BY Sydney LakeJuly 07, 2022, 1:03 PM
Illustration by Martin Laksman
There’s a massive talent shortage in the cybersecurity industry. At the end of 2021, there were nearly three-quarters of a million jobs unfilled as more companies felt the effects of data breaches and a giant push toward digital transformation.
“Obviously the pandemic pushed that [demand] into a bit of hyper speed, but we were already headed into digital transformation,” Deborah Golden, Deloitte US Cyber and Strategic Risk leader, tells Fortune. “Because of that, we are becoming overly diverse in terms of the types of skills we’re looking for: everything from deep cyber to domain expertise.”
These hyper-technical skills require some pretty intense training. Some professionals looking to push their way into the cyber field participate in their company’s train-to-hire programs; for example, Deloitte offers this to current employees to help them develop the skills necessary to fill thousands of jobs each year.
For workers who don’t have the option of a training program through work, earning a master’s degree in cybersecurity can be a surefire way to break into the industry. What’s more is that students earning a master’s degree in cybersecurity can earn well into the six-figures immediately after graduation, according to CyberSeek, a tool that provides data about the cybersecurity job market. The tool is sponsored by Emsi Burning Glass, the Computing Technology Industry Association (CompTIA), and the National Initiative for Cybersecurity Education.
“We often see that cybersecurity skills carry a significant salary premium in some cases on the order of 10,000, $15,000 or more” than other technical roles, Will Markow, vice president of applied research–talent at Emsi Burning Glass, tells Fortune.
How much online cybersecurity master’s grads are making
At the University of California—Berkeley, Fortune’s top-ranked online master’s program in cybersecurity, the median base salary for grads is $200,000. Some students are making more than $154,000 as a computer information systems manager; and other jobs for recent grads include a computer network architect and software developer, which make $117,000 and $112,000 respectively, according to statistics compiled by the school.
UC Berkeley also hosts an online 24-week cybersecurity bootcamp program that sees participants pursue careers as cybersecurity analysts, information assurance specialists, and cybersecurity network defenders. Reports show that these professionals bring home salaries ranging from roughly $80,000 to the low $100,000s.
Yeshiva University (Katz), which Fortune ranks as having the No. 2 online cybersecurity master’s program in the country, reports that the average median advertised salary for cybersecurity jobs in the New York City metro area is $138,000. That’s even higher than the average salary brought in by online MBA grads. By comparison, the industry standard is about $113,000, according to data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Why cybersecurity workers make six figures
Cybersecurity professionals can earn up to $225,000 in certain positions, according to Mondo, a recruiting firm for tech and creative companies. The top six highest-paying cybersecurity jobs include information security manager, cyber security engineer, application security engineer, network security engineer, cyber security analyst, and penetration tester “ethical hacker,” Mondo’s data shows.
One contributing factor to high cybersecurity base salaries are the industries seeking to hire talent. Financial institutions and professional service firms have long hired cybersecurity talent to protect client’s data.
“Think about a large financial institution. They have some of the most secure and sensitive digital information of any industry. You need to make sure that people’s money is safe,” Markow explains. “We are seeing some very rapid growth in other industries that were maybe slower to adopt cybersecurity teams, but now are realizing that it’s a capability. They just have to bake into their technical teams.”
Cybersecurity professionals also have higher salary potential because they’re often required to complete certification programs to qualify for certain jobs. For example, one of the most in-demand skills in cybersecurity is becoming CISSP designated, or a certified information systems security professional. These workers serve as highly experienced consultants who help to identify their client’s cybersecurity needs and make recommendations. Doing this work can land you a salary over the six-figure mark, and even up into the $200,000s, recruiting research shows.
“You can’t just grow CISSP-certified workers on trees,” Markow adds. “You have to have at least five years of prior work experience. You have to take a certification exam that has a notoriously low pass rate. It’s very difficult to develop more workers with those credentials.”