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Cybersecurity Career Path: What to Expect

No tech sector is expected to grow as much or as quickly as cybersecurity over the next decade.That’s why so many people looking to make a change in their lives are looking towards cybersecurity bootcamps and certificates.
Many of those same people are barely familiar with cybersecurity as a concept let alone a career. So, what should you expect if you’re looking to get started in cyber?
Let’s take a look at the basic cybersecurity career path you should expect.

Why Has Cybersecurity Become a Popular Career Path?

Like mentioned above, cybersecurity is going to see more growth than any other tech job—or job in general—over the next 10 years. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that there are currently around 141,000 cybersecurity jobs in the U.S. That’s expected to grow by 33 percent before 2030, which would bring the total number of jobs added this decade to 47.000.
It’s not just the growth that makes cybersecurity a popular career path, it’s the demand. Being a relatively young facet of tech, many companies are just getting started building out their cybersecurity teams and infrastructure.
That means, large companies and cybersecurity firms will need plenty of experts to meet the demand that exists as more and more of our lives become digital and more of our personal information becomes vulnerable.

Cybersecurity Career Path

Cybersecurity Certification

Like a lot of tech jobs, cybersecurity does not require a college degree to get hired. However, it does require certifications which determine what level of job you’re qualified for. There are several dozen organizations who offer a variety of cybersecurity certifications, including vendor neutral organizations and vendor specific. A few of these include

Vendor Neutral Cybersecurity Certifications

  • CompTIA
  • GIAC
  • IAAP
  • McAfee Institute

Vendor Specific Cybersecurity Institutions

  • AWS
  • Microsoft
  • IBM
  • Google
  • Cisco

Which one you get and where you get it from will depend on what type of job you’re going for. If you’re looking for an entry-level cybersecurity job then expect to complete certification for CompTIA Security+ and CySa+.
Other popular certifications include CISA, CISSP, CISM, CASP+, and many more,

How to Get a Cybersecurity Certification

To receive a cybersecurity certification, you’ll need to pass the relevant examination for each certification. There are generally three ways to learn enough to pass a certification exam, they are:

  • Applicable Degree
  • Bootcamp
  • Self-Taught

There are pros and cons to each method, so it’s up to you to know which is best for your learning style. Let’s compare the pros and cons

Pros and Cons of a Cybersecurity Degree

A bachelor’s degree in cybersecurity or related major is the most time consuming and expensive route, but it also gives you the most benefits. If you have four or more years to spend learning before starting your cybersecurity career path, then a cybersecurity degree is a great way to earn a higher salary right as you enter the job market..
A cybersecurity degree will allow you to skip past entry-level certifications and immediately test for certifications like CISSP and CISA. You’ll also have an edge over other candidates when looking for a mid- or senior-level cybersecurity job, since around 90 percent of those require degrees.
However, you’ll also spend more acquiring a cybersecurity degree. The average annual cost of attendance at a public, in-state school is just over $25,000, which comes to around $100,000 total. However, that’s a conservative estimate considering many degrees take longer than four years and student loans will increase the cost over time.

Pros and Cons of Self-Taught Cybersecurity Learning

By far the cheapest way to start your cybersecurity career path is to teach yourself. There are several online services that will provide you with the resources to learn enough to pass an entry-level cybersecurity certification exam, including Coursera, Udemy, and edX. Costs for these vary from free to a few hundred dollars.
And while this is an inexpensive way to find a cybersecurity job, it’s up to you to keep on track and make sure you’re learning enough to get a certification. There are no guardrails like professors, instructors, advisors, or other students. If you’re a self-starter and a solo learner, then it’s definitely a good option, but becoming self-taught might not be the best idea if you need support when learning.

Pros and Cons of Cybersecurity Bootcamps

Cybersecurity bootcamps offer the best of both of the above options: far cheaper than a degree yet still containing the structure of a university program.
For example, Coding Dojo’s cybersecurity bootcamp costs just under $17,000, although that can change depending on how you pay and what scholarships you’re eligible for. That means the entire bootcamp costs less than the annual cost of a four-year degree.
Coding Dojo’s bootcamp also offers virtual instruction, one-on-one time with instructors and teacher’s assistants, a student services team, and a community of fellow students who you can lean on. After graduation, you’ll also have lifetime access to a career services team who will help you build a resume, prepare for interviews, and find a cybersecurity job.
All of those are things that you can’t access going the self-taught route.

Entry-Level Cybersecurity Jobs

You’ve finished your degree, bootcamp, or online course and gained your cybersecurity certificates making you eligible for a job. Now it’s time to find your first cybersecurity role. Despite the different names, many entry-level cybersecurity jobs are similar in their responsibilities, but there are some slight differences.
Let’s take a look:at common roles at each level of a cybersecurity career path as well as average salaries. Keep in mind that average salaries include cybersecurity experts with a range of experience.

Cybersecurity Specialist

One of the most common roles in cybersecurity, cybersecurity specialists do all the basics of what a company expects out of its cybersecurity team. That includes monitoring for security breaches, investigating and reporting any breaches, looking for security improvements and vulnerabilities, and helping employees or users with security best practices.
Average salary: $103,000

Cyber Crime Analyst

A cyber crime analyst will focus mostly on investigating any intrusions or breaches into a company’s security system. A cyber crime analyst at a large company will spend time attempting to hack into their employers security to see if there are any weaknesses that may need to be fixed. Cyber crime analysts can also be employed in public positions where they investigate crimes and testify in court.
Average salary: $100,000

Incident and Intrusion Analyst

The main role of an incident and intrusion analyst is to analyze and report on findings after a security network is breached. If there is a breach, an incident and intrusion analyst will investigate and report to shareholders as to how the breach happened and what they can do to prevent it from happening in the future.
Average salary: $105,000

IT Auditor

More often found on larger cybersecurity teams or firms, an IT auditor is a specialist role that focuses on performing network audits, presenting findings, recommending any changes needed to improve security, and planning any fixes to security weaknesses.
Average salary: $102,000

Information Security Analyst

Named the most in-demand tech job in 2022, an information security analyst acts in much the same way as a cybersecurity specialist, although at a higher level. A company expects an information security analyst to monitor and run their security network, recommend improvements to security, keep up on evolving cybersecurity threats, and help other teams implement better security practices.
Average Salary: $103,000

Mid-Level Cybersecurity Jobs

Security Systems Administrator

As the name suggests, a security systems administrator is in charge of running and maintaining a company’s security network. In most cases, a security system administrator will have a broad scope and manage a team of associates who are constantly monitoring and looking to improve network security.
Average salary: $98,000

Cybersecurity Analyst

Another obviously named role, a cybersecurity analyst is constantly monitoring a company’s IT network for potential threats and reporting on weak points that they’ve found in the security network.
Average salary:: $103,590

Penetration Tester

A penetration tester spends their time running mock cyber attacks on a company’s security network to look for vulnerabilities. All of the simulated attacks are documented and then presented to stakeholders so improvements to the network can be made. 
Average salary: $115,000

Security Engineer

While most of the roles covered above have to deal with monitoring and improving security networks, security engineers are involved in the actual building of the network. To become a security engineer, it’s imperative to learn how to code in Python, C++, and Java. 
Average salary: $124,000

Security Architect

While security engineers do the technical building of a company’s network, a security architect is the person who builds the theoretical network. Security architects use reports from penetration testers, analysts, and auditors to decide on next steps when weaknesses are found or upgrades need to be done to keep in line with the latest threats. 
Average salary: $167,000

Senior-Level Cybersecurity Jobs

While there are a variety of different titles amongst senior-level cybersecurity jobs, they all essentially encompass the same with the main differences being pay and company status. 
Whether it’s a manager, vice president, or executive role, senior-level cybersecurity jobs involve people management and broad strategy decisions that are then enacted by their cybersecurity team.
Average Cybersecurity Manager salary: $139,000
Average Chief Information Security Officer salary: $232,000
Average Chief Information Officer salary: $225,000

Choose Your Own Cybersecurity Career Path

Ultimately, what you want your cybersecurity career path to be is up to you and what certifications you’d like to get. Hoping to be a security engineer? Work your way towards CISSP and you’ll be on the right path. Hoping to test large company’s security networks by being a penetration tester?  Go for the CEH.
Hoping to work in an executive suite? Work as hard as you can, learn as much as possible, and make yourself known. One day, a company might trust you to protect their network security.