Cyber security is currently one of the fastest growing and most in-demand industries in terms of employment opportunities. There are several reasons for this quicker-than-average growth across nearly every type of cyber security career. This includes the fact that cyber attacks are increasing at an unprecedented rate, and the malicious actors behind these infiltrations are continuously coming up with new attack strategies.
Often, all that stands between an organization and a full-scale, damaging data breach are internal cyber security professionals and the tactics they put in place for protection. Beyond just guarding against unauthorized access, these cyber security professionals are also responsible for maintaining continuous uptime of the organization’s most crucial IT assets while supporting these platforms’ top-notch performance for end users.
The types of cyber security jobs available in today’s market are multi-disciplinary and touch every department of the business. Organizations from enterprises and small businesses to government agencies now need highly trained and knowledgeable IT and cyber security personnel to guard against attacks and support the technologies that underpin daily operations.
As students look to pursue careers in cyber security, one of the first steps to take is attaining a higher degree, such as the Online Master of Science in Cybersecurity program offered by the University of Nevada at Reno. With the proper education and training, graduates can pursue several exciting, well-paying and in-demand types of cyber security careers.
Why are cyber security pros needed?: Top cyber threats
According to a university study, hackers currently unleash malicious code at a nearly unthinkable rate — once every 39 seconds, to be exact. And these cyber attacks now impact one in every three citizens across the country, Cybint Solutions reports.
But individual consumers certainly aren’t the only ones feeling the effects of malware attacks:
- Overall, 43% of cyber attacks now target small businesses, and 64% of companies of all sizes have already experienced a web-based attack, according to statistics gathered by Cybint.
- The current pandemic has also affected cyber security, with the FBI finding a 300% increase in reported cyber crimes over the same period.
- Unfortunately, most breaches (95%) stem from human error. Worse still, it takes many organizations six months or more to discover the breach.
Compounding these issues is the fact that an estimated 4 million cyber security roles will go unfilled across the globe by next year, and many businesses currently (77%) don’t have a proper plan in place to respond to security incidents.
Which cyber attacks are most common?
Making matters even worse, cyber criminals now utilize an array of different approaches to support their attacks and subsequent successful breaches. According to Cisco, some of the most frequently seen cyber attacks include:
- Malware, including ransomware, which locks users out of systems and sensitive information until a ransom is paid
- Phishing, typically paired with social engineering, involves the creation of convincing and legitimate-looking email messages that come with attachments. Once opened, these email attachments launch malicious software that targets and steals sensitive data like personal information.
- Denial-of-service, or DOS, attacks, which flood network and server systems with meaningless traffic and requests to prevent use of any available bandwidth. These attacks typically result in costly downtime and inaccessibility of systems.
And these only scratch the surface. Other threats, including zero-day exploits, SQL injections, main-in-the-middle attacks and DNS tunneling can also wreak havoc on an individual’s or a company’s information systems, putting sensitive information at risk.
Different branches of cyber security
Before we examine some of the top types of cyber security careers, it’s worth noting that there are several different branches of cyber security and associated specializations within each branch.
As career services organization Woz U points out, today’s cyber security industry can be broken down into the following branches:
- Application security
- Network and infrastructure security
- Intrusion detection and penetration testing
- Digital forensics and incident response
- Endpoint protection and mobile security
- Data governance, risk and compliance
Other areas of cyber expertise include cloud security, website security, operating system security and encryption. These areas also overlap with certain functions in the field. For instance, website security might fall under the mantle of application security, and cloud security may be included in the responsibilities of network or infrastructure security.
Top types of cyber security careers
Professionals with expertise in cyber security are currently in high demand. That includes those with specializations in a specific branch, or multidisciplinary knowledge across the field.
Graduates of cyber security-focused programs — like the Online Master of Science in Cybersecurity from the University of Nevada, Reno — have several career opportunities available to them. Some of the first opportunities to consider include roles like:
1. Security architect
According to PayScale, security architects design, establish and deploy the network and endpoint security protections for the organization, and lead the charge to continually update and improve these measures. Security architects must ensure that safeguards can be properly integrated into the institution’s network infrastructure and information systems, and that the protections they design function as planned. In some environments, the security architect is also responsible for IT tickets and incident reporting and may also spearhead analysis after a security incident is identified.
While some employers will accept candidates with a bachelor’s degree in computer security or computer science, many prefer master’s level training. Some employers might also require candidates to have certain industry security credentials and certifications.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics noted that similar roles have a job outlook growth of about 5% through 2028, during which time about 8,400 positions will need to be filled.
PayScale points out that the role of security architect can be particularly well-paying. On average, these professionals earn an average salary of $123,642, with the highest percentage of earners reporting compensation of $163,000 annually.
2. Security engineer
Another type of cyber security career that graduates can pursue is that of security engineer. These professionals work to bolster the protections of an organization’s infrastructure, as well as safeguards around highly sensitive projects or product development efforts. Security engineers must also identify and close gaps related to current security threats, and respond to any detected intrusions. These professionals must not only have in-depth knowledge of information systems protections, but incident response and analysis as well, according to PayScale.
Security engineers lead analysis and evaluation of security issues that might impact the organization. Additionally, security engineers also lead efforts to test and deploy any new or upgraded systems, including physical hardware components or software platforms. This might involve trialing the functionality of these systems and not only ensuring that proper security measures are in place, but also ensuring that these capabilities don’t create any new security risks.
Currently, these positions are on track to see an estimated 12% growth in job outlook, much faster than the average seen across all occupations. On average, these professionals receive an annual salary of $90,615, but can earn as much as $132,000 annually on the high end.
3. Information security analyst
Certain duties within types of cyber security careers might appear to overlap, and this is true in many instances. However, there are distinctions between these roles to be aware of.
Information security analysts, for example, may take part in responsibilities that may also fall under the security engineer role. According to the BLS, this includes tasks like monitoring information systems for suspicious activity and breaches, deploying proper protection measures and responding to any security incidents.
However, in addition to these activities, information security analysts also spearhead important proactive response initiatives, including disaster recovery and business continuity plans. As part of their roles, information security analysts must be up to date on current cyber threats, as well as security best practices, and thus are in the best position to include this expertise in the organization’s disaster recovery plan.
Security analysts will also prepare and provide reports after a security incident has taken place, outlining the root cause (if known) of the breach and the extent of the damage. Analysts might also train new users and IT staff on new security capabilities.
The information security analyst role is one of the fastest growing in the cyber security sector, with a 32% job outlook increase forecast through 2028. This will create more than 35,000 open positions, requiring trained expert candidates.
This role is also well-paying, with a median annual wage of $99,730. However, compensation can range from $96,190 to as much as $158,860 for the highest 10% of earners.
4. Chief information security officer
The advantage of earning a high-level degree like the Online Master of Science in Cybersecurity is that graduates can pursue more advanced career opportunities. This includes the chief information security officer role, wherein professionals are responsible for overseeing and evaluating information systems and related protection measures for the entire organization. This chief officer might also supervise the activities of other IT personnel, including security architects and information security analysts.
What’s more, although the information security analyst might help create internal IT response plans, the chief information security officer oversees deploying and maintaining these procedures. And, if a security incident takes place, the chief security officer will spearhead these plans and oversee the implementation of standards and policies to ensure the security of the organization’s most crucial infrastructure and sensitive information.
This chief officer also oversees the business’s compliance with industry regulations, specifically including those involving sensitive information and information systems. For instance, a chief information security officer working in the healthcare field should understand the requirements of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, (HIPAA), and ensure that the institution’s information systems are compliant with these rules.
The BLS estimates that similar roles will experience an 11% growth rate through 2028, resulting in more than 46,000 open positions.
Given the advanced nature of this role, the average salary is currently $161,945, according to PayScale. The lowest 10% of earners still receive attractive compensation of $104,000 on average annually, and the highest 10% can make $225,000 annually or more.
Pursuing a career in cyber security
As threats and protection measures continue to become more complex and sophisticated, it’s important for employers to find candidates with in-depth knowledge into cyber security and other highly relevant areas. In this way, while a bachelor’s degree may suffice for some types of cyber security careers, the most attractive candidates are those who hold master’s degrees.
Those interested in these or other types of cyber security careers can put themselves on the path to employment by obtaining a high-level degree. The Online Cybersecurity, Master of Science program at the University of Nevada at Reno provides students with the skills, experience and expertise they need to pursue an array of exciting and high-compensating cyber security careers.
To find out more, check out our program page and connect with us at the University of Nevada, Reno today.