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What is IT risk management? Definition, framework, education and careers

Michael Feder

Written by Michael Feder

Kathryn Uhles

Reviewed by Kathryn Uhles, MIS, MSP, Dean, College of Business and IT

African American male IT Professional with glasses

At a glance

  • More than 60% of corporate data is stored in the cloud.
  • IT risk management is a necessary protocol for companies looking to mitigate risk and protect their data from vulnerabilities and security breaches.
  • IT risk assessments generally involve screening security issues, assessing threat levels and addressing those risks.
  • A proper IT risk management program happens behind the scenes and can ensure smooth daily operations and reduce costs due to data loss and recovery.
  • Prepare for a career in IT risk management.

Regardless of size, virtually all companies have some cyber presence. As companies move online, they need to identify ways to protect their data. That’s why many companies implement IT risk management strategies: to protect corporate data from online risks, vulnerabilities or security breaches.

IT departments responsible for enterprise risk management have several goals. They identify potential risks to cyber data and mitigate those risks before they arise. This process typically involves regular examinations of a company’s hardware and software for weak points where hackers or cybercriminals could gain access to a company’s systems.

Even in the event of a data breach, IT risk management strategies are used to help companies resume normal operations faster by risk mitigation, minimizing data loss, rebuilding servers and resetting systems.

Why is IT risk management important?

Given how much sensitive data is stored online, IT risk management is essential for virtually every company with an online presence. In fact, roughly half of all corporate data is stored wirelessly in the cloud. Even if an organization operates minimally online, IT risk management is still important to protect assets.

When hardware, software or online systems are broken or damaged by a breach, companies can lose time, data, profits, network security and even stakeholders. If a company successfully implements IT risk management, employees might never know it since smooth, ongoing operations are the main benefit. 

IT risk management can also help companies drastically reduce costs. Though risk management strategies often require time and money to implement, they help protect corporate data[1]  against cyber attacks that introduce costly and time-consuming recovery processes.

What is an IT risk assessment?

To identify potential information technology risks, many IT departments complete comprehensive IT risk assessments. Though your company might differentiate its IT risk assessment, the underlying process is the same: screening security issues, assessing threat levels and addressing those risks.

When completing an IT risk assessment, you might fulfill the following steps:

●      Catalog all IT assets

●      Identify potential IT threats and vulnerabilities

●      Assess current risk aversion strategies

●      Calculate the likelihood that an issue might occur and the damage it might cause

●      Prioritize all identified IT risks and outline actions to mitigate them

●      Record results

Many information technology departments use the IT risk equation to understand and assess the impact that potential threats might have.

This equation calculates risk by multiplying several variables together: IT threats, vulnerability levels and the value of each asset. The variables in the equation aren’t meant to be replaced with numbers. Rather, IT departments will calculate risks by considering real-time threat levels, vulnerability levels and asset value together.

Steps of the risk management process

Sometimes, the risk management process can mean the difference between smooth day-to-day operations and a serious cybersecurity threat. To prepare and protect a company from risk, IT departments will often complete the risk management process.

Here are the major steps of the risk management process:

●      Identifying potential risks: Teams collectively assemble a list of potential risks and threats that could compromise company finances, operations or time.

●      Analyzing potential risks: After identifying risks, departments characterize each threat by frequency and severity. Department members determine how often a risk might occur, and how serious a risk could become if it did occur.

●      Prioritizing potential risks: Based on each risk’s characteristics, potential risks are then prioritized according to their potential for damage.

●      Implementing solutions to eliminate risks: Departments then take steps to address each potential threat by developing a framework, implementing solutions that minimize risks before they occur.

●      Monitoring results: After risk aversion solutions are implemented, companies should monitor the results of those solutions to determine their levels of success. This monitoring process typically includes a regular audit to determine when a new risk management process might be necessary.

Together, the five steps of the risk management process contribute toward a single goal: keeping the company safe from IT and non-IT-related threats.

General best practices for IT risk management

No matter the nature of your company, several best practices characterize IT risk management:

  • Monitor and assess potential cybersecurity threats
  • Familiarize company leaders with internal IT risk management processes
  • Teach new IT risk management strategies, frameworks and compliance to employees
  • Implement transparent IT risk management policies
  • Identify a “risk response” team in the event of a data breach

All business's risk management programs will differ from one organization to another. For example, social media platforms might spend more time on mitigation to protect customer preferences. By contrast, online retailers may implement risk identification strategies that protect customer payment information.

Jobs in IT risk management

You can participate in IT risk management through a wide variety of information technology positions. Whether you’re looking to lead an IT team, contribute to a cloud infrastructure or simply help an organization protect its online assets, there’s an IT role that fits the bill.

Careers in IT risk management include the following jobs:

  • IT manager: Leads an IT department in identifying, creating and implementing IT strategies across an organization. As of May 2023,  computer and information systems managers earned between $101,590 and $239,200, with a median wage of $169,510, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).
  • Information security analysts: Fulfills security protocols that protect a company’s devices and networks. As of May 2023, information security analysts earned between $69,210 and $182,370, with a median wage of $120,360, according to BLS.
  • Systems analyst: Analyzes an organization’s computer network and IT processes before designing solutions to help streamline operations and maximize user efficiency. As of May 2023, computer systems analysts earned between $63,230 and $165,700, with a median wage of $103,800, according to BLS.
  • Database architect: Builds systems to store and secure data and ensure it is accessible to authorized users. As of May 2023, database architects earned between $76,000 and $194,960, with a median wage of $101,510, according to BLS.
  • Software developer: Tests and creates applications to run across computers, tablets and mobile phones, which employees can use to improve efficiency and complete tasks. As of May 2023, software developers earned between $58,740 and $164,520, with a median wage of  $132,270, according to BLS.

Salary ranges are not specific to students or graduates of University of Phoenix. Actual outcomes vary based on multiple factors, including prior work experience, geographic location and other factors specific to the individual. University of Phoenix does not guarantee employment, salary level or career advancement. BLS data is geographically based. Information for a specific state/city can be researched on the BLS website.

Each of these IT and technology careers typically plays a role in IT risk management. Depending on your technological field, you might be responsible for auditing the software, hardware, networks and tools you’re familiar with as part of regular, comprehensive risk assessments.

Important skills and education for successful IT risk management

Many individuals pursuing IT careers first obtain a bachelor’s degree in information technology, a program that teaches basic IT terms and concepts.

If you’re interested in risk management, you might instead select a bachelor’s degree in cybersecurity, where you’ll learn how to protect corporate data from a wide variety of potential cybersecurity threats.

To gain the knowledge base and experience for an IT risk management landscape, you might also consider one of several master’s degrees in information science.

If you plan to further pursue an IT career in data protection, a master’s degree in cybersecurity is likely the best path forward.

In addition to the educational component of a career in IT risk management, you’ll also need to build up a series of IT-related skills. These might include the following:

  • Knowledge of coding languages
  • Experience with cloud infrastructures
  • Database management
  • Technical writing and revision
  • Leadership in an IT environment
  • Creative problem-solving
  • Communication and teamwork

Before you can begin work in an IT risk management role, you might also need to obtain one or more certifications, such as:

Depending on your technical position, you may also be required to obtain certifications in cloud platforms, programming languages, database development or other IT fields.

As companies increasingly make the shift to cloud-based solutions, the need for IT risk management will grow accordingly. Now is the time to explore the career opportunities in this field! Ready to get started? Discover technology degree offerings at University of Phoenix. 

Headshot of Michael Feder


A graduate of Johns Hopkins University and its Writing Seminars program and winner of the Stephen A. Dixon Literary Prize, Michael Feder brings an eye for detail and a passion for research to every article he writes. His academic and professional background includes experience in marketing, content development, script writing and SEO. Today, he works as a multimedia specialist at University of Phoenix where he covers a variety of topics ranging from healthcare to IT.

Headshot of Kathryn Uhles


Currently Dean of the College of Business and Information Technology, Kathryn Uhles has served University of Phoenix in a variety of roles since 2006. Prior to joining University of Phoenix, Kathryn taught fifth grade to underprivileged youth in Phoenix.


This article has been vetted by University of Phoenix's editorial advisory committee. 
Read more about our editorial process.

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