Why You Should Consider A Career in Cybersecurity

by Natalie Hope McDonald | Oct 03, 2016
stats on cybersecure careers

Consider this:

  • According to Forbes magazine, the cybersecurity job market is expected to grow to more than $170 billion in just four years, making it not only one of the fastest growing employment segments in IT, but one that also comes with six-figure salaries, security and plenty of room for upward mobility.
  • Last year, U.S. News & World Report ranked cybersecurity eighth on a list of the 100 best jobs.
  • Cert magazine released its own survey, with most jobs in the field topping out well over the $100K mark (Forbes reports this number can actually exceed $300K in major American cities). Top specialists from New York to San Francisco can expect to earn even more than an anesthesiologist.

The good news for you? The jobs that are opening up in the industry cannot be filled fast enough.

  • The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimated that there are currently more than 200,000 available cybersecurity jobs in the U.S. alone.
  • Cisco reported that this number is actually closer to 1,000,000 nationally and 6,000,000 globally.

Looking for more good news?

  • When it comes to salary, cybersecurity specialists make upwards of $6,500 more than their IT peers, according to a Job Market Intelligence report.

How can you get started in Cybersecurity? Check out the CompTIA Cybersecurity Hub for key trends, tips and tools to help you succeed as an IT security pro.

More jobs, fewer applicants

The Ponemon Institute reported that the average cost of a cyber breach has reached $3.8 million, making it a serious consideration among company leaders who may have tried turning a blind eye until now. Dr. Larry Poneman, chairman and founder of Poneman institute:

"Based on our field research, we identified three major reasons why the cost keeps climbing:

  • Cyber attacks are increasing both in frequency and the cost it requires to resolve these security incidents.
  • The financial consequences of losing customers in the aftermath of a breach are having a greater impact on the cost.
  • More companies are incurring higher costs in their forensic and investigative activities, assessments and crisis team management.

With more money and data at risk, not to mention reputations on the line, more experts are needed to prevent breaches before they happen. That's why cybersecurity careers are growing almost four times faster than any other IT-related job, according to Stanford University. In fact, it's expected these jobs will double by more than half in the next three years.

To ensure that there are enough experts to fill the slots being created every day, some companies, like Palo Alto Networks in the Silicon Valley, are recruiting more women to a field that's long been dominated by men. A recent company-wide survey showed that while women usually make up about only 10 to 15 percent of the cybersecurity workforce at large, at Palo Alto they account for a quarter of personnel.

There are also efforts being made to recruit younger and non-white IT professionals, as well as finding creative ways to reach younger students with STEM education (STEM stands for Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics). Research is showing that kids who are introduced to STEM at younger ages tend to show more interest in related fields in which cybersecurity is included. 

 Diverse skills can help land you that job

Heather Engel, executive vice president of Sera-Brynn, a cybersecurity company in Suffolk, Virginia, said that because of the ramped up need for better and more digital security solutions, just about every new job in the IT sector deals on some level with cybersecurity. Increasingly, these efforts are being directed at not only how employees use and communicate data within a company, but also in regards to how they use mobile technology on the road. Data has wings, which makes it increasingly susceptible to hacking. 

"Companies have to be concerned with mobile devices, social media communications and general data protection," explains Engel. "All indicators point to continued cybersecurity spending, but there is a need for people with more varied backgrounds than employers tend to look for now."

Cybersecurity experts are coming from a range of backgrounds that don't necessarily include IT. "To effectively manage their security, companies will need people who understand risks, the legal and financial aspects of managing data, compliance auditors," said Engel, "as well as technical experts."

At Sera-Brynn, the main focus is on increasingly dangerous and costly cyber risks that get to the heart of information breaches, everywhere from the world of finance to national government. The company, which was named among the top 500 Cybersecurity firms in the world, provides a range of security solutions. Engel said that professionals with diverse experience often become essential team members fighting this crime impacting so many facets of the digital world.

"The more you understand about the impact cybersecurity decisions have on business operations, including finance, logistics, human resources and sales," Engel said, "the better prepared you are to make recommendations that will actually improve security rather than just check a box."

To effectively implement offensive and defensive measures, she said that cybersecurity experts today have to really understand networks and how data moves from place to place. "So polishing or maintaining those skills is important to preparing or furthering a career in IT security," she said, adding that good communication skills (both verbal and written) are essential. "If you can't communicate the risks clearly to someone who isn't a cyber security expert," Engel explained, "you will have a very difficult time getting the resources you need to do your job."

Key trends in cybersecurity hiring

CompTIA's role has become increasingly important considering that one-third of cybersecurity jobs require industry certification. These certifications can help existing IT professionals get a proverbial leg up in this increasingly expanding field, especially if you consider that thousands of jobs being posted require some form of certification. There are more jobs than qualified people to fill them.

Most of the latest job postings expect at least a bachelor's degree and three or more years of experience. States with the most jobs being offered right now include Washington, D.C., and the Virginia region (where many government offices are located), as well as Maryland and Colorado, thanks to a rise in the number of federal contractors. More companies are also taking on the onus of training people in house to ensure they have exactly what they need to combat the biggest risks. The financial investment in both training and education pays off if it means having an intelligent staff that can avoid breaches that can cost millions in dollars, not to mention brand damage.

Santa Clara, California's Intel Security and the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) reported that there is a serious shortage in the cybersecurity workforce worldwide. The three most important skills that recruiters are looking for right now are hard to come by, including: insights into intrusion detection, secure software development and attack mitigation.

"To address this workforce crisis, we need to foster new education models, accelerate the availability of training opportunities, and we need to deliver deeper automation so that talent is put to its best use on the front line," said Chris Young, senior vice president and general manager of Intel Security Group. "Finally, we absolutely must diversify our ranks."

With ransomware, credit card fraud, political attacks and cloud wars on the rise, the need for smarter cybersecurity experts will only become more employable in an increasingly digital world. Or as Andrew Borene, an IBM executive with the company's i2 Safer Planet team, predicted earlier this year: "Continued cybersecurity breaches and state-sponsored cyber espionage will lead to spikes in cybersecurity spending on both workforce and software solutions."

 How can you get started or continue your career in Cybersecurity? Check out the CompTIA Cybersecurity Hub for key trends, tips and tools to help you succeed as an IT security pro.  

McDonald is a writer and editor based in Philadelphia.

* 2016 Global Knowledge Survey

3 Comments

  • J White

    Thursday, October 20, 2016

    After gaining certification in A+ce & Security+ce - CompTIA will be offering a certification in CyberSecurity Analyst+ (CSA+) that will heavily complete with others that offer ethical hacking certifications. Another very serious contender is Mile2 which offers competing certifications that couple with CompTIA certifications like Certified Penetration Testing Engineer and Digital Forensics. In addition to those, Mile2 offers other high end certification in security management and incident handling. Having these certifications allows the cybersecurity professional to maintain just two houses in vendors while obtaining the knowledge to be a serious contender without heavy up front investment. Each offers great training platforms and great customer service while being located within the US.

  • ASim

    Wednesday, December 21, 2016

    Where should i start, if i choose the Cybersecurity path?

  • dmccraw

    Wednesday, December 21, 2016

    Thanks for your question, ASim! Depending on your experience, you can enter the cybersecurity career path at a number of different points. Check out this blog post for more information about the pathway and what it entails: https://certification.comptia.org/it-career-news/post/view/2016/10/11/introducing-the-comptia-cybersecurity-career-pathway Good luck!

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