How to Land the Best Jobs in Cybersecurity
If you’re looking for a career with high pay, job security and the option to work in just about any sector anywhere in the country, cybersecurity is the place to be.
The annual cost of cybercrime around the globe will soon reach $8 trillion annually. 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.
According to William Candrick, research director at Garner who was quoted in a recent TechRepublic article, “the global demand for cybersecurity skills far exceeds the current supply of traditionally qualified individuals.”
Due to this significant talent shortage in the critical area of national security, skilled cybersecurity professionals are in high demand — with some positions earning a salary well into the six figures.
It’s clear that a job in cybersecurity has many benefits — including job security, the ability to earn a well-paying salary, and the opportunity to truly make a difference on the front lines against global security threats and hackers.
But what are some of the best cybersecurity positions and how do you land them? Keep reading for all the details.
The Best Jobs in Cybersecurity
Information Security Analyst
Job description and responsibilities: 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.
Skills needed: Data analytics, risk analysis,security management frameworks, network infrastructure, problem-solving, detail-oriented.
General requirements: Bachelor’s degree, related professional experience (recommended to have certification such as CISSP).
Estimated salary: This job is listed among the Best Technology Jobs by U.S. News & World Report, which cites a median salary of $102,600. Please note the salaries may fluctuate based on changing data.
Lead Software Security Engineer
Job description and responsibilities: As a lead software security engineer, you will typically be 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.
Skills needed: Coding, deep understanding of cybersecurity methodologies, the ability to thrive under pressure and deliver on strict deadlines.
General requirements: Bachelor’s degree, related professional experience (recommended to have a master’s degree and certifications such as CISSP, CEH, GIAC).
Estimated salary: ZipRecruiter lists the national average as $132,527; Glassdoor lists the average as $144,817. Please note the salaries may fluctuate based on changing data.
Chief Information Security Officer (CISO)
Job description and responsibilities: The CISO is a senior-level role in charge of developing, implementing and maintaining security processes that protect the company from threats and risk.
Skills needed: Experience with technical security, identity and threat management,strong leadership and communications skills.
General requirements: Bachelor’s degree, related professional experience (recommended to have a master’s degree and certification such as CISSP, CISM, CISA).
Estimated salary: According to Salary.com, the range is anywhere from $184,496 to $292,410.
Job description and responsibilities: A security or cybersecurity 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.
Skills needed: Maintaining network security infrastructure, thinking like a hacker to anticipate security risks, team-building skills.
General requirements: Bachelor’s degree, related professional experience (recommended to have a certification such as CISSP, CISM, CISA).
Estimated salary: CyberSeek lists an average salary of $163,121, and notes that 22% of employers hiring for this position request a master’s degree.
Job description and responsibilities: Penetration testers are in charge of identifying vulnerabilities in an organization’s network. They do this by constantly probing and testing the network using various tools and software.
Skills needed: Knowledge of computer security, understanding of computer security breaches and consequences, problem-solving skills.
General requirements: Hands-on experience, bachelor’s degree in a computer science program (recommended to have a certification such as CEH, CPT, OSCP).
Estimated salary: CyberSeek lists the average salary for penetration and vulnerability testers at $101,662 and reports that 20% of those hiring seek an advanced degree. However, salaries can range up to $130,000, according to Mondo.
Information Security Crime Investigator/Forensics Expert
Job description and responsibilities: 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.
Skills needed: Data collection and analysis, investigative skills.
General requirements: Bachelor’s degree in a computer science or criminal justice program (recommended to have a certification such as CEH, CISSP).
Estimated salary: CyberSeek.org lists an average salary of $98,000.
Job description and responsibilities: A cybersecurity architect is responsible for planning, designing, testing, implementing and maintaining an organization’s computer and network security infrastructure.
Skills needed: Knowledge of cloud computing, designing and developing security best practices,critical thinking and analytical skills.
General requirements: Bachelor’s degree in a computer science or criminal justice program (recommended to have a certification such as CISSP, CISM, CISA).
Estimated salary: According to CyberSeek, the annual average salary of a cybersecurity architect is $146,144.
Security Systems Administrator
Job description and responsibilities: Although the security systems administrator roles vary greatly, the main duty is to be an IT expert that handles their organization’s digital operations, servers and networks.
Skills needed: Malware and vulnerability scanning experience, understanding of firewall technology.
General requirements: Bachelor’s degree (recommended CEH, CompTIA Server+ certification).
Estimated salary: The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics lists the median annual pay for Network and Computer Systems Administrators at $84,810.
Job description and responsibilities: A security consultant assesses the security and risk of a business or organization and provides solutions and recommendations on safety measures and protection.
Skills needed: Ability to assess security risks, knowledge of computer programming and encryption technologies.
General requirements: Bachelor’s degree in computer science, cybersecurity or related field (recommended industry experience and certification such as CISSP, CISA, CISM).
Estimated salary: According to PayScale, the average security consultant salary is $84,897.
Additional Top Cybersecurity Careers
Other top cybersecurity careers include:
- Cybersecurity Analyst
- Cybersecurity Specialist
- Security Auditor
- Network Administrator
- Ethical Hacker
- Cybersecurity Auditor
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In-Demand Cybersecurity Skills
- Risk assessment
- Experience with SIEM software
- Ethical hacking
- Understanding of security protocols for various operating systems
- Attention to detail
- Leadership skills
- Strong critical thinking and analytical skills
Where to Find Cybersecurity Jobs
There are many online resources to find cybersecurity jobs, including:
- Security Clearance Jobs
- Cyber Security Jobs
How to Get a Job in Cybersecurity
While there is a growing 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.
This 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 the importance of certifications. While they may not land you a job on their own, cybersecurity certifications carry a lot of weight. Plus, they can boost your resume and are sometimes required for employment. Important cybersecurity certifications 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.
- 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.
Cybersecurity Experience Needed [Essential for Getting in the Door]
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.
Education Needed for Cybersecurity Career Success
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 have a long career in the profession should strongly consider a master’s degree. In addition to receiving a comprehensive cybersecurity education that opens up more opportunities, those with a master’s degree often earn a greater salary.
Cybersecurity master’s 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 Cyber Security 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 career goals and aspirations.
The University of San Diego offers a 100% online Master of Science in Cyber Security Operations and Leadership and a Master of Science in Cyber Security Engineering degree (online or on-campus) 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.