Cybersecurity roles rank among the most difficult to fill in the enterprise, with the talent gap in this field expected to reach 1.8 million jobs by 2022. This is a major problem, as threats such as ransomware are at an all-time high, according to Stephen Zafarino, senior director of recruiting at Mondo, a national staffing agency specializing in niche IT, tech, and digital marketing talent.
"It definitely can be a challenge—demand is extremely high, and supply is very low, so it's a candidate's market," Zafarino said. "Companies see the benefit of making sure they are investing in the right talent from the best places, and are definitely paying a heavy price as a result."
The average salary for a cybersecurity engineer is between $110,000 and $160,000, Zafarino said. And skilled candidates are more able to negotiate salary, benefits, and perks such as working remotely than in the past, he added.
SEE: Learn Website Hacking and Penetration Testing From Scratch (TechRepublic Academy)
Here are the three most in-demand cybersecurity jobs this year, according to Mondo:
1. Penetration testers
Ransomware is on the rise. After the Petya attack, Zafarino said he received "plenty of phone calls about how to achieve higher security, and who can come evaluate it." Penetration testers are often a good way to do that, as they go into your system and find vulnerabilities. From there, they will either correct the issue, or offer a detailed report of the flaws in the system so a company can bring in cybersecurity engineers or analysts to fix them, and make sure no outside source can break in.
2. Cybersecurity engineers
Cybersecurity engineers often come from a technical background within development, usually with knowledge of Python and Java. "They are able to get behind the code, and take a deep dive in to see what performance issues might occur from vulnerabilities, and what tweaks they can make," Zafarino said. They also make sure employees are up to date on security best practices.
The chief information security officer (CISO) helms a company's cybersecurity strategies. "With all of these changes happening, it's important for companies to make sure they have the right leadership in place, and bring in people who are experts in the field," Zafarino said.
In the past, a networking engineer or programmer might have handled cybersecurity on the side. Today, companies want an experienced CISO or security director to lead their efforts. "They are able to come in and give the right strategy because they have gone through the gambit and seen what happens," Zafarino said. "They have worked their way up to the top, and know the needs and how to address issues and the best tech to use. They are true subject matter experts. Clients are making sure they have these people in place so they are getting the right strategy and staying ahead of the curb."
Companies are also looking for leaders who aren't afraid to point out issues and offer solutions to fix them. They also need to be future-minded, and always looking into how they will continuously grow their approach to security and add new functions, be they tools or employees.
Looking to the future
Zafarino predicted that we will see these same positions in demand going forward into 2018. "We may see a heavier focus on engineering and analysts, and a lot of companies are probably going to be looking for designated leadership with cybersecurity," he said. "They'll also be making sure the right infrastructure is in place, as companies are starting to realize that everyone is a potential threat and taking measures as a result."
However, with so few available cybersecurity engineers, many companies are taking inexperienced people and training them, Zafarino said.
"For lower-level professionals, companies need to consider if they want to pay a premium for an analyst to get every skillset they're looking for, or if they want to invest in trainings and seminars," Zafarino said. If you chose the latter, it's key to bring in a consultant for a short amount of time to help get the employee up to speed. "In the long term, that person is probably perfect, especially if you don't have the money at hand," he said. "If you do, you absolutely want to go with the more senior resource, and you can bring in lower-level people along the way."
Zafarino said he commonly sees two paths to becoming a cybersecurity professional. In the first, a person comes from a computer science background, and can usually command a higher salary. In the second, a person comes from a networking or helpdesk background, and works their way up to systems administrator by taking basic security courses. Those tend to hold lower level security analyst positions, as opposed to security engineers, which usually have a computer science background.
If you need to fill a hole immediately, Zafarino recommended hiring a consultant, which may be more readily available and cost effective.
"Since the threats keep coming more frequently, if you're looking to hire somebody, you probably want to do it sooner rather than later," Zafarino said.
- 5 reasons your company can't hire a cybersecurity professional, and what you can do to fix it (TechRepublic)
- Video: What the Secret Service can teach us about cybersecurity (ZDNet)
- Cybersecurity: Two-thirds of CIOs say threats increasing, cite growth of ransomware (TechRepublic)
- Australia's bold plan for cybersecurity growth (ZDNet)
- Report: Despite growing security threats, CXOs struggle to find cybersecurity professionals (TechRepublic)
Alison DeNisco Rayome is a Staff Writer for TechRepublic. She covers CXO, cybersecurity, and the convergence of tech and the workplace.