Cyber Security Career Paths: What Your Future Could Hold There are many reasons to pursue a cyber security career. For one, you'll be well-compensated and most likely work on a flexible schedule. Beyond that, it's a job-seekers market with cyber security roles in high demand, with the ICTC reporting that 1 in 6 cyber security roles in Canada go unfilled. In other words, there's no better time to dive into a cyber security career.

The cyber security pathway: Entry Level

We all start somewhere, but for cyber security professionals, it's a pretty good start. Lighthouse Labs' Cyber Security Program graduates saw an average starting salary of $56,520, 37% higher than the average starting salary in Canada of $41,111.

Here are some entry-level jobs you could start your cyber security journey with.

Cyber Security Analyst

A Cyber Security Analyst protects an organization's digital assets by identifying vulnerabilities, monitoring for threats, and responding to security incidents. Key responsibilities include:

  • 1. Vulnerability Assessment: Conduct regular assessments and scans to identify system, application, and network infrastructure weaknesses.
  • 2. Incident Detection and Response: Monitor security alerts and logs to detect and investigate suspicious activities and potential security breaches and respond swiftly to security incidents.
  • 3. Security Monitoring: Continuously monitor network traffic and security systems for signs of unauthorized access or malicious behaviour.
  • 4. Threat Intelligence: Stay updated on the latest cyber security threats, vulnerabilities, and attack techniques to defend against emerging risks proactively.
  • 5. Security Policy Compliance: Ensure that security policies, standards, and best practices are adhered to across the organization.
  • 6. Firewall and Intrusion Detection/Prevention: Configure and manage firewalls, intrusion detection, and prevention systems to protect the network.
  • 7. Patch Management: Apply security patches and updates to address known operating system and software vulnerabilities.
  • 8. Security Reporting: Generate reports and insights on the organization's security posture, sharing findings with management and stakeholders.

Average yearly salary: $82,286

Security Operations Center (SOC) Analyst

A Security Operations Center (SOC) Analyst plays a critical role in monitoring an organization's security infrastructure, detecting and responding to security incidents, and ensuring the organization's overall cyber security. Key responsibilities include:

  • 1. Security Monitoring: Continuously monitor security alerts and logs from various sources, including firewalls, intrusion detection systems, and antivirus solutions.
  • 2. Incident Detection and Response: Detect and analyze security incidents and anomalies to determine their severity and potential impact on the organization and take immediate action on any possible threats.
  • 3. Threat Intelligence: Stay updated on emerging threats and vulnerabilities by analyzing threat intelligence feeds and reports.
  • 4. Vulnerability Assessment: Conduct periodic vulnerability assessments and penetration tests to identify weaknesses in the organization's systems.
  • 5. Security Policies: Ensure compliance with security policies, procedures, and best practices throughout the organization.
  • 6. Security Tools: Operate and maintain security tools such as SIEM (Security Information and Event Management) systems, IDS/IPS, and endpoint detection and response (EDR) solutions.
  • 7. Reporting: Prepare detailed reports on security incidents, investigations, and mitigation efforts for management and stakeholders.
  • 8. Collaboration: Collaborate with other IT and security teams to resolve security issues and implement preventive measures.

Average yearly salary: $62,694

Penetration Tester (Ethical Hacker)

A Penetration Tester, also known as an Ethical Hacker, identifies vulnerabilities in an organization's computer systems, networks, and applications to strengthen security defences. Key responsibilities include:

  • 1. Vulnerability Assessment: Conduct thorough assessments to identify security weaknesses in systems, networks, and applications.
  • 2. Penetration Testing: Perform simulated attacks to exploit vulnerabilities and assess the potential impact on the organization's security.
  • 3. Network Scanning: Scan and analyze network configurations, ports, and services to identify potential entry points for attackers.
  • 4. Application Testing: Evaluate the security of web applications, APIs, and software by assessing for common vulnerabilities like SQL injection and cross-site scripting (XSS).
  • 5. Social Engineering: Conduct tests to assess employee susceptibility to phishing attacks and other social engineering tactics.
  • 6. Security Tool Utilization: Utilize specialized tools and frameworks like Metasploit, Nessus, and Burp Suite to perform penetration tests.
  • 7. Report Generation: Document findings, vulnerabilities, and recommended remediation steps in comprehensive penetration testing reports.
  • 8. Collaboration: Work closely with IT and security teams to address identified vulnerabilities and assist in implementing security controls.

Average yearly salary: $94,187

The cyber security pathway: Mid Level

How quickly you advance in your career will depend on which path you choose to take, how much time you dedicate to continuous learning, which certifications you acquire, and your organization's needs.

Network Security Engineer

A Network Security Engineer is responsible for designing, implementing, and maintaining security measures to protect an organization's network infrastructure from cyber threats and vulnerabilities. They play a crucial role in ensuring data integrity, availability, and confidentiality. Key responsibilities include:

  • 1. Firewall Management: Configure, monitor, and manage firewall systems to control network traffic and prevent unauthorized access.
  • 2. Intrusion Detection and Prevention: Deploy and maintain intrusion detection and prevention systems (IDS/IPS) to identify and block malicious network activity.
  • 3. Vulnerability Assessment: Conduct regular security assessments and vulnerability scans to identify network weaknesses and recommend remediation strategies.
  • 4. Access Control: Implement and manage access control mechanisms, including role-based access control (RBAC), to restrict unauthorized access to network resources.
  • 5. Security Policy Development: Develop and enforce network security policies, standards, and best practices to ensure compliance.
  • 6. Incident Response: Respond to security incidents, conduct forensic analysis, and coordinate incident response efforts to minimize damage.
  • 7. Virtual Private Networks (VPNs): Configure and maintain VPN solutions to secure remote access and data transmission.
  • 8. Patch Management: Apply security patches and updates to network devices and systems to address known vulnerabilities.

Average yearly salary: $112,383

Security Consultant

A Security Consultant is responsible for assessing, designing, and implementing comprehensive security solutions for organizations. They evaluate security risks, develop strategies to mitigate threats and provide expert guidance to enhance overall security posture. Key responsibilities include:

  • 1. Security Assessments: Conduct thorough security assessments, risk analyses, and vulnerability assessments to identify weaknesses and potential threats.
  • 2. Security Architecture Design: Develop and recommend security architecture and strategies tailored to an organization's specific needs and industry standards.
  • 3. Security Implementation: Deploy and configure security technologies, including firewalls, intrusion detection systems (IDS), intrusion prevention systems (IPS), and encryption solutions.
  • 4. Security Policy Development: Create, review, and enforce security policies, procedures, and guidelines to align with best practices and compliance requirements.
  • 5. Incident Response Planning: Develop incident response plans and provide guidance on effective incident handling and recovery procedures.
  • 6. Security Awareness Training: Offer training and workshops to educate employees and IT staff on security best practices and social engineering awareness.
  • 7. Business Continuity Planning: Assist in developing and testing business continuity and disaster recovery plans to ensure resilience against security incidents.
  • 8. Security Documentation: Maintain detailed documentation of security assessments, risk assessments, security policies, and incident response plans.

Average yearly salary: $120,159

Incident Responder

An Incident Responder is responsible for identifying, managing, and mitigating security incidents within an organization. They play a crucial role in minimizing the impact of security breaches and preventing future incidents. Key responsibilities include:

  • 1. Incident Detection: Continuously monitor security alerts, logs, and incident reports to identify security incidents and anomalies.
  • 2. Incident Triage: Assess security incidents' severity and potential impact to determine the appropriate response.
  • 3. Incident Analysis: Conduct in-depth analysis of security incidents to understand adversaries' attack vectors, tactics, techniques, and procedures (TTPs).
  • 4. Containment: Take immediate action to isolate and contain security incidents, preventing further unauthorized access or data exfiltration.
  • 5. Eradication: Identify and eliminate the root cause of security incidents, closing vulnerabilities and preventing recurrence.
  • 6. Recovery: Coordinate and oversee the recovery process to restore affected systems and services to regular operation.
  • 7. Forensic Analysis: Conduct digital forensics investigations to collect evidence, support incident analysis, and assist in legal proceedings.
  • 8. Incident Reporting: Prepare and submit incident reports to management, regulatory authorities, and affected parties in compliance with legal and regulatory requirements.

Average yearly salary: $143,080

Identity and Access Management (IAM) Specialist

An Identity and Access Management (IAM) Specialist is responsible for designing, implementing, and managing IAM solutions to ensure secure and efficient access to an organization's resources. They play a critical role in protecting data and ensuring compliance with security policies. Key responsibilities include:

  • 1. IAM Architecture: Design, implement, and maintain IAM systems and solutions that align with organizational goals and security requirements.
  • 2. Access Control: Develop and enforce access control policies, including role-based access control (RBAC) and least privilege access.
  • 3. User Provisioning and De-provisioning: Manage user lifecycle processes, including onboarding, offboarding, and role changes, to ensure appropriate access rights.
  • 4. Authentication and Authorization: Configure authentication methods, multi-factor authentication (MFA), and authorization mechanisms to verify user identities and grant access.
  • 5. Single Sign-On (SSO): Implement SSO solutions to enable users to access multiple applications with a single set of credentials.
  • 6. Identity Federation: Establish identity federation and trust relationships with external entities to enable secure cross-organization access.
  • 7. IAM Auditing and Compliance: Conduct IAM audits, review access logs, and ensure compliance with regulatory requirements, such as GDPR and HIPAA.
  • 8. Incident Response: Respond to security incidents related to identity and access management, including unauthorized access attempts and privilege escalation.

Average yearly salary: $106,342

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The cyber security pathway: Senior Level

Now, you have enough experience and certifications to move into supervisory roles or even team and project management. Many cyber security professionals in senior management have 5+ years of experience. Still, depending on your specific career path and job market needs, you may be able to advance faster. Here are some typical senior-level cyber security roles.

Information Security Manager

A Security Compliance Auditor is responsible for evaluating an organization's adherence to security policies, industry regulations, and best practices. They assess security controls, identify compliance gaps, and recommend corrective actions. Key responsibilities include:

  • 1. Compliance Assessments: Conduct regular security compliance assessments to ensure adherence to industry standards, regulations, and organizational policies.
  • 2. Security Auditing: Examine security controls, configurations, and processes to identify vulnerabilities, weaknesses, and areas of non-compliance.
  • 3. Risk Assessment: Evaluate security risks associated with non-compliance and provide risk assessments and mitigation recommendations.
  • 4. Policy Review: Review and update security policies, procedures, and guidelines to align with changing compliance requirements.
  • 5. Security Documentation: Maintain detailed documentation of audit findings, recommendations, and corrective actions taken.
  • 6. Gap Analysis: Perform gap analysis to identify areas where security controls do not meet compliance requirements.
  • 7. Reporting: Prepare comprehensive compliance reports for management and stakeholders, highlighting areas of non-compliance and risk.
  • 8. Incident Response Planning: Assist in developing and testing incident response plans to ensure compliance with regulatory reporting requirements.

Average yearly salary: $202,010

Chief Information Security Officer (CISO)

A Chief Information Security Officer (CISO) is a senior executive overseeing an organization's information security program. They establish security policies, strategies, and risk management processes to protect data and mitigate cyber security threats. Key responsibilities include:

  • 1. Security Leadership: Provide strategic leadership for the organization's information security program, ensuring alignment with business goals.
  • 2. Security Strategy: Develop and execute the organization's security strategy, including long-term planning and risk management.
  • 3. Policy and Procedure Development: Establish and enforce information security policies, standards, and procedures to safeguard data and systems.
  • 4. Security Risk Management: Identify, assess, and manage security risks, conducting regular risk assessments and implementing mitigation strategies.
  • 5. Security Awareness and Training: Promote a culture of security awareness by educating employees and stakeholders on security best practices.
  • 6. Security Compliance: Ensure compliance with relevant industry regulations, standards, and legal requirements, such as GDPR or HIPAA.
  • 7. Security Incident Response: Lead incident response efforts, oversee investigations, coordinate response teams, and communicate with stakeholders.
  • 8. Security Budget Management: Manage the information security budget, allocating resources for security tools, technologies, and personnel.
  • 9. Vendor Security Assessment: Assess and manage the security posture of third-party vendors and service providers.
  • 10. Security Reporting: Prepare and present comprehensive security reports and metrics to senior management, the board of directors, and other stakeholders.

Average yearly salary: $203,213

Security Architect

A Security Architect is responsible for designing and implementing comprehensive security solutions and strategies to protect an organization's systems, networks, and data. They play a crucial role in ensuring the security of IT infrastructure. Key responsibilities include:

  • 1. Security Architecture Design: Develop and maintain security architecture plans that align with business goals and industry best practices.
  • 2. Risk Assessment: Identify and assess security risks and vulnerabilities, conducting threat modelling and risk analysis.
  • 3. Security Policy Development: Create and enforce security policies, standards, and guidelines to ensure compliance and data protection.
  • 4. Security Solution Design: Design security solutions and technologies, including firewalls, intrusion detection systems, encryption, and identity and access management systems.
  • 5. Security Awareness: Promote security awareness among employees and stakeholders, conducting training sessions and awareness programs.
  • 6. Incident Response Planning: Develop and test incident response plans to ensure a swift and effective response to security incidents.
  • 7. Security Documentation: Maintain comprehensive documentation of security architecture, policies, procedures, and incident response plans.
  • 8. Collaboration: Collaborate with IT teams, developers, and stakeholders to integrate security controls into projects and systems.

Average yearly salary: $126,093

Cyber Threat Intelligence Analyst

A Cyber Threat Intelligence Analyst is responsible for collecting, analyzing, and disseminating intelligence related to cyber security threats and vulnerabilities. They play a critical role in helping organizations proactively defend against cyberattacks. Key responsibilities include:

  • 1. Threat Data Collection: Gather information from various sources, including open-source intelligence (OSINT), dark web, and internal logs, to identify potential threats.
  • 2. Threat Analysis: Analyze collected data to assess cyber threats' nature, scope, and potential impact.
  • 3. Trend Monitoring: Monitor emerging cyber threats, attack techniques, and hacking trends to stay ahead of potential risks.
  • 4. Incident Correlation: Correlate threat intelligence with existing security data to identify patterns and potential vulnerabilities.
  • 5. Risk Assessment: Conduct risk assessments based on threat intelligence, providing recommendations for mitigating identified risks.
  • 6. Security Awareness: Disseminate threat intelligence findings to security teams, management, and relevant stakeholders to improve situational awareness.
  • 7. Vulnerability Management: Collaborate with teams to prioritize and address vulnerabilities based on intelligence insights.
  • 8. Indicators of Compromise (IOCs): Develop and maintain a database of IOCs, such as malware signatures and malicious IP addresses.
  • 9. Report Generation: Prepare comprehensive threat intelligence reports, including analysis, recommendations, and actionable insights.
  • 10. Incident Response Support: Assist incident response teams by providing real-time intelligence during security incidents.

Average yearly salary: $134,170

The right certifications make all the difference

As with many careers, one of the best career accelerators is specializations. Gaining more expertise in any area of cyber security opens up new opportunities and primes you for promotions and upward career mobility. Below is a list of standard certifications in cyber security and how they can help boost different roles.

Recommended certifications

  • 1. Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP): CISSP certifies broad knowledge in information security and can lead to career advancement and higher salaries.
  • 2. Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP-ISSAP): CISSP-ISSAP is a CISSP concentration focusing on security architecture, which can enhance career advancement opportunities as a security architect or consultant.
  • 3. Certified Information Security Manager (CISM): CISM emphasizes risk management and governance, facilitating career growth into leadership positions.
  • 4. Certified Information Systems Auditor (CISA): CISA specializes in information systems audit and control, which can boost career advancement in auditing and compliance roles.
  • 5. Certified Incident Handler (GCIH): GCIH certification validates incident handling skills, potentially advancing careers in incident response and security operations.
  • 6. Cisco Certified Network Professional Security (CCNP Security): CCNP Security focuses on Cisco network security technologies and can lead to career advancement as a network security engineer or consultant.
  • 7. Certified Threat Intelligence Analyst (CTIA): CTIA certification is specific to threat intelligence analysis, enhancing career opportunities in this niche field.

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