How to Land the Best Jobs in Cyber Security [Includes Salary Data]
For job seekers looking for high pay, job security and the option to work in any sector and in any state, the cybersecurity field is the place to be.
The annual cost of cybercrime around the globe will soon reach $6 trillion annually, according to CybersecurityVentures.com. Meanwhile, the list of big-name data breach victims (from Facebook and LinkedIn to Target, Capital One, the Department of Homeland Security and countless more) continues to grow at an alarming pace.
As cyber attacks continue to increase in volume and tenacity, with ever-changing tactics, the government and the private sector are raising the alarm. In response, there has been a sharp uptick in the demand for cybersecurity professionals across almost every sector.
Due to this significant talent shortage in a critical area of national security and following the law of supply and demand, those who work in the industry can expect a high cybersecurity salary. For instance, top-level chief information security officers can command as much as $420,000 annually.
So while it is clear that a job in cybersecurity has many benefits, what are some of the best cybersecurity positions and how do you land them?
The Best Jobs in Cyber Security
Information Security Analyst
This job is listed as #4 among Best Technology Jobs and #40 overall by U.S. News & World Report, which cites a median salary of $95,510. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports median pay of $98,350. In this role your main duty will be to protect sensitive information. You will create the plans and implement strategies for preventing attacks, develop policies to protect the organization against such attacks, ensure compliance of policies, monitor data access and train other employees.
Estimated salary: $90,000 – $100,000
Lead Software Security Engineer
Typically tasked with leading a team of security experts, analyzing and assessing risk, developing secure software and identifying vulnerabilities, a lead software engineer can make an average annual salary well over six figures (ZipRecruiter: $127,958; Glassdoor: $146,883).
Estimated salary: $125,000 – $150,000
Chief Information Security Officer (CISO)
The CISO is a senior level role in charge of developing, implementing and maintaining security processes that protect the company from threats and risk. Salaries are now topping $420,000 for top-level CISOs. CSOonline.com lists the median salary at $158,939 and the range as $140,000–$300,000.
Estimated salary: $140,000 – $300,000
A security architect is responsible for analyzing security threats and recommending solutions to protect information and data. They may participate in the development of security hardware and software, oversee and educate staff on security policies, design security models and install VPNs, firewalls and more. Noting that 27% of employers hiring for this position request a master’s degree, Cyberseek.org lists an average salary of $129,000.
Estimated salary: $120,000 – $190,000
Penetration testers are in charge of identifying vulnerabilities in an organizations network. They do this through constantly probing and testing the network using various tools and software. Cyberseek.org lists the average salary for penetration and vulnerability testers at $102,000 and reports that 22% of those hiring seek an advanced degree. However, salaries can range up to $130,000, according to Mondo.com.
Estimated salary: $80,000 – $130,000
Information Security Crime Investigator/Forensics Expert
A forensics expert is a cybercrime-fighting Sherlock Holmes who investigates cyber attacks and tries to identify flaws in the system that allow for an attack, along with clues left by the attackers. Related job titles include Cybersecurity Forensics Analyst, Cybersecurity Incident Responder, Cyber Forensics Analyst, according to Cyberseek.org, which lists an average salary of $85,000.
Estimated salary: $75,000 – $110,000.
Of course, this is just a sampling of some of the many great jobs in the cybersecurity field.
How to Get Hired
Overall, cybersecurity job openings are “skyrocketing,” according to ZipRecruiter.com. However, while there is a desperate need in the marketplace for cybersecurity professionals, employers are grappling with a serious shortage of applicants who possess the needed skills and experience to fill these positions.
That means that if you want to land a job in cybersecurity, including the jobs listed above, you will likely need a combination of experience, education and industry certifications.
If you already work in the field of cybersecurity, you know how important certifications can be. While they are certainly not the end all be all, and will not land you a job on their own, they carry a lot of weight, are definite resume boosters and are sometimes required for employment. Important certifications that those looking to make a career in cybersecurity should consider obtaining include:
- CISSP – The Certified Information Systems Security Professional. One of the leading cybersecurity certifications, the CISSP helps open the door to higher-level positions and the potential for increased pay. It is required for many key jobs at the Department of Defense, and carries a lot of weight beyond the DoD as well.
- CISM – Certified Information Security Manager. This certification focuses on governance, risk management and compliance.
- CISA – Certified Information Systems Auditor. This certification focuses on auditing, controlling, monitoring and assessing information systems and can add a significant pay boost to a cybersecurity professional’s annual salary.
- GIAC – Global Information Assurance Certification. This certification focuses on specialty hands-on technical capabilities such as intrusion detection and forensics among others.
- CEH – Certified Ethical Hacker. For entry-level applicants, a CEH certification can be a great way to land your first job or get you into an entry-level position at your top choice company.
Experience in the cybersecurity field is invaluable. Without experience, even landing an entry-level job will be difficult. That’s why it is important to take advantage of internship opportunities while obtaining your bachelor’s or master’s degree so that you are prepared for jobs upon graduation. To get hired at a higher level in the cybersecurity field it is typical that employers will be looking for multiple years of experience.
Additionally, in the constantly changing field of cybersecurity it is imperative for cyber professionals to stay up to date on the latest in cybercrime. Lifelong learning and constant inquiry and vigilance are paramount for staying relevant and in demand in the cybersecurity field.
To land a top job in cybersecurity, education is key. While a bachelor’s degree in a related field is required for most cybersecurity positions from entry-level on up, those who aspire to the highest levels of cybersecurity and hope to have a long career in the profession should strongly consider a master’s degree. Cybersecurity master degree programs give students additional technical and theoretical skills and, depending on the program, can offer the leadership, managerial and business skills required in high-level positions. Popular degree programs that those interested in a cybersecurity career often consider include:
- MS in Cyber Security Operations and Leadership
- MS in Cybersecurity Engineering
- MS in Computer Science
- MS in Computer Engineering
- MS in Information Assurance
- MS in Information Technology
- MBA (with specialty)
Of course, choosing which program is right for you depends upon your ultimate career goals and aspirations.
The University of San Diego offers a 100% online Master’s of Science in Cyber Security Operations and Leadership and an on-campus Master of Science in Cyber Security Engineering degree that can be completed in as little as 20 months. A quick conversation with an enrollment advisor is a great way to explore your options.