BY Rich GrisetJuly 08, 2022, 12:53 PM
A group walks by Sather Tower on the UC Berkeley campus, as seen in March 2022. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
When it comes to job demand, it’s hard to beat the field of cybersecurity. By 2025 there will be an estimated 3.5 million unfilled cybersecurity jobs across the globe, according to Cybersecurity Ventures, a researcher and publisher that covers the international cyber economy. And that follows a 350% growth in the number of open cybersecurity jobs between 2013 and 2021.
As practically all elements of work, life and everything in between now have a digital component, the need to secure our information from cybersecurity threats has only grown. With that growth, master’s degree programs in cybersecurity have also flourished.
“The job market’s insane for cybersecurity,” says Mary McHale, a career advisor for the master’s of information and cybersecurity program (MICS) at the University of California—Berkeley. The university landed the No. 1 spot on Fortune’s first-ever ranking of the best online master’s degree programs in cybersecurity. “When you look at the opportunity and demand, it’s tremendous.”
Whether contending with cyber criminals who wish to turn a profit from stealing information or challenging nation-states that wish to do us harm, cybersecurity professionals are in an interesting and ever-evolving field. And UC Berkeley grads are landing jobs with salaries of more than $200,000. Here’s what you need to know
How big is the demand for cybersecurity professionals?
In June, Lakshmi Hanspal, the global chief security officer for Amazon devices and services, was the keynote speaker for Berkeley’s MICS immersion program. In her address, Hanspal said that Amazon had more than 600 unfilled cybersecurity jobs.
That’s a high number, particularly given Amazon’s deep pockets. “They’re saying the demand is just going increasingly higher,” says McHale of UC Berkeley. “Once we help [students] get visibility in the job market, the amount of attention they’re getting is tremendous.”
Many master’s degree candidates in cybersecurity programs take part in summer internships with companies before graduating.
“Most come back with an offer of full-time employment when they finish,” says Mustaque Ahamad, a professor in the School of Cybersecurity and Privacy at Georgia Tech. “You have a job lined up, absolutely.”
While a master’s degree in cybersecurity or a related subject like computer science isn’t required to work in cybersecurity, it goes a long way to inform graduates on the latest trends and happenings in the field.
“A master’s degree is going to prepare you for the highest skill, top-level careers,” Ahamad says. “A master’s degree is essentially going to make a specialist in cybersecurity.”
How much can you make with a master’s in cybersecurity?
If you have a master’s in cybersecurity, it’s fairly common to earn a six-figure salary immediately after graduation. “It’s a profession that will pay you well,” says Ahamad. “The vast majority of [graduates] head out to the Microsofts and the Googles and the Ciscos and the Intels.”
According to a UC Berkeley salary survey of alumni, graduates with a master’s degree in cybersecurity make an average salary of $214,000, not including bonuses; the median salary is $200,000. Some graduates who are now executives, such as chief information security officers (CISOs), chief information officers (CIOs), and chief technology officers (CTOs) make more than $300,000.
“The CISO roles are going to be more over the $250,000, $300,000 [salary mark], closer to $400,000, depending on the company and the size of the organization,” McHale says.
The median pay for computer programmers, who write, test and modify code and scripts so that applications and computers can work properly, was $93,000 in 2021, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Information security analysts, who plan and carry out security measures to protect the computer networks and systems of an organization, had a median pay of $102,600. Computer network architects, who design and build data communication networks, such as Intranets, wide area networks (WANs), and local area networks (LANs), had a median income of $120,520 in 2021.
Though graduates who go to work for the government generally make less money, the knowledge gained from becoming familiar with government systems that need to be secured can pay off if they eventually work for a major defense contractor.
“The experience is golden,” Ahamad says. “They’re dealing with sophisticated nation-state threats, so [with] the systems and the applications and the high level of security that’s needed, once they have that experience, that really makes them first-class at cybersecurity.”
McHale says that while some cybersecurity master’s graduates from Berkeley head to the public sector, most take new jobs in the private sector.
“People with this professional master’s degree are now open to a path of incredible career opportunities,” McHale says. “There is an ability to apply those skills in any industry, or around the globe, because they can take that core skill and apply it to something they’re very passionate about.”