Security professionals angling for top jobs in the industry often focus on the role of Chief Security Officer. Is that the best job search strategy? 

The job title “Chief Security Officer” became an ANSI standard in 2009 and has been revised on occasion to refine and update responsibilities. Developed by ASIS International, the original concept of the CSO role envisioned the position as having responsibility for the strategy and governance of security related risks facing organizations. The standard supported the concept of convergence with the role serving as a single point of accountability in pursuit of a broader view. 

While some companies do have converged security programs, it is also common to have a separation between the corporate security function and that of information- or cyber-security. The CSO might have a broader mandate while the Chief Information Security Officer, or CISO, might be more narrowly focused. 

But is a CSO or CISO always the senior-most security role? Job titles vary widely across organizations and not every top security job is a CSO. Naming conventions differ across industries and that adds to the mix. Someone looking for a senior security role will find more opportunities by casting a wider net instead of searching only for a job titled CSO or CISO. 

For instance, the top security job in one company might be considered a vice-presidential role while in another, it could be simply titled “Security Director.” Organizations often have naming conventions for positions. Job titles are kept in parity with other departments in the company and may not be an exact reflection of the responsibilities of roles. CSO might not be a job title they can use. 

It is also helpful to research the reporting relationships in companies you are interested in working for. Gain an understanding of where the security function reports within the organization. The top security job could report to the CEO or board of directors. Or it might report through the legal or information security organization chart. 

And do not be surprised if the role you are interested in is not “global.” Job titles that have the word “global” are not always accountable for worldwide programs. Very often the term simply means the position is part of the organization’s global security program. Your responsibilities may be local or regional while being part of the worldwide program. 

More variations on the top security job title occurs on social media job search platforms. Very often companies who post jobs there are instructed to simplify their advertised job titles to fit within specific algorithms the platform’s software uses to match candidates to positions. This makes it difficult to identify what level a job is or what its actual accountabilities are. 

Recognition that organizational and cultural changes are ongoing will help you be open to more job opportunities. 

The success of any senior security executive is not necessarily measured by job title. Instead, it is your ability to build credibility with leadership and positively affect the security and risk management programs of an organization. Regardless of what your title is.