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What you need to land a six-figure job in cybersecurity

BY Lake SydneyJuly 27, 2022, 6:13 p.m.

UCLA graduates from the College of Letters and Science enter Pauley Hall for their commencement ceremony at their Westwood campus, as seen in June 2022. (Photo by Sarah Reingewirtz—MediaNews Group/Los Angeles Daily News /Getty Pictures)

Cyberattacks are increasingly prevalent; in fact, Accenture estimates that the number of incidents increased by 31% between 2020 and 2021. As the number of attacks increases, there is an increasing need for skilled cybersecurity professionals in the industry. In the United States, there is a huge talent gap – with 715,000 cybersecurity jobs to fill, according to a market report from Emsi Burning Glass.

Although there is a plethora of vacancies, there may not be enough qualified people to fill these positions. Companies often require certain qualifications, certifications, or other educational requirements for high-level cybersecurity jobs. But top cybersecurity professionals agree that there are many ways to break into the industry.

“There are different archetypes of how people find their way to security,” said Ryan LaSalle, head of North America practice at Accenture Security. Fortune in a recent interview. Some of these continuing education programs, certification programs, self-study programs, and even some master’s degrees and online programs really help these people pivot with some confidence.

Whichever path you take to get there, pursuing cybersecurity positions often pays off. Many cybersecurity jobs pay well above the six-figure mark, with some professionals earning $225,000 and more, according to research from Mondo, a staffing firm for tech and creative companies.

“We often find that cybersecurity skills command a significant salary premium in some cases in the range of $10,000, $15,000 or more” than other technical roles, Will Markow, vice president of applied research- talent at Emsi Burning Glass, previously said. Fortune.

Do I need a master’s degree in cybersecurity to make six figures?

ISC2, an organization specializing in the training and certifications of cybersecurity professionals, reports that 40% of cybersecurity workers hold a master’s degree in the field in 2021. What must be recognized, however, is that ISC2 represents and helps very high-level professionals who often study for the most coveted certifications in the field.

“Too many people are scared of our field when they hear associations say you need a master’s degree or other qualifications that really aren’t required for most positions in our field,” said Steve Morgan, founder of Cybersecurity Ventures. Fortune. “While a portion of cyberworkers in highly technical or managerial positions may have a master’s degree, the majority of those employed in our field do not.”

Among entry-level and intermediate cybersecurity professionals, about 15% have a master’s degree in the field, according to multiple sources. ISC2 figures most likely refer to positions above Fortune 500 companies, says Morgan.

While you don’t necessarily need a master’s degree in cybersecurity to make six figures, several experts agree that going to graduate school can often help you earn a higher salary than a bachelor’s or college degree. other certifications alone.

Cybersecurity master’s students “have more demonstrated critical thinking experience from the written reports and oral presentations they’ve completed,” said Nick Schneider, CEO of cybersecurity firm Arctic Wolf. Fortune. “This is often because the master’s candidate may be able to skip an entry-level position and move immediately into a second-tier position. But beware, where you start doesn’t dictate where you end.

Education can also be replaced with additional work experience or relevant cybersecurity certifications, he adds. Additionally, some federal government cybersecurity jobs require security clearances, which can increase pay.

Other ways to make six figures in cybersecurity

Obtaining cybersecurity certifications is also a promising way to earn a six-figure salary. Kayne McGladrey, IEEE Senior Fellow and Cybersecurity Strategist at Ascent Solutions, cites a cybersecurity workforce study by ISC2 that shows certifications lead to an average of $33,000 more in annual salary.

“Cybersecurity remains a clear path to a middle-class salary for people with a two-year degree, relevant certification to overcome access control by HR departments, a desire to help protect friends and community , and a willingness to continually learn as part of a team,” he says. Fortune.

Sven Dietrich, another IEEE fellow and professor at Hunter College, also points out that employers often offer cybersecurity-focused training and certifications. Along with hard skills, landing the highest paying cybersecurity jobs also requires a number of soft skills.

“A six-figure position in cybersecurity will likely require a candidate who can lead and speak clearly in front of management, a team, or even customers,” Dietrich says. “For my team, I want to hire someone who thinks creatively in response to a challenging problem, can use lateral thinking to arrive at the solution, and has good team skills to follow first, but also lead where necessary Project management skills are a plus.

Expert tips for entering the field

Another thing to consider? Cybersecurity isn’t your average 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. job, Schneider says. It requires a “mission-oriented attitude” and appeals to people “motivated by a higher calling”.

“Cybersecurity is an industry that is changing at an exponential rate and requires a chameleon mindset to roll with the punches,” says Schneider. “While a specific degree may be nice to have, the threat landscape is the Wild West where hands-on real-world experience is essential to defend against growing threats.”

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