Top Paying Cybersecurity Careers: How to Land the Job You Want (2023)

As technology continues to play a fundamental role in our day-to-day lives, it’s critical to protect the technology that we use, including data, applications, networks, and devices. It’s also increasingly important to educate technology end-users about the steps they should take to keep themselves safe, as well as to effectively plan a response for when—not if—something bad happens.

Cybersecurity careers allow individuals to help public and private organizations protect their information and assets from a broad range of cyberattacks. According to TechTarget’s technology dictionary, these types of attacks include (but are not limited to) the following:

  • Ransomware: Taking a victim’s computer files, often through an insecure network or device, and demanding a ransom payment to get them back.
  • Malware: Installing malicious software, such as virus or worm, on a victim’s computer.
  • Social engineering: Tricking victims into breaking security policies in order to provide access to sensitive information.
  • Phishing: Sending fraudulent emails that appear to come from reliable sources in order to get users to give up sensitive or personal information.

With attacks like these on the rise, virtually every major company and government department relies on a trained team of specialists to help prevent loss from cybercrimes. Read on to explore the job outlook and salary potential for those who specialize in cybersecurity, and the practical ways you can set yourself up for a successful career in the industry.

Why is Cybersecurity Important?

When cyberattacks happen, organizations are fined, executives lose their jobs, customers may take their business elsewhere, and an organization’s credibility and public perception take a hit. By maintaining an organization’s security strategy and operations, cybersecurity experts help a company avoid the headaches that come with a cyberattack.

In 2020, for example, the SolarWinds attack exposed sensitive information from about 100 companies and a dozen government agencies, and 122 major blockchain hacks claimed $3.8 billion in cryptocurrency. Early 2021 saw the Colonial Pipeline ransomware attack, which shut down the largest gas pipeline in the United States after attackers stole 100 gigabytes of data as part of a $5 million extortion scheme.

Interestingly, organizations are not only under attack from external hackers. Internal cyber threats, in the form of data leaks or employee sabotage, also pose a large risk for businesses. Cybersecurity professionals are responsible for protecting an organization’s valuable information, customers, and brand reputation and brand by preventing these data breaches.

Beyond just reputation damage, cybercrimes significantly impact the global economy. According to The Center for Strategic and International Studies, close to $600 billion (nearly one percent of global GDP) is lost to cybercrime each year—a number that is swiftly increasing as cybercriminals adopt new technologies and leverage the latest digital currencies. Cybersecurity professionals are constantly searching for novel ways to anticipate and respond to these crimes.

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Cybersecurity Career Outlook & Job Market

Cybersecurity analysts are in high demand in today’s digital climate, and the career potential for this field reflects this growing need. Recent labor market data reveals that available cybersecurity jobs are expected to grow 31 percent by 2029—more than seven times the average rate of job growth across all industries.

As the demand for skilled cybersecurity professionals continues to rise, employers are struggling to find qualified applicants to fill these roles. According to a 2020 study by ISC(2), just over 4 million professionals are needed worldwide to close the cybersecurity skills gap, meaning that the cybersecurity workforce needs to increase by about 62 percent in the United States alone.

To take advantage of the overwhelming demand for cybersecurity skills in today’s workforce, professionals should consider developing these skills by pursuing the necessary education and training.

Skills and Education Needed for a Successful Cybersecurity Career

Cybersecurity careers come with a lot of responsibility, as they involve protecting an organization’s information assets and complex IT systems. Professionals in these roles need to know the basics of IT and security, in addition to IT-specific terms and vocabulary. Experience with data analysis and engineering, especially in multiple programming languages, is also a plus.

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Cybersecurity Skills

Some specific skills that cybersecurity professionals should have include:

  • Programming and coding skills
  • Data management
  • Security Information and Event Management (SIEM)
  • Mobile device and application security.
  • Security incident handling
  • Analytical skills
  • Communication skills

Cybersecurity professionals also need to stay on top of industry trends. Cybersecurity trends for 2021 and beyond include focusing on specific attacks on internet-connected devices and outdated operating systems, which are particularly vulnerable, following best practices for mitigating ransomware risk, and proactively planning a disaster recovery response in the event of an incident.

Cybersecurity Education and Training

Most jobs in cybersecurity typically require a bachelor’s degree in cybersecurity, information technology, or computer science.

Advanced degrees, such as a Master of Science in Cybersecurity, provide more specialized training in vulnerability analysis, criminology, social science, planning security strategy, and effectively communicating with management about key cybersecurity trends. These degree programs benefit cybersecurity professionals who seek management or executive positions, as well as anyone who wants to develop security products.

In addition, cybersecurity certificate programs can benefit anyone seeking more specialized instruction in network security, digital forensics, risk management, or the legal and ethical challenges of cybersecurity. This education can help professionals to advance their cybersecurity careers in their current roles, or to begin the process of obtaining a Master of Science degree.

By obtaining an advanced degree and developing their cybersecurity skillsets, professionals can go on to land some of the most sought-after jobs in the field.

12 High-Paying Cybersecurity Careers

If employees are willing to take on the responsibility to defend organizations against cyberattacks, then employers are willing to compensate them well. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the median pay for an information security analyst, a common cybersecurity career, is just over $103,000.

Depending on the type of cybersecurity role, and the level of specialization the role requires, average salaries can vary. Here’s a look at some of the highest-paying cybersecurity careers, along with a description of the type of work you can expect to do in these roles.

Salary estimates are based on figures provided by IT staffing firm Mondo and research firm PayScale. Job descriptions come from Mondo and Tripwire, a vendor of security and compliance software products.

1. Chief Information Security Officer (CISO)

Average Salary: $165,985

The CISO oversees the IT security department. This role requires a background in IT strategy, security architecture, management, and communication. While the average salary for this role is $165,985, CISOs can make up to $229,000. The wide salary range for this role stems from factors such as the size of the organization and its security team to the executive bonus and profit-sharing structures, which can add more than $85,000 to a base salary.

2. Security Architect

Average Salary: $124,769

This role builds and maintains the computer and network security infrastructure for an organization. This requires extensive knowledge of security frameworks, which can be obtained through certificate programs or other professional development efforts. Security architects can make up to $166,000 depending on the individual’s education, experience, and where they work.

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3. Information Systems Security Manager

Average Salary: $116,978

Cybersecurity professionals in this role command a high salary because they manage the systems that contain an organization’s exclusive or proprietary information, which is often of particular interest to hackers. Depending on their experience level, information systems security managers can make up to $152,000.

4. Information Systems Security Engineer

Average Salary: $100,936

These cybersecurity professionals perform security tests, keep networks free of viruses and malware, and set security system protocols for a company. Information Systems Security Engineers can make up to $145,000 depending on the individual’s education, experience, and where they work.

5. Application Security Engineer

Average Salary: $97,684

This cybersecurity role monitors all the software applications that an organization uses, making sure that privacy and compliance policies are up to date. Organizations that use automated software for analytics or operations, as well as organizations that use software hosted on cloud servers, look for more experienced engineers. Depending on their experience level, application security engineers can make up to $151,000.

6. Malware Analyst

Average Salary: $92,880

These cybersecurity professionals help organizations understand the malicious software threats that they face, identify software products and services that can prevent intrusions, and work quickly to detect and mitigate intrusions when they do happen. Salaries for this role can increase up to $156,000 depending on the individual’s education, experience, and where they work.

7. Penetration Tester

Average Salary: $85,869

In this role, employees design tests to identify security vulnerabilities and evaluate overall cybersecurity effectiveness. According to Mondo, this role is in high demand, so average salaries should rise over time. Depending on their experience level, penetration testers can make up to $139,000.

8. Forensic Engineer

Average Salary: $85,525

This role analyzes information taken from an organization’s computers, networks, and connected devices to detect potential intrusions. Professionals in this role should be comfortable collaborating with law enforcement agencies to assist with investigations; knowledge of cryptography is also beneficial. Forensic engineers can make up to $120,000 depending on the individual’s education, experience, and where they work.

9. Security Director

Average Salary: $85,501

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In this role, employees implement IT security measures, allocate resources to a security department, create employee and end-user security education campaigns, and assist law enforcement in the event of an external incident investigation. Depending on their experience level, security directors can make up to $156,000.

10. Cybersecurity Consultant

Average Salary: $84,279

Another possibility for a cybersecurity career is that of a consultant. Organizations hire these outside experts to help implement security products and develop security strategies. Cybersecurity consultant salaries vary from $61,000 to $140,000, according to PayScale. Some may do this work on a part-time basis as part of a career or life change.

11. Cybersecurity Analyst

Average Salary: $76,550

Cybersecurity analysts are generalists focused on protecting against the wide range of cyberattacks, based on data-driven analysis of present and future trends. The senior roles that command a higher salary typically involve strategic planning. Cybersecurity Analysts can make up to $117,000 depending on the individual’s education, experience, and industry.

12. Network Security Analyst

Average Salary: $72,388

This role manages the security of a company’s computer network and information systems. In industries that rely on the safety of Internet-connected devices— including healthcare, transportation, and energy—organizations often look for more experienced professionals. Depending on their experience level, network security analysts can make up to $107,000.

Cybersecurity Careers Are Everywhere

It’s also important to consider where to find a job in cybersecurity. You might think that most domestic cybersecurity careers are found only in technology hubs like Silicon Valley and the Boston area. However, a recent analysis by the job posting site Indeed found that those metro areas rank number seven and eight, respectively, in U.S. job postings for cybersecurity roles, meaning there are cybersecurity roles to be found no matter where you are located.

The Washington, D.C. metro area topped the list, which is not surprising when you consider the importance of protecting data for the Department of Defense, other federal agencies, and third-party government contractors. Baltimore ranked number four for similar reasons, as the city is home to large offices for the Social Security Administration and the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services.

Meanwhile, the other metro areas in the top five (New York, Dallas/Fort Worth, and Chicago) are home to the headquarters of many Fortune 500 companies. This shows that cybersecurity careers are not just technology jobs—they are jobs in industries such as government, finance, healthcare, energy, and transportation.

What’s more, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics expects the number of all cybersecurity jobs to grow by 31 percent between 2019 and 2029. That’s more than seven times the national average for all industries over the same 10-year span.

How to Build a Successful Career in Cybersecurity

1. Embrace advanced learning—your way.

Advanced degree holders, in general, earn a salary 35 percent higher than those with a bachelor’s degree, and the cybersecurity field is no exception. A student who chooses to continue their education with a master’s degree can expect a more challenging, rewarding, and specialized career experience. Many available master’s programs are also quite flexible and can be completed either full-time or part-time in just two to three years.

Learn More: Yes, a Cybersecurity Degree is Worth It—Here’s Why

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The master’s degrees at many top universities are also offered in a variety of formats, including on-ground, online, and hybrid. Considering the impact that an advanced degree can have on your cybersecurity career, finding a program that fits your personal lifestyle and your unique learning preferences will be the first step on your path to success.

2. Choose a holistic cybersecurity program.

Once you’ve decided to advance your education (and given some thought to the structure of the program), it’s important to consider the different approaches to learning covered in each school’s curricula.

Technical training in this field is often divided into two types of learning: practical (hands-on, step-by-step, and how-tos) and theoretical (the why and how of the science). Both learning methods are needed to become proficient in this field, and the right cybersecurity program will cover both equally.

By following this holistic approach, graduates will have the skills to anticipate cyberthreats, proactively build solutions, and know what to do when criminals threaten systems. As technology changes, a cybersecurity professional with adaptive, hands-on experience will have the skills to evolve with it.

3. Follow your passion.

Cybersecurity offers professionals a wide variety of opportunities to pursue individual interests within the tech world, and the best way to be truly successful in this field is to find which area best aligns with your skills and passions.

Someone with a love for the law, for example, may choose to focus their career on ethical norms and legal requirements for cybersecurity. This could include privacy, disclosure, and the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), which protects digital creators from infringement and acts of piracy. Designers, on the other hand, have the opportunity to translate their creative skills into more secure network environments. The field requires those who can teach, write, code, and test—all within the day-to-day applications we use all the time—and who have an eye for the most secure methods possible. For those interested in the planning, designing, implementing, and operating of security infrastructures, a role as a cybersecurity analyst may also be a good fit.

No matter what area of cybersecurity interests you the most, the field offers an array of opportunities to use your unique talents in a way that is fulfilling to you.

4. Plug into a network.

One of the benefits of pursuing a master’s in cybersecurity program is that you will graduate with a network of professional contacts that can help you on your path toward an established career.

While pursuing your degree, take the time to connect with professors and fellow students in the classroom, as well as co-workers and managers during any experiential learning opportunities. Then, once you’ve graduated, be sure to put in the effort necessary to maintain these relationships. Having contacts like these can be helpful not only to uncover employment opportunities after graduation but to stay up-to-date on evolving industry trends throughout your career, as well.

Taking the Next Step in Your Cybersecurity Career

Choosing a career in cybersecurity isn’t just a commitment to bettering yourself through more education and a higher possible starting salary; it’s also a commitment to improving our world by thwarting bad players’ efforts to compromise the technology we enjoy every day. Whether your skills are used to stop debit card fraud, ransomware, or high-level government hacking, the impact you can make as a cybersecurity professional can have a lasting impact on society.

Interested in helping protect global organizations from cyber threats? Explore Northeastern’s graduate programs in Cybersecurity and learn how a degree can help you advance your career.

Editor’s note: This article was originally published in September 2017. It has since been updated for relevance and accuracy.

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How can you be successful in a cybersecurity career? ›

Cyber Security Skills

To become a cybersecurity expert, you should understand firewalls, VPN, Web-proxy, and IDS/IPS. You need to be proficient with coding languages such as Java, Python, HTML, and PHP. You should have an excellent knowledge of networking, routing protocols, and encryption techniques.

How do I get into cybersecurity regardless of my background? ›

Pursue a Cybersecurity Course or Bootcamp

If you're interested in pursuing a career in cybersecurity, a cybersecurity course is probably your best bet. These courses will give you the most thorough understanding of the subject matter and provide networking opportunities to help you find a job.

Why do you think a career in cybersecurity is right for you? ›

Job flexibility and highly transferable skills. These skills allow you to move anywhere in the world and apply to any industry sector. Multiple career options that are not just technical. Business, medical, law, defense, and intelligence all need workers skilled in cybersecurity.

Can you make 400k in cyber security? ›

Top Paying Cybersecurity Jobs in 2022. Professionals who possess advanced cybersecurity skills are in a “seller's market” — one with zero percent unemployment, companies and government agencies competing for top talent, and senior-level jobs paying as high as $400,000 and above.

Which cybersecurity field is best? ›

Top CyberSecurity Jobs
  • Chief Information Security Officer - CISO. A Chief Information Security Officer (CISO) is a senior-level officer who ensures the complete safety of information in an organization. ...
  • Security Architect. ...
  • Cybersecurity Engineer. ...
  • Malware Analyst. ...
  • Penetration Tester. ...
  • Computer Forensics Analyst.
4 Aug 2022

Which cybersecurity skills are in the highest demand? ›

What are the Most In-demand Cybersecurity Skills?
  • Programming Skills.
  • IT and Networking Skills.
  • Ethical Hacking.
  • Risk Assessment/Risk Management.
  • Cloud Security.
  • Internet of Things (IoT) Security:
  • Blockchain Security.
  • Network Security.

What is the first thing to learn in cyber security? ›

The first thing you need to tackle when it comes to cybersecurity is the basics of IT systems and networks, for example, the different types of networks available and their protocols. Once you are familiar with the fundamentals you can delve into the basics of networking traffic, security, and communication principles.

What skills do I need for cybersecurity? ›

The Top Skills Required for Cybersecurity Jobs
  • Problem-Solving Skills. ...
  • Technical Aptitude. ...
  • Knowledge of Security Across Various Platforms. ...
  • Attention to Detail. ...
  • Communication Skills. ...
  • Fundamental Computer Forensics Skills. ...
  • A Desire to Learn. ...
  • An Understanding of Hacking.

How do I know if I will like cyber security? ›

The best way to know if cybersecurity is right for you is to research and understand what cybersecurity really is, get an understanding of the continual learning commitment that cybersecurity takes, and go see cybersecurity in action.

Can I learn cyber security without coding? ›

While a lot of entry-level cyber security positions do not require programming skills, it is one of the crucial skills for some mid-level and upper-level cyber security jobs.

How hard is cyber security degree? ›

Cyber security degrees tend to be more challenging than non-research type majors, such as programs in the humanities or business, but are usually not as difficult as degrees in research or lab intensive areas, such as science and engineering.

Why are you interested in this position? ›

Example: "I'm interested in this job because I can see that, in this role, my skills could help solve this problem within your company. I also see an opportunity for me to learn and grow these skills, so we both would benefit personally, professionally, and financially.

How do I write a personal statement for cyber security? ›

Confidence, accountability and effective communication would take me to my professional goals. Apart from being a good employee, I wish to be a responsible cybersecurity leader. The advanced program in cybersecurity that your university offers would largely help me realize these goals.

Is cybersecurity a fun career? ›

Having work that is easy every day, year after year, would probably become boring. One of the fun factors of cybersecurity cited by the professionals I spoke with was that the incredible challenge of cybersecurity is exactly what makes it fun for them.

How much do NSA hackers make? ›

Normally the title 10 pay is around $160,000-$300,000, so in general the bulk of hackers would fall under the GS pay scale ranging from GS-9 to GS-14 Step 6. Anything higher would have to be negotiated and justified during the hiring process or worked into a promotion for those already working for the government.

Who makes more coding or cyber security? ›

Software engineers earn slightly more than cybersecurity professionals; the BLS found the 2021 median pay to be $120,990 per year or $58.05 per hour for a freelance programmers' income.

How can I get high salary in cyber security? ›

In-Demand Software Development Skills
  1. Ethical Hackers. Ethical hackers or Penetration Testers bring in their intuitive knowledge and skills to reveal hackers' logic. ...
  2. Chief Information Security Officer (CISO) ...
  3. Incident Manager. ...
  4. Cybersecurity Consultant.
25 Nov 2020

Is cyber security good for introverts? ›

No; cybersecurity is very much a communicative team sport. You might do better with an overnight grave yard shift job where no one else works, such as a computer operator.

What are 5 careers in cyber security? ›

Some of the top cyber security careers include the following.
  • Security Consultant. ...
  • Security Engineer. ...
  • Computer Forensics Investigator. ...
  • Ethical Hacker. ...
  • Security Software Developer.

Does cybersecurity require a lot of math? ›

Most entry-level and mid-level cybersecurity positions like cybersecurity analyst aren't math intensive. There's a lot of graphs and data analysis, but the required math isn't particularly advanced. If you can handle basic programming and problem solving, you can thrive.

Can you make 200k in cybersecurity? ›

All security engineers are paid well, but some branches of cybersecurity have a higher pay scale than others. In fact, reports from the Bureau of Labor Statistics show that some positions may pay over $200,000 per year. How much you can earn depends on the following: Branch of cybersecurity.

Is cyber security highly paid? ›

Cybersecurity Engineer

Salary: Rs. 7 lakhs – Rs. 20 lakhs per annum Cybersecurity engineer is one of the highest paying cybersecurity careers and well-known for planning and upgrading cybersecurity measures for protecting the existing systems and networks.

Does cyber security pay alot? ›

That said, the cyber security salary typically ranges from $85,000 to $130,000 per year, depending on your experience, expertise, employer, and location. But while an average annual pay of around $105,000 sounds promising, consider other factors before making any major career decisions.

Is cybersecurity well paid? ›

Because of this, cybersecurity is now a large and lucrative industry with the potential for enormous growth over the coming years. While there are many roles to choose from within the industry, nearly all cybersecurity roles pay upwards of six figures because the industry is vital to our society's standard of living.

Which country pays highest salary to cyber security? ›

Luxembourg has the highest pay for cybersecurity experts. Cybersecurity is a burgeoning field with enormous potential.

Who makes more coding or cyber security? ›

Software engineers earn slightly more than cybersecurity professionals; the BLS found the 2021 median pay to be $120,990 per year or $58.05 per hour for a freelance programmers' income.

Does cybersecurity require coding? ›

What Skills Do I Need to Start a Cybersecurity Career? Most entry-level cybersecurity jobs don't require any background coding experience.

How can I get high salary in cyber security? ›

In-Demand Software Development Skills
  1. Ethical Hackers. Ethical hackers or Penetration Testers bring in their intuitive knowledge and skills to reveal hackers' logic. ...
  2. Chief Information Security Officer (CISO) ...
  3. Incident Manager. ...
  4. Cybersecurity Consultant.
25 Nov 2020

How hard is cyber security? ›

No, cybersecurity isn't hard. Although there may be difficult concepts, like cryptography or areas that require more technical knowledge, cybersecurity is one of the few fields in the tech world that doesn't require a strong technical background.

Does cyber security use math? ›

Does cybersecurity involve math? The short answer is yes. Cybersecurity is a technical field in computer science, and potential job seekers will need strong analytical skills. It isn't a math-intensive field—not like astrophysics or engineering—but it requires comfort using certain math types.

What skills are needed for cyber security? ›

The Top Skills Required for Cybersecurity Jobs
  • Problem-Solving Skills. ...
  • Technical Aptitude. ...
  • Knowledge of Security Across Various Platforms. ...
  • Attention to Detail. ...
  • Communication Skills. ...
  • Fundamental Computer Forensics Skills. ...
  • A Desire to Learn. ...
  • An Understanding of Hacking.

What are 3 college degrees that you may need to be a cyber security analyst? ›

Most security analysts have at least a bachelor's degree in computer science, cybersecurity, computer information systems, or a related field.

Are cybersecurity jobs stressful? ›

Cybersecurity staff are feeling burnout and stressed to the extent that many are considering leaving their jobs. According to research by VMware, 47% of cybersecurity incident responders say they've experienced burnout or extreme stress over the past 12 months.

Why is cyber security paid so much? ›

The demand for cybersecurity is growing 12 times faster than the US job market, which suggests that not only will unemployment remain at zero but due to basic supply and demand there's a good chance that salaries will increase as the demand for cybersecurity professionals grows.

How much do NSA hackers make? ›

Normally the title 10 pay is around $160,000-$300,000, so in general the bulk of hackers would fall under the GS pay scale ranging from GS-9 to GS-14 Step 6. Anything higher would have to be negotiated and justified during the hiring process or worked into a promotion for those already working for the government.

Is cybersecurity easier than software engineering? ›

Is Cybersecurity Harder Than Software Engineering? It is difficult to say that one is more difficult than the other without determining the parameters for that. If you are someone that has the desire to get a college degree, then going into cyber security would be easy for you.


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