Just 20 years ago, a career in cybersecurity was limited to a very narrow demographic of job seekers. Today, with cases of data breaches, hacking threats, and malicious software attacks on the rise, every major company and government department relies on a trained team of specialists to help prevent loss from cybercrimes.
However, even with the demand for cybersecurity specialists so high in today’s digital world, success in this industry depends on more than just basic skills. It requires making strategic decisions about your education, network, and experiences that will both boost your resumé and increase your marketability in the field.
Read on to explore the job outlook and salary potential for those who specialize in cybersecurity, and the practical ways you can set yourself up for a successful career in the industry.
The Job Market for Cybersecurity Careers
Cybersecurity analysts are in high demand in today’s digital climate, and the career potential for this field reflects this growing need. Recent labor market data reveals that the number of available cybersecurity positions grew 73 percent from 2007 to 2012, and jobs are expected to grow an additional 28 percent by 2026—more than triple the average rate of job growth across all industries.
What’s more, there are a variety of high-paying cybersecurity careers. Some of the most common roles and their average annual salaries include:
- Cybersecurity Analyst: $75,809
- Security Engineer: $87,799
- Network Engineer: $71,920
- Security Director: $78,882
- Cybersecurity Engineer: $93,612
- Information Security Analyst: $70,480
Salary potential for these roles often correlates with the amount of education you have. For that reason, be sure to take into account what training is required for each role you’re considering. Then, take the necessary steps to align your education with the position that most interests you.
4 Steps to Success in Cybersecurity Careers
1. Embrace Advanced Learning—Your Way
Advanced degree holders, in general, earn a salary 35 percent higher than those with a bachelor’s degree, and the cybersecurity field is no exception. A student who chooses to continue their education with a master’s can expect a more challenging, rewarding, and specialized career experience. Many available master’s programs are also quite flexible and can be completed either full-time or part-time in just two to three years.
The master’s degrees at many top universities are also offered in a variety of formats, including on-ground, online and hybrid. Considering the impact that an advanced degree can have on your cybersecurity career, finding a program that fits your personal lifestyle and your unique learning preferences will be the first step on your path to success.
2. Choose a Holistic Cybersecurity Program
Once you’ve decided to advance your education (and given some thought to the structure of the program), it’s important to consider the different approaches to learning covered in each school’s curricula.
Technical training in this field is often divided into two types of learning: practical (hands-on, step-by-step, and how-tos) and theoretical (the why and how of the science). Both learning methods are needed to become proficient in this field, and the right cybersecurity program will cover both equally.
By following this holistic approach, graduates will have the skills to anticipate cyberthreats, proactively build solutions, and know what to do when criminals threaten systems. As technology changes, a cybersecurity professional with adaptive, hands-on experience will have the skills to evolve with it.
3. Follow Your Passion
Cybersecurity offers professionals a wide variety of opportunities to pursue individual interests within the tech world, and the best way to be truly successful in this field is to find which area best aligns with your skills and passions.
Someone with a love for the law, for example, may choose to focus their career on ethical norms and legal requirements for cybersecurity. This could include privacy, disclosure, and the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), which protects digital creators from infringement and acts of piracy. Designers, on the other hand, have the opportunity to translate their creative skills into more secure network environments. The field requires those who can teach, write, code, and test—all within the day-to-day-applications we use all the time—and who have an eye for the most secure methods possible. For those interested in the planning, designing, implementing, and operating of security infrastructures, a role as a cybersecurity analyst may also be a good fit.
No matter what area of cybersecurity interests you the most, the field offers an array of opportunities to use your unique talents in a way that is fulfilling to you.
4. Plug Into a Network
One of the benefits of pursuing a master’s in cybersecurity program is that you will graduate with a network of professional contacts that can help you on your path toward an established career.
While pursuing your degree, take the time to connect with professors and fellow students in the classroom, as well as co-workers and managers during any experiential learning opportunities. Then, once you’ve graduated, be sure to put in the effort necessary to maintain these relationships. Having contacts like these can be helpful not only to uncover employment opportunities after graduation, but to stay up-to-date on evolving industry trends throughout your career, as well.
Taking the Next Step in Your Cybersecurity Career
Choosing a career in cybersecurity isn’t just a commitment to bettering yourself through more education and a higher possible starting salary; it’s also a commitment to improving our world by thwarting bad players’ efforts to compromise the technology we enjoy every day. Whether your skills are used to stop debit card fraud, ransomware, or high-level government hacking, the impact you can make as a cybersecurity professional can have a lasting impact on society.