Currently, professionals with general cyber security skills earn about $92,000. Earning one or more certificates in cyber security, such as the four certificates offered by San Diego State University’s Cyber Tech Academy, can increase your competitiveness in the job market and boost your salary potential.
How large of a cyber security certificate salary premium you receive will depend on the type of certificate you get and how you apply your knowledge. Maximizing your income is a matter of understanding the value of certificates in a field with several unique professional development pathways.
WHY SHOULD YOU GET A CYBER SECURITY CERTIFICATE?
Because cyber security is a relatively new field, there are no standard educational requirements for advancement. Until recently, many professionals entered the field without degrees or credentials specifically related to cyber security because cyber security focused programs were rare.
But “pathways into cyber security are changing,” noted the authors of the 2021 (ISC)2 Cybersecurity Workforce Study. While 47% of cyber professionals still come from an IT background, that number has lessened over the years. In 2021, 17% of cyber security professionals transitioned from unrelated fields, and 15% gained access through cyber security education.
Younger generations are setting a precedent for the future of the industry. Twenty-one percent of Gen-Z and Millennial cyber professionals pursued educational pathways to enter the field, compared to just 12% of Gen-Xers and 8% of Baby Boomers. In the future, all cyber security professionals will have to compete with applicants with certificates and degrees.
As the bar for education gets higher, so does salary potential. Survey respondents reported average salaries of $90,900 — up from average salaries of $83,000 in 2020 and $69,000 in 2019. Certificate programs teach skills related to the responsibilities and technologies that define modern workplaces, so curricula shift with industry needs. That makes estimating cyber security certificate salary premiums challenging but also suggests ambitious professionals have ample opportunity to increase their earning potential in different fields.
For example, the healthcare industry is particularly vulnerable to cyber security attacks. Data breaches at health systems and hospitals hit an all-time high in 2021. SDSU’s Cyber Security in Healthcare certificate teaches students to analyze healthcare data management, standards and terminology to plan for and respond to incidents in the sector. Rather than dealing with hypotheticals, the coursework incorporates real case studies and hands-on learning techniques so that students finish the program feeling prepared.
Certificate programs let students specialize in specific areas of cyber security, which is an excellent way to earn more money because you are limiting your competition. One specialized area, threat intelligence — the ability to collect data and information about cyber attacks and analyze it to mitigate future risk — is a particularly in-demand skill. Cyber security jobs for specialists with threat intelligence skills may grow by 41% over the next few years.
Other skills that are increasingly valuable in cyber security and emphasized in certificate programs include ethical hacking, penetration testing and the role of AI in attack and defense. Cyber security certification exams, such as the CISSP and CISM, are useful, but these certifications test your skills — they don’t build new ones. In contrast, SDSU instructors pass on in-demand practical knowledge gleaned from years of experience in risk management and threat identification. They also prepare students to pass the most common cyber security certification exams.
HOW MUCH MONEY CAN YOU EARN WITH A CYBER SECURITY CERTIFICATE?
Again, it’s difficult to determine a precise cyber security certificate salary range because the field is relatively young. To answer this question, look at wage increases associated with certifications. Earning a new certification boosts cyber security salaries by $12,000, according to Forbes. The (ISC)2 study identified salary premiums as high as $30,000. More importantly, certificate programs teach technical skills that organizations value when distributing raises and promotions. Earning one or more certificates also shows your employer you have what it takes to handle projects, juggle multiple tasks and maintain a strict schedule.
Do the research and speak to your organization’s leadership to determine which certificate pathway will help you meet your cyber security career and salary goals. According to Cyberseek, a cyber security certificate can help you transition into roles like:
CYBER SECURITY ANALYST
Cyber security analysts protect organizations’ digital assets. Their job is to analyze an organization’s potential vulnerabilities, mitigate risks by creating a cyber security program, prepare their workplaces to handle potential threats and oversee security incident response should a breach occur. These cyber security specialists earn an average annual salary of $99,652, according to Cyberseek.
Artificial intelligence has become a useful tool for cyber security analysis, as it can help professionals sort through millions of data points on attacks and threats quickly. Advanced skills in artificial intelligence are in high demand and boost salaries in the U.S. labor market. SDSU’s Artificial Intelligence for Cyber Security helps students unlock the potential of AI in cyber-enabled and cyber security positions. The program also focuses on evolving vulnerabilities that affect cyber security on a national level, such as deepfakes and autonomous technologies.
CYBER SECURITY ENGINEER
Job titles are not uniform across industries, so “analyst,” “specialist” and “engineer” may have different or similar responsibilities. In general, cyber security engineers design and implement network security systems. They are responsible for building safeguards, while analysts focus on testing and attempting to penetrate those barriers.
Cyber security engineers earn an average salary of more than six figures per year, according to Cyberseek. Many of the highest-growth skills in this field are related to container security, cloud security, comprehensive software security, privileged account security and SaaS application security.
Penetration testers, or white hat hackers, simulate cyber attacks to find weaknesses in systems and software. Some penetration testers are certified ethical hackers. SecurityMetrics describes penetration tests as “an MRI for your organization.” In a hospital system, for example, a penetration tester might attempt to break into systems such as a patient portal, diagnostic systems or the hospital’s website.
Penetration testers earn an average of $101,231 per year, according to Cyberseek — $27,000 more than most software developers. While it’s possible to become a penetration (aka pen) tester, network relations consultant or application security architect without formal training, pen testing now requires more than programming skills. Pen testers need to stay current on the latest cyber threats, hacking techniques and tools, which makes a certificate program led by industry experts the ideal academic pathway.
CYBER SECURITY CONSULTANT
Consulting is a tempting career path because it offers freedom, flexibility and the potential to work across industries. Cyber security consultants earn median salaries of $87,753, according to Cyberseek. A certificate in cyber security can lend you the credibility you need to pursue clients on your own after gaining the requisite industry experience.
Skills associated with this role that you can gain from a certificate program include asset protection, auditing, Oracle software, Python programming, security operations and surveillance.
CYBER SECURITY MANAGER
Cyber security managers and information security managers oversee digital networks, data security and IT teams, which means they need a solid mix of technical and interpersonal skills. A cyber security manager should be comfortable with project management and transitioning into IT security problem-solving mode if needed. According to Cyberseek, 69% of employers require certifications and other non-degree credentials in addition to bachelor’s degrees for cyber security management hires. Cyber security managers earn an average of $101,802 per year — $25,000 more than the average IT professional’s salary, according to Glassdoor.
Experts who contributed to the World Economic Forum’s 2021 Global Risks Report ranked “cyber security failure” fourth among other immediate critical threats to the world, just behind infectious diseases, livelihood crises and extreme weather events. Government agencies, business entities and healthcare organizations are already pouring significant capital into cyber security initiatives, with more investment to come.
NASDAQ reports that since 2011, venture capital firms have invested almost $39 billion into cyber security companies, and Bloomberg Intelligence projects that cyber security spending will surpass $200 billion by 2024. Demand for well-trained cyber security professionals — and tech professionals with cyber security skills — is high and will get higher. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) predicts employment of cyber security professionals such as information security analysts will grow by 33% between now and 2030, which is much faster than the average for all occupations.
OTHER REASONS TO PURSUE CYBER SECURITY CERTIFICATES
Not all the benefits of a cyber security certificate are financial. The value of a cyber security certificate from the Cyber Tech Academy also stems from the networking opportunities, career guidance and flexibility of the curriculum compared to undergraduate degree programs and bootcamps.
Because you can study while you work and implement what you learn in real time, a cyber security certificate delivers immediate ROI. Even if you don’t want to transition into a cyber security role, cyber security skills are becoming essential in other IT and business roles as more and more workplaces move to remote or hybrid models and increase their reliance on cloud-based platforms.
According to Burning Glass, more than half of jobs demanding cyber security skills are in information technology. There are “cyber-enabled jobs” in software development, IT, computer science, and business. Cyber security is also a distinguishing skill set for anyone who wants to enter the digital economy, working in blockchain, the metaverse or FinTech. When applying for these competitive positions, cyber security skills can push your resume over the top.
WHICH CYBER SECURITY CERTIFICATE SHOULD YOU CHOOSE?
SDSU offers four certificate pathways that teach specialized, advanced and adaptable cyber security skills that can help you earn more in a cyber security career. Certificate program instructors have held many of the titles listed above and worked in the functional areas around which SDSU built the program.
CLOUD SECURITY AND GOVERNANCE CERTIFICATE
Storing data on the cloud frees up internal storage space, offers unlimited storage capacity and allows distributed teams to work collaboratively. Flexera found that more than 50% of organizations moved their workloads to the Cloud in 2020. But the Cloud also represents a new point of weakness for security systems. If your organization has a hybrid or complete Cloud strategy, the Cloud Security and Governance certificate is an excellent way to make yourself more valuable and leverage your skills for more money.
CYBER GOVERNANCE AND RISK MANAGEMENT CERTIFICATE
This is an excellent certificate pathway if you are interested in better understanding malware or ransomware attacks like those that caused significant damage in the SolarWinds and Colonial Pipeline breaches. Students in the Cyber Governance and Risk Management certificate program study past breaches to prevent more from happening in the future.
Demand for risk management skills is growing as ransomware groups become increasingly agile. For example, attackers found and exploited vulnerabilities in the Log4j Java library, which supports many cloud platforms, web applications and email services by many organizations worldwide. This attack may have years-long implications and requires immediate action in the form of training and hiring professionals who will pay explicit attention to network security. “We do have a chance to stop it – but [we] just have to take the opportunity to do so,” Sergio Caltagirone, VP of Threat Intelligence at Dragos, told ZDNet Security Update.
ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE FOR CYBER SECURITY CERTIFICATE
Now that the dazzle of artificial intelligence as a buzzword is wearing off, executives are interested in understanding how they can use it most effectively. The World Economic Forum estimates that employers across industries will create 97 million new jobs in AI by 2025.
In this cyber security certificate pathway, students learn to synthesize the history of AI and project its implications for the future, demonstrate the significance of AI as a critical element of national security and implement AI programs on an organizational level.
CYBER SECURITY IN HEALTHCARE CERTIFICATE
Healthcare data breaches target some of the most vulnerable information: individuals’ private health records and hospitals’ and insurers’ financial data. An attack on insurance company Anthem put the Social Security numbers, home addresses and dates of birth of more than 78 million Americans at risk in 2015. Data breaches in healthcare have risen exponentially since then.
If you want to protect the healthcare industry from future attacks, this certificate pathway will help you master healthcare information regulation, information risk decision-making and the importance of third-party risk management.
WHY CHOOSE SDSU CYBER TECH ACADEMY
Now that technology is more ubiquitous, data is more valuable and artificial intelligence is a practical tool, cyber security skills related to cloud computing, AI and network security are some of the most in-demand competencies. The SDSU Cyber Tech Academy helps professionals from across industries develop specific salary-boosting skills. It’s an accessible option for IT professionals who want to transition roles but don’t have bachelor’s degrees, cyber security beginners and those transitioning into the field from other industries. At $4,500 per certificate, the credential is much more affordable than master’s degrees — and the Cyber Tech Academy does not require a minimum number of years of experience or even a degree to apply, making it accessible for early-career professionals and newcomers to the field.
The Cyber Tech Academy is one of the first programs built exclusively by seasoned practitioners such as veteran cyber security practitioner Winne L. Callahan and established commercial and governmental cyber security expert John Callahan. These and other instructors in the program frame course principles in the context of their own experiences and enrich the curriculum with industry perspectives. Enroll in one of the cyber security certificate programs today, and join an engaged, driven cohort of students training to work at the cutting edge of cyber defense.