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15. IT Security Consultant

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IT Security Consultant
Median pay: $102,000
Top pay: $156,000
10-year job growth: 27.8%
Total jobs*: 347,200
What they do all day? Corporate America's information explosion has also attracted no end of crooks looking to exploit it. Security consultants are hired data cops, brought in to find the weak spots in a company's IT system and figure out the best way to defend it from attacks and theft.

How to get the job? Consultants need a wide range of knowledge across networks, databases and all the latest weapons against viruses, Trojan horses and denial of service attacks. This is one job where hands-on experience really counts -- some of the top security experts are former hackers themselves.

What makes it great? The IT world will always need good cops. Plus there's the enormous satisfaction of keeping the bad guys out and keeping data safe.

What's the catch? It's a constant game of cat and mouse. As fast as security experts can figure out ways to block intruders, hackers come up with a whole new bag of tricks. --T.Z.

Quality of life ratings:
Personal satisfaction Low stress Benefit to society Flexibility
Published: October 29, 2012
Notes: All pay data from PayScale.com. Median pay is for an experienced worker (at least five or seven years in the field). Top pay represents the 90th percentile. Job growth is estimated for 2010-20, and based on people working in broader 'job family' from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
*Total jobs is estimated number of people working in broader BLS 'job family.'

Sources: PayScale.com, Bureau of Labor Statistics, and CNNMoney research
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