Salary Survey Extra: Deep Focus on GIAC Security Essentials (GSEC)
Posted on
November 10, 2023

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 These posts contain previously unpublished Salary Survey data.

GIAC Security Essentials (GSEC) certification is not as basic as its name makes it sound.

Names can be misleading. The word "essentials" in the name of an IT certification, for example, probably suggests to many readers an entry-level credential that covers the basics. What to make then, of an "essentials" cybersecurity certification that "validates a practitioner's knowledge of information security beyond simple terminology and concepts."

That's what you get with the GIAC Security Essentials (GSEC) credential (No. 8 on our most recent Salary Survey 75 list). GIAC's own classification of GSEC is that "certification holders are demonstrating that they are qualified for hands-on IT systems roles with respect to security tasks."

Here's what the salary picture looks like for GSEC holders who responded to the Salary Survey:

All U.S. Respondents
Average Annual Salary: $141,020
Median Annual Salary: $135,000
How satisfied are you with your current salary?
Completely Satisfied: 4.2 percent
Very Satisfied: 30.6 percent
Satisfied: 40.2 percent
Not Very Satisfied: 25 percent
Not At All Satisfied: [No responses]

The GSEC certification program is globally respected, but we didn't hear from enough GSEC holders who live outside the United States to include their data here. Everything covered in this Deep Focus installment is referencing only credential holders who live and work in the United States.

A borderline eye-popping 20.9 percent of the GSEC credential holders who participated in the survey are women. That leaves us with a less remarkable 73.3 percent of respondents who are men, 4.7 percent who chose not to identify their gender, and 1.1 percent who are gender variant/nonconforming. Most of those surveyed are squarely in the center of the age spectrum, either between the ages of 35 and 44 (36.1 percent of respondents) or between the ages of 45 and 54 (29.2 percent). The rest are either between the ages of 25 and 34 (16.7 percent of respondents), between the ages of 55 and 64 (15.3 percent), or between the ages of 65 and 74 (2.7 percent).

Nearly 90 percent of the GSEC holders who responded to the survey have an educational background that includes time spent at a college or university. The highest level of education completed by most GSEC holders is either a bachelor's degree (41.7 percent of those surveyed), master's degree (38.9 percent), associate's degree (6.9 percent), or doctorate (1.4 percent). The outliers are the 8.3 percent of respondents who completed some level of post-high school technical training and the 2.8 percent who exited the realm of formal education after receiving a high school diploma.

A sturdy 83.7 percent of the GSEC holders who responded to the survey are employed full-time. The rest are either employed part-time (3.5 percent of those surveyed), are primarily students (2.3 percent), are enjoying a sabbatical (5.8 percent), or are out of work (4.7 percent). Among those who have full-time jobs, most are punching the clock for either between 41 and 50 hours per week (47.1 percent of those surveyed) or for the standard 40 hours (42.9 percent). The rest have a full-time schedule of either more than 50 hours per week (4.3 percent), between 31 and 39 hours per week (1.4 percent of respondents), between 20 and 30 hours per week (1.4 percent), or fewer than 20 hours per week (2.9 percent).

There is a high degree of latitude among GSEC holders who participated in the survey to do their jobs outside of a traditional office setting. More than half of those surveyed are spending their entire work schedule at home, almost certainly measuring their commute time in seconds for either more than 40 hours per week (27.8 percent) or 40 hours per week (26.4 percent). In the middle are the nearly 40 percent of respondents who work from home either between 31 and 39 hours per week (9.7 percent), between 21 and 30 hours per week (19.4 percent), or between 10 and 20 hours per week (9.7 percent). A decidedly miniscule 7 percent or respondents are largely confined to the once-familiar realm of cubicles and corner offices, working from home for fewer than 10 hours per week.

In terms of workplace standing, the largest single group of GSEC holders we heard from are employed at the senior specialist level (29.1 percent of respondents). The rest, in descending order, are either managers (26.7 percent of those surveyed), directors (14 percent), specialists (9.3 percent), senior managers (8.1 percent), rank-and-file employees (also 8.1 percent), or executives (4.7 percent).

A notable 46.5 percent of the GSEC holders who responded to the survey are IT veterans, having worked in a role that directly utilizes one or more of their certified skills for more than a decade. The rest have been plying their certified skills for either between zero years (1 to 11 months) and 2 years (8.1 percent of those surveyed), between 3 and 5 years (12.8 percent), between 6 and 8 years (19.8 percent), or between 9 and 10 years (12.8 percent).

Finally, here's the view of GSEC holders on key questions from the survey about how certification impacts job performance:

At my current job I use skills learned or enhanced through certification:
Several times a day: 48.8 percent
Several times a week: 29.1 percent
Several times a month: 7 percent
Occasionally: 8.1 percent
Rarely: 7 percent

Since becoming certified, I feel there is greater demand for my skills.
Strongly agree: 46.5 percent
Agree: 32.6 percent
Neither Agree nor Disagree: 16.3 percent
Disagree: 1.1 percent
Strongly Disagree: 3.5 percent

Becoming certified has increased my problem-solving skills.
Strongly agree: 32.6 percent
Agree: 38.4 percent
Neither Agree nor Disagree: 19.8 percent
Disagree: 4.7 percent
Strongly Disagree: 4.7 percent

Becoming certified has increased my workplace productivity.
Strongly agree: 21 percent
Agree: 40.7 percent
Neither Agree nor Disagree: 26.7 percent
Disagree: 5.8 percent
Strongly Disagree: 5.8 percent




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