Celebrating the Economic Independence of Cybersecurity Professionals

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The fourth of July at its core in the U.S. is a national holiday that celebrates independence. Among IT professionals the group that enjoys the most independence are arguably cybersecurity professionals. Given the fact that the unemployment rate among cybersecurity professionals is a negative number most cybersecurity professionals are pretty much free to work anywhere they want. The issue for many of them is where best to apply their skills given both the level of demand for cybersecurity skills in a specific geographic region.

Indeed, an online job recruitment site, this week published a report that finds the top 10 cities that pay the highest salaries for cybersecurity professionals on average are San Francisco ($148,621), followed by San Jose, Calif. ($128,253), New York ($125,688), Chicago ($125,688) and Denver ($119,368).

But when Indeed factored in what it really costs to live in those cities, the rankings in terms of the best place for cybersecurity professionals to hang their proverbial hat changes substantially. At the top of the list is Charlotte, N.C. ($125,173), followed by Chicago ($119,887), San Francisco ($116,073), Austin ($113,126) and Denver ($112,206).

Washington, D.C. may be number one in cybersecurity job postings, but in terms of salaries, it doesn’t crack the top ten locations. ~@mvizardClick To Tweet

The cities with the most cybersecurity job postings are Washington, D.C., followed by New York, Dallas-Fort Worth, Baltimore, and Chicago. Companies, of course, post jobs in specific regions because that’s where their offices are. Ideally, they want cybersecurity professionals to be part of a team. But given the competition for cybersecurity professionals, most organizations are willing to hire people with cybersecurity expertise anywhere they can find them. In fact, competition for cybersecurity talent now occurs on a global basis. The one thing that hasn’t changed, however, is that working for the government doesn’t pay as well as the commercial sector. Washington, D.C. may be number one in job postings, but in terms of salaries, it doesn’t crack the top ten locations.

Not surprisingly, the top five cybersecurity job postings were for IT security specialists, followed by information security analyst, network security engineer, security engineer and application security engineer.

The independence of cybersecurity professionals doesn’t come easy. When everything goes right there’s not much praise because most people inside the organization are unaware of how many cyberattacks have been thwarted. When things go wrong, however, much of the blame gets attached to cybersecurity professionals. Most cybersecurity professionals tend to be adrenaline junkies. Just like being a soldier in any war, being a cybersecurity professional is often marked by long periods of boredom punctuated by sheer terror once a cyberattack is detected. Today most of the adrenaline high when it comes to cybersecurity is being channeled into threat hunting in the hopes that malware can be detected before it’s payload become activated. There’s still the thrill of the combatting an actual attack. But most organizations are trying to reduce the number of live attacks that need to be thwarted as much as possible. The best battle is often the one that was never fought.

In an ideal world, there would be no need for cybersecurity. But that’s not the world we live in. Cybersecurity professionals are filling a critical void not of their own making. The fact that they can command six-figure salaries and live almost anywhere simply reflects supply and demand economics. There’s no guarantee this will always be the case. But given the rate at which people are entering the field, it would appear the shortage of cybersecurity professionals will continue well into the next decade. The only thing that might change that equation is the rise of artificial intelligence (AI) to automate cybersecurity tasks. But most AI technology as it applies to cybersecurity is nascent at best. AI might augment cybersecurity professionals, but it’s a very long way from replacing them. At best, AI might act as a governor on cybersecurity salaries because each cybersecurity professional will be able to handle more tasks.

In the meantime, cybersecurity professionals should make the most of their hard-won economic independence.

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