CYBER SECURITY DEGREES and SALARY
Once you decide to enroll in a cybersecurity degree program, you'll probably want some sort of assurance that when you graduate, you'll be able to not only find a job, but earn a good salary. Salary is even more pertinent if you are supporting a family. If you're sure cybersecurity is the right field for you to pursue, you can rest assured you've chosen a career path that not only promises a great job growth rate over the coming years, but pays well too. In fact, cyber security professionals—called information security analysts by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics 2021 Occupational Employment Statistics—command an average annual salary of $102,600.
Cyber Security Professionals Median Annual Salary 2021
CYBER SECURITY IS IN DEMAND
According to PricewaterhouseCooper's 2022 Global Economic Crime Survey, 46% of global organizations claim to have experienced cyber crime within the past 12 months. That's an astronomical figure, so with no sign of cyber crime decreasing, it's easy to see why cyber security as a career field is in demand by all companies and agencies in the private and public sectors.
More than half of organizations say they expect to be the victim of some sort of cyber crime over the next few years.
The government and military are concerned that terrorists might hack systems and cause untold security breaches and damage, and private companies are concerned that their wealth and customer databases are vulnerable. Banks and finance companies are more worried about a cyber criminal with a laptop than a masked robber with a gun. As a cyber security professional, you'll stand between the bad guys and properly secured data.
Because of the demand, schools are scrambling to create the best cyber security programs possible. This is a new field, but several metrics for success have emerged. One measure of a "best program" is whether the program is interdisciplinary or not. That means programs cover not just one but several types of subjects, such as computer science, engineering and business management. Given the rather broad nature of interdisciplinary studies, there are often security programs available in business and even library science departments, not just within the computer science and technology departments.
CYBER SECURITY SALARIES
Forbes reported that there were over 3.5 million unfilled cyber security job openings in 2020. Before we dive into Forbes' findings as far as salaries, let's take a look at median annual salaries as reported by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).
It's important to note the BLS takes an average across the country, not just in large metropolitan areas where salaries will naturally be higher, or tech hubs like San Francisco and Silicon Valley. Here are salaries for network security and cyber security-related roles:
Median Annual Salaries for Cyber Security Careers, 2021
Information Security Analyst
Network Systems Administrators
Computer Network Architects
Information Systems Manager
The BLS says information security analysts will earn the highest pay in these areas:
Finance, Investments and Commodities
Computer Equipment Manufacturing
Motion Picture and Video Industries
CYBER SECURITY SALARIES HIT HEIGHTS
In 2020, Forbes did a study of cyber security salaries in U.S. metro areas, and found—not surprisingly—that they are well worth the time, money, and education it takes to enter the field. For those workers already in the IT sector and who hold a bachelor's degree, moving over to cyber security may be as basic as earning an industry certification.
Forbes says North American IT professionals earn an average salary of $115,906, which is 36% higher than the worldwide average in 2020.
The BLS lists the top metro areas for information security analyst roles along with annual median salary that these professionals command:
CYBER SECURITY CAREER CYCLES
It's also important to decide what job you would like to pursue upon graduation. There are at least three general camps in cyber security:
- Forensics and law enforcement experts who investigate crime
- Database and network security guardians who try to anticipate the criminal's movements before they make them
- Ethical hackers and penetration testers who attempt to replicate cyber crime in order to prevent it
When you decide which one interests you, find out how well a program will train you in that area. Keep in mind that an undergraduate program is unlikely to be too specialized, but you might be able to weigh the balance of your courses. More often than not, your first job will determine the trajectory of your career, and your future salary potential.
How Do I Earn More?
The professional association, Information Systems Security Association (ISSA), has created a Cyber Security Career Lifecycle, which cycles through the stages of security careers, from those considering the profession to those who are retiring. Each of these career cycles commands a different salary, further refined by role within the cycle. Here are some of the titles you may hold within each—and keep in mind that title will determine salary, which will rise as you progress through the ranks:
This level caters to those who have not yet obtained a position working in the field, or those who are switching careers to cyber security from areas such as the military, IT, retail and law enforcement, or are students completing a degree program.
Workers in this cycle have titles such as associate cyber security analyst, associate network security analyst and cyber security risk analyst.
When you get to this stage, you'll probably have found an area of specialty and can commanding bigger salaries. Title here may include network security analyst, cyber security forensics analyst or application security engineer. At the highest end of the spectrum of roles in this cycle are the "senior" job titles such as senior network security engineer.
When you reach this level you'll likely have been in the cyber security field for a good 10 years and hold a title such as principal application security engineer of director of cyber security.
Here you'll need extensive security experience and have director skills and the ability to integrate security systems into an organization. Titles in this highest tier include Chief Information Security Officer (CISO) or Chief Cyber Security Architect.
RESEARCH PROGRAMS TODAY
With such promising job growth outlook and salaries skyrocketing, why not investigate cyber security degree programs? If you're interested in helping bring cyber criminals to bay and have an aptitude for the problem-solving and technical finesse the field demands, there are accredited online and classroom programs waiting for you.
As recruiting firm Indigo Partners, Inc. says,
The cyber security job market is on fire, and our candidates are facing competing offers from multiple companies with salary increases averaging over 30%.
You'll need to take on entry-level roles to get started, but the potential for advancement is there if you're ambitious and willing to work hard. You provide the smarts and diligence, and we'll help you find the right programs that can help you succeed.
Sources: Forbes.com; ISSA.org
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