A security consultant – also known as a cyber security consultant – is someone who analyzes and assesses security systems. As a security consultant, your job is to look at an organization’s overall IT security system, identify any associated issues and risks, and then help devise practical solutions to these problems.
Security consultants can find work in a plethora of commercial, government, and non-governmental organizations, and may work for multiple organizations concurrently. To secure a job as a security consultant, you tend to need at least a Bachelor’s degree in a relevant subject. Most cyber security consulting roles require this level of education. You also have the option of additional learning, such as studying for a Master’s or gaining certificates, which can make you a good candidate for more senior positions.
In this guide, we describe the daily duties of a security consultant. We also reveal useful information about the qualifications you’ll need to get hired, what you can expect to earn, and the top companies hiring cyber security consultants.
What is security consulting?
Security consulting involves assessing all security measures that an organization has in place. A role in this field may involve overseeing security operations for a single company, consulting with several client companies independently, or working for multiple clients through a larger firm. Organizations rely on security consultants to help resolve compromised systems and improve security measures so that issues are avoided in the future.
Whether working for a single company or several clients, this role involves identifying potential security threats by running tests and then looking for vulnerabilities or breaches. Like a penetration tester, a cyber security consultant must be aware of how hackers compromise systems, so they can protect an organization against them. As part of this job, you will also ensure that an organization achieves more than the minimum in terms of regulatory compliance.
Another crucial aspect of security consulting is proposing ways to improve security infrastructure. When a firm chooses a security strategy, a cyber security consultant oversees its implementation and assists in its maintenance over time. Since the field of cyber security is ever-evolving, security consultants should stay up to date on the latest technology and risks. They might also need to train staff in an organization to better understand security risks and know how to protect themselves against them.
Organizations will hire security consultants to protect digital assets (including consumer data, customized software coding, and private information). When a security breach takes place, this can impact consumer confidence and the reputation of the company. This is why this consultant role is in high demand.
What does a security consultant do?
The tasks of a security consultant can vary from company to company. They can also differ based on factors like your qualifications and level of experience, as well as the industry you work in and your specialization. However, there are some essential tasks you will likely have to carry out as a cyber security consultant. These include:
- Testing and analyzing an organization’s digital assets for possible security threats
- Identifying potential threats and then determining the best security measures to counteract them
- Designing, implementing, and maintaining security plans, protocols, policies, and systems to cover all possible threats
- Coordinating a team of security specialists and assigning tasks to them so that all bases are covered
- Meeting with clients to discuss security measures, as well as explain the designed system
- Creating and presenting reports on test results
- Suggesting ways to improve current security systems
- Staying up to date with the latest security trends, tools, technology, and systems
- Educating staff on how to recognize security breaches and risks and how to combat them
There are numerous tools that cyber security consultants can use when fulfilling these responsibilities. These include:
- SolarWinds Security Event Manager
- Bitdefender Total Security
- Kali Linux
- John the Ripper
These tools enable you to find weaknesses that a cyber criminal could exploit, and help you develop an overall stronger security system.
What skills are required to become a security consultant?
A security consultant has a specific role in an IT team, and requires a particular knowledge base and skillset. This position may also involve managing a team of security specialists, which demands other capabilities. If we keep in mind the basic duties of a security consultant, you can expect to need the following insights and skills:
- Deep familiarity with risk management tools and how best to use them for optimal protection
- In-depth understanding of network and security configuration
- Excellent understanding of cloud computing infrastructure and services, and network and security applications
- The ability to discern risks and devise solutions related to multi-layered web systems
- Being able to build a company’s overall security structure across multiple platforms
- Critical thinking
- Analytical skills
- Excellent written and oral communication skills (as you will need to produce written reports, deliver presentations, brief teams, and raise awareness of staff members)
- Problem-solving skills
- Leadership skills
- Strong management techniques (creating a culture of collaboration and understanding other staff members’ perspectives)
Keep in mind that most security consultants reach their position after having had at least five to seven years of experience working in cyber security. This kind of experience is necessary if you want to gain the level of skills and knowledge mentioned above.
How to become a security consultant
If the life of a security consultant appeals to you, you may now be wondering how you go about becoming one. In the next section, we outline and detail a five-step process that will explain how to become qualified, how to get hired, and what your career development as a cyber security consultant might look like.
Here’s how to become a security consultant
- Formulate a plan
- Research relevant degrees
- Consider the advantages of certificates
- Know how to look for work
- Be committed to expanding your learning
Let’s explore each of these steps in more detail:
1. Formulate a plan
First, it’s a good idea to devise a plan that clearly describes the different aspects of your ideal career path. In this plan, you should include information on:
- How to obtain the necessary skills and knowledge (including what and where to study)
- Whether you want to work for a private firm, governmental body, or non-profit organization
- The industry you want to work in (for example, finance, energy, education, transport, or tech)
- The size of the organization you want to work for
- The kind of work culture that appeals to you
It’s always wise to base these aspects of the role on your personality, interests, values, preferences, and goals. This will ensure that you find a role that you will find genuinely engaging and fulfilling. If you are unsure of the requirements for a given role, you can get in touch with recruiters directly. They will be able to inform you of the necessary or preferred qualifications, as well as the kind of experience you’ll need.
2. Research relevant degrees
To get your foot in the door for the majority of cyber security consultant roles, you will need to have at least a Bachelor’s degree in a related subject. This will provide you with the essential skills, abilities, and insights to carry out cyber security consulting. Degree subjects that will benefit your career path include:
- Computer science
- Cyber security
- Information security
3. Consider the advantages of certificates
If you would like to get involved in cyber security consulting as fast as possible, then you ideally want to diversify your education, as well as ensure you have exactly the right skills for the role. This is where additional certificates come in. There are many reputable certification agencies that specialize in cyber security, offering training programs catered to specific skillsets.
Moreover, an employer may require or prefer that you have one or more of these certificates before they hire you as a security consultant. However, make sure you find out these requirements before signing up for any certificate programs. You don’t want to waste time and money on a qualification that a particular employer doesn’t consider necessary or preferable.
The top cyber security qualifications that will enhance your employability include:
- IAPSC’s Certified Security Consultant
- GIAC’s (Global Information Assurance Certification) GPEN certification
- CompTIA Security+
- CISSP – Certified Information Systems Security Professional
- CISA – Certified Information Security Auditor
- CEH – Certified Ethical Hacker Certification
- IACRB’s CPT – Certified Penetration Tester
- IARCB’s CEPT – Certified Expert Penetration Tester
- CompTIA’s PenTest+
- ESCA – EC Council Certified Security Analyst
4. Know how to look for work
Once you have all the necessary qualifications, you will be able to begin your job hunt. The process of finding and attaining the ideal role can take some time. However, you can speed up the process by knowing where to look for security consultant vacancies. For instance, if you would prefer to work for a governmental organization, we recommend exploring the following resources:
On the other hand, you might feel the commercial sector is a better fit for your career path. In this case, there is no shortage of great companies to aim to work for. Some of the best firms hiring security consultants include:
- Booz, Allen, and Hamilton
- Ernst & Young
- Amazon Web Services, Inc.
- Intone Networks
- NCC Group
You can also use the major job sites to find cyber security consultant openings, including Indeed, Monster, ZipRecuiter, Glassdoor, and LinkedIn. Niche job sites like CyberSecurityJobsite.com and CyberSecJobs.com also regularly list security consultant vacancies.
Refer to the salary section below so you can see what the top companies are paying security consultants.
5. Be committed to expanding your learning
Given that a security consultant is a more managerial IT position, you will need several years’ experience in cyber security, as well as evidence of in-depth learning. Indeed, to obtain a cyber security position, whether you are applying externally or internally, you should seek to continuously expand your knowledge and skills. Consider pursuing a Master’s degree in cyber security or another relevant subject, taking courses, attending workshops and industry events, and educating yourself in your spare time.
Be sure to inform your employer about your plans to extend your education. They might be willing to partially or fully fund your studies since it will enhance what you can bring to the table.
You might think that it’s impossible to hold down a full-time job while also studying for a Master’s. However, you can complete many Master’s degrees online, so you don’t have to travel anywhere to study. Also, these degrees often have a high degree of flexibility. You can opt for part-time education, as well as evening and weekend classes. This makes it possible to study alongside working.
A few reputable Master’s degrees worth researching include:
- UC Berkeley School of Information’s Master of Information and Cybersecurity (MICS)
- University of Delaware’s Master of Science in Cybersecurity
- Syracuse University’s M.S. in Cybersecurity
Security consultant salary
Before you begin working towards your goal of becoming a security consultant, you may first want to know what cyber security consulting work pays. Cyber security positions tend to have attractive pay packages relative to other fields. Since security consultants are either mid-level or senior members of IT teams, you can expect a much higher salary compared to entry-level cyber security roles.
The average salary of a security consultant makes the investment of time and money into education well worth it. The main reason security consultants have high salaries is that they play an influential role in shaping an organization’s security systems. These systems have to perform well. If they don’t, then a company’s sensitive data, ability to operate, and credibility will be at risk.
PayScale is a reliable source for finding out the average salaries of security consultants. This is because it aggregates the averages from other sites. According to PayScale:
- The average salary of a security consultant is $85,872.
- The range of pay for a security consultant is $61,000–$142,000.
There is also data showing how you can expect to see your salary increase over time:
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With the right kind of education, experience, and self-motivation, you’ll be able to aim for the best-paid and most secure security consultant positions. Information from SimplyHired highlights that some of the top employers for security consultant roles pay the following salaries:
- NCC Group: $95,000–$120,000
- Toyota: $77,000–$110,000
- Baer Group: $94,000–$130,000
- OneNeck IT Solutions: $81,000–$110,000
- Amazon Web Services, Inc.: $120,000