Making it big in cyber security

The key figures

$639 billion: the expected global value of the cyber security industry according to the Australian Computer Society.

57%: the growth in the number of cyber security job ads on Seek.

$110,000: the median salary of an IT security consultant according to PayScale.

$45,000: the average annual bonus for an IT security consultant.

Cyber-security expertise is one of the most in-demand skills in today's IT landscape, and those with security proficiency have some of the most promising career options in all of tech. In the past year alone we’ve seen major data breaches in the servers of Verizon, Deep Root Analytics, Kmart (US), DocuSign and the Intercontinental Hotel Group among many others. And most recently, we saw the biggest hack of them all – the compromise of the US credit agency Equifax, which led to the theft of the financial information of up to 143 million people.

The growth and increased sophistication of these attacks has led to an explosion of demand for cyber security professionals. In 2016, the global cyber security industry was estimated to be worth $106 billion. By 2023, that’s expected to explode to around $639 billion according to research firm IT-Harvest.

That explosive growth has led to a huge skills gap when it comes to cyber security. Research organisation Cybersecurity Ventures estimates that worldwide there will be 3.5 million unfilled cyber security jobs by 2021.

Those estimates have been backed up by the number of job ads appearing for cyber security professionals in the last two years. According to job site Indeed, there was an incredible 124% increase in the number of postings for cyber security professionals between 2015 and 2017. Seek has reported similar numbers: between February 2016 and February 2017, the number of ads in the sector grew by 57%. And professional body ISACA’s survey of businesses reported that in 2017, 65% of those surveyed had a chief information security officer – a huge increase from the 50% just a year before.

The high demand for cyber security experts has also driven wages in the sector considerably. According to a recent survey by recruiters Robert Half, security specialists starting salaries have grown at a rate of 6.2% in 2017 – among the highest rate in any industry. In the survey, Robert Half found that its recruited cyber security specialist wages had a minimum of $118,000 and a maximum of $160,000.

Job salary survey site PayScale reports somewhat similar figures. It lists the median salary of an IT security consultant and computer security specialist at $105,000 - $110,000, with more entry level roles at $88,000. IT security architects can expect a median salary of $135,000+.

Getting qualified

So how do you get a career in cyber security? Right now there is no official accreditation (although the Australian Information Security Association has been in talks with the Professional Standards Council to create one), but there are plenty of courses one can take to prepare yourself for a career in cyber security. 

One example of a qualifying course is the Master of IT Management from Southern Cross University. It’s a two-year part time course that will qualify you for many roles in IT security. It’s comprised of 12 units, all of which can be completed using the University’s structured online learning system, which requires no on-campus activity and allows the course to flex around your existing time commitments. You can jump in and out of the course as your life allows.

Of special note is the Information Systems Security Management unit, which specialises in teaching students to identify and resolve security threats and vulnerabilities. The unit covers much more than specific resolutions: it also looks at managing risk to the company and partners; legal and ethical considerations; the role of management; and the integration of security systems into existing business practices. The goal is to get you qualified and ready to deal with the growing number of threats facing Australian businesses online. If you can manage that, then your career prospects are good indeed.

What you’ll learn in Southern Cross University’s Information Systems Security Management

SCU's Information Systems Security Management unit gives you a specific, up-to-date skillset aimed specifically at cyber security expertise, which includes:

  • How to identify and describe the various threats to the security of digital information and information systems.
  • How to analyse models and practices for managing security of digital information and information systems.
  • How to investigate the human management aspects of security in an enterprise including roles, responsibilities and personalities, and the impact on trading partners.
  • The ability to review and describe the major legal and ethical issues with respect to managing security of digital information and information systems.
  • Analysing the need for managing security of digital information and information systems.
  • How to undertake risk assessment regarding the security of digital information and information systems and develop strategies for controlling risk.

For more information, visit Southern Cross University's Master of IT Management course page, or call 1300 589 882.