Cybersecurity and Private Sector Jobs
The world desperately needs cybersecurity experts. In the U.S. alone, the cybersecurity industry needs to fill about 500,000 vacant positions to reach efficiency and fight against cyber threats.1 This shortage has only been compounded by recent events, such as the dramatic shift in 2020 from office work to a work-from-home model.
While this situation is challenging news for the cybersecurity industry, it also means that there are plenty of career options available to those looking to break into cybersecurity.
There are two options to choose from when entering a cybersecurity career. You can either work in the public sector—that is, take a cybersecurity role in the government—or in the private sector, where you’ll provide your expertise to businesses and private individuals.
Here’s everything you need to know about a private sector cybersecurity career.
Salary and Benefits in Private-Sector Cybersecurity
Most experts agree that private sector cybersecurity jobs pay more than public ones. According to one study, public sector cybersecurity experts earn about $7,000 less per year than their private counterparts.2
PayScale, a company that uses Big Data and matching algorithms to help people find jobs, has analyzed various private sector cybersecurity positions to determine the average salaries for each.3
As of July 2021, PayScale lists the following average annual salaries:
- Cybersecurity Engineer: $97,000
- Cybersecurity Analyst: $76,000
- Security Engineer: $94,000
- Security Analyst: $69,000
- Information Security Manager: $120,000
- Information Security Engineer: $97,000
- Information Security Analyst: $73,000
If you enter the private sector, you can expect many of the same employment benefits you’d expect from other office jobs. In most cases, these include health insurance benefits, paid vacation time, retirement savings options and paid family leave.
Meanwhile, in a public sector position, you may be able to take advantage of benefit programs only offered to public employees. According to cybercareers.gov, an official website of the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) and the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), the Federal government offers the following benefits to cybersecurity personnel in certain positions:4
- Relocation Incentives
- Performance Awards
- Student Loan Repayment (up to $10,000 per year)
- Dependent Care
- Commuter Subsidies
- 10 Paid Holidays Off
Challenges in Private-Sector Cybersecurity
Although plenty of organizations are taking innovative steps in the cybersecurity space, many more are still unprepared to deal with the magnitude and complexity of cybersecurity risks in the world today. Companies that are struggling to fill cybersecurity positions may not have enough staff on hand. This means more work is shouldered by each cybersecurity professional at the organization, potentially leading to burnout.
To fix the problem, some companies augment their internal staff with outsourced cybersecurity experts. While this is a good solution from a finance perspective, it can sometimes be challenging to align two separate teams to work toward a common goal.
It’s important to note that the private sector has increased its investment in cybersecurity. For example, venture capital funding for cybersecurity firms reached $5.3 billion in 2018, a 20% increase since 2017.5
But most private sector teams are still beholden to the budget constraints of the companies that employ them. Unless a company’s revenue is tied directly to cybersecurity, there is always the risk that other investments will take precedence. This can leave cybersecurity professionals without the resources they need to do their jobs effectively.
Finally, there’s something to be said for public service. Some cybersecurity experts would prefer to take on a role in protecting their country instead of protecting a private company's assets.
Work Environments You Can Expect in Private-Sector Cybersecurity
Cybersecurity is a specialty profession, but cybersecurity professionals can be found in almost every industry sector. They are particularly important for data-heavy industries, such as finance, insurance and IT.
As such, you can usually expect to work in an office environment in most private sector cybersecurity jobs. You’ll typically work an 8-hour day, five days per week. You’ll likely have a workstation and spend most of your time working on a computer, using advanced software to identify threats, secure the network, take proactive security measures and respond to crises.
Still, cybersecurity roles vary by industry and location. You may work remotely in some positions, or you may work in a secure building such as a server farm.
Making the Switch from the Public Sector to the Private Sector
If you’re already a public sector cybersecurity professional, you may be thinking about switching to the private sector. The first thing you should recognize is that shifting from the public to the private sector may come with a significant cultural change.
While you may have been “on a mission” in the public sector, you’re “on the clock” in the private sector. Most public sector jobs are highly structured and process-driven. You’ll experience plenty of that in the private sector too, but you’ll be working shifts per your employer's business needs, and return-on-investment (ROI) will be at the forefront of every decision you make.
One of the biggest benefits of making the switch is more opportunity for upward movement. If you land a job at a venture-funded company, you may have more opportunities to work with the latest technologies. You could also find more opportunities to cross-train into other disciplines and add more skills to your resume.
One challenge is volatility. Public sector jobs may be subject to government budget decisions, but private sector jobs are subject to the market.
Companies are bought, sold and restructured all the time, and there’s always a new opportunity right over the horizon. According to Security Magazine, only 15% of cybersecurity workers weren’t looking for a new job in 2018.6
Choose the Path That Suits Your Career Goals
If you’re interested in a private sector cybersecurity career, you can start getting targeted cybersecurity training right now. Online cybersecurity courses from EmergingEd can give you a career advantage and an edge when applying for popular cybersecurity positions.
- Retrieved on August 4, 2021 from https://www.cbsnews.com/news/cybersecurity-job-openings-united-states/
- Retrieved on July 19, 2021 from esecurityplanet.com/network-security/federal-agencies-pay-cyber-security-personnel-7000-less-than-the-private-sector.html
- Retrieved on July 19, 2021 from payscale.com/research/US/Skill=Cyber_Security/Salary
- Retrieved on July 19, 2021 from cybercareers.gov/students-universities/benefits/
- Retrieved on July 19, 2021 from darkreading.com/vc-investments-in-cybersecurity-hit-record-highs-in-2018/d/d-id/1333693
- Retrieved on July 19, 2021 from securitymagazine.com/articles/88782-only-15-of-cyber-pros-not-looking-to-change-jobs