Dark Reading is part of the Informa Tech Division of Informa PLC

This site is operated by a business or businesses owned by Informa PLC and all copyright resides with them.Informa PLC's registered office is 5 Howick Place, London SW1P 1WG. Registered in England and Wales. Number 8860726.

Cloud

12/17/2019
04:20 PM
Connect Directly
Twitter
LinkedIn
Google+
RSS
E-Mail
50%
50%

Higher Degree, Higher Salary? Not for Some Security Pros

Turns out, skill beats experience and an academic degree doesn't guarantee higher compensation for five security positions.

In the rapidly growing cybersecurity industry, some positions don't offer a clear-cut path to a higher salary. An academic degree and years of experience, considered a promising combination in traditional industries, don't guarantee security employees a bigger paycheck.

Cynet researchers polled 1,324 security practitioners this quarter to learn about industry salaries and the factors shaping them. Their data provided sufficient insight to profile five positions: security analyst/threat intelligence specialist, penetration tester, network security engineer, security architect/cloud security architect, and security manager/director.

Some findings validated the team's suspicions. For example, they weren't surprised to learn banking and finance usually lead in security compensation, says Yiftach Keshet, director of product marketing for Cynet. In the financial sector, 4% of respondents reported salaries of $111,000 to $130,000, 2% earn $131,000 to 150,000, and 2% earn $271,000 to $290,000. Healthcare also has salaries on the high end, with 17% who earn $111,000 to 130,000.

Location also had a tremendous impact on salary. Security analysts in North America report a significantly higher salary than in EMEA and APAC: More than 80% earn between $71,000 and $110,000 compared with less than 35% in EMEA and 21% in APAC earning the same. The highest-paid position recorded was security director, with top-tier earners making $290,000 or more.

Still, some findings caught the researchers off-guard. "I was surprised to find out that an academic degree can have a relatively low impact on compensation," Keshet says. "That was surprising, especially in geographies like the United States and Europe."

For some security roles, demonstrable skills are more valuable than academic degrees. Consider a level-one SOC analyst tasked with triaging alerts. The standard SOC is typically flooded with alerts, driving businesses' concern about alert fatigue. A strong SOC analyst will be someone who can address a certain capacity of alerts in a day and can write automated rules to discern between events that have to be escalated and those that can be handled locally.

These skills are easily measurable. When a candidate applies for an entry-level SOC role, it's easy to see what they know how to do and how they do it. The same goes for a pen tester or network security engineer, who are tasked with testing an organization's defenses and maintaining network defenses, respectively. Sixty percent of pen testers with an academic degree made less than $50,000, while 60% of pen testers without an academic degree made the same amount. A larger percentage of pen testers without a degree made between $51,000 to $70,000 and $91,000 to $110,000 compared with their degree-earning counterparts.

The same can be said of network security engineering, where a greater percentage of employees without degrees reported salaries on the higher end of the spectrum than employees with degrees.

"Personally, I think it's good news," Keshet says about prioritizing skills for higher compensation. "If we eliminate degree or specification of experience, basically we're left with skill. Companies care more about what their security personnel can do rather than their formal certification."

Some of these skills may not solely come from security experience. Researchers found employees who pivoted from an IT role into a cybersecurity role tend to earn more than peers who started out in cybersecurity. In his personal experience, Keshet says, a solid background in IT better prepares someone to take a deep dive into security.

While a degree wasn't necessary to increase salaries for the five positions analyzed, he notes it is required for executive positions. "For a CISO, it definitely matters," Keshet says. Most CISOs have a security background but typically have an MBA or other advanced degree, he explains.

Related Content:

Check out The Edge, Dark Reading's new section for features, threat data, and in-depth perspectives. Today's top story: "Disarming Disinformation"

Kelly Sheridan is the Staff Editor at Dark Reading, where she focuses on cybersecurity news and analysis. She is a business technology journalist who previously reported for InformationWeek, where she covered Microsoft, and Insurance & Technology, where she covered financial ... View Full Bio

Comment  | 
Print  | 
More Insights
Comments
Newest First  |  Oldest First  |  Threaded View
Stop Defending Everything
Kevin Kurzawa, Senior Information Security Auditor,  2/12/2020
Small Business Security: 5 Tips on How and Where to Start
Mike Puglia, Chief Strategy Officer at Kaseya,  2/13/2020
Architectural Analysis IDs 78 Specific Risks in Machine-Learning Systems
Jai Vijayan, Contributing Writer,  2/13/2020
Register for Dark Reading Newsletters
White Papers
Video
Cartoon Contest
Current Issue
6 Emerging Cyber Threats That Enterprises Face in 2020
This Tech Digest gives an in-depth look at six emerging cyber threats that enterprises could face in 2020. Download your copy today!
Flash Poll
How Enterprises Are Developing and Maintaining Secure Applications
How Enterprises Are Developing and Maintaining Secure Applications
The concept of application security is well known, but application security testing and remediation processes remain unbalanced. Most organizations are confident in their approach to AppSec, although others seem to have no approach at all. Read this report to find out more.
Twitter Feed
Dark Reading - Bug Report
Bug Report
Enterprise Vulnerabilities
From DHS/US-CERT's National Vulnerability Database
CVE-2020-8996
PUBLISHED: 2020-02-16
AnyShare Cloud 6.0.9 allows authenticated directory traversal to read files, as demonstrated by the interface/downloadwithpath/downloadfile/?filepath=/etc/passwd URI.
CVE-2020-8997
PUBLISHED: 2020-02-16
Abbott FreeStyle Libre 14-day before February 2020 and FreeStyle Libre 2 before February 2020 allow remote attackers to enable write access via a specific NFC unlock command.
CVE-2020-7050
PUBLISHED: 2020-02-15
Codologic Codoforum through 4.8.4 allows a DOM-based XSS. While creating a new topic as a normal user, it is possible to add a poll that is automatically loaded in the DOM once the thread/topic is opened. Because session cookies lack the HttpOnly flag, it is possible to steal authentication cookies ...
CVE-2019-13965
PUBLISHED: 2020-02-14
Because of a lack of sanitization around error messages, multiple Reflective XSS issues exist in iTop through 2.6.0 via the param_file parameter to webservices/export.php, webservices/cron.php, or env-production/itop-backup/backup.php. By default, any XSS sent to the administrator can be transformed...
CVE-2019-13966
PUBLISHED: 2020-02-14
In iTop through 2.6.0, an XSS payload can be delivered in certain fields (such as icon) of the XML file used to build the dashboard. This is similar to CVE-2015-6544 (which is only about the dashboard title).