It isn’t surprising that careers involving internet technology, or IT, are among the fastest growing in the nation. Occupations in the cyber security industry are no exception, with the number of cyber security jobs having already grown more than 70% in the last decade, with further growth in the field anticipated. In fact, cyber security jobs grew twice as fast as other careers in IT, giving reason to believe that this trend will continue into the next decade and extend to the average cyber security salary. Because the internet is so vital to daily life, careers in this industry offer workers an attractive opportunity to benefit from a growing need, as well as pursue their own interests.
What Is Cyber Security?
We are all familiar with security in business and commercial settings. Security guards are found in banks, shopping complexes, corporate office buildings, and airports, essentially any location where economic and administrative interests necessitate people to keep the peace and maintain flow. The role of cyber security is not much different, especially when one takes into account how much of daily business that once took place in offices, shops, and banks now takes place online. In the past, banks, companies, and private individuals had to worry about dangers occurring face-to-face, but now some of those threats are hidden behind a computer screen.
Cyber security is really an umbrella term that encompasses all of the individuals involved in various stages of investigating, protecting, and even replicating cybercrime. Cyber crimes—illegal activity taking place online—went up about 20% between 2016 and 2017, and more than half of all businesses anticipate being the victim of cyber crime. Addressing the subject of cyber security career growth and salary requires that we get a better understanding of the field itself, which involves several different and important activities.
To understand this occupation better, you really have to understand how internet activity poses a risk to consumers, workers, and companies. Hackers can penetrate a network or personal computer and steal data, which they can then use for identity theft. Hackers can shut down a network or computer and prevent a business from operating, or even transfer funds from one bank account to another. Successfully combating cyber crime involves building networks and databases resistant to hackers, monitoring internet activity, and performing research on network weaknesses, to name only a few cyber security measures.
Types of Cyber Security Jobs
There are many individual occupations that fall into the category of cyber security. Because there is so much variability in the scope and nature of these specific roles, there is also great variation in the cyber security salary that goes along with each role. For example, a cyber security officer working for the government might expect to make about $70,000 annually, while an Information Systems Manager can make more than $135,000 or more. Some careers that fall into the category of cyber security include the following:
- Computer Network Architect
- Incident Responder
- Information Research Scientist
- Information Security Analyst
- Information Systems Manager
- Lead Software Security Engineer
- Network Systems Administrator
- Security Architect
- Security Engineer
- Security Manager
- Security Software Developer
Workers in this industry come from a wide variety of backgrounds in terms of undergraduate study, levels of degree held, and work history. This not only allows people with various interests and experience to enter the field, but it also allows the field to remain innovative. Because this industry is relatively young and rapidly expanding, there is a growing number of educational programs designed to allow more people to enter this growing industry.
Many workers that enter the cyber security field hold computer science degrees, or degrees in another scientific or analytical field, and most have experience in IT, whether as software developers, systems administrators, or as software architects. As one might expect, the experience that the individual brings to the field, whether as an engineer, developer, or other IT professional, will impact the cyber security salary to be expected.
Education and Certification
Because the cyber security industry is growing very rapidly and evolving, there are many differenttypes of degrees and certifications available. Those entering the field come from a wide variety of backgrounds,as well as allowing the supply of prospective workers to keep pace with the quickly growing demand. In other words, it’s a buyer’s market, and you’re the buyer. Universities and certification programs are interested in finding candidates to join their programs as this benefits the industry, the educational institution, the individual, and the internet community as a whole.
What makes education in this industry a little different from others is that most of the educational opportunities are online. That means that there will be a little to no face-to-face interaction with other students; all of the training, courses, and requirements to complete the degree or certificate are completed online. Though some have reservations about online degree programs, many of the top-ranked public and private institutions in the field of computer science have degree programs in cyber security, lending perhaps some legitimacy to these types of degree programs.
The educational opportunities available in cyber security take account of the reality that many students will be of varied ages, and will have different life experiences in terms of education, training, and occupation. For this reason, degree programs range from bachelor’s degree programs to master’s degree programs, and certifications for people who may already have a specialized or advanced degree.
Many of the programs can be completed in as little as a year, for master’s degrees and certificates, as many prospective students will already have advanced education. Bachelor’s degree programs in cyber security often require you to already have college credits gained from a bachelor’s in another subject or an associate degree. The degrees offered in cyber security education programs are somewhat varied and specialized:
- Bachelor of Applied Science in Cyber Operations
- Bachelor of Science in Cyber Security
- Bachelor of Science in Information Technology
- Bachelor of Science in Management Information Systems
- Master of Professional Studies in Technology Management
- Master of Science in Cyber Security
- Master of Science in Computer Science
- Master of Science in Information and Cyber Security
The requirements for entry into degree and certificate programs vary based on the program, with many programs not requiring standardized testing. This is where you will need to do some research on your own, figuring out which program is the best fit for you in terms of your background, interests, and career goals. One thing to keep in mind is that industry experts recommend interdisciplinary programs, in which more than one area of study is encountered. This allows the student to adapt to this innovative and expanding field in order to maximize their potential cyber security salary.
The career path for analysts, engineers, administrators, and other professionals in this field is exciting and somewhat unpredictable. Cyber crimes grow every year, with many falling under the radar, and banks and private individuals not knowing that they have become victims until it’s too late. The best recommendation would seem to be for the potential entrant into this career to find a degree program that bests fits their needs. Industry insiders report that students completing programs can expect multiple competing offers on graduation, with a starting cyber security salary well into the six-figure range.
Because the need for professionals is so great, and companies may have their own idea of what they need, it isn’t always easy to state what the career path for people in an industry like this will be. Some workers are involved in ethical hacking—attempting to hack into a network to see what vulnerabilities are present, while carrying a badge from a software company or government agency, of course. The demand for workers in this field is high, so once appropriate education or certification is obtained, the potential hire has to research and filter through opportunities in order to determine if they have what a particular company or agency is looking for.
Average Cyber Security Salary
It may be surprising how the average cyber security salary is. On the lower end, Network Systems Administrators earned $79,700 per year according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Information Research Scientists were sitting right in the middle at about $111,840, while Information Systems Managers took in a whopping $135,800. As one might expect, individuals working for the government made less at $77,500, according to the BLS, while Lead Software Security Engineers earned an average of $233,333 in 2016, according to IT site DICE.
With very high salaries and many opportunities to shine, the cyber security industry lures potential workers like bees to honey. With so many options in terms of education, one would almost be a fool not to give a try, as many degree programs can be completed online in as short a period as one year. Perhaps most attractive to potential cyber security professionals, the threats from hackers and other online predators grows at a break-neck speed each year, so the future is clear of any worries over job opportunities or falling salaries. While there is cybercrime, there will always be a need for cyber security.