advance in these fields? Both IT and information assurance jobs call for a background in technology. Most positions require a bachelor's degree in a technology discipline, such as computer science, information systems or engineering.

Many companies also desire various technical certifications, though a degree often prepares professionals to take certification tests.

Information assurance roles usually require additional security and auditing certifications. A Master in Information Assurance degree program can better prepare individuals for certifications and lead to management roles in the field.

Both fields have a strong job outlook, but information assurance professionals are in higher demand. While IT jobs are expected to grow by 12 percent **** through 2024, information assurance is expected to grow by 18 percent. *****

Information assurance professionals also have higher salaries. The median salary for IT occupations is $81,430, **** and the median for information security professions is $90,120. *****

Get Your Information Assurance Career Started

Technology plays a vital role in businesses and organizations across the United States. IT is a popular industry where professionals use their skills to help businesses grow, and information assurance is a specialized field that protects systems and data.

With the constant threat of data breaches, information assurance professionals are increasingly sought-after and an information assurance degree can prepare individuals to meet that demand.

Looking to learn more about information assurance and how a degree can prepare you for the field? Explore Regis University’s College Computer and Information Sciences degree programs in information assurance, which offer online and in-person study and vital hands-on training. Request more information or call 877.820.0581 to speak with an admissions counselor.

Visit our Resource Center for more details on the information assurance industry.

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* https://www.comptia.org/resources/it-industry-outlook-2016-final?cid=download

** http://www.pwc.com/us/en/increasing-it-effectiveness/publications/assets/2015-us-cybercrime-survey.pdf

*** http://www.crn.com/slide-shows/security/300081491/the-10-biggest-data-breaches-of-2016-so-far.htm/pgno/0/1

**** http://www.bls.gov/ooh/computer-and-information-technology/home.htm

***** http://www.bls.gov/ooh/computer-and-information-technology/information-security-analysts.htm#tab-1