Professional development

6 tips for getting a salary increase in cybersecurity [Updated 2021]

Christine McKenzie
December 16, 2020 by
Christine McKenzie

Whether you’re saving up for a dream house or simply want some extra spending money on the weekend, getting a salary raise in cybersecurity will certainly help you achieve your financial goals. However, going out and getting the salary bump can often feel easier said than done! 

So, what are some things you can do to maximize your cybersecurity salary? As it turns out, there’s a variety of strategies you can put into play, from earning new certifications to targeting higher-paying companies. 

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What should you learn next?

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Whichever tips you ultimately choose, you’re in luck, since cybersecurity is a well-paying field. And the shortage of qualified candidates in the field means salaries are on the rise for today’s cybersecurity professionals. That’s great news for financially-motivated infosec pros like you! 

Let’s look at six tips for getting that cybersecurity salary increase you’ve been dreaming of. 

Earn cybersecurity certifications

Earning a certification is one of the most effective ways to boost your salary. In fact, a new certification can bump up your annual salary by anywhere from 5% to 25%, according to Hacker News. And while 5% may not sound like much, it’s a lot of extra cash when you compound that across the span of your career!

Keep in mind that the type of certifications you earn also plays a big role in your earning potential, according to the Cybersecurity Job Market Intelligence Report by Burning Glass Technologies. Take a look!

Average salary with certification: 

The pay bump from getting a certification can make a huge difference for cybersecurity pros at any stage of their careers. According to the Hacker News, Information Security Analysts can look forward to a boost of up to $25,000 annually with a CISM, and $15,000 with a CISSP. That’s a big difference! 

Target in-demand cybersecurity skills

There are lots of areas you can specialize in within cybersecurity. Some of the most in-demand infosec skills today relate to cloud security, web application security, threat intelligence, auditing and security software development. Getting a job in one of these areas will help you earn a higher salary than being a cybersecurity generalist.

Choose an in-demand sector

Cybersecurity professionals are needed in every field and sector. According to data from Burning Glass Technologies, sectors that have experienced the biggest increase in demand for infosec personnel are healthcare, finance and retail. Old standbys like the manufacturing and defense field and professional services continue to have a high need for infosec talent. Picking up a job in one of these high-demand areas will help you net a higher paying position.

Pick the right cybersecurity role for your salary needs 

If you’re early in your professional journey, you have time to plan ahead and prepare for a role that fits your salary expectations. Cybersecurity is a vast field with many different career options, each with its own earning potential. 

Plotting your career trajectory is easy with a resource like CyberSeek, where you can see the average earning potential for each job and the certifications you’ll need to get there. For example, an entry-level incident responder can eventually move into a role as a cybersecurity analyst or a penetration tester. While cybersecurity analysts earn an average of $95,000 per year, pentesters can earn up to $103,000. 

While money shouldn’t be the only determining factor for which job is best for you, planning your cybersecurity career journey can help you make sure you’re meeting all of your financial goals long into the future. 

Here are ten of the highest-paying cybersecurity jobs, according to Indeed (as of August 2021):

  1. Director of information security: $160,949
  2. Software architect: $134,793
  3. Application security engineer: $127,184
  4. Senior security consultant: $118,299
  5. Cloud engineer: $117,607
  6. Penetration tester: $116,348
  7. Network security engineer: $113,989
  8. Chief information officer: $115,950
  9. Security systems engineer: $106,654
  10. Risk manager: $94,488

Target higher-paying companies 

It probably doesn’t come as a huge surprise that some companies pay better than others. That means you may be able to earn more money doing the same exact job at a different company. According to data compiled by Burning Glass, large firms usually have more to offer in terms of compensation than their smaller counterparts. In a job market as competitive as cybersecurity, the talent often goes to the highest bidder. Fortune 500 companies usually have more budget-flexibility than small- and medium-sized businesses. 

Here’s what the average salary breakdown looks like: 

  • Small and medium businesses: $90,626
  • Fortune 500 companies: $103,071

While the pay difference speaks for itself, keep in mind that there’s a lot more to a work environment than salary alone. Working for a big corporation’s cybersecurity team comes with a different set of challenges and demands, some of which may not appeal to your personal work-style. Do some serious research before making the leap to make sure this is the right move for you. 

Pick up your roots 

Cybersecurity salaries vary based on location. As a rule of thumb, you can expect to earn more in big cities than in rural areas, where cybersecurity jobs are scarcer. 

Keep in mind that some of the cities where you can expect the biggest cybersecurity salary increase also have higher costs of living. However, if you’ve been dreaming of moving to a new city on top of getting a salary increase, this could still be an excellent option for you. 

Here are the top 10 highest-earning cities for cybersecurity professionals, according to TechRepublic. Data has been adjusted for cost of living: 

  • Minneapolis, MN: $127,757
  • Seattle, WA: $119,349
  • San Francisco, CA: $119,346
  • Dallas, TX: $117,890
  • Denver, CO: $117,308
  • Chicago, IL: $111,303
  • Austin, TX: $110,190
  • Salt Lake City: $106,207
  • New York, NY: $102,271
  • San Jose, CA: $99,075

Conclusion: Make way for higher pay! 

When it comes to getting a salary increase in cybersecurity, you have lots of strategies to choose from. Instead of trying to tackle each and every one, just choose one or two strategies that best fit your life situation. 

Naturally, not everyone is ready for a big cross-country move, but every infosec professional could benefit from adding a new certification to their skill set. By following some of the strategies we discussed here, you’ll be well on your way to getting that well-deserved salary boost! 

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Christine McKenzie
Christine McKenzie

Christine McKenzie is a professional writer with a Master of Science in International Relations. She enjoys writing about career and professional development topics in the Information Security discipline. She has also produced academic research about the influence of disruptive Information and Communication Technologies on human rights in China. Previously, she was a university Career Advisor where she worked extensively with students in the Information Technology and Computer Programming fields.