Money talks: Send your kid to cybersecurity school

Parents may want to think about cybersecurity as an alternative to medicine and law for their ambitious college-bound kids.

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Do you have a high school child thinking about where he or she wants to go to college? Cybersecurity isn't top of mind for most 11th and 12th graders, but maybe you should put the bug in their ear.

At some point most parents think about their kid becoming a doctor or a lawyer, right? And presumably part of the reason is so that their kid earns a six-figure income, enjoys job stability, and helps others.

Some market research data confirms this logic.

  • According to the Medscape Physician Compensation Report 2015, the average annual compensation (including salary, bonus, and profit-sharing contributions) for a primary care physician (PCP) is $195,00.  The average compensation for Specialists is $284,000.
  • A cardiac surgeon in the U.S. earns an average salary of $302,012 per year, according to PayScale.
  • U.S. News & World Report data shows the average salary for a lawyer in the U.S. is $130,880 (although, it has been widely reported in the media that law school graduates are burdened with debt and struggling to find good jobs).

But there's other data to suggest you may want to think about sending your kid to cybersecurity school instead.

  • U.S. News and World Report ranked a career in information security analysis eighth on its list of the 100 best jobs for 2015. They state the profession is growing at a rate of 36.5 percent through 2022. Average salaries nationally are $91,210, and significantly higher in big cities including San Francisco at $112,320, New York City at $120,460, and Sacramento at $142,200.
  • The Cisco 2014 Annual Security Report warns that the worldwide shortage of information security professionals is at 1 million openings, even as cyberattacks and data breaches increase each year.
  • More than 209,000 cybersecurity jobs in the U.S. are unfilled, and postings are up 74 percent over the past five years, according to a Peninsula Press (a project of the Stanford University Journalism Program) analysis of numbers from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The demand for information security professionals is expected to grow by 53 percent through 2018.
  • A recent CNBC story quotes a Rand Corporation study that estimates there are around 1,000 top-level cybersecurity experts globally vs. a need for 10,000 to 30,000.

An information security analyst can move through the ranks as he gains real-world experience, and adds specialty technical credentials such as CISSP (Certified Information Systems Security Professional) and others.

According to a recent report from DICE, a leading IT job board, some of the current IT security salaries are:

Director of Security at $178,333; Cybersecurity Lead at $175,000; Lead Security Engineer at $174,375; Cybersecurity Engineer at $170,000; and Application Security Manager at $165,000.

Security salaries

Security salaries as reported by
Lead software security engineer $233,333
Chief security officer $225,000
Global information security director $200,000
IT security consultant $198,900
Chief information security officer $192,500

For ambitious young people and their parents who like to project further out, consider that some top surgeons in their field earn upwards of $500,000 per year. Some partners in law firms and those with niche specialty practices in high demand can earn $500,000 or more annually.

And likewise, founders of successful cybersecurity firms and CISOs at large corporations (chief information security officers) can elevate in to the rare air of $500,000 in annual income - and more.

Much like doctors and attorneys (and other professions), cybersecurity professionals find satisfaction by serving others - in their case protecting corporations, government agencies, and citizens from cybercrime.

There's many options for incoming college freshman - ranging from community colleges to bachelors and masters degrees in cybersecurity at universities globally.  In an upcoming story, we'll take a lot at some of those.

Cybersecurity market research: Top 15 statistics for 2017