Master of Science in Cyber Security

Top Paying Cybersecurity Jobs in 2020

Michelle Moore, PhD

Michelle Moore, PhD

Academic Director of the Master of Science in Cyber Security Operations and Leadership

Professionals who possess advanced cybersecurity skills are in a “seller’s market” — one with zero percent unemployment, companies and government agencies competing for top talent, and senior-level jobs paying as high as $400,000 and above.

“At the very highest levels, the right person can command over $400,000,” Paul Smith, vice president at PEAK Technical Staffing, told CSOonline.com. “The commercial industries are stealing people out of the NSA and CIA like crazy because corporations are having such a problem with foreign espionage. The demand for people who understand these threats has skyrocketed.”

That’s the result of a well-documented cybersecurity talent shortage, with projections of 3.5 million unfilled positions worldwide by 2021. Some require very specific experience, while an industry certification or master’s degree may help put others in reach.

No matter whether you’re looking to launch a career or take your existing expertise to the next level, it can be inspiring — perhaps even a source of motivation — to get a clearer sense of some of the most lucrative cybersecurity jobs in this fast-growing field.

So, what are some of the highest paying jobs in cybersecurity?

8 Top-Paying Cybersecurity Jobs

This listing of the highest paying jobs in cybersecurity is compiled from multiple industry sources, including Cybersecurity Ventures, CNBC, CSOonline.com, the InfoSec Institute, Mondo.com, PCmag, Forbes.com and CyberSeek.org.

Bug Bounty Specialist

You may have seen reports that certain freelance hackers can earn a cool $500,000 or more by beating cybercriminals at their own game. So-called “bug bounty” firms now provide a platform for hackers to safely chase security flaws at organizations ranging from Tesla to the Department of Defense.

Casey Ellis, CTO at Bugcrowd, told CNBC that the company’s largest payout for a single exploit was $113,000 for a bug found at a large tech hardware company, and noted that average yearly payouts for the top 50 hackers were around $145,000. A 19-year-old from Argentina recently became the first person to surpass $1 million in rewards on bug bounty platform HackerOne, according to PCmag.com. However, this does not mean you should quit your day job to chase bug bounties because success in this field requires elite-level skills.

Chief Information Security Officer (CISO)

This is the executive chiefly responsible for an organization’s information and data security; and the bigger the organization, the bigger the paycheck. “While a few elite CISO may earn close to $500,000, many make just a little over $100,000,” according to the InfoSec Institute, which lists a median salary of $140,000+. CSOonline.com lists the median salary at $158,939 and the range as $140,000–$300,000.

Forbes.com reports that $420,000 is the upper end of the CISO salary spectrum in San Francisco. A cybersecurity head honcho “working for a mid-sized corporation is probably looking at a $150,000 to $200,000 salary,” according to Cybersecurity Ventures.

Lead Software Security Engineer

This is described as a job for top coders and programmers with leadership skills, “a rare breed,” according to Cybersecurity Ventures, which cites salaries exceeding $225,000, higher than that of even the CISO in some companies. In this case, advanced software expertise plus executive-level “soft skills” can add up to a lucrative senior management opportunity.

Cybersecurity Sales Engineer

Cybersecurity is not just about tech wizards minimizing attack surfaces and fending off hackers, there is also a constant flow of new and innovative technology solutions to be sold. Most coders love coding, but higher pay is prompting some to switch to sales. CSOonline.com reports that top cybersecurity sales engineers are paid annual salaries of between $180,000 and $220,000.

Cybersecurity Architect

An information security or cybersecurity architect earns an average of $140,820, according to the InfoSec Institute, which describes the role as performing senior-level work designing organization-wide network and computer security architecture. “As more of a ‘big-picture’ job, the architect may also oversee infosec awareness programs, create and manage policies, respond to and analyze security incidents and conduct risk assessments.” Noting that 27% of employers hiring for this position request a master’s degree, Cyberseek.org lists an average salary of $129,000.

Cybersecurity Manager/Administrator

Also known as information security managers and information systems security managers, the professionals in this role earn salaries of between $125,00 and $215,000, according to Mondo.com. Identifying potential areas of vulnerability, beefing up security to safeguard valuable company data and managing the information systems team are typically key responsibilities in this role.

Penetration Tester

The professionals performing this critical job are often called “ethical hackers.” More and more large organizations are hiring full-time employees or third-party contractors to infiltrate their computer systems to detect and address vulnerabilities that could be exploited by cyber criminals.

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, for the helping to identify security weaknesses in both systems and policies.

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. It describes information security analysts as “the gatekeepers or security guards of information systems” due to their wide scope of responsibilities related to preventing, monitoring and responding to data breaches and cyberattacks. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports median pay of $98,350, and cites the job market for this role growing at 32%, much faster than the average for all occupations.

[RELATED] The Cybersecurity Jobs Report — An in-depth look at the employment landscape

Cybersecurity Professionals Earn Top Dollar for Critical Work

It’s no secret that there is a major hiring push under way among organizations of all sizes now that the cybercrime epidemic is everybody’s business. As a result, information technology professionals and others who aspire to position themselves for success in this essential and fast-growing field are upgrading their skills by earning industry certifications and enrolling in advanced degree programs.

All in all, the world of cybersecurity offers significant opportunities to perform important and meaningful work, and to get paid well for doing it.

This report brought to you by the University of San Diego’s online Master of Science in Cybersecurity Operations and Leadership and its Master of Science in Cybersecurity Engineering, which is offered both online and on-campus.

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