Cybersecurity Salary: One Skill Makes a Huge Difference

Cyber security has never been more important. With leaks, bad actors, and GDPR all in the news, every tech firm is concerned with securing user data and how it flows through the world. But does a typical cyber security salary match that universal importance?

Happily, we can report that it does. But like the job itself, the real story of a cyber security salary is in contextual nuance. Leaning into our Dice Salary Calculator for guidance, we used cyber security jobs in San Francisco for tech pros with five years’ experience as an industry baseline. (We picked San Francisco as the base for this study because so many Silicon Valley tech pros live and work there, so it’s a great place to start.)

We isolated three job titles: ‘Cyber Security,’ ‘Cyber Security Engineer,’ and ‘Cyber Security Analyst.’ These three job titles return different cyber security salary ranges, so each is worth examining. We examined salary levels in various major metro areas across the United States, then took the median of the three cyber security salary ranges and applied it to Bankrate’s cost of living calculator.

Here are cyber security salary levels for the three job titles listed above:

What can we glean from this? Job titles matter. If you want a decent cyber security salary, presenting yourself as an ‘engineer’ is your best bet: It’s a title that tends to pay on the higher end of the tech pro salary spectrum. (Generic ‘Cyber Security, without any job title attached to it, is respectable, too, although most companies won’t consider your application unless you get a bit more specific.) If you can manage to be a ‘cyber security engineer’ at your place of employment, do so.

If you’re concerned about titles affecting your career earnings, avoid the ‘analyst’ role. It pays slightly less, and adding specialized skills doesn’t shift the needle very much. The only meaningful skill that boosts an analyst’s earnings is CISSP. (Engineers will also see a boost from CISSP, which is far and away the most influential skill for cyber security salary across job titles.)

Happily, we see cyber security salary is high across major metro areas. For the chart below, we took the average of the three job title salaries and compared them to a comparable rate for San Francisco. The second column shows the average salary for job titles, and the last is what Bankrate’s cost-of-living calculator says is an equitable cyber security salary, comparatively.

The average cyber security salary is pretty high in just about every geography. New York is the only city where the average cyber security salary doesn’t compare to Silicon Valley, actually falling a few thousand dollars short.

Minneapolis, Minnesota continues to outperform. It has the largest gap between average salary and comparable cost of living to Silicon Valley; cyber security pros in that city see a $27,000 gap between an equitable cost of living and average salary. Denver also ranks highly with a $22,000 gap. Those two cities help bring the average gap between earnings and comparable cost of living to right around $14,500.

If there’s one bit of advice, it’s that skills matter. A CISSP certification can yield a ten percent bump for any cyber security salary, so it’s highly suggested for cyber security professionals.

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