The COVID-19 crisis has moved more of our lives over to digital platforms than ever before—and the cybersecurity industry is booming as a result. Medical appointments, therapy, and even elementary school classes got a quick makeover. The convenience of learning, seeking medical treatment, and undertaking other basic activities at home will not wane when the coronavirus crisis does. This presents a powerful opportunity to criminals who would steal personal information and invade privacy. Cybersecurity experts are on the frontlines of the fight to protect our most personal information.
By 2021, analysts estimate that 3.5 million cybersecurity jobs will go unfilled. In an industry in which demand far outpaces talent, wages are soaring and unemployment is low. A degree in cybersecurity is an investment in the future and insurance against a recession. Training in cybersecurity unlocks numerous career doors. Here are some of the best job options.
The best defense is a good offense, and that aphorism extends to the world of cybersecurity. Rather than responding to threats, cybersecurity engineers stay one step ahead, designing systems and infrastructures that are more difficult for criminals to penetrate. Engineers might work on their own in a smaller company, serving as the company’s expert on all things security-related. Or they might join or lead a team in a larger business. Their job will include plenty of strategic planning, as well as designing and implementing their company’s infrastructure. Some engineers work on a contract basis for their own companies, helping companies install new security systems.
The typical salary ranges from about $107,000 to $127,000 annually.
A cybersecurity analyst searches for cyber threats and ways to mitigate them. In smaller companies, they may fill several roles, while in larger businesses, they may work as part of a team. When there is a breach, cybersecurity analysts may be the ones who seek out ways to plug the hole and write reports about what went wrong. In some cases, they may also simulate attacks to assess how secure the company’s security infrastructure really is.
Median annual salaries are around $99,000, but there is a significant range depending on location and experience.
Law enforcement, especially at the higher levels, such as ATF and FBI, increasingly needs cybersecurity experts to fill a variety of roles. Their specific duties depend on where they work and their expertise. They might investigate crimes and provide forensic reports on cybersecurity incidents, work to lock down government security systems, attempt to hack into criminal enterprises to gain new information, or design and implement new security systems for expanding agencies.
The pay varies greatly from agency to agency, but heavily depends on experience.
Network engineers build, design, and implement communication infrastructures. For example, they might help design a company’s local network to ensure it is free of security holes. They analyze network traffic so that they can predict the need to expand capacity. They may also monitor network traffic for signs of attacks. Some network engineers work in teams with security analysts and other experts to design comprehensive systems that are less vulnerable to attacks.
Average earnings are around $100,000 annually.
A systems engineer fills a high-level role that integrates multiple IT processes. They endeavor to build a security system consistent with the business’s needs and specific vulnerabilities. They draft system documentation, make recommendations to team leaders, monitor system changes over time, and may monitor the costs of system changes to help guide these recommendations. In many cases, they fill both engineering and management roles, and they may oversee a team of engineers or cybersecurity experts.
Systems engineers have average annual earnings of around $86,510.
A cybersecurity manager/administrator is a cybersecurity generalist who helps oversee an organization’s cybersecurity processes. In some cases, their role is primarily managerial. In this scenario, they might manage a team, delegate cybersecurity duties, and make recommendations and reports. In smaller businesses, cybersecurity administrators work more directly on cybersecurity systems, looking for and addressing security holes and checking for warning signs of pending security attacks.
They enjoy average earnings of around $105,000 annually.
Software developers design software to tackle security issues. They may change the code of existing programs to make it more secure, develop patches for security holes, or design entirely new programs. In many cases, they are charged with implementing new software and reviewing the results of doing so. Some work as part of teams at larger organizations. Others devote themselves full-time to designing and marketing security software.
Median earnings hover around $105,000, but there is great variability. In the upper echelons of this role, some people design and market their own software. This can yield earnings in the high six figures, and sometimes even higher.
Cybersecurity specialists survey networks to prevent and detect breaches before it is too late. They may also install new systems or work with other security experts to overhaul an entire system. When a security breach occurs, they document it and make recommendations. They may fill managerial roles when they lead cybersecurity teams, or they may work more directly on the technology as engineers or security programmers.
Average salaries are around $92,000.
Vulnerability Analyst/Penetration Tester
Penetration testers think like the bad guys so they can help governments, companies, and nonprofits. Sometimes called white hat hackers, these security experts attempt to break into information systems. This helps them identify security holes. Drawing on this information, they can recommend new strategies. They may also draft reports on how secure a company’s system is, or they may educate management about the characteristics of secure and unsecure systems.
The average salary is around $101,000 per year.
For those who love all things cybersecurity but want variety in their days, a job as a consultant could be a great career move. Consultants work with companies—and sometimes with individuals or governments—to manage myriad aspects of cybersecurity. They might help design and set up secure systems, test existing systems, or provide advice and insight on all aspects of a company’s security system. A consultant will be self-employed or work for a consulting company. This makes the role a great fit for people who value their independence and who want to set their own hours, without being tied to a single employer.
Being self-employed means that earnings are directly tied to how much work the consultant gets and with which clients. The only limitation on how much a consultant can earn is how many clients they can find. Earnings vary a great deal and may change dramatically from year to year.
In many cases, people with cybersecurity degrees fill a combination of roles. This is especially true at smaller and start-up companies, where a generalist might write code, offer tech support, and offer cybersecurity oversight. Even in larger entities, cybersecurity experts may fill the duties associated with many different roles, steadily adapting to the changing needs of the business.
SNU’s new cybersecurity degree program is the perfect option for busy adults who want to land a lucrative job without compromising their current employment. This flexible program offers online learning so you can pursue your degree when it’s convenient to you. Work, raise a family, and go to school—and finish faster than you might think possible.
To explore degree programs that integrate seamlessly into your life, check out our free guide, Choose Your Path: Online vs. On-Campus Education.