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4 In-demand cybersecurity niches to pursue

By Christine Wright, Senior Vice President, Hays U.S. on December 6th, 2019

You’re at the start of your cybersecurity career. Perhaps you’re a Security Analyst or Junior Consultant mapping out your career path.

By 2021, there will be an estimated 3.5 million vacant roles, which means cybersecurity will remain a candidate-driven market well into the future.

But if you want to maximize your earning potential and take on greater responsibilities, you’ll need to specialize. With more data moving into the cloud and millions of devices connecting to the Internet of Things, cybersecurity teams will grow and roles will become focused.

It’s worth noting the most in-demand cyber and info security niches, so you can plot your career journey accordingly.

Application Security Engineer
● Average salary (USD): $135,000 - $150,000

Every time a company develops a new application for employees or customers, they also throw down a new gauntlet for hackers. Each application is an opportunity for hackers to find vulnerabilities developers overlooked.

As a result, application security engineers are in high demand, especially with the explosion in cloud-based apps. On any given day, an application security engineer is creating new applications, conducting penetration testing, reviewing lines of code, and modelling threats.

How do you become a marketable Application Security Engineer?

● Develop familiarity with different programming languages, particularly low-level languages like C and C++
● Find opportunities to work on application security testing projects in your current role
● Participate in “bug bounty” programs at companies like Google, Intel, Microsoft, and others

Security Risk Manager (within Governance, Risk & Compliance)
● Average salary (USD): $130,000 - $150,000

Cyber and info security must support business goals, not hinder them. This means that companies need ways to protect data without impacting elements like product design, customer service, and productivity.

In the past, risk specialists focused on finance and insurance. Today, ambitious cyber security professionals are supplementing their background in computer networks, programming, and systems administration with courses in risk management and mitigation, so they can proactively identify risks to a company’s assets.

How do you become a marketable Security Risk Manager?

● Earn certifications in risk management and info security
● Gain experience developing and communicating info security frameworks and best practices within your existing role
● Seize opportunities to head teams or projects to demonstrate leadership ability, since encouraging and implementing info security best practices is a key job function for a security risk manager

Cloud Security Engineer
● Average salary (USD): $150,000 - $160,000

Almost 70 percent of companies are moving mission-critical enterprise resource applications to the cloud. While the cloud delivers compelling cost savings, it also brings numerous security risks that companies must now manage. Consequently, the demand for cloud security engineers has skyrocketed, particularly for professionals with experience working with popular cloud providers like AWS, Azure, or Google Cloud.

A key job function for cloud security engineers is migrating workloads over to the cloud, a task fraught with security challenges. For one thing, an enterprise can have hundreds of applications to migrate. For another, these applications don’t exist in isolation. They’re integrated with other applications and databases, making the entire project a risky endeavor and the work of a cloud engineer very valuable.

How do you become a marketable Cloud Security Engineer?

● Develop experience working with several programming languages including Java, C++, Python, and AngularJS
● Obtain experience working with a particular cloud service such as AWS, Microsoft Azure, Google Cloud Platform
● Gain automation experience & familiarity with the DevOps methodology

Penetration Tester aka Ethical Hacker
● Average salary (USD): $120,000 – 130,000

Penetration testers serve as one of the last lines of defense for companies. Unlike an application security engineer who looks for vulnerabilities during the product’s development, penetration testers are constantly testing live systems. They use pre-made tools and their own creations to try and hack existing systems, document the vulnerability, and then provide detailed reports to business leaders.

Penetration testers can also work in conjunction with security risk managers to determine how compliant the company is with the company’s existing standards and protocols.

How do you become a marketable Penetration Tester?

● Gain experience conducting wireless network tests, network service tests, social engineering tests, etc.
● Familiarize yourself with popular automatic scanning tools such as Kali Linux, Core Impact, Metasploit, Wireshark, etc.
● Obtain a comprehensive understanding of computer protocols and how different systems and devices communicate with each other across networks

Don’t underestimate the importance of building an employee brand
Just because cybersecurity talent is in demand, doesn’t mean employers are rushing to fill roles. This industry still experiences the catch-22 common to all job markets: to get a specific job you need experience, but to get specific experience you need the right job.

As you navigate your early cybersecurity career, find ways to raise your profile in your chosen niche. This could mean starting a blog detailing your opinions on cloud computing or penetration testing, attending networking events to find cybersecurity mentors in senior-level positions, or taking on new projects within your existing role.

Discover your potential, check your salary today.

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