Is cybersecurity a good career?

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Cybersecurity as an overall industry has a very promising career outlook. It has low unemployment and in fact, many countries have a deficit of employees. This means if you are qualified you can expect to never go unemployed for an extended period of time as a cybersecurity professional. Additionally, the pay is higher than average which is a nice bonus. Overall, it is a pretty solid career choice, but it definitely has it’s drawbacks like anything will. Here I’ll discuss why cybersecurity may or may not be a good career choice for you.

Why is Cybersecurity a good career?

Low unemployment: One of the biggest benefits of getting into cybersecurity right now is that there is a high demand. In a 2019 cybersecurity workforce study, it found that there was a global shortage of cybersecurity professionals of about 2.9 million in 2018.  As a result there is extremely low unemployment among cybersecurity professionals. In the US alone it was about 500,000.  Especially in times like this where covid-19 has cost so many people their jobs, it highlights how valuable it is to have a skillset that will allow you find work easily and consistently, even during an economic downturn.

Salary: Due to such a high demand and a relatively low supply of qualified labor, cybersecurity has pretty good salary ranges. The average salary in North America for cybersecurity related jobs is 90,000 compared to the average salary wage of 40,000. So with a reasonable amount of experience and some certifications you can expect to make double the national average. 

Remote Work: Even before covid-19, because most of the work will be focused on technology and working with people in different parts of the world you’re often able to work from home. For some people this can be negative because they like socializing at work and getting out of the house but for many people being able to work from home is a benefit. 

Education and Certification: Fortunately you don’t need a degree in cybersecurity to get into the field. This can be a big obstacle for some career paths such as being a lawyer or doctor where you need to invest a significant amount of years in formal education in order to get into the industry. Cybersecurity on the other hand has many self-taught specialists and people that have degrees in completely unrelated fields that have been able to make the transition. Additionally, because certifications are pretty well respected in the field you can use them to enter or advance in the field rather than having to go back to university/college.

Job Satisfaction: 71% of respondents in North America said they were satisfied in an ISC2 study with 36% saying they were very satisfied. A similar survey from PayScale found that the average cyber security engineer gave a job satisfaction of 3.83 out of 5. This is about 10% over the average of 51% among US workers.

Why cybersecurity isn’t a good career?

Stress: If you work in cybersecurity, many times you’re being called on when things aren’t going well. Also, many times you’re going to need to ask people to do things that go outside of their normal business operations and their not going to be happy about that because they feel as though you’re trying to tell them what to do. Also, it’s not something that shows up on their bottom line/evaluations so they want to put as little time into security work as possible. This can be frustrating when you’re trying to do your job and the people who you need are making things difficult. To mitigate that, it’s important that you work for companies/clients that give you the proper authority to do your job, otherwise it’s always going to be a struggle.

Technology Focused: Cybersecurity is a technology based field, so even though you talk to people it’s not something where you’re going to get a lot of interpersonal interactions outside of business related conversations. If you’re someone that likes working with people, you like creating deep bonds with people than cybersecurity probably isn’t a good option for you. 

Overtime: This depends on the company you’re working at, but whenever a data breach happens or there is a possibility of one happening you can be expected to work a lot of overtime hours and depending on your position you may be expected to work for no extra pay or at least no overtime pay. These types of situations that demand overtime aren’t too common but it’s something to consider if you’re someone that really values work life balance.

No one wants to pay for it:
In most companies cybersecurity is a cost center, which means it’s something that costs the business money and doesn’t generate any revenue. From a financial point of view it’s a necessary evil to do business and as a result it can be difficult to sell it to people inside and outside of the company. If you’re a cybersecurity sales engineer you may find that it’s hard to sell services to people outside of the company because they want to spend as little money as possible. If you’re an employee it can difficult to convince management to set aside a budget for hiring new staff or buying licenses for software that you need to secure the company. The main reason being is that you’re not going to make any money from that investment, which is the point of having a business. The exception to this rule is if you work for a company that sells cybersecurity products or services, then you’re seen as a profit center and you get much less push back when you say you need something. Over the last few years with an increased awareness of how often companies get hacked and how much it can cost, this problem is definitely decreasing. Companies are much more likely to invest in cybersecurity than they were previously but just because of the nature of the service (it doesn’t generate profit) you can always expect some resistance and find companies that just want to do the minimum to keep things going.

Final Thoughts

Cybersecurity definitely has a strong upside as a potential career path. It offers the chance to make good money, you have a low chance of going unemployed for any extended period of time, you can work from home to save time and money on commuting and it’s relatively easy to get into compared to other high paying careers. However, this isn’t everything. For some people working with computers and having to deal with angry, frustrated and panicked managers/clients isn’t something they want to worry about. Also, some people may want a career that is more social or more fulfilling so that’s something that I would say isn’t high in cybersecurity or tech in general. Overall, cybersecurity is good for people that want to make good money, don’t need a ton of socialization on the job and enjoy solving logic based problems.