Technology engineer and a colleague working in a data center.

IT vs. OT: Comparing Two Vital Information Security Concepts


As organizations increasingly implement smart analytics to derive insights from growing amounts of data gathered from different sources, the roles of information technology (IT) and operational technology (OT) overlap, blurring the distinction between the two.

What is IT and OT? While IT encompasses the entire spectrum of data modules, hardware, and software for information processing, Gartner defines OT as the “hardware and software that detects or causes a change through the direct monitoring and/or control of physical devices, processes and events in the enterprise.”

As corporations move from a traditionally closed technology system to a more open configuration, OT and IT face a wider range of threats and vulnerabilities. Closed systems relied heavily on physical security, while open systems depend on IT security frameworks. Now open to data breaches and other threats outside of their internal control, OT must work with IT to find solutions to security threats.  While playing different roles within an enterprise, OT and IT collaborate in finding solutions to ensure a secure operating environment.

Career Opportunities in IT and OT

Both IT and OT offer positions with upwardly mobile career paths. While specializing in different technology areas, IT and OT jobs require similar training and skills at their most fundamental levels.

Jobs in IT

IT is a growing field that offers a wide range of professions for interested graduates including:              

Cyber Risk Manager               

Cyber risk managers monitor the potential risks to a business's computer system while finding methods to mitigate them. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), cyber risk managers earn a median salary of $98,350.  A 28% increase in the employment of these professionals is projected between 2016 and 2026.

Security Compliance Manager               

Security compliance managers maintain the rules and regulations of network operations and serve as the first line of defense against intrusive malicious code. According to Glassdoor, security compliance managers earn an average of $81,414 per year. As with other IT security jobs, the outlook for security compliance managers is excellent, with an estimated addition of 28,500 jobs between 2016 and 2026, according to the BLS.

Director of Information Systems              

Directors of information systems help determine the technology needs for a business. They offer suggestions and implement solutions to meet daily processing requirements and long-term objectives. According to the BLS, information systems managers make a median of $142,530 per year. With a projected 12% increase in employment between 2016 and 2026, the job outlook for new graduates in the field, especially those holding a Master of Science in Cybersecurity, is promising.

Jobs in OT

OT is rapidly becoming a lucrative field for qualified professionals including jobs such as: 

Network Engineer               

Network engineers oversee the installation and proper function of local area networks (LANs) and wide-area networks (WANs) as well the cloud infrastructure that supports business processes. According to the BLS, the median salary for network engineers is $109,020 per year, with about-average projected job growth in the sector.

Cybersecurity Engineer               

Cybersecurity engineers ensure a company’s security measures protect its data while troubleshooting security and network problems. Glassdoor notes that cybersecurity engineers earn an average base salary of $129,847 per year. IT security jobs in the corporate sector have a generally positive outlook from year to year as well.

Technology Engineer             

Technology engineers ensure the hardware comprising an enterprise's IT infrastructure is sound and supported by recommended and tested software. They earn about $81,977 per year, based on information from Glassdoor, and have a good future job outlook as the field expands quickly.

Educational Requirements for a Job in IT vs. OT

While serving different tasks within a company, IT vs. OT roles require similar training. Norwich University's online Master of Science in Cybersecurity offers technology courses that help aspiring IT and OT professionals to strengthen their foundation of knowledge and specialize in certain areas.  In addition to taking basic courses, students can choose from among the concentrations outlined below.

Computer Forensic Investigation and Incident Response Team Management

This concentration teaches students the protocols necessary for conducting a computer forensic investigation and how to create and maintain a computer security incident response team.

Project Management

Students can learn the different elements of managing a project including scope definition, schedule management, cost, time, and quality. Additionally, they can choose to specialize in either Project Management Leadership or Strategic Management in Project Management.

Critical Infrastructure Protection and Cyber Crime

An exploration of conflict in cyberspace, this concentration offers students the chance to bolster their knowledge in supervisory control and data acquisition systems (SCADA) concerning utilities such as fuel, electricity, and water.

Cyber Law and International Perspectives on Cyberspace

The internet has no national boundaries. As such, students need to appreciate the nature of how different nations view infractions in cyberspace. The concentration centers on the policy measures that address the breach of security and how other countries implement cybersecurity policies.

Vulnerability Management

The vulnerability management concentration is designed to prepare professionals to proactively prevent or mitigate the exploitation of IT vulnerabilities in a system or organization. Students learn how to use open-source frameworks such as Metasploit to test security vulnerabilities ethically.

Skills and Competencies

Aspiring IT and OT professionals must show future employers why they are better than their competition. Forbes Technology Council lists a handful of core competencies required by technical hires:

  • The ability to communicate both verbally and in written form.
  • A passion for learning.
  • Fluidity and the ability to adapt.
  • Technical mastery in a chosen field.
  • Curiosity and a mindset tuned to growth.
  • A proper cultural fit for the workplace.
  • Reliance on data and research to make decisions.
  • Knowing when help is needed and how to ask for it.

Norwich University's online Master of Science in Information Security & Assurance offers students a solid basis for technical mastery as well as practical training to develop these and other traits to gain a competitive edge when applying for a job in the field.

Prepare to Advance Your Career in Cybersecurity

Norwich University’s online Master of Science in Cybersecurity helps students gain extensive knowledge in cybersecurity and information security best practices while allowing them to learn management strategies and policy development. The online program comprises six 11-week-long courses, blending the management and technical aspects of information security and assurance.

Norwich University is designated as a Center for Academic Excellence in Cyber Defense Education by the National Security Agency and Department of Homeland Security. Its online Master of Science in Information Security & Assurance offers five unique concentrations designed to provide an in-depth examination of policies, procedures, and the structure of an information assurance program.

As the nation’s oldest private military college, Norwich University maintains a leading position in innovative education since 1819. Through its online programs, Norwich delivers relevant and applicable curricula that allow students to make a positive impact in the workplace and communities.


Recommended Readings
A Key Role in Cyber Security: How to Become a Penetration Tester
How to Become a Cyber Security Engineer
Information Assurance vs. Information Security

What Does Information Technology (IT) Mean?, Techopedia
What Is OT Security?, Forcepoint
Operational Technology (OT), Gartner
Master of Science in Cybersecurity, Norwich University
Information Security Analysts, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
Security Compliance Manager Salaries, Glassdoor
Computer and Information Systems Managers, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
Computer Network Architects, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
Cyber Security Engineer Salaries, Glassdoor
Technology Engineer Salaries, Glassdoor
12 Skills Every Technical Hire Should Have, Forbes
IT vs. OT for the Industrial Internet–Two Sides of the Same Coin?, GlobalSign

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