The University Network

The Top Cybersecurity Jobs

In the cybersecurity sector, college students and recent graduates can find a job that comes with high earnings and tremendous income and growth potential.

This is a rapidly growing sector that is estimated to increase by 37 percent through 2022 in the U.S. alone. Unfortunately, according to the SANS Institute (SANS), an esteemed cybersecurity company, there is a “significant shortage of trained, skilled cybersecurity professionals.”

This shortage, though, presents an incredible opportunity for college students who generally struggle to find optimum employment. A recent study by the Burning Glass and Strada Institute found that about 43 percent of college graduates are underemployed.

So, how can college students and recent grads equip themselves for jobs in this growing job sector?

Cyber FastTrack

In addition to college degrees and programs, students and recent grads in 27 states now have an opportunity to fast-track their journey to a career in cybersecurity for free. Launched by SANS, the initiative, known as the Cyber FastTrack program, is designed to provide students and recent grads with the training they need to become cybersecurity experts.

“This is an exciting time to launch the program, as cybersecurity is becoming ever more important in this country and by educating young people, we can ensure the industry has a stream of diverse new talent,” said Alan Paller​, director of research at SANS. “Our ultimate goal is to encourage young people to consider a career within the cybersecurity sector. It’s a very lucrative and rewarding industry and we hope by making the program available to a wide range of students, as well as offering scholarships and courses, it will make a career in this field more accessible.”

This innovative program gamifies cybersecurity training to allow eligible students and recent grads to learn through online challenges, quizzes, exams and tutorials. The first level — CyberStart Assess — is open to play April 5 through May 10, 2019. Participants who pass this level move on to the next — CyberStart Game — and so on. There are three levels in total, and they can be completed from anywhere in the United States.

Top-performing participants will get further training with SANS and have other opportunities, including internships and a share of $2.5 million in scholarship money.

To find out more about the program, check the Cyber FastTrack website. You have a short window to take advantage of this innovative program and sign up for the first level.

Cybersecurity Jobs

There is a wide range of cybersecurity jobs to suit various personalities and experience level.

Here is a list of 20 possible cybersecurity jobs:

Most Common Initial Cybersecurity Jobs

1. Digital Forensic Analyst or Investigators

If you like the thrill of the hunt, this job is for you. Digital forensic analysts or investigators — who are sometimes called threat hunters — are cyber detectives who search computers and networks for evidence of intrusion and identify how the intrusion occurred. This job requires not just knowledge of computer systems but also an understanding of cybercrime techniques. Forensic analysts can work in large companies, law enforcement, law firms, private consulting companies, and the government. A bachelor’s degree in computer science or engineering with a focus on cybersecurity, digital forensics or a related field may get you in the door, but professional training would improve your chances. A master’s degree would also enhance your growth opportunities.

Median annual wage: $71,000

Common entry-level degree: Bachelor’s degree

Similar jobs: Forensics Expert; Information Security Crime Investigator; Computer Forensics Engineer; Digital/Computer Crime Specialist; Computer Forensics Investigator; Computer Forensics Specialist; Computer Forensics Analyst; Computer Forensics Examiner; Computer Forensics Technician

What SANS has to say about this job: “It’s CSI for cyber geeks! You never encounter the same crime twice.”

2. Systems and Networks Penetration Tester

The beauty of a job as a systems and networks penetration (pen) tester is that you can hack all you want — legally. Systems and networks pen testers are experts in detecting security vulnerabilities in target systems and networks, so they can help their companies or organizations improve their security. You don’t need a specialized degree, but you should be knowledgeable about operating systems, software, communications and network protocols. You can hone your hacking skills with hacking conferences or professional training like SANS courses, such as SEC504: Hacker Tools, Techniques, Exploits, and Incident Handling, SEC542: Web App Penetration Testing and Ethical Hacking, and SEC560: Network Penetration Testing and Ethical Hacking, among other things.

Median annual wage: $81,891

Common entry-level degree: N/A

Similar jobs: Ethical Hacker; Assurance Validator

What SANS has to say about this job: “Be a hacker, but do it legally and get paid a lot of money!”

3. Applications Penetration Tester

Like the systems and networks pen tester, a job as an applications pen tester is perfect for those who get a thrill from hacking. Applications pen testers hunt for security vulnerabilities in target applications, so they can help their companies or organizations improve their security. As mentioned above, while a specialized degree is not necessary to be a pen tester, you should be knowledgeable about operating systems, software, communications and network protocols. Again, beef up your hacking skills with hacking conferences, professional training, and learning from other pen testers, among other things.

Median annual wage: $81,891

Common entry-level degree: N/A

Similar jobs: Ethical Hacker; Assurance Validator

What SANS has to say about this job: “We desperately need more of this; application security has been a black hole for so long.”

4. Security Operations Center Analyst

If you have an eye for detail and anomalies, a job as security operations center analyst is ideal for you. Typically, the job of a security operations center analyst involves detecting and preventing cyber threats to an employer, whether it’s a private company, organization or government. While there is no specific degree requirement, most employers look for a bachelor’s degree in computer science, cybersecurity or a related field. Professional training and certifications will increase your job prospects.

Median annual wage: $67,276

Common entry-level degree: Bachelor’s degree

Similar jobs: Data Security Analyst; Information System Security Analyst; IT Security Analyst

What SANS has to say about this job: “The fire ranger. Better catch the initial blaze or there goes the forest.”

5. Cyber Defender/Security Engineer

Cyber defenders, or security engineers, build and maintain IT security solutions, such as firewalls, intrusion prevention systems (IPS), intrusion detection systems (IDS), patching, administrator or admin rights, and whitelisting, for businesses, organizations or governments. Technically, security engineers fix systems while security analysts try to break them in their hunt for system vulnerabilities. In real life, however, sometimes the two job descriptions are folded into one, so postings for security analyst/engineer are not uncommon. Because this job calls for technical skills, applicants are expected to hold a bachelor’s degree in computer science, cybersecurity or a related field.

Median annual wage: $88,395

Common entry-level degree: Bachelor’s degree

Similar jobs: Network Security Engineer; Information Assurance Engineer; Information Security Engineer; Information Systems Security Engineer

What SANS has to say about this job: “A leg up on your IT and engineering buddies; talk shop with them, but you are saving the world from the bad guys, too.”

Most Common More Advanced Cybersecurity Jobs

6. Incident Responder

As the title suggests, an incident responder is the first responder who uses a host of forensics tools to find the root cause of a security threat, limit damage or loss, and ensure that the threat is not repeated. Incident responders are the firefighters of the cyber world whose job is to take charge and put out fires. They can work in large companies, organizations or the government, but can choose to work as independent consultants. While most incident responders don’t hold a specialized degree, a bachelor’s degree in computer science, math, electrical engineering, cybersecurity or a related field would be helpful. A master’s degree in information assurance or information security with a focus on incident response is even better.

Median annual wage: $106,000

Common entry-level degree: Bachelor’s degree

Similar jobs: Computer Security Incident Response Team (CSIRT) Engineer; Cyber Incident Responder; Incident Response Engineer; Cybersecurity Incident Responder; Computer Network Defense (CND) Incident Responder

What SANS has to say about this job: “The secret agent of geekdom. You walk in and say ‘OK I’ll take it from here.’ ”

7. Network and Security Architect

If you are creative and a team-player, a job as a network and security architect will suit you.  Typically, you will be responsible for designing, building and managing the implementation of complex network and computer security systems for a business, organization or government. To reach this level, 5-10 years of relevant experience is expected. Because this position calls for technical skills and knowledge, applicants are expected to hold a bachelor’s degree in computer science, cybersecurity or a related field. Advanced professional certifications would also be expected.

Median annual wage: $119,808

Common entry-level degree: Bachelor’s degree

Similar jobs: Information Security Architect; Information Systems Security Architect

What SANS has to say about this job: “You get to design the solution and not just for the perimeter.”

8. Secure Software Developer

Secure software developers are responsible for developing security software, including new tools for virus/spyware/malware detection, intrusion detection, traffic analysis, or for implementing secure programming techniques that are free from logical design and technical implementation flaws. The ultimate responsibility is to ensure that the software is free from vulnerabilities that can be exploited. For this position, you will be expected to have a bachelor’s degree in computer science, math, electrical engineering, or a related field, and about 5 years of relevant experience,

Median annual wage: $69,586

Common entry-level degree: N/A

Similar jobs: Cyber Developer; Security Developer; Security Software Engineer

What SANS has to say about this job: “A cool title because this is VERY rare.”

9. Malware Analyst

Malware analysts are experts at identifying cyber threats. They look deep inside malicious software to understand the threat and find out how it got in, the vulnerabilities it exploited, what it did and is trying to do. These experts also need to know how to reverse engineer malware in order to build defenses. Most malware analysts have a bachelor’s degree in computer science or information systems. A master’s degree or a doctorate degree, though, would open up more opportunities.

Median annual wage: $63,861–$68,637

Common entry-level degree: Bachelor’s degree

Similar jobs: Reverse Engineer

What SANS has to say about this job: “The technical elite! Only go here if you have been called. You know who you are.”

10. Technical Director/CISO

Chief Information Security Officers (CISO) are the generals of the IT department, so they must have the hallmarks of a leader along with technical skills and management experience. CISOs must possess business acumen and have excellent communication skills. They must be able to think process, rather than outcome. They aim to ensure that legal, regulatory and organizational requirements are met, while accessing risk within budgetary constraints and technological adoption. To get to this top management level, most candidates must have 7-12 years of information security experience with a few years in management-level positions. The minimum educational requirement for this position is a bachelor’s degree in computer science, cybersecurity or a related technical field, although some employers now require a technical master’s degree with a concentration in IT security as well.

Median annual wage: $136,628–$154,970

Common entry-level degree: Bachelor’s degree

Similar jobs: Chief Security Officer (CSO); Information Security Officer (ISO); Global Head of Information Security

What SANS has to say about this job: “Making decisions making things happen. That’s coolness.”

Other Cybersecurity Jobs

There are many other cybersecurity jobs, such as:

  • Network/Endpoint Forensic Analyst
  • Software Validation Engineer
  • Cybersecurity Analyst/Engineer
  • Media Exploitation Analyst/Law Enforcement Computer Crime Investigator
  • Vulnerability Researcher/ Exploit Developer
  • Security Audit and Risk Management Specialist
  • Mobile Security Manager
  • Disaster Recovery/Business Continuity Analyst/Manager
  • Intrusion Analyst
  • IoT/Critical Infrastructure Security Director