One industry is about to see a huge jobs boom, and you don’t necessarily need a degree to secure the $100k salary.
In an ever changing job landscape, one industry is facing a serious skills shortage and offering cyber security roles with $100k salary.
The Technology Council of Australia is on a mission to deliver a million tech jobs by 2025, a goal that means “we need an additional 286,000 workers to join the sector”.
“There’s a huge skills shortage,” Mimecast technical director Alison O’Hare told news.com.au.
“You have this rampant cyber crime and you have your great solutions to resolve issues, but you don’t necessarily have the people in-house who can deal with maintaining them.
“I’ve talked to many customers who have the technology but they don’t have the people to do anything about it. That’s where the skills gap is.
Ms O’Hare said there was great job security because cyber crime was not going away.
What is cyber security?
“When I first entered the world of cyber security, I thought it would be quite technical, but also quite dry,” said O’Hare.
“A lot of people associate IT roles with coding and software development. In reality, I found the role very much about problem solving and people.”
“You’re trying to understand the cyber gangs and attackers, then you’re also reaching out to your users — there’s a lot of human analysis and awareness training.”
When she started in the industry, she was surprised by how many different areas of cyber security there were to get involved with.
“I find the constant evolution of what we do really interesting,” said O’Hare. “Especially because it’s global as well, there’s so many aspects to what you do.”
“You could work more on the project management side, or on the tech side, or more on the people side — there’s so many options.”
Pathways to cyber security
According O’Hare, there’s more than one way to get into cyber security. In fact, she started her working life as a physiotherapist, before spending the last 20 years in IT.
“I was working as a physio,” O’Hare told news.com.au, “our clinic we had a couple of computers that were networked together, so I started doing some work on those — just to get them communicating.”
“It was kind of interesting … I loved the idea of the ever-changing nature of IT, and the challenge associated with that.”
“I got my first job working as an IT admin. I loved that, I found it really interesting and challenging. Then I moved around to a lot of different roles, before ending up in Cyber security.”
O’Hare explained that there’s also plenty of on-the-job-training, so you don’t necessarily need to be an expert before you apply for a cyber security role. She also made it clear that while these days there are degrees specific to cyber security, you don’t necessarily have to graduate from one to land a job.
“Even if you don’t start a job with the skills they’re looking for, they’re getting people in with at least some of those skills and the intent to grow and mould into that role,” she said.
BlackBerry Principal Threat Researcher in Canberra, who asked to remain anonymous, agrees that there’s not always a need for relevant formal education.
“I’m mostly self-taught,” he told news.com.au. “I had natural curiosity to understand how things functioned — especially computers and other devices.”
“One way to codify your knowledge is by completing certifications with technology suppliers. This can make it easier to get your foot in the door with employers.”
“However, finding ways to demonstrate your abilities — for example, publishing new code or tools you’ve developed — is the best way to stand out.”
With a rising cost of living, salary expectations in cyber security are quite a relief. Obviously it depends on the role you have, but average pay is about $70,000 at entry level, going up to about $100,000 as you get into more experienced positions.
There’s almost constant talk of which roles will still exist in 20 years. It’s a question particularly top of mind since lockdowns saw so many industries fall into disrepair. That’s not a worry for cyber security.
“In my mind, it’s the industry to be in,” says O’Hare. “It’s such a changing and evolving world to be in — you’ve got to be on your toes, learning and thinking because the technology changes as cyber crime advances.”
“Your job security is so high because you’ll always need people in this roles. Cyber crime isn’t going away.”
Women in STEM
According to O’Hare, a lot has changed since she entered the IT world, and now is the time to be a woman in cyber security.
“To some extent getting my first job was quite easy, because a lot of the teams I worked with were looking to hire females for diversity and a different opinion,” she explained.
“Being taken seriously was a little bit harder. Working my way up and getting opportunities was more difficult — but that was going back 20 years.”
“I would say most organisations are going for a gender balance of 50/50 now, but that’s hard to do.”
“Typically I think females still feel like there’s a barrier to entry — I don’t know if it’s intimidation, or they don’t know how to start, or whether they’ll belong or be taken seriously.
Still, I’ve seen a dramatic increase in the number of females, in the last couple of years specifically.”
Cyber security is a good industry for globetrotters as well, as its global nature and highly transferable skills means it’s the same job, world over.
“There’s so much opportunity to work internationally, and within our company we actually promote it,” said O’Hare. “The skills are universal, so you can absolutely transfer those skills and use them globally — either within the same company, or just on your own.”
“The work-life balance is great,” agreed BlackBerry Principal Threat Researcher, “and also having the flexibility to work from anywhere with internet access.”