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IT careers: Security talent is red-hot

Beth Stackpole | April 28, 2015
Security pros are in high demand, and companies are willing to pay top dollar for the right candidates. Do you have what it takes to succeed on the infosec career track?

From the time he was 9, Daniel Kowalski, now 23, knew cybersecurity was going to be his thing. Captivated by the stealth work of hackers in commercials and in his favorite movie, Live Free or Die Hard, Kowalski nurtured his fascination with security from a young age, pursuing multiple IT and security certifications during high school and earning a degree in computer criminology at Florida State University.

After graduation, Kowalski moved through a couple of generic IT contract gigs -- each providing some basic exposure to security -- and landed an official role in his chosen field in less than a year: He's now an information systems security engineer at defense contractor Harris Corp. "My future lies in security," says Kowalski. "As far as where I want to be in security, it's too early to say -- I've not yet specialized in anything, but I've touched on everything."

Kowalski's future should be pretty bright given that security now ranks among the hottest IT career tracks. Computerworld's 2015 IT Salary Survey reveals that there's strong demand for security professionals. Three-quarters of security pros participating in the survey said they'd been approached by headhunters in the past 12 months, and 71% said they felt their job was secure or very secure.

The spate of recent high-profile hacks at companies like Target and Sony Pictures has been a serious wake-up call for management about the importance of a robust IT security program. "The emergence of the cloud and the recent security breaches have been the perfect storm to drive demand for security roles," says Matt Leighton, director of recruitment at Mondo, a digital marketing and technology recruitment firm.

At least four out of 10 job requisitions coming across his desk are for security-related positions, he adds. "It's probably the hottest skill set we are working on today, and we're now seeing [salaries] catch up with demand."

Research by Robert Half Technology confirms that security talent is in demand. The IT recruitment firm's 2015 Salary Guide for Technology Professionals says demand for skilled workers will exceed supply in the overall IT job market "for the foreseeable future" and names security as one of three disciplines -- along with mobile and big data -- in which that gap will be especially large. There's especially strong demand for data security analysts, systems security administrators, network security administrators, network security engineers and security managers, according to the RHT report.

Not surprisingly, employers are willing to loosen the purse strings in order to fill security-related jobs. In Computerworld's IT Salary Survey, security management positions like chief security officer and information security manager saw the highest reported increases in pay from 2014 to 2015, with average total compensation for those job titles rising 6.7% and 5.3%, respectively.


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