Just like the fictional Mr. Smith, cybersecurity professionals may want to consider going to Washington, D.C. And unlike the Jimmy Stewart character that won’t mean running for office, but heading to the capital could land a good, high paying job.
According to a new report from Techshielder, which analyzed several metrics including average salary, job availability and the cost of living – for cybersecurity experts, D.C. ranked first in the country and only behind the city of Luxembourg across the globe. While Singapore had the highest job availability and Luxembourg had the highest salaries, Washington scored high in both categories.
One factor cited for the high pay and number of jobs was that as the nation’s capital, Washington is the headquarters for many government agencies, and there is certainly a need for cybersecurity professionals.
“There is a symbiotic relationship between the U.S. government and the cybersecurity industrial ecosystem,” said Doug Britton, CEO, Haystack Solutions, which has offices in the metro area.
“The presence of so many high-demand consumers of cyber capacity (e.g. NSA, CIA, DOD, etc.) in such a small geographic area means that there is stable employment for a highly skilled employment base,” Britton told ClearanceJobs. “Additionally, the proximity to New York provides accessible growth capital and access to the second-most demanding customer base for cybersecurity, the financial industry.”
In D.C., it isn’t just the government agencies that are hiring cybersecurity pros. Many contractors and related businesses also continue to seek talent.
“With digital security becoming more important than ever and cyber-attacks on the rise, government agencies and private businesses are always on the lookout for talent,” said Lasse Walstad, cofounder at Techshielder. “One of the main reasons we see that positions are not be filled is due to the fact that there are not enough people who are skilled in that field.”
Walstad said finding the job may still come down to the skills. “You can’t just grab any cybersecurity job without any qualification,” he told ClearanceJobs. “However, it is easy enough to get the necessary qualification that will help you land an entry-level job.”
Is D.C. Actually the Best?
While the Techshielder study did factor in salaries and job availability, other factors still need to be considered – including cost of living, price of housing, traffic and a plethora of other factors. Thus, “best” could be a very subjective term.
“It surely depends on how you measure. There is a lot to unpack in that assertion that D.C. is somehow best,” explained Jim Purtilo, associate professor of computer science at the University of Maryland.
“Locals will carefully distinguish between D.C.-proper versus the D.C. metro area, which encompasses much of Northern Virginia and some of Maryland,” Purtilo told ClearanceJobs. “I don’t doubt that there is big demand for cybersecurity here regionally. After all, D.C. is the center of the charted universe for bureaucracy – the neutron star with insatiable gravity that draws all things to it. Cyber is a big part of this universe, and we thus see the attraction to agencies by the contractors who want to sell to them. This creates baseline demand.”
However, Washington and its metro-area shouldn’t be confused with a true tech hub such as Silicon Valley. Then there are those other factors to consider.
“What those workers see, though, will vary widely, which is why measuring ‘best’ by salary doesn’t tell the whole story,” warned Purtilo.
“A federal employee doing cyber who locates in D.C. proper to be near work will find housing to be expensive if they find it at all,” he added. “More likely employees will settle in communities outside the capital beltway and work hard to make ends meet.”
Making the Move to D.C.
There are factors to consider before you pack up and decide to head to the nation’s capital.
“If you are looking to relocate for a job, it’s important to take in many factors such as the cost of living and your expected salary, as all of these play a role in how suitable the role is for you,” said Walstad. “The idea of starting your life in a new city might be intimidating, but you may find that with the right job, moving can also be life-changing,” added Walstad. “The cities we mentioned aren’t the only however, they do represent the best opportunities that await cybersecurity professionals.”
It is also worth noting that one reason the demand is there that the turnover remains high in cybersecurity, and that holds true in Washington.
“It’s all about supply and demand,” said Purtilo. There is constant demand here since there is constant churn here. This reality might boost salaries – employers must pay more to attract more – but again, salary alone doesn’t tell the whole story. And whether or not D.C. is best all depends on how you measure it.