Cybersecurity has emerged as a career field mostly unaffected by the ups and downs of the economy. It’s ranked among the fastest-growing jobs in the nation for many years and looks to remain that way for many years to come.
In addition to being in-demand, cybersecurity graduates also enjoy a variety of career options. That’s because cybersecurity is now a critical component in the infrastructure of every organization, from private businesses to government agencies. And with so much commerce moving online, it’s as important to small businesses as it is to large corporations.
As the nation observes National Cybersecurity Awareness Month, an event designed to draw attention to the importance of cybersecurity, students considering a cybersecurity career should take comfort knowing about the wealth of jobs available in the profession. More than ever, companies want to hire people who have developed information security expertise by earning a degree in cybersecurity.
The Growing Demand For Cybersecurity Experts
If federal government projections prove correct, cybersecurity will remain a hot career field in the decade ahead.
The number of jobs for information security analysts will increase by 35% between 2021 and 2031, according to projections from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). That’s much faster than the national average for all occupations and all computer-related jobs (15%).
Some states have even higher demand. For example, Virginia, Texas, Florida, New York and Maryland have the highest employment of information security analysts by state, according to the BLS, as of May 2021.
Cybersecurity salaries reflect the growing demand. According to the BLS, the median information security salary for the 163,000 people employed in the field reached $102,600 in May 2021.
Because cybersecurity impacts all facets of IT, earning a degree in cybersecurity can offer you several career options. The following three rank among the most popular in the profession.
A cybersecurity graduate who works in ethical hacking, sometimes referred to as penetration testing, analyzes the effectiveness of an organization’s cyber defenses by attempting to hack their system. Organizations hire professional, ethical hackers to determine their sites’ vulnerabilities, the strength of their safety measures and what it might take to make systems fail, among other information.
An ethical hacking project starts by defining the scope of the hack. That includes deciding which computer systems are within the scope of the hack, the hours of the test (so as not to interfere with regular business operations) and whether social engineering is allowed. Social engineering involves using psychology to trick people into revealing their passwords and other computer system information, often through email.
When finished, an ethical hacker provides a report to the organization on potential vulnerabilities and offers guidance on how to make cybersecurity stronger.
When a hack occurs, some cybersecurity team members work as digital forensic investigators, tracking down the details on when, where, and how a hack occurred. This can mean investigating the software for an app, the hardware for a single computer or an entire network, depending on the size of the hack.
The range of attacks a computer forensics investigator might look into varies depending on the client. A private company might want an investigation into theft of company information by an insider or hacking scams that threaten online retail operations. A government agency might require an investigation of political espionage or terrorist communications.
Whatever the case, digital forensic investigators need expertise and a natural interest in investigations to succeed in this specialized area. In an interview with The Balance, a computer forensics investigator said his job is “as much an investigative function as it is a technical challenge. If either skill set is missing, one will have a much harder time working successfully in the field.”
Security architects design, test and implement security features for an organization’s computer system. They use their extensive knowledge of cybersecurity and their own IT network to create systems that best defend an organization against outside attack. They also need to understand how people interact with computer systems, as human behavior is often at the core of cybersecurity issues.
A security architect also ensures that organizations have systems that incorporate the latest security protocols.
If you’re worried you aren’t serious enough about computers to get into the cybersecurity field, consider John Rasiko, CEO of DeepCode.ca, who told Varonis that he launched a long career in cybersecurity and security architecture after watching the 1983 film “WarGames” and getting interested in computers.
Whatever specific field a cybersecurity graduate chooses, they should enjoy many job opportunities. The BLS reports that increased cyberattacks drive the need for organizations to hire professionals who can develop “innovative solutions to prevent hackers from stealing critical information or creating problems for computer networks.” Banking, financial services and healthcare organizations rank among the industries most in need of cybersecurity experts.