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

Money talks: Send your kid to cybersecurity school

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 2017, the average annual compensation (including salary, bonus and profit-sharing contributions) for a primary care physician (PCP) is $217,000. The average compensation for specialists is $316,000.

A cardiac surgeon in the U.S. earns an average salary of $291,000 per year, according to PayScale.

U.S. News & World Report data shows the starting salary for a private sector lawyer at a large corporate firm in the U.S. is $160,000, although most law school grads start out with annual pay packages below the six-figure mark. (Not to mention 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 seventh on its list of the 10 best technology jobs for 2017. The Bureau of Labor Statistics expects this profession to grow at a rate of 18 percent through 2024. The median annual salary for these positions is $90,000, with jobs in the 75th percentile in tech hubs, including San Francisco and New York City, paying between $115,000 and $140,000 or more.

The Cisco 2014 Annual Security Report warned that the worldwide shortage of cybersecurity professionals was at 1 million openings. Cybersecurity Ventures predicts there will be 3.5 million unfilled cybersecurity jobs globally by 2021 (and a zero-percent unemployment rate)—driven by cyber attacks and data breaches, which are growing in frequency and sophistication.

In 2017, the U.S. employs nearly 780,000 people in cybersecurity positions, with approximately 350,000 current cybersecurity openings, according to CyberSeek, a project supported by the National Initiative for Cybersecurity Education (NICE), a program of the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) in the U.S. Department of Commerce.

The current number of U.S. cybersecurity job openings is up from 209,000 in 2015. At that time, job postings were already up 74 percent over the previous five years, according to a Peninsula Press analysis of numbers from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

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

Security salaries

The 15 U.S. cities with the highest salaries for cybersecurity jobs, according to a story in TechRepublic featuring data from the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA), are as follows:

1. Minneapolis
2. Seattle
3. San Francisco
4. Dallas
5. Denver
6. Chicago
7. Austin, Texas
8. Salt Lake City
9. New York
10. San Jose, Calif.
11. San Diego
12. Washington, D.C.
13. Boston
14. Los Angeles
15. Arlington, Va.

For ambitious young people and their parents who want 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 seven-figure incomes.

And likewise, founders of successful cybersecurity firms and chief information security officers (CISOs) at large corporations can elevate into the rare air of $1 million 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 cyber crime, which is expected to cost the world $6 trillion annually by 2021 (up from $3 trillion in 2015).

There are many options for incoming college freshman - ranging from community colleges to bachelor's and master's 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