Cybersecurity Salary and Career Outlook

As information continues to move to the digital world, businesses may need to protect their data and keep it private, so they may benefit from hiring cybersecurity specialists. Many types of organizations may be able to benefit from cybersecurity professionals, including government agencies, financial and educational institutions, corporations and healthcare companies.

Cybersecurity Job Description

After becoming a cybersecurity specialist, you may learn that cybersecurity job duties involve protecting an organization’s computer systems and networks so hackers and other unauthorized individuals cannot retrieve data or exploit the system. Typical tasks include:

  • Installing, updating and using software to protect sensitive data. For example, an analyst must use firewalls and data encryption software.
  • Monitoring the network to make sure no unauthorized users gain access.
  • Conducting penetration testing or simulating an attack on the network to find ways hackers could access the system. Penetration testing, sometimes known as ethical hacking, allows cybersecurity experts to find weak spots in a system’s protection and devise ways to shore up those vulnerabilities.
  • Keeping up with advances in cybersecurity, including new technology and new methods hackers are using. 
  • Investigating ways to strengthen protection and recommending those changes to company executives.
  • Establishing organizational best practices for cybersecurity, such as creating a system for backing up data.

5 Great Cybersecurity Jobs

There are many different jobs that include some cybersecurity responsibilities (PDF, 1.7 MB), according to the “National Initiative for Cybersecurity Education: Cybersecurity Workforce Framework,” published by the National Institute of Standards and Technology in 2017. These jobs fall into categories such as risk management, systems architecture, threat analysis and digital forensics. But even careers such as curriculum designer and legal advisor can have a cybersecurity focus. This is where cybersecurity certificates and short courses may come in handy to develop a particular skill set.

These great potential cybersecurity jobs were chosen, based on the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), show technical jobs that are growing faster than the average growth rate for all occupations: 

  • Cybersecurity software developers: Create and modify software, programs, and other computer apps to help keep systems secure. Software developers usually have at least a bachelor’s degree and are expert computer programmers. 
  • Systems or network architects: Develop computer systems for an organization by selecting the components, including cybersecurity components, and designing how they should interact. Network architects usually have at least a bachelor’s degree and several years of experience in computer-related work. 
  • Cyber defense analysts: Use information from tools such as firewalls to analyze incursions into the system and find ways to reduce such threats. Analysts usually have a bachelor’s degree and related work experience. For instance, a database cyber defense analyst might have previous experience as a database manager. 
  • Cybersecurity consultants: Help organizations identify what steps they need to take to protect their computer systems or networks. Consultants usually have a college degree and experience in cybersecurity work.
  • Digital forensics analysts or forensic computer examiners: Help to solve computer-based crimes by gathering and analyzing digital data. Digital forensic analysts must understand computers and also have training in how to collect and secure evidence. 

Why Is Cybersecurity in Demand?

The number of cybersecurity jobs is expected to grow substantially, with the BLS projecting a 32% increase in employment between 2018 and 2028. Growing concern about cyberattacks is fueling the demand for cybersecurity, according to the BLS, and organizations are turning to cybersecurity experts to secure their information technology systems. 

When hackers gain access to a computer network, they can steal confidential information, including customers’ personal data. Hackers can also launch ransomware attacks where they take over a computer system and prevent an organization from accessing it until the organization pays the hacker to regain control of the system or network. 

Organizations in all industries are beefing up their computer security staffs to prevent these kinds of attacks. For example, finance and insurance services employed about 23,400 cybersecurity professionals in 2019, and that’s expected to grow to 27,729 in 2029, an 18.9% increase. Direct health and medical insurance carriers will increase cybersecurity employment even more—by about 20%.

Healthcare is another industry with an expanding need for cybersecurity professionals. Hospitals and doctor offices are increasingly using electronic medical records, so they may utilize cybersecurity safeguards to protect patients’ sensitive private information. The BLS predicts hospital cybersecurity jobs will grow by 19.4% through 2029. 

Construction, manufacturing, retail trade, educational services and professional services are all sectors that will see double-digit growth in cybersecurity jobs through 2029.

What is the Median Salary for Cybersecurity Jobs?

The median wage for cybersecurity jobs is higher than the median salary for all computer occupations, which was $88,240 in May 2019. Information security analysts, a potential career path in cybersecurity, earned a median salary of $99,730 in May 2019, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Median cybersecurity salaries are also much higher than the median wage for all occupations. The BLS puts the median for all jobs at $39,810, as of May 2019.1

The BLS also noted five sectors that paid the highest median cybersecurity salary:1

  1. Finance and insurance: $103,510
  2. Computer systems design and related services: $101,980
  3. Information: $100,560
  4. Management of companies and enterprises: $97,440
  5. Administrative and support services: $96,190

5 Best Paying Cities for Cybersecurity Specialists

The top-paying cities for cybersecurity specialists are located on the East and West Coasts, including two areas famous as high-tech hot spots, San Jose and San Francisco. 

The BLS lists the metro areas where average annual cybersecurity salaries are the highest as:2

  1. San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara, California: $133,040
  2. New York City-Newark-Jersey City, in the New York/New Jersey/Pennsylvania region: $127,850
  3. San Francisco-Oakland-Hayward, California: $122,570
  4. Bridgeport-Stamford-Norwalk, Connecticut: $121,330
  5. Chambersburg-Waynesboro, Pennsylvania: $119,320

While the cybersecurity positions in the Chambersburg area pay well, the number of jobs there is small. The metro Washington, D.C., area, which is sixth on the BLS list, has more than 15,000 cybersecurity jobs paying a mean annual salary of $117,810. 

Top States for a Career in Cybersecurity

Because it’s home to many well-known high-tech firms, you might guess that California is the best state for a cybersecurity career. However, the BLS finds that the state with the most cybersecurity jobs is Virginia. The states with the highest employment of information security analysts are:2

  • Virginia: 15,010
  • Texas: 10,430
  • California: 9,200
  • New York: 7,120
  • Florida: 6,603

Virginia also had the highest concentration of cybersecurity jobs, with 3.87 of every 1,000 jobs in the state involving cybersecurity. 

Is a Cybersecurity Career Path Right for You?

Potential cybersecurity salaries may make it a lucrative career choice, and there’s a growing need for individuals who have the necessary skills. 

Cybersecurity workers typically have at least a bachelor’s degree in a subject like computer programming or computer science. However, there are options for entry-level cybersecurity positions with an associate degree. On-the-job training and certification programs are other ways to gain the knowledge necessary for a cybersecurity career.3

It’s important to be comfortable working with computer hardware and software for a cybersecurity career. But that’s not the only requirement. People who do well in a cybersecurity career possess specific attributes. They are:3

  • Critical thinkers who use logic and reasoning to solve complex problems.
  • Detail-oriented and able to notice small changes that could signal a problem in a computer system or network.
  • Adept at systems analysis, which involves observing how systems work and determining how changing an operation or condition will affect the system.
  • Good communicators who can work with others and clearly convey information to people up and down the organizational ladder.

With the right education and skills, working toward building a cybersecurity career at your chosen organization may be a good option.

Last Updated August 2020

1 Bureau of Labor Statistics. “Occupational Outlook Handbook: Information Security Analysts, Pay,” September 1, 2020. Accessed September 2020.arrow_upwardReturn to footnote reference

2 Bureau of Labor Statistics. “Occupational Employment Statistics: Information Security Analysts,” July 6, 2020. Accessed September 2020.arrow_upwardReturn to footnote reference

3 Bureau of Labor Statistics. “Occupational Outlook Handbook: Information Security Analysts, How to Become One,” September 1, 2020. Accessed September 2020.arrow_upwardReturn to footnote reference