Salary Survey Extra: The cybersecurity employment ladder
Posted on
December 5, 2015

Salary Survey Extra is a series of weekly dispatches that give added insight into the findings of both our annual Salary Survey and our smaller Salary Survey PLUS polls. These posts contain previously unpublished Salary Survey data.

Where are you on the cybersecurity career ladder?

One question that we routinely ask in our salary surveys concerns the level of responsibility that IT workers have in their respective organizations. Whether it's Linux, Big Data, or, in the case of our most recent Salary Survey PLUS, cybersecurity, some of the people who respond are the sorts who typically have a corner office and a key to the executive washroom, and some probably ride the bus to work and share a cubicle. IT, as they say, takes all kinds.

Most aspiring cybersecurity professionals probably aren't expecting to walk into a top management position on fresh out of (college, high school, career training, etc.). Career mobility takes time. And we can't all be bosses, as they say, or else who's going to pick up the Tuesday morning coffee and donuts? Plenty of smart, capable people are content to reach a certain level and stay there. So what's the outlook? What are the cozy middle rungs of the cybersecurity employment ladder?

We asked survey respondents to describe their position on the company org chart using one of the following labels:

  • Executive
  • Senior Manager
  • Manager
  • Senior Specialist
  • Specialist
  • Employee

As you might expect, we didn't find very many cybersecurity pros at the top of the corporate pyramid. Just 6.7 percent of survey respondents are executives (within that group, about 27 percent work at companies with 10,000 or more full-time employees). Interestingly, however, there are even fewer security personnel who are in low- or entry-level jobs. A fractionally lesser 6.3 percent are mere employees (a modest slice of that segment, about 14 percent, are in small business, working at companies with between 1 and 50 employees).

Management claims a decent share of cybersecurity pros, although there are considerably more managers (15.7 percent) than senior managers (9 percent). The second largest group of those surveyed, 16.1 percent, place themselves on the specialist rung of the ladder. By a considerable margin, however, the most likely destination for anyone who embarks into the IT security realm, is as a senior specialist. Nearly half of all survey respondents— 46.2 percent — are highly skilled (and valued) personnel just below the management level.

If you're aiming for that solidly established tier, then it's highly likely that you'll end up working at a large corporation, an organization that employs more than 5,000 individuals. That's the case for 59 percent of senior specialists tracked in our survey. You should also plan on a college education. An imposing 63 percent of those at the senior specialist level completed their education with either a master's degree (42 percent) or bachelor's degree (21 percent), and an additional 11.7 percent entered the job market with a two-year associate's degree.


GOLD, SILVER AND BRONZE—You don't tend to think of the IT crowd when it comes to sports, and you're not entirely wrong. When we asked cybersecurity pros to name the best sports championship event in the world, a hearty 13.7 percent chose the answer option, "Sports are irrelevant." That was the fourth-most popular choice, actually.

The big winner is the Olympics (21.2 percent), the only event from our list to capture the vote of at least 20 percent of respondents. The Super Bowl (18.9 percent) finished second, but did establish which kind of football is more important to cybesecurity pros— the World Cup (16.5 percent) finished third. Hockey's Stanley Cup (7 percent) finished fifth, beating out Thunderdome (5.7 percent) and the World Series (4.3 percent).

The rest of the list:

  • Rugby World Cup (2.4 percent)
  • Huh? (2.2 percent)
  • Cricket World Cup (1.9 percent)
  • Quidditch World Cup (1.8 percent)
  • NBA Finals (1.4 percent)
  • Wimbledon (1.4 percent)
  • What? (1.3 percent)

Not receiving votes: Grey Cup (Canadian football), PBA World Championship, "Whatever the golfers do to decide who's awesomest at golf"

About the Author

Certification Magazine was launched in 1999 and remained in print until mid-2008. Publication was restarted on a quarterly basis in February 2014. Subscribe to CertMag here.

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