cybersecurity jobs guide

There are many reasons to pursue a career in cyber security, including a strong level of job security, a relatively high starting salary compared to other fields, and plenty of opportunities for career development. The cyber security industry is growing at an impressively fast rate, reflecting strong demand for related skills.

According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the number of information security analyst positions (a common cyber security position) will increase 31 percent through 2029. This rate of growth is more than seven times faster than the national average job growth rate of four percent. This means you will have no problem finding a cyber security job, once you have the necessary qualifications and skills.

Cyber security is a diverse field, encompassing a wide range of jobs. If you are interested in gaining a cyber security role based on the benefits mentioned above, you may be wondering what you should do next. After all, each type of cyber security role entails a unique set of responsibilities and skills.

In this guide, we explore some of the most popular cyber security positions, describing what each one involves. This will help you decide what kind of career path is best aligned with your interests, values, and goals.

Chief information security officer

Job level: Senior

Average salary: $165,144

Salary range: $105,000–$229,000

A chief information security officer (CISO) is an executive in an organization who oversees the protection of critical data. This is a much more senior role compared to the others just described. To reach this level of advancement in your cyber security career, you will need comprehensive training, extensive experience in the industry, expertise, in-depth knowledge, and strong management and leadership skills.

As a chief information security officer, you will oversee the IT security of the whole organization you work for. The role can cover all dimensions of cyber security, including:

  • Budgets
  • Design
  • Development
  • Incident response
  • Implementation
  • Strategic vision
  • Scoping of requirements
  • Leadership
  • Straining training and development
  • Adherence to all the necessary protocols, regulations, and legislation

Due to the senior nature of the role, you will be expected to carry out the following tasks:

  • Helping the board understand the potential security issues that may result from particular business decisions.
  • Planning, buying and rolling out security hardware and software.
  • Overseeing software launches and upgrades.
  • Planning, monitoring, and forecasting IT security budgets.
  • Dealing with anyone internally who is responsible for a security breach.
  • Hiring and managing cyber security employees.
  • Leading employee education programs.
  • Ensuring all security procedures and processes are running well and have received sufficient funding.
  • Communicating the importance of security measures to corporate leadership.

Chief privacy officer guide

Job level: Senior

Average salary: $150,211

Salary range: $73,000–$247,000

A chief privacy officer (or CPO) is an IT executive who is charged with developing, implementing, and maintaining policies that protect sensitive data. Due to the seniority of the position, chief privacy officers play a vital role in how companies collect, control, and utilize employee and customer data.

Chief privacy officers advocate for both customers and employees, making sure that their data is safeguarded. This means keeping a company’s handling of data in line with state, federal, and international laws and regulations. A chief privacy officer may have been educated and trained in the law, as this will give them a solid understanding of laws relating to privacy.

Chief privacy officers are C-suite executives and as such, they adopt a strategic role and are able to influence organization-wide decisions. They will tend to work closely with other executives in the company, such as the heads of compliance and security, as well as the chief information security officer, chief data officer, and chief information officer.

Consumers and employees are now more concerned than ever about their data privacy rights, demanding more transparency and control over how their information is collected, stored, and used. Organizations hire chief privacy officers to ensure that the use of data meets customers’ interests and expectations. This role is essential to maintaining the ethical integrity of the organization.

Computer forensics analyst

Job level: Entry-level to mid-level

Average salary: $74,199

Salary range: $50,000–$120,000

A computer forensics analyst collects and analyzes digital data so that the information can be used to investigate computer crime, as well as other sorts of crimes. For example, computer forensics analysts have been involved in cases including prosecutions for murder and kidnapping.

The goal of a computer forensics analyst is to probe computers using forensically sound methods, which means using data recovery principles and techniques. This also involves collecting evidence in a way that is legally viable and which would hold up in court. As a computer forensics analyst, your job is to identify, preserve, and analyze relevant data and then present facts and opinions about this information.

A computer forensics analyst will usually have the following job duties:

  • Working with law enforcement to obtain data in both a lab setting and on-site
  • Examining and compiling evidence and then reporting the findings
  • Carrying out interviews with both witnesses and suspects, discussing the collated information
  • Training law enforcement on how to properly handle computer evidence
  • Determining how reliable computer evidence is
  • Utilizing computer evidence to help track down suspects
  • Securing data that is relevant to the criminal investigation
  • Figuring out how a suspect gained unauthorized access to a computer system
  • Implementing security measures that aim to prevent illicit access and data breaches
  • Using specialist software to assist with the investigations (there is software that allows computer forensics analysts to analyze hard drives, smartphones, and disk images, as well as recover data)


Job level: Entry-level to mid-level

Average salary: $76,234

A cryptanalyst is someone who can take coded data and translate it into plain text that can be easily understood. A cryptanalyst’s ability to decipher secret messages in this way allows them to protect private information. This skill provides insights into how cybercriminals might also access this information and use it for malicious purposes. Essentially, the job of cryptanalysts is to establish systems that stop hackers from decoding sensitive data.

In this role, you are practicing cryptanalysis, which is the science and art of deciphering coded messages without knowing the key that would translate the code into plain text. Hackers can achieve this aim by gaining access to cryptographic security systems (which encrypt and decrypt personal information). Organizations, therefore, need cryptanalysts, as they have the same skills as hackers. A cryptanalyst can spot weaknesses in the algorithms of security systems and devise ways to improve them, ensuring that hackers cannot illegally access encoded data. As with penetration testers, former hackers would be able to thrive in a cryptanalyst role.

A cryptanalyst is similar to a cryptographer and the two roles often overlap. However, the two can be distinguished. The former involves revealing the contents of a message that was not intended for you to see, while the latter entails creating codes that encrypt and decrypt messages. Both cryptanalysts and cryptographers operate under the broader umbrella of cryptology: the mathematical study of codes, ciphers, and other related algorithms.


Job level: Entry-level to mid-level

Average salary: $200,000

Salary range: $67,000–$450,000

A cryptographer is tasked with developing systems that can encrypt sensitive information. An organization may have large amounts of private data in its computer and network systems. To prevent hackers from compromising this data, a cryptographer will try to encrypt it. This involves converting the information into a code (which is known as a cipher).

As a cryptographer, your job is to write codes (encrypt information), as well as translate this coded data back into its original format (a process known as decryption), which will reveal its contents. Cryptographers will develop systems, using algorithms and ciphers, to make sure that only the person sending the coded information – and the person receiving it – can view the contents of the message. One way cryptographers achieve this is through the creation of ‘keys’ (other strings of code) that the sender and recipient can use to decrypt a coded message. You need the key to see the message. This helps to prevent a cyber criminal from viewing its contents.

A cryptographer generates keys by using algorithms (instructions that a computer follows to turn a message into code). Cryptographers want to develop the most effective algorithms possible, as this will translate into a higher degree of security. These algorithms can mask private information such as account and credit card details. Organizations also rely on cryptographers to prevent cyber terrorism since some classes of information are extremely sensitive and confidential.

Data protection officer

Job level: Entry-level to mid-level

Average salary: $86,309

Salary range: $33,500–$113,500

A data protection officer (or DPO) is hired to make sure that an organization abides by the law when it comes to how it handles private data. Data protection officers also educate colleagues about compliance and train employees who process data, which means that the role requires leadership skills. Data protection officers also carry out security audits on a regular basis. All of the daily tasks of a data protection officer are meant to guarantee that sensitive information can’t be illegally misused.

A data protection officer will establish, implement, and monitor measures that are designed to safeguard a company’s sensitive information. This is a fairly new role that organizations will hire for. The European Union’s (EU) General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) determines the nature of the position. These regulations came into force on May 25, 2018, and they apply not just to EU member states, but to any organization that markets services or goods to EU residents.

The GDPR has created the demand for data protection officers, as these IT employees ensure that a company’s handling of data aligns with the rules contained in the GDPR. Any organization that processes large amounts of personal information will need to have a data protection officer as part of its cyber security team.

The data protection officer will report to the highest level of management, collaborating with senior managers who are involved in the processing of personal data. Data protection officers also advise senior management on issues with data handling. A DPO acts as the point of contact between a company and supervisory authorities who oversee data processing activities. DPOs will seek to protect private information at all costs, even if this means a conflict with key performance indicators and the agendas of other departments.

Information security analyst

Job level: Entry-level to mid-level

Average salary: $72,836

Salary range: $51,000–$110,000

An information security analyst (or security analyst) is a cyber security employee who helps protect an organization’s sensitive and critical data. Like a penetration tester, information security analysts try to stay one step ahead of cyber criminals whose aim is to access such information.

Security analysts play a vital role in developing an organization’s disaster recovery plan. This means creating a procedure that other cyber security employees must follow should an emergency situation (such as a major security breach) occur. As an information security analyst, your emergency plan will allow the IT department to continue operations, even when disaster strikes. Part of your strategy will include regularly copying and sending critical data to an off-site location, as well as restoring the IT system back to its original state after the disaster.

As an information security analyst, your role is, in essence, to stop the very worst security breaches and threats from occurring. Your responsibilities, however, will change all the time. This is because you need to be aware of the newest tactics that hackers employ, as well as the latest developments in cyber security technology.

Information security officer

Job level: Entry-level to mid-level

Average salary: $92,551

Salary range: $59,000–$136,000

An information security officer monitors a company’s IT system, with the aim of spotting any possible threats to security. After identifying weaknesses in the system, an information security officer will put in place protocols that resolve these issues, while also preventing future ones. They are always on the lookout for threats such as viruses, spyware, bots, and other harmful programs that could jeopardize a company’s computer and network systems.

An information security officer will establish, monitor, and maintain security procedures that stop a hacker from gaining access to private information. They will tend to have the following job duties:

  • Writing assessment reports on security breaches
  • Developing and implementing a thorough plan to secure the computer network
  • Putting in place a business continuity or disaster recovery plan, so that the organization can continue to run after a major security incident
  • Updating information systems, such as the access privileges of employees who leave the company
  • Creating duplicate data-storage facilities in another location, so that there is a backup of data in the case of a security attack
  • Keeping an eye on network usage, ensuring it aligns with security policies
  • Being aware of the latest developments in IT security standards and cyber threats
  • Determining the best software and hardware that an organization should use, as well as installing, implementing, and monitoring them
  • Assessing the efficacy of current security measures, including password policies, antivirus software, and firewalls
  • Raising awareness about security software and best practices for protecting security

IT security specialist

Job level: Entry-level to mid-level

Average salary: $74,580

Salary range: $48,000–$110,000

An IT security specialist (or security specialist) is tasked with the development and implementation of security measures for a company. As an IT security specialist, your goal is to analyze existing security processes and suggest to upper management ways to improve efficiency and robustness.

As a security specialist, you need to stay up to date with current best practices and responses to new security threats. Your job also entails researching ever-changing risks, including the novel tactics of cyber criminals, and making changes that take all possible risks into account. Security specialists spend their time studying the devices that an organization uses, as well as testing security measures such as firewalls.

As part of this role, you will report to senior IT staff and communicate your findings and recommendations. Similar to other cyber security roles, a security specialist will work with other company departments to make sure that all employees understand the basics of IT security and how to practice it.

Penetration tester

Job level: Entry-level to mid-level

Average salary: $85,167

Salary range: $58,000–$136,000

A penetration tester is someone who tests a computer system to find out if it has any vulnerabilities that a hacker could exploit. This testing involves carrying out an authorized simulated cyberattack. The point of doing so is to figure out how to improve an organization’s overall IT security. Essentially, a penetration tester wants to find weaknesses in computer and network systems before a hacker does.

As a penetration tester, your job is to prevent what is known as ‘black-hat hacking,’ which refers to gaining unauthorized access to a system with criminal intent. A black-hat hacker might try to install malware, hold computers hostage, or steal passwords, credit card details, or other private information.

Penetration testers perform simulated cyberattacks by breaching different application systems, including application protocol interfaces (APIs) and frontend/backend servers. You can engage in these tasks manually or by using automated software. The insights you gain from these activities can then be used to refine security, preventing unethical hacks from taking place.

As a penetration tester, you will be expected to simulate a cyberattack using the following five-step process:

  1. Planning: In the first stage, you will define the aims of the test, as well as gathering relevant intelligence.
  2. Scanning: You will then use scanning tools to understand how the target of a hack responds to unauthorized access.
  3. Gaining access: In the third stage, you will simulate attacks on web applications to find out the target’s weaknesses.
  4. Maintaining access: This involves imitating an advanced persistent threat (APT), which is a prolonged and targeted cyberattack. The aim of this step is to see if a vulnerability can be exploited to maintain unauthorized access to the system.
  5. Analysis and WAF configuration: During this last step, you use the results of your simulated cyberattack to modify web application firewall (WAF) settings before you run a test again. You repeat this process until you are confident the system is secure.

Security architect

Job level: Senior

Average salary: $124,455

Salary range: $85,000–$166,000

A security architect is someone who helps maintain the overall security of a company’s IT system. Like in other cyber security roles, they need to think like a cyber criminal, predicting how they might act so that measures can be put in place to protect sensitive information.

As a security architect, your overarching aim is to design computer systems so that they can sufficiently safeguard a company’s IT infrastructure and digital assets. In this role, you would focus on the specifications, processes, and standard operating procedures (SOPs) that will prevent, minimize, and analyze security threats.

Since security architects need to adopt the mindset of a cyber criminal, many IT experts believe that former hackers will be well-equipped to transition into this occupation. After all, a security architect needs to understand how an unethical hacker could gain unauthorized access to a system that has many security measures in place. A former hacker will already have this understanding.

Here it’s worth underscoring that a security architect is a senior member of any cyber security team, which means that they have a great deal of responsibility and accountability when it comes to the overall security of an organization. For example, a security architect may carry out penetration testing as part of their role, but they have more responsibilities than a penetration tester does. Security architects need to have a thorough and broad understanding of an organization’s computer system, as well as be ready to deal with various IT issues that a penetration tester would not be expected to do.

Security architects must know who has authorized access to a company’s computer system and what the vulnerabilities in that system are. They should then use their insights to recommend both hardware and software updates that will improve security. If you work as a security architect for a company, you will be expected to set user policies and protocols, as well as keep track of them and ensure that they are abided by. Another task involved in the role is creating countermeasures that protect the system in case an internal or external threat compromises the system.

Security consultant

Job level: Mid-level to senior

Average salary: $85,872

Salary range: $61,000–$142,000

A security consultant (or cyber security consultant) is an IT employee who analyzes and assesses security systems. Security consultants examine the IT security system, spot any problems or risks, and then formulate actionable resolutions to these issues.

If you become a security consultant, you may oversee security operations for a single organization and consult with several client companies independently. On the other hand, you can carry out security consulting for multiple clients through a larger company. Whatever the exact nature of the role may be, organizations will rely on you to fix compromised systems and improve overall security so that similar issues can be avoided.

Security consultants are able to identify potential security threats and vulnerabilities by running tests, in much the same way that penetration testers do. This means you must understand how hackers operate. Another aspect of this occupation is ensuring that a company goes beyond the minimum requirements for regulatory compliance. In this role, you should be knowledgeable enough to suggest ways to improve security infrastructure. You will need to oversee the implementation of a firm’s security strategy and assist in maintaining it in the long-term. As a security consultant, it is also necessary to be aware of the latest IT technologies and risks. In addition, it’s possible you will be asked to train staff in a company to better understand security risks, teaching them how to protect themselves against them.

Security engineer

Job level: Entry-level to mid-level

Average salary: $92,091

Salary range: $62,000–$135,000

A security engineer is an employee who tests and screens security software and systems. The intention behind this activity is to identify security breaches or intrusions from internal or external threats. As a security engineer, your goal is to design computer systems that can handle major disruptions like malicious hacks and natural disasters.

When an organization has faulty software or other security vulnerabilities, this makes the networks susceptible to malware (for example, spyware and adware), phishing, and other security threats. Analyzing computer networks allows security engineers to see if they are running securely. If there are security issues, a security engineer can foresee problems arising, such as a potential hack. As a security engineer, you can use these analyses to formulate recommendations on how to prevent security breaches from occurring.

A security engineer will take different steps to make sure that unauthorized access is always blocked, including:

  • Installing and testing security procedures
  • Reporting any security incidents
  • Monitoring the status of network security
  • Communicating with other employees (both IT and non-IT staff) on computer security issues

Security manager

Job level: Mid-level to senior

Average salary: $69,498

Salary range: $44,000–$126,000

A security manager is someone who supervises staff involved in the implementation and configuration of security measures. They also handle high-level IT issues, such as system breaches. If you want to become a security manager, you can either gain a mid-level or senior position. It is not an entry-level role since it entails more responsibility than junior cyber security occupations.

As a security manager, you will need to oversee cyber security employees who are working to protect a company’s computers, networks, and digital assets against hacks, breaches, and viruses. In this role, you will very much be in charge of IT security operations. You will be considered an expert in this area. Due to the level of responsibility, you will need to be aware of all kinds of security protection, detection, response, and recovery. You want to make sure that data is available for authorized users, not tampered with, and confidential.

The role of a security manager, however, can differ depending on how big an organization is. In a small firm, for instance, you can be the sole security manager. In this case, you will need to have an in-depth knowledge of many disparate areas of cyber security. When working for a larger organization, on the other hand, there may be more than one security manager, in which case you will likely have more specific duties. If you work for a large company, you will probably take on one of the following two roles:

  1. Technical security manager: This role focuses on security systems, including firewalls, penetration testing, data protection controls, vulnerability scanning, and encryption. The job will also involve managing a team whose task it is to deploy and configure these systems.
  2. Program security manager: This position is more of a strategic one, focusing on risk management and mitigation. The role involves helping various teams in the organization to deal with third-party risk and data privacy issues.

More senior security managers will have a greater level of responsibility when it comes to managing an IT security team. Your exact managerial duties will depend on your skills, knowledge, and experience. Yet whatever your level of experience may be, you will need to be able to coordinate a team.

The job descriptions above should give you a sense of what each role fundamentally involves. If one or more of the positions appeal to you, it’s worth carrying out further research, so you can find out if the details and specifics of the occupation are a good fit for you. Our detailed guides (linked to in each section) provide information about the qualifications you need for a given role, how to pursue a career in the field, and the salaries you can expect to earn.