This article is about the benefits that many cybersecurity professionals have shared about their careers. If instead, you’re feeling negative, you can check out our article on reasons NOT to go into cybersecurity here. When you’re ready to start your cybersecurity career journey, we recommend you check out our Getting Started in Cybersecurity guide here.
Just about everybody who has heard of cybersecurity knows that it’s a cutting edge field with interesting work that can command some pretty good salaries. Even if people don’t understand it, the idea of being a hacker still has a mystique and seems pretty cool. Sometimes it even seems that people even have a little trepidation and fear around cybersecurity professionals. I’ve had my share of people say “I better be nice to you, I don’t want you to hack me” when I tell them what I do.
But a career in cybersecurity has quite a few other benefits that a lot of people never think about. In this article, I’m going to share nine potential benefits of working in cybersecurity that you’re going to be hard-pressed to find in many other fields. You may find that these nine benefits are what really may cybersecurity such a great profession. Let’s get started.
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Remote Work In Cybersecurity is Prevalent
New technology developments over the past two decades, like broadband and fiber home internet, virtual private networks, smartphones, 4G and 5G cellular, and cloud-based services have made remote work in lots of fields an option that was never possible before. And careers in cybersecurity have certainly taken advantage of that as well. While this technology often means for a lot of careers that they take the office home with them, and are unfortunately expected to be connected all of the time, for others, it means that the work may be able to go completely remote.
Remote work is a phenomenon that is only going to increase in popularity and prevalence. I’ve noticed more and more cybersecurity professionals, especially if they are not working a cleared job in the public sector, have the option of remote work.
Take for instance someone who told me recently that he’s been working cybersecurity for his company for eight years, and has never been to the office. Not once. He doesn’t even know what it looks like. He manages his projects completely from home. And his company is smart enough to grade him on the work he gets done, not the specific hours he is logged in.
Or another person I met who was on a vacation tour while working. Just bring the laptop, get the work done early in the morning or late at night, and go see the world. And collect a salary while you do it.
In the first example, that gentleman told me that he is allowed to work from anywhere in the world. He’ll only need to tell his employer where he’s moved to for tax purposes. Because of this, he is considering a move south to a warmer location. He can upgrade his family’s living situation while still keeping his job. And that’s the important point here.
Benefit #1: Some cybersecurity jobs are completely remote and will enable you to live or travel anywhere, while you work.
With many jobs in cybersecurity, you can be a true digital nomad. You could buy an RV and travel the country while you keep your job and your paycheck. You could move to a different state and then move again if you don’t like it, all without having to worry about finding a job where you moved, and then finding another job again when you don’t like that. Here’s my prediction: Over the next ten years, the availability of remote work is going to allow many people to take up digital nomad lifestyles and choose to travel and see the world. They will choose to live that lifestyle now and not wait until retirement like prior generations had to do. It’s such a conceptual shift in lifestyle that many people can’t wrap their minds around it. If this type of location freedom sounds interesting to you, cybersecurity might be the field that can give it to you.
Cybersecurity Demand Means You Can Move, Then Look for Work
We talked about remote work and how that can provide you with the option to keep your career and still move to another location if you want to. But cybersecurity can provide that freedom in another way too.
The demand for cybersecurity is so great that there are literally jobs everywhere. Public sector, private sector, large companies, small companies, in just about every industry. This means that wherever you want to live, as long as there are other people there, there probably will be cyber jobs available there too.
Technology has been a blessing to cybersecurity professionals in the sense that since every organization uses technology, every organization needs to secure that technology, and therefore needs to professionals to do it. And governments everywhere are supporting the need. Major cities like Austin and Atlanta are supporting the development of tech corridors via tax incentives and zoning. Small towns are doing the same. The government is literally helping to develop areas where cybersecurity jobs are prevalent.
Benefit #2: Your cybersecurity skills mean you can get a job wherever you want to live.
During a recent interview, a cybersecurity professional told me that he felt confident that he can readily get a job in any of the 50 states. To me, this means that as long as he had some cash on hand to carry him over, he could move somewhere, and then worry about finding a job once he got there. Think about what this means. When people relocate for a job, they move to where the job is located. The job dictates the location. The job comes first. The job is the decision, the location is the consequence. The job is the cause, where you end up living becomes the effect.
The immense demand for cybersecurity means that we have approached an economy where cybersecurity professionals – with the right skills – can completely flip this on its head. They can choose the place that suits them and their family, with good schools and nice homes, make the move, and get settled in, and then look for work.
They can choose the lifestyle and find work to support it, instead of having a job choose the lifestyle for them.
This is powerful if you can do it, and cybersecurity may be able to provide that opportunity for you.
Cybersecurity Job Cultures Vary, A Lot
During a recent interview, I asked a cybersecurity hiring manager what dress code he expected to see when a candidate is interviewing with his company. I was shocked when he said that jeans were acceptable. Drive down the street a little bit to another cybersecurity company in that town, and you’ll find that they require much more formal dress code.
Some cybersecurity jobs want to see you in the office every day. They want you to log hours carefully so that you can bill clients. Other jobs don’t care if they ever see you. It’s far more relaxed. Some cybersecurity jobs are with businesses in the financial services industry, and they expect their IT and cybersecurity team to act and dress like bankers too. Other companies think shorts and T-shirts are okay.
In some cybersecurity jobs, it’s a constant stream of talking to customers. In others, you don’t have to talk to anybody. Some jobs have substantial meetings and writing requirements, while others never do. Some are fast-paced and others are much, much slower. Here’s the point:
Benefit #3: Cybersecurity job cultures vary greatly. You can find one that fits you.
If you take the time to determine the work culture you prefer and ask the right questions during an interview, you can probably find a work environment that fits your preferences, all while utilizing your skills as a cybersecurity professional.
Cybersecurity is Both Public and Private Sector
There aren’t many career fields that can readily be found in both the public and private sectors. No doubt that the U.S. federal government, and even state agencies, hire all kinds of workers, but cybersecurity workers, in particular, can easily be found in both sectors of our economy.
I have known quite a few people that have worked in both sectors as a cybersecurity professional. In fact, that’s how many of them get their security clearances. By first working for a cleared government agency, and then leaving for higher pay and more opportunity in the private sector (and taking their clearance with them.)
What this means for you and me is that our cybersecurity skills will give us the option of having a government job, with all of the benefits that that entails, or a private-sector job, with the nuances associated with that. It’s our choice.
Benefit #4: You can choose government or private sector work in cybersecurity.
Self-Employment Is a Cybersecurity Option
All of this talk about jobs overlooks a very important point, and that is for some people, at some point they no longer want to work for someone else. At some point, they want to call the shots. Or perhaps they want to be free to work with who they want or when they want.
Cybersecurity has a few self-employment options that any of us can tap into (see our interview about cybersecurity entrepreneurship for more information.) You could start your own cybersecurity or IT firm, building networks for people or providing managed services. You could choose to work as a subcontractor, where you work for a company for a predetermined time period and function as an employee, but bill the company for your services at a higher rate. You could even venture into consulting, where you provide your services to many clients on a contractual basis.
Self-employment opportunities are prevalent in cybersecurity, which is important not just because you may want to be your own boss one day, but also because it means we don’t need to have a boss. Think about how many people you know that hate their boss. Or know that they are more qualified than their boss. Or complain because their boss steals their credit. It doesn’t matter, because they don’t have a choice. Their career requires them to be an employee and therefore have a boss, and there’s very little way around that. Not true for cybersecurity professionals.
Benefit #5: Cybersecurity professionals can choose self-employment.
If you’re willing and able to combine your cybersecurity skills with a little entrepreneurial spirit and business sense, you can create your own job if and when you need to. It doesn’t mean it will be easy, but it is doable. Which means, there is no boss on the planet that we have to keep. Hallelujah.
Cybersecurity Has Many Specialties
In medicine, where is the money? It almost always seems to be in the specialties; doctors who choose to be a cardiologist or a surgeon instead of a general practitioner. Specialties in any field mean more hard work and more study, but less competition too, which can mean more money and more job security.
Cybersecurity is loaded with specialties. Penetration testing, systems architecture, cybersecurity analysts, network engineers, forensic examiners, and consultants, to name a few. There are even specialties around specific technologies. Some people are the office guru on Linux, or Python, or digital certificates, or Splunk, or….you get the picture.
There are so many job classifications and so many technologies in cyber that there are literally hundreds of ways that you can specialize and make yourself stand out. And those opportunities are increasing as new technologies and new tools emerge. This means that not only can we be a specialist, but we can also choose to be a specialist again when something new comes along that isn’t even out yet if we jump on it early.
This ability to specialize enables you to form your own sort of calling card, or specialty that you can choose to be known for. It’s good to be in a situation where people say, “You’ll need to talk to Dave, he’s the guru on that” or “Sheila handles all of our Linux stuff.”
Benefit #6: Specialties in cybersecurity provide plentiful career and promotion options.
Finding and pursuing excellence and knowledge is a great way to make yourself more valuable and increase your pay. And cybersecurity is full of options for you to do exactly that.
The key is to look for what is trending and what is new and becoming hot in the field. Keep an eye out for changes that are happening. On the job, look for where management is investing resources. Do they seem to be moving to a new vendor or a new technology? What challenges around the office are just not being met with expertise, and that with some specialization, you can provide.
Increasing Your Value in Cyber Is Easy
I’ve always loved that there are so many ways to increase, and document your value in cybersecurity, and more importantly, document your increase in value too. Just as I described above with the plentiful options for specializations, there are other ways that you can increase your value, and your perceived value to an employer, in the field of cybersecurity.
One way, which is great but takes a while, is a college degree. Some fields don’t need degrees and some fields mandate it, but cybersecurity is in the middle. You don’t have to have a degree to get a job or be effective in cybersecurity, but there are degree options out there that employers acknowledge, respect and appreciate. Therefore, degrees in cybersecurity can be a differentiator, a way for you to stand out above others, and a way to show initiative. A degree is one way to show your value has increased.
Benefit #7: You can increase your value and earnings potential in cybersecurity easily.
But specialties and degrees are certainly not the only way. We are blessed with having a field that is inundated with certifications (learn about the best entry-level certifications here). Seasoned cybersecurity professionals all have opinions on certifications, such as which are good and which are terrible, which are a joke and which are the real deal, or that all of them are over-hyped and just a money grab for the certification company. But the fact is that certifications do exist, and they do go on the resume, and they do get noticed from many employers, and therefore they are a differentiator and a way to show increased value. And since some certifications can be knocked out in as little as 60 or 90 days, you have the opportunity to increase your value quickly.
Recruiters Will Look For You
I know a lot of cybersecurity professionals that get unsolicited offers and contacts from recruiters. They are happy with their jobs, but then one day Google calls. It happens. Seriously. With the increased use of LinkedIn and the demand for cybersecurity professionals, as well as employers willing to pay signing bonuses and moving expenses, cybersecurity professionals with the right skills and qualifications will be sought out by recruiters and companies. it ‘s very powerful to have offers come your way that you weren’t looking for. It may cause you to be willing to take a risk and try something new, or realize that you can make more money than you thought.
Many professionals in the field believe that once you get five certifications and/or five years of experience, that’s when it really opens up and recruiters start to take notice. That may or may not be the case, but certainly, there are plenty of professionals that are getting multiple offers, without seeking them out. Position yourself with the right in-demand skills and the right qualifications, and recruiters may start contacting you too. That’s a good position to be in.
Benefit #8: With the right set of cybersecurity skills, recruiters will seek you out.
Work/Life Balance Is Achievable
A real problem in our society is that when the economy is in the employer’s favor, they tend to take advantage of it, a little too much. Employees that they took care of and respected just a few years before don’t get that same treatment. We all know people that are putting in 60 to 80-hour workweeks, scared that they’ll lose their job if they don’t.
Or people that take a call from the office during the middle of their daughter’s recital. Or work while on vacation. When I take my kids to the playground, it’s amazing to look around and see nearly all of the parents with their heads down, looking at their phones. Of course, much of that is wasted time on Facebook or elsewhere, but the changes in technology have certainly provided employers an unprecedented reach into our personal time.
Now for the good news. I’ve been hearing from many cybersecurity professionals that they are able to achieve a very real work/life balance. They are able to stay at 40 hours a week (often less) and enjoy their time away from the office. Many are satisfied with the arrangement that they have: They provide immense value for their employers during the day, are well paid for it, and have the autonomy to enjoy their personal lives largely interrupted. This may be primarily because of the demand for cybersecurity professionals, but regardless, you should be able to find a job in cybersecurity that meets your life balance goals. And if you find a job that doesn’t, you can readily move on to one that does.
Benefit #9: Cybersecurity can provide a real work/life balance.
There you have it; nine ways that you can benefit from a career in cybersecurity, beyond the good salaries and enjoyable work. Perhaps some of these benefits were things you hadn’t considered before. With these benefits in mind, it’s critical for you to determine what’s important to you as you plan your cybersecurity career journey.