Students who are considering an information technology (IT) career should be aware of the salary you can earn with a bachelor’s degree in cybersecurity. Graduates of these programs can make great money and enjoy excellent job opportunities.
Wages for Cybersecurity and IT
The field of information technology is in high demand right now, so it’s no wonder that these computer-savvy professionals earn high wages. According to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the median pay for an information security analyst was $103,590, as of May 2020. The lowest 10% of workers earned $60,060, with the highest 10% earning $163,300. For context, the average salary for all other careers tracked by the BLS is $41,950.
BLS data shows that pay is stable across industries, with only minor fluctuations. Organizations within the information technology space pay the highest median (average) wage of $107,310, and finance and insurance companies pay the second-highest average salary of $106,430. Administrative and support services organizations pay the next-highest average wage among information security analysts, at $99,860. The BLS does not track every cybersecurity job, but it does perform robust data analysis. Its data largely coincides with other salary analyses conducted by firms like U.S. News & World Report.
While earning potential is strong for all IT professionals, the salary you can earn with a bachelor’s degree in cybersecurity is particularly promising. Workers who specialize in cybersecurity earn an additional $15,000 per year, on average, than those with general IT roles, according to U.S. News & World Report. In fact, the average salary for cybersecurity specialists is an impressive $116,000, according to U.S. News & World Report.
Jobs in Cybersecurity
Defending organizations and individuals from cyber threats is complex. As a result, there are several different occupations that pay excellent wages that individuals with a bachelor’s degree in cybersecurity qualify for.
Chief Information Security Officer
Not many people outside of the cybersecurity industry have heard of a CISO, but these individuals play an integral role in any organization. Despite the similar titles, this position differs from a Chief Information Officer (CIO) in that they work exclusively with cybersecurity issues. Their main duties are to establish and implement cybersecurity policies and procedures while overseeing all cybersecurity team members. They work closely with an organization’s CIO, who is responsible for general technical issues within a company, including budgets, hardware, software upgrades, and the like. CISOs earn well into the six-figure range and generally have several industry certifications and at least 10 years of experience.
Cryptographers play an integral role in protecting critical IT components by creating computer code for security systems. They are responsible for protecting the codes from cyber threats. They may work for virtually any type of organization, including the federal government, a college or university, or a private business. They must know major programming languages such as C, C++, Java, and Python. Other hard skills include advanced mathematics, encryption, and data structures. Cryptographers earn anywhere from 60k-130k annually.
Much like their counterparts that deal with physical evidence in solving crimes, IT forensic experts deal with cyber evidence in an effort to combat cybercrime, including how the crime happened and how attacks of a similar nature can be prevented. In addition to IT skills, forensic experts should know relevant policies, laws, and law enforcement procedures. They may work for any type of organization, including Homeland Security, the FBI, CIA, or private organizations specializing in cybersecurity and crimes. Salary ranges from 60k-120K per year.
These cybersecurity specialists are known as ethical hackers. They attempt to penetrate an organization’s security system in order to steal money, information, or to simply create havoc. Their main purpose is to identify vulnerable points that can then be rectified. In addition to having excellent hacking skills, penetration testers must be able to write detailed reports and share their findings with decision-makers. They may work for security companies, IT firms, law enforcement, or for themselves. The average salary is approximately 105k annually.
As the job title implies, security analysts engage in a deep analysis of an organization’s cybersecurity policies, procedures, and infrastructure. They provide detailed reports on strengths and weaknesses and how to protect against future threats. In addition to their job of analyzing security systems and protocols, they engage in a lot of professional development to keep up with changes in the industry. Salaries range from 65k-130k per year.
This is a senior-level position that requires both technical and managerial skills. Security architects design and test security systems in an effort to thwart hacker threats, malware, and DOS attacks. They often hire penetration testers to check for vulnerabilities. On the managerial side, they work with other managers on integrating employee training and protocols, and they help establish IT policies. Security architects earn an average salary of $113,000 per year.
Consultants work for various organizations, assessing risks, solutions, and problems related to cybersecurity. They may work for consulting firms or be independent contractors. They often specialize in various types of threats, and they may work in a particular industry like education, healthcare, or financial institutions. In addition to IT knowledge and skills, security consultants must be familiar with the types of threats that specific types of industries are vulnerable to, which is why many work within a specific field. Consultants earn an average annual salary of $104,210.
Security managers need technical skills, but they spend the majority of their time managing individuals, teams, and departments. Along with managing, they strategize on policies, procedures, and how best to work together to protect the organization. They generally answer to the Chief Information Officer or the Chief Information Security Officer. Their average wage is $150,000 per year.
Security specialists are entry-level employees that need to have hard skills in various programming languages like C++, Java, PHP, Python, and more. They also need to be comfortable working in various systems like Linux and Windows. They must have a deep understanding of virus protection techniques and tools. Despite its entry-level status, the job pays an average salary of $99,370 per year.
Source Code Auditor
Source code auditors spend their time reviewing source code applications for glitches and bugs that negatively impact both functionality and security. The job is very demanding and requires extensive knowledge in computer science and cybersecurity. Source code auditors must be highly analytical and detail-oriented. The average median salary is $92,600.
How Cybersecurity Professionals Can Improve Earning Potential
Even if cybersecurity specialists do earn more than their colleagues who work in less specialized roles, there are always steps you can take to improve your earning potential even more. One way to boost the salary you can earn with a bachelor’s degree in cybersecurity is to look for a job in one of the major cities that currently have the highest demand for the degree, including Chicago, Dallas, New York, San Francisco, San Jose, and Washington. You can also join professional organizations like the Information Systems Audit and Control Association and the Information Systems Security Association to take advantage of their networking and professional growth opportunities.
When it comes to choosing a major and preparing for a lifelong career, money isn’t everything. However, given the rapid job growth expected, the interesting nature of the work, and other benefits, the salary you can earn with a bachelor’s degree in cybersecurity is a strong reason to pursue this field.
The job outlook for cybersecurity professionals is extremely strong. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, information security analyst positions are expected to grow an astounding 31% from 2019-2029, which is nearly eight times the average for all other occupations tracked by the BLS. And while the entire IT industry is experiencing strong growth, the overall rate is 11%, which shows just how explosive the growth is in the cybersecurity sector. Moreover, employment for IT security analysts in the computer systems design field is expected to increase by 56%. The demand is increasing due to the frequency and severity of cyberattacks that have crippled many organizations and even entire swaths of industry. As our dependency on information technology increases, the need for trained professionals has never been greater.
While growth is expected in nearly every region of the country, those willing to work in major metropolitan areas should experience even greater access to job openings. In particular, the Washington, DC., New York, and Dallas metro areas have the highest cybersecurity analyst employment levels in the country.
Academic and professional cybersecurity designations are critical to getting and maintaining a job in the cybersecurity industry. Academic certifications are designed for current students to learn the skills and knowledge in a specific area that can help lead to employment. Professional certifications are for current cybersecurity professionals that need to update their skills due to changes in technology and other related advancements. It is estimated that approximately 60% of cybersecurity positions require at least one certificate. Many of these certifications have prerequisites, mainly the completion of certain coursework.
Certified Ethical Hacker (CEH)
This certificate requires individuals to take the formal training class offered by the EC-Council or have a minimum of two years of work experience in computer security with an educational background in computer security. This is a widely recognized certificate among cybersecurity professionals.
EC-Council Certified Security Analyst (ECSA)
This certification is designed for those looking for a career as a penetration tester. The main focus of the course is how to ethically breach a security system. The prerequisite for this test is the formal training program or two years of related professional experience and an educational background in information security.
CompTIA certifications are some of the most widely known in the industry. The Security+ certification provides a broad overview of cybersecurity issues, including attacks, threats, and risk management. There is no prerequisite, but CompTIA recommends that individuals have their CompTIA Network+ certification and two years experience in IT administration.
This is a more advanced certification than the Security+ certificate. The test is more robust and goes much more in-depth on cyber attacks, threats, risk management, and incident response. It is recommended that individuals have the Network+ certification, Security+ certification, and at least four years of experience in cybersecurity.
Global Information Assurance Certifications (GIAC)
GIAC Security Essentials
The GIAC (Global Information Assurance Certification) security essentials certificate is an excellent entry-level certification that certifies that the individual knows the terms and concepts of the industry and has hands-on skills. There are no prerequisites for this certificate, making it an excellent foundational certification for new professionals.
GIAC Mobile Device Security Analyst (GMOB)
This is a niche certification that is becoming more popular with the rise of mobile device usage and associated threats. It focuses on threat mitigation in the mobile device and app industry. It is appropriate for ethical hackers, penetration testers, auditors, and administrators.
GIAC Certified Forensic Analyst (GCFA)
Individuals interested in careers as forensic analysts would benefit from this widely recognized certification. It covers a wide range of topics, such as incident responsiveness, digital and memory forensics, and timeline analysis.
Information Systems Audit and Control Association (ISACA) Certifications
Certified Information Systems Auditor (CISA)
This widely recognized certification tests knowledge in audit control, security, and assurance. The CISA certification proves that an auditor can accurately assess threats and vulnerabilities and report on other issues, such as compliance and intra-organizational security measures.
Certified Information Security Manager (CISM)
This certification is a step above the CISA certification and tests knowledge and skills for those who would like to be recognized as security managers. This certification is highly respected and very sought after in the industry. Individuals should have management experience through oversight of an organization’s or department’s information security program.
With the explosive growth of the cybersecurity field, now is an excellent time to earn an online bachelor’s degree in cybersecurity. With cyber threats and attacks increasing in frequency and scope, the need for trained professionals to mitigate these threats is at an all-time high.
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