If you’re new to the field of cybersecurity, you may embark on a promising career path by starting in an entry-level IT role such as a help desk technician, network administrator, or software developer. These positions provide a solid foundation for aspiring cybersecurity professionals to gain experience before transitioning into junior information security analyst roles.
Choosing a cybersecurity career path means entering a rapidly expanding industry with a high demand for qualified candidates. According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), cybersecurity jobs are projected to increase by 35 percent between 2021 and 2031, and the COVID-19 pandemic has further accelerated this demand.
In this ever-evolving cybersecurity landscape, specialized roles are emerging, as noted by DailyTechNG. By commencing your journey as a cybersecurity analyst, you open doors to various opportunities within the realm of information security and can tailor your career path to align with your interests. Discover the top five sought-after career paths within this high-demand field.
Before applying for your first cybersecurity role, it’s crucial to develop core IT skills that are relevant to the industry. This includes gaining proficiency in programming, networks and systems administration, and cloud computing. While a formal degree in cyber security is not always required for entry into the cybersecurity field, obtaining structured training can expedite your progress toward securing a job in this competitive landscape.
Top 5 Cybersecurity Career Paths in 2023
As someone working in the field of cybersecurity, you have the freedom to shape your career in multiple directions, depending on your personal interests and aspirations. Now, let’s delve deeper into five potential avenues for specialization within the realm of security as you progress in your professional journey.
Engineering and architecture
As a security engineer, you’ll use your knowledge of threats and vulnerabilities to build and implement defense systems against a range of security concerns. You may advance to become a security architect, responsible for your organization’s entire security infrastructure.
Security engineering and architecture could be a good fit if you enjoy tinkering with technology and like to take a big-picture approach to cybersecurity.
Skills to develop:
- Critical thinking
- IT networking
- System Administration
- Risk assessment
Common certifications: CompTIA Security+, Systems Security Certified Practitioner (SSCP), Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP), Google Professional Cloud Security Engineer
Testing and hacking
This field of cybersecurity goes by many names, including offensive security, red team, white hat hacking, and ethical hacking among them. If you work in offensive security, you’ll take a proactive approach to cybersecurity. You’ll do this by playing the part of the intruder, trying to find vulnerabilities before the bad guys do.
As a penetration tester, you’ll seek to identify and exploit system weaknesses to help companies build more secure systems. As an ethical hacker, you can try out even more attack vectors (like social engineering) to reveal security weaknesses.
Testing and hacking could be a good fit if you want to outsmart the bad guys and get paid to (legally) hack into networks and computer systems.
Skills to develop:
- Penetration testing
- Computer networking
Common ethical hacking certifications: GIAC Penetration Tester (GPEN), Certified Ethical Hacker (CEH), CompTIA PenTest+, Offensive Security Certified Professional (OSCP)
Despite a company’s best security efforts, security incidents still happen. The field of incident response involves the next steps after a security incident. As an incident responder, you’ll monitor your company’s network and work to fix vulnerabilities and minimize loss when breaches occur.
Another area of incident response involves digital forensics and cybercrime. Digital forensic investigators work with law enforcement to retrieve data from digital devices and investigate cybercrimes.
Incident response could be a good fit if you work well under pressure and love a good mystery.
Skills to develop:
- Attention to detail
- Technical writing and documentation
- Intrusion detection tools
- Forensics software
Common certifications: GIAC Certified Incident Handler (GCIH), EC-Council Certified Incident Handler (ECIH), Certified Computer Examiner (CCE), Certified Computer Forensics Examiner (CCFE)
Management and administration
As you gain experience in cybersecurity, you may choose to advance toward a leadership position within your organization. Cybersecurity managers oversee an organization’s network and computer security systems. In this role, you might manage security teams, coordinate between teams, and ensure security compliance. Typically, the highest security role in an organization is that of chief information security officer (CISO). Working in security at the executive level often means managing operations, policies, and budgets across the company’s security infrastructure.
Management and administration could be a good fit if you’re organized, an excellent communicator, and enjoy working with people.
Skills to develop:
- Project management
- Risk management
Common certifications: Certified Information Security Manager (CISM), GIAC Certified Project Manager (GCPM), CISSP (Certified Information Systems Security Professional)
Companies hire security consultants to test their computer and network systems for any vulnerabilities or security risks. In this role, you get to practice cybersecurity offense and defense by testing systems for vulnerabilities and making recommendations on how to strengthen those systems.
Consulting could be a good fit if you enjoy variety and want to make an impact by helping others manage their security.
Skills to develop:
- Penetration and vulnerability testing
- Threat management
- Operating systems
Common certifications: CompTIA CySA+, Offensive Security Certified Professional (OSCP), Systems Security Certified Practitioner (SSCP), Certified Security Consultant (CSC)
How much can you make in cyber security career paths in 2023?
Interested in knowing how much you can earn in the cybersecurity field? Well, let’s take a peek at the salaries for various roles. Cybersecurity professionals, even those just starting out, tend to be fairly compensated for their skills. As you progress and take on more advanced positions, the paycheck typically reflects that. To give you an idea of what’s out there, here are the average total earnings for different cybersecurity jobs in the United States as of June 2023, based on data from Glassdoor.
Take a look at these figures:
- Intrusion detection specialist: $57,404
- Junior cybersecurity analyst: $91,071
- Digital forensic examiner: $82,918
- IT security administrator: $84,347
- Incident response analyst: $68,812
- Cybersecurity consultant: $90,696
- Information security analyst: $90,595
- Ethical hacker: $110,033
- Penetration tester: $97,680
- Security engineer: $133,263
- Cybersecurity manager: $96,986
- Security architect: $178,242
- Chief information security officer: $258,419
These numbers provide a glimpse into the earning potential in the cybersecurity field. Keep in mind that they represent averages and can vary depending on factors such as experience, location, and company size.