The shortage for cyber security experts continues, and according to the recent Cybersecurity Jobs Report, by 2019 the workforce shortfall could reach 1.5 million in the United States and exceed six million worldwide. The silver lining to this dark cloud is that those with the right skills could expect much higher paying jobs.
Cyber security professionals are leading the pack in terms of pay in the tech world. The Chicago Tribune reported that lead software security software engineers could see salaries approaching $240,000 a year.
“Cyber security salaries command an average of nine percent more than all other technology jobs,” said Dom Glavach, chief security strategist for CyberSN, “It’s safe to say high incomes will continue for cyber security professionals as the market grows for security professionals.”
In other words, for those with the right qualifications, now could be a good time to look for a new career.
“Overall employment levels and the general economic and hiring trends have been strong,” said Mansur Hasib, program chair, cybersecurity technology program at the University of Maryland University College. “So we have been seeing higher salaries in a wide range of sectors. In addition, highly qualified people in the cyber security sector are seeing highly attractive salaries – specially as they are incorporated into the C-suite of organizations either as executives or advisers.”
The Cyber Skills (And Pay) Gap
As cyber opportunities expand across the employment spectrum, so, too does the disparity between entry-level IT workers and professionals with specific skills and years of experience.
“It follows the same basic principles as the un-cleared market- supply and demand,” explained Luke Mann, university relations lead at Northrop Grumman Corporation. “If there is an abundance of talent in one particular discipline, the need goes down and eventually so does the compensation.
“If there is a lack of available talent in that same discipline, the need increases and so does the compensation,” Mann told ClearanceJobs. “What’s interesting to me are the skill sets that span multiple markets. For example; software developers are in demand in really any market: cleared and un-cleared.”
Competing With commercial sector Companies
The government and contractor segments are now also finding it harder to fill positions thanks to increased demand in the non-cleared sectors.
“We have found that we’re not only competing with other companies in the cleared arena, but we’re also competing with the financial industry, Facebook, Google, Amazon and companies in the tech market,” warned Mann.
“There has been an increase of candidates with this skill set, however their value continues to increase due to the trend of technology and the universal need,” Mann added. “Companies outside of the cleared arena are now paying the market equivalent of a cleared developer, which in turn makes the cleared developers salary increase to continue to incentivize software developers to enter the cleared world.”
When it comes to attracting young people to cyber careers, there is also a perception problem. While the jobs may pay well, the perception issue is significant. There’s perception, and there’s also the reality that government cyber careers may lack some of the perks of the private sector.
“There is the potential for a job seeker to choose a non-government position over a 100 percent on-site government position,” said CyberSN’s Glavach. “The shortage of cyber security professionals is caused by how our industry promotes its careers to youths, or those looking to change industries, or those looking to come back to the workforce after raising children.
“We as a society sell our cyber security jobs as geeky and unsexy,” added Glavach. ” The government has an extra challenge in hiring cyber security professionals because the following government constraints mostly don’t apply to the private sector: lack of flexibility to work from home; five-day work weeks; defined salary structure with caps; and testing for marijuana usage.”
Another very real hurdle that adds to the negative perception of government cyber security careers – a slow and cumbersome background investigation.
“I hope that the process can be expedited,” said UMUC’s Hasib. “In the contracting sector hiring companies need to be more open in taking prospective employees through the clearance process. The application process is usually too cumbersome and full of traps for an applicant to fall into. So the most qualified applicants will not even be referred – much less interviewed or hired. Improving the speed and accuracy of this process will be very helpful.”