Now Is the Time to Make a Career Investment in Cybersecurity

05/01/2015 02:28 pm ET | Updated May 01, 2016

As someone interested in joining the IT workforce, or someone who is already involved with IT but looking to further their career, cybersecurity - as a specialization - offers a number of benefits and advantages. If you've never considered training in IT security, now is the time to reconsider.

Huge Industry Demand Expected in 2015 and Beyond 

Anytime there's demand for a job, it's usually the result of a number of different factors. Among these, there's always a lack of qualified professionals currently in the field and an increased need for the specialized role they play. The demand for cybersecurity professionals is no different. Over the past few years, data breaches among American businesses and corporations have increased drastically, while the number of available and qualified cybersecurity professionals has remained stagnate - or possibly even decreased. Let's take a more in-depth look at the issue:

  • Increased prevalence of breaches. According to a USA Today article by Elizabeth Weise, an incredible 43 percent of U.S. companies have experienced some sort of data breach over the past year. That's up 10 percent from the previous year and clearly indicates a growing problem. Even more staggering than the fact that nearly one out of every two companies was compromised is, "Despite the rise in breaches, 27% of companies didn't have a data breach response plan or team in place," according to Weise.
  • Lack of qualified professionals. While many of those companies didn't have a data breach response plan in place because of a lack of foresight or planning, many simply don't have access to the right people. According to Linda Musthaler, an analyst for an IT consulting firm, "Current staffing shortages are estimated between 20,000 and 40,000 and are expected to continue for years to come."
If the study Musthaler references is accurate, 42 percent of organizations intend to hire more IT security employees in the coming months to prepare for future data breaches- which means the current shortage will only grow.

Reasons to Consider a Specialization in Cybersecurity

While it's depressing from a business point of view, the fact that there's such a great demand for cybersecurity professionals - and so very few currently in the job market - is excellent news for anyone considering a specialization in cybersecurity. Here are a few reasons to consider:

  • 3X national salary average. Along with the demand for specialized job positions usually comes a comfortable salary, and that's certainly the case for cybersecurity professionals. Musthaler references a survey that found the average salary for U.S. security professionals is $116,000 ($55 per hour). That's a hefty three times the national median for full-time salary workers. Even the average junior level security professional, with less than a year of experience, can expect somewhere around $91,000.
  • Corporate awareness of security deficiencies. It's not just the fact that data breaches are up. It's also important to note that businesses are becoming more aware of the need for increased security. "2015 will be an interesting year where the pendulum balancing between simple user experience and security will be swinging around a bit," says Scott Morris, an IT professional. "We'll have to see where it lands, but be prepared for everyone to become more security aware!" That can only mean one thing: More businesses will be hiring in the coming months.
  • Shortage among government agencies. When the government comes calling, you listen. That's why it's so exciting for cybersecurity professionals that government agencies, particularly defense and aerospace firms, are currently looking to add new security positions and hire more employees. It signals that the demand for these positions has made its way to the top of the food chain.
  • Plenty of training opportunities. If you're interested in cybersecurity, you'll be happy to learn that there are plenty of training opportunities available. In fact, many businesses are even willing to pay for cybersecurity education for existing IT employees. Even if you're on your own, you can find plenty of cost-effective programs.
How to Pursue a Job in Cybersecurity

So, naturally, all of these points lead to a single question: How can you pursue a job in cybersecurity? Well, the challenging part is that there's no standard answer. There are many different paths and it's up to you to choose the one that makes the most sense.

For example, you may choose to pursue a degree in computer science, get some real-world experience, and then pursue specialized training later on. Others go straight for it and pursue certification through Cisco Certified Network Associate and Cisco Certified Security Professional programs.

If you're preparing to enter college, it's probably best to get a standard IT or computer science degree with a specialization in security. You can then work your way up through post-graduate certifications and networking. There are also options for cybersecurity master's degrees available to those with a bachelor's degree in a related field.

Preparing for the Future

As long as there's private data circulating the internet, there will be criminals and hackers attempting to compromise that information for their own benefits. That means there will also be a demand for people to protect American businesses and citizens through cybersecurity. 

While cybersecurity isn't a good fit for every individual in the IT industry, many will find the specialization exciting, challenging, and financially rewarding. As a student or young professional, it's at least worth your consideration.