Professional development

Working in cybersecurity in 2022: The good, the bad and the ugly

Patrick Mallory
April 25, 2022 by
Patrick Mallory

We have heard for years now that the cybersecurity field offers job security, good salaries, and continuous opportunities for growth. At the same time, we have also heard from recruiters about the difficulty in finding good talent and from IT leaders that those in the corner office still aren't prioritizing cybersecurity as they should.

But are these claims backed by the numbers? And are there other trends we should be watching for in the years ahead?

One source of ground truth can be found in The Life and Times of Cybersecurity Professionals 2021, Volume V, a research project completed by The Enterprise Strategy Group and the Information Systems Security Association (ISSA), released in July 2021.

This article will highlight what it is really like working in the cybersecurity field from the inside out, including the good, the bad and the ugly.

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The value of cybersecurity professional development

One of the most notable findings in ESG's studies was how pronounced cybersecurity professionals believed their organizations were failing them when it came to ongoing professional development.

For example, while 91% of respondents agree that cybersecurity professionals need to find the time to keep up to date with their skills or their organizations could suffer, 59% percent acknowledge that their "job requirements often get in the way." Making matters worse, most respondents (67%) agreed that they've had at least one job "in which I've worked for an organization that really doesn't understand or fund cybersecurity well."

These trends stand in stark contrast to how businesses are quick to note how they are struggling to address the negative effects of the large and lingering cybersecurity skills gap.

When ESG asked respondents what their organizations could do to address the cybersecurity skills shortage, their top suggestions were to increase:

Cybersecurity professionals noted such investments helped balance out the on-the-job experiences that they gained. For example, 52% said that "hands-on experience is more important than certifications," while 46% emphasized the benefits of hands-on experience and earning a certification.

Diverging views of the cybersecurity skills gap

In addition to seeing the value of investing in and prioritizing continuing education differently, cybersecurity professionals and their employers also disagree on several key elements of the cybersecurity skills gap.

While more than three-quarters of ESG's respondents say that it is "extremely or somewhat difficult to recruit and hire security professionals, "only 44% of professionals believe the skills gap has received the right amount of attention from their employers." An additional 23% believe that the issue "has been understated." 

Making matters worse, 29% believe that their "HR department doesn't understand the skills needed for cybersecurity," and 25% claim "that job postings at their organization tended to be unrealistic."

Despite these differences in perspectives in filling key cybersecurity job functions, respondents to the ESG study stated that the industry's overall skills shortage has less impacted them. Namely, only 57% of organizations state that they have been affected by the skills shortage, down from 70% in 2020 and 73% in 2019. The top three jobs identified as focus areas for hiring include cloud computing security, security analysis and investigations and application security.

The value of experienced cybersecurity professionals

Despite gains in the sophistication and awareness of security tools and controls, having experienced cybersecurity professionals has never been more critical to an organization's security posture. 

The ESG study found that one-third of respondents revealed that, despite having the right technology in place, failing to have the right staff in place "has led to a situation where the cybersecurity team is unable to learn or utilize some security technologies to their full potential." In other words, as organizations move through the business processes of researching, testing, implementing, configuring and deploying a security product, their failure to equally value the role of experienced cybersecurity professionals has left them in a vulnerable position.

Across the cybersecurity profession, the Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP) credential from ISC2 was viewed as the most important and popular (51%) for landing a job in the field, followed by the ISACA CISM, CompTIA Security+, ISACA CISA and ISACA CRISC certifications.

More broadly, when respondents were asked what skills were the most helpful for those looking to make a move from IT into the security field, the top responses included:

  • IT operations knowledge and skills (61%)
  • Analytics skills (53%)
  • Hands-on technology knowledge and skills (48%)
  • IT-related business skills (42%)

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Looking ahead

While the ESG study captured the perspectives, experiences and thoughts of just a subset of cybersecurity professionals at just one point in time, the results continue to paint a powerful picture of the health and future of the industry.

Notably, the study highlights the need for organizations to focus on increasing the value and investment that they place on security, including growing junior talent and supporting overall professional development. The top suggestions provided by the respondents on what organizations could focus on the most in the years ahead (increasing their commitment to cybersecurity training and directly supporting training ) can help organizations fill their vacant roles and improve their overall cybersecurity resilience. A true win-win for the cybersecurity profession.



Patrick Mallory
Patrick Mallory

Patrick’s background includes cyber risk services consulting experience with Deloitte Consulting and time as an Assistant IT Director for the City of Raleigh. Patrick also has earned the OSCP, CISSP, CISM, and Security+ certifications, holds Master's Degrees in Information Security and Public Management from Carnegie Mellon University, and assists with graduate level teaching in an information security program.

Patrick enjoys staying on top of the latest in IT and cybersecurity news and sharing these updates to help others reach their business and public service goals.