Protecting classified data, foiling espionage plots and shielding computer networks from hackers might sound like the stuff of spy movies, but if you specialize in cybersecurity, these could all be in a day’s work.
A career in cybersecurity can also be very lucrative. On average, cybersecurity roles pay 15 percent more than other tech careers. The U.S. News & World Report ranked information security analyst seventh on its list of the 10 best technology jobs for 2017, rating it “above average” for upward mobility.
The strong industry demand, plus the high level of technical expertise needed, means the earning potential is huge. U.S. News lists a median salary of $90,120 – placing it above computer systems administrator and computer systems analyst.
According to the IT job board DICE, the top IT security salaries go to lead software security engineers who earn an average of $233,333.
The Importance of Soft Skills in Combination with Technical Skills
To have a successful career in cybersecurity, you will need a solid grounding in IT principles such as web applications, operating systems, data encryption and system administration. The ability to code in languages such as C, C++, Java and PHP is also highly desirable, but technical acumen alone isn’t enough to excel in this nuanced role.
Deidre Diamond – founder and CEO of national cybersecurity staffing company Cyber Security Network (CyberSN) and founder of the not-for-profit, thought-leadership platform #brainbabe – also stresses the importance of soft skills. These are the interpersonal and communication abilities that go beyond hard technical skills, such as coding and encryption.
Cybersecurity staffing expert Diedre Diamond says, “One must be able to communicate, problem-solve and work in teams. No matter how technical somebody is, if they can’t communicate in a team atmosphere, they won’t be successful long-term.” Learn more about skills needed for a career in cybersecurity in the video here and above.
Demand is exploding in big population centers like California, New York and Chicago, but cybersecurity skills have become a hot commodity nationwide. According to Diamond, the three most in-demand areas are analyst, threat intelligence and incident response.
Soft Skills Are Critical for Reaching Executive Positions
For individuals who aspire to reach an executive level position in cybersecurity, mastering these concepts will be a critical part of their advancement.
- Think and Communicate Critically. Demonstrate an ability to see relationships between data and people, and find ways to respond proactively against cyber risks and threats.
- Collaborate. Being able to participate in decision-making processes means being able to effectively problem-solve with leaders across the organization and external vendors across teams and locations.
- Break Down Complex Concepts. Explain security issues in simple terms to both senior management and non-technical employees and impress upon people how security controls protect employees and the organization.
- Big-Picture Strategizing. Conduct detailed, ongoing research on industry best practices and channel this knowledge into creating effective security policies and training. According to recent CompTIA research, 45 percent of hiring managers admit having a key security skills gap around “policy development and implementation” in their organizations.
Cybersecurity practitioners who understand the importance of soft skills are much more likely to succeed in communicating potential threats and implement effective measures to combat them.
Soft-Skills Advanced Education
It’s not uncommon for information security professionals to have started in entry-level IT roles, such as network admin or programming, and obtained cybersecurity qualifications later.
The demand for advanced cybersecurity training and skillsets increasing, and so has the quality of the available degree programs. Graduate degree programs have long focused on softer skill sets including strategy, leadership, communication and organizational navigation – but these have often been isolated in business degrees such as master’s in communications and MBAs. Newly revamped cyber security programs at the master’s level are now incorporating coursework that highlights soft skills.
Utica College’s online MPS in Cyber Policy has redefined learning outcomes to develop supervisory, analytical and comprehensive skills while focusing on foundational concepts to understand risk, global issues, public policy and data management.
“If someone has a cybersecurity degree or experience, they can work in any function and bring value right away,” says Diamond. She also warns that very few organizations will hire a cybersecurity professional without a relevant degree.