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Do you aspire to reach an executive level position in cyber security? Smart goal. Check out this cyber security career path to get you to the C-Suite. The average CISO earns $156,000[i] a year and you probably already know there’s a high demand for cyber security professionals, as there are more than 200,000 unfilled positions[ii] in the U.S., according to a Forbes report.

Cyber Security Career Path - How to Get to the C-Suite

Here are the five steps to get to the C-suite on your cyber security career path journey:

Obtain a Master’s Degree

  • A bachelor’s degree has become the minimum education requirement for executives in the C-suite, as 85% of CISOs have one, according to a Digital Guardian report[iii]. However, as security becomes more important, many organizations prefer a candidate with a master’s degree as the next step in their cyber security career path.
  • While not all CISO positions require a master’s degree, it can give you a leg up. In general, master’s degrees in computer sciences boost salary by 21%.[iv] About 40% [v] of CISOs have a master’s degree. As a next step, learn more about earning your Master’s Degree in CyberSecurity.
  • A master’s in cyber security program provides in-depth technical training on practical security methods to help professionals lead organizations.
  • An MBA provides a broad education in multiple business disciplines to prepare individuals for the business side of an executive position.

Gain the Necessary Experience

  • Cyber security executives come from various backgrounds—some have IT or security experience while others have a strictly business background. While about 60% [vi] of CISO’s have an IT background, many roles in the industry are non-technical.
  • In general, candidates should have seven to 10 years[vii] of professional experience to be considered for an executive role. Smaller companies and startups may consider candidates with less experience.[viii]
  • Leadership experience is vital, so aspiring executives should seek managerial roles as they climb the ladder.
  • Though executives come from both technical and business backgrounds, it’s smart to gain some experience in both areas. If you have a business background, pick up technical skills along the way. If you have a technical background, learn some business skills to work towards your cyber security career path to the c-suite level.

Build Contacts

  • Building relationships with leaders in the organization are vital in order to move up the ladder. Leaders will often overlook a weakness in a skill area if that person is liked and if the Leader has made a connection with them.
  • Having a professional network can help you land any role, as 85% [ix] of all jobs are filled through networking.
  • Building your contacts also helps improve your soft skills, which is vital to succeed as an executive. It shows the ability to communicate, connect, and leverage relationships—all of which are needed as a C-level executive.
  • Finding a mentor in the industry is also a great way to climb the ladder and build your network. Employees who receive mentoring are five times more likely[x] to be promoted than those who don’t receive mentoring.

Focus on Communication Skills

  • Communication is vital to being an effective executive, as leaders must communicate business objectives and explain how security plays a role in those objectives to a variety of stakeholders.
  • Forty percent of employees[xi] say they have difficulty filling positions because younger professionals lack soft skills such as communication.
  • Many degree programs are now offering training in soft skills, and professionals looking for a graduate program should seek one which includes soft skills training.
  • A new study[xii] found that soft skills training can boost productivity by 12% and has a 250% ROI for organizations.

Improve Analytical Skills

  • Organizations have access to tons of data these days. Data production will be 44 times greater[xiii] in 2020 than it was just a few years ago, so security leaders need skills to analyze and make sense of all that data.
  • A CISO is responsible for monitoring security threats, running security audits, and implementing risk assessments and strategies to best protect the organization.
  • Obtaining specific security certifications can help professionals acquire the proper analytical skills. The average CISO holds about three[xiv] technical certifications.
  • The most popular certifications[xv] professionals should pursue to augment their problem-solving skills are CISSP, CISM, and ITIL.

For more information on the steps to climb the ladder to the C-suite, check out this series of cyber security videos that dig deeper into your route to the top and the importance of soft skills in that journey.

As a next step, learn more about earning your Master’s Degree in CyberSecurity.


Cyber Security Career Path - How to Get to the C-Suite