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Targeted, Technical Certifications - $600 for an $18K Raise?

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By: misturbusy

August 25, 2017

Targeted, Technical Certifications: $600 for an $18,000 raise?

Now this probably won't come as a surprise at all to those who've spent a few years in cyber security organizations, but for those looking to get into cyber security, or are early on in their path, I think this is valuable information.

I did some research for a piece I was writing earlier today, and was stunned by just how lucrative some cyber security certifications can be.  While those who follow online education are probably used to seeing claims of large income boosts quickly from the likes of boot-camps or certified MOOC paths, those are often reporting someone shifting into a lucrative field from under or unemployment. And the results of the program are often months or years in the making.

Almost anyone even vaguely following tech news could have guessed that demand has never been higher for cyber security professionals (there was a 73% increase in job listings between 2007 and 2013). And that would account for a large part of the pretty stellar salaries even at entry level information assurance/cybersecurity gigs. Sure, many cybersecurity certifications also require 2–5 years of work experience (which can be seen as a long period of preparation). But as I rifled through some forums to see what typical preparation for one of these 6 hour exams entails, I saw that prep was often a few hours a day for a few weeks. Many who had been on the job longer reported not even studying for a few of the top certifications (which is not something I'll recommend, nor dissuade you from doing).

So you may be wondering what exactly the average rise in salaries are for some of the top cyber security certifications. Based on some 40,000 job openings that listed “certification preferred,” here’s the difference between jobs listing a certification and the average cyber security salary:

  • CISSP: +$17,526
  • CISA: + $10,754
  • CISM: + $19,966
  • Security: +$0  (Not surprising since this is a more entry-level certification).
  • GIAC: + $6,147

As a developer/webmaster, I myself have only a middling knowledge of cyber security, and am not trying to say that these are easy certifications to obtain in the least. What I was struck by was a piece of paper being enough to up a salary by that much in the mid twenty teens. Compare that to the average masters degree which adds $17,000 per year to earnings across a lifetime, but often to a lower salary to begin with than your average cyber security job. And there is a much greater time and money commitment (upfront).

In short, this is yet another reason to consider the exceedingly in-demand career path of cyber security. The certification process is basically a 30% raise some 3–5 years into your career, on top of other more typical advancements.

For more coverage of cyber security education, check out a blog I’ve recently been helping with, Cyber Security Degrees.

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