- Cybersecurity jobs are in high demand and short supply.
- The average income for a cybersecurity professional is $90,000 USD.
- Not all cybersecurity jobs require a four-year computer science degree. Some professionals are actually self-taught.
Whether you’re looking for your first real job or just a change in careers, you’ve probably considered something in the tech industry. Almost every job has an element of online technology to it these days. As a result, the demand for cybersecurity professionals has skyrocketed in recent years. Just a few years ago, experts suggested that there would to be a 145% increase in qualified cybersecurity professionals just to meet growing demand.
Cybersecurity jobs can be found in IT services, the financial industry, and even government. With more and more businesses shifting to offering some sort of online sales option, there’s no shortage of job options for those who are interested and qualified. You don’t even need a ton of extra schooling, in some cases. While some cybersecurity professionals do have a degree, some are basically self-taught. So you don’t necessarily need a four-year computer science degree to get started.
Let’s explore all the reasons you should consider a career in cybersecurity.
What is Cybersecurity?
Before we dig too deep, let’s cover the basics. What is cybersecurity, exactly? And why is it important?
Cybersecurity is safeguarding digital data, productivity, and assets from would-be hackers, thieves, or any other party that has malicious intent. It includes everything from safeguarding your online banking transactions to top secret military security. Those text message codes from your bank when you try to login with a new device? That’s cybersecurity. The randomized characters of your cryptocurrency wallet? Yep, also cybersecurity.
Cybercrimes were estimated to cost innocent citizens $6 trillion in 2021. Experts expect that to rise to $10 trillion by 2025. If cybercrime was its own country, it would have the third largest economy on the planet (after China and the United States). With that much money at stake, it’s no secret that almost every company needs a cybersecurity professional on their payroll.
A Digital Future
In case you haven’t noticed, the future is digital. These days, almost everything is done online. Steaming music, important communication, watching TV, paying your bills, and managing your retirement portfolio. It’s all done via the internet. And every single one of those things requires a team of cybersecurity experts to keep your data safe and their services live.
The average cost of a single security breach is almost $4 million. No company, big or small, wants to shoulder that large of a hit. Whether it’s a small start-up, a major corporation, or a government body, literally everybody needs some kind of protection. A career in cybersecurity opens up a diverse future for you, when it comes to working options.
A Major Shortage
The digital world is constantly expanding at a rapid pace. The result is a major shortage of cybersecurity experts. In fact, the number of cybersecurity job postings has increased by 94% since 2013, according to Cyberseek. It’s growing three times faster than standard IT jobs. In fact, demand for automated cybersecurity rose by 225% and the need for risk management roles went up by 133% in the same timespan.
While this shortage is a bad thing for companies, as they scramble to fill positions, it’s a great thing for you. A new cybersecurity professional is on the right end of the supply/demand curve. You’ll be able to choose from multiple job openings. Even better, you’ll find competitive salaries as companies try to outbid each other for your services.
The exploding volume of digital goods and services, combined with the massive shortage of qualified cybersecurity professionals, means one thing: job security. A reliable cybersecurity team is an immensely important component of any company. If you can maintain the virtual integrity of your company’s assets (and their client’s data), your job is basically set it stone.
Think about it. It’s highly unlikely that any successful company is going to reduce their online presence. If anything, they will be expanding at some point in the future. A knowledgeable cybersecurity expert will be one of the first things they need when they do.
We already touched on this point briefly, but it bears repeating. The cybersecurity industry is amazingly diverse. You can look for a job with a huge government agency. You could seek out a large financial institution. Or you could freelance for smaller, independent businesses in your area. Literally everyone has a cybersecurity need of some kind, so you’ll find lots of choices.
When it comes to doing the actual job, there’s even more variety. You could specialize in big data and machine learning. Or you could become a penetration tester, trying to break (and then improve) your company’s online systems. You could even become a white hat hacker, trying to snag bounties offered by companies for discovering critical flaws and vulnerabilities. All of these roles fall under the cybersecurity banner, but each offers something different.
Much like the variety of roles you can find in cybersecurity, there’s a pretty wide variety of income levels too. The good news, though, is that even the low end of the scale still pays pretty well. Your overall salary will depend on your employer, your exact position, and which part of the country you live in.
All that being said, the average salary for cybersecurity jobs in North America is about $90,000 per year. Depending on your exact skillset, you could make even more. An experienced penetration tester or network engineer can easily earn $115,000 per year or more. On the lower end of the scale would be an information security analyst — still making an average of $89,000 per year.
Like most other jobs, your education, previous experience, performance, and seniority will all play a big part in your annual income.
Studies have shown that cybersecurity professional are generally very satisfied with their work. An ICS2 study found that over 70% of those in the field were overall satisfied.
There were numerous reasons for this high satisfaction rate. Not only do the positions generally pay well, but there’s also the noble feeling of protecting the assets or data of a company and its customers. For some, finding puzzling solutions to technical problems is rewarding enough. It’s the same reason plenty of people enjoy puzzle games.
Low Educational Barriers
While a full four-year degree in computer science is certainly helpful, it’s not actually required to get into the cybersecurity field. There are plenty of shorter college programs that can get your foot in the door. Some cybersecurity specialists are even self-taught. So there are plenty of different ways to enter the field.
If you’re just thinking about what to take in college or university, then picking the right courses can put you on track. However, if you’re older and don’t have the time (or money) to go back to school, you should start with some online courses. You’ll want to take the steps to get certified, since that lead to higher ranking positions with better pay.
There are multiple certifications within the cybersecurity field, but don’t think you need to complete them all. Pick the ones that are right for you (or the job you’re seeking), and go from there.
A Major Skills Gap
More and more companies are realizing that they need some sort of cybersecurity. Unfortunately, they simply aren’t being produced fast enough to keep up. That is creating not only a major shortage, but also a considerable skills gap.
A skills gap is when there aren’t enough educated and/or experienced workers to suitably fill all the open positions. Research firm Frost & Sullivan estimate that there will be a skills gap of close to 1.8 million jobs by the end of 2022. What does all this mean for you, the potential employee?
For starters, it means you’ll have more room to negotiate a higher salary. It also means that you should go ahead and apply for jobs even if you don’t meet all the listed qualifications. Some companies are simply taking whatever they can get. If you continue to learn and improve after you get hired, you’ll be even more valuable in the future.
Multiple Career Paths
Not every cybersecurity job is the same. In fact, the National Initiative for Cybersecurity Careers describes 52 distinct roles, across five different skillsets, that you could pursue. Cyberseek offers a similar career map, with six “feeder roles” than can eventually branch off into dozens of different career opportunities.
Here’s how a blog from Harvard’s website puts it:
“A coding certification or undergraduate degree in IT is a great place to start. You may find yourself developing secure networks, systems to protect cloud-based databases, or security software to embed in the latest online app.
“And as you gain experience, you may find yourself fascinated with risk analysis, decide to further your education in security governance, or seek an advanced degree or technical certification.
“This dynamic, rapidly evolving field offers you the opportunity to shape your career to match your evolving interests.”
In short, getting into cybersecurity doesn’t mean a singular role. Your position can (and should) evolve over the years.
Cybersecurity Can Be Future-Proof
As a society, we are certainly not getting “less online.” It’s quite obvious that things are going in the other direction. Everything is digital these days. You probably have login accounts to dozens (if not hundreds) of different websites — social media, online banking, investments, online shopping, health and fitness sites, personal healthcare portals, etc, etc. There’s no end in site, and each of them need a cybersecurity team to ensure your data is safe and secure.
The demand for cybersecurity professionals isn’t going away, at least not any time soon. That means you can plan for a full career in the field, even if you want to take the time to get further education or certification before you start. The jobs will still be there when you’re ready.
The Bottom Line
Cybersecurity is a rapidly growing field. Combined with a lack of trained professionals to fill all the jobs, it’s created a favorable situation for those seeking work. There is a wide variety of roles to choose from, plus the ability to command a competitive salary.
The best part is that not every cybersecurity job requires a costly four-year degree from a prestigious University. Look into community college programs or online certifications that can get you started. Once you’re in, you can continue gaining experience and education that will be valuable for your next position, whether it’s an in-house promotion or jumping ship to a new employer.