Is Cyber Security a Good Career Choice? Hollywood often portrays cyber security professionals as exceptionally skilled individuals with a supernatural understanding of technology. They can penetrate highly secure systems by feverishly typing complex code on laptops. As the need to protect digital assets becomes important for organizations, this heroic portrayal can seem a bit close to reality.

While entertaining, the fictional representations of cyber security experts often miss the reality behind this multi-dimensional profession. In this article, we'll show you what working as a cyber security expert is really like.

Benefits of a Cyber Security Career

Cyber security is a promising field with a lot of potential for growth.

Let's look at some of the benefits that prove it's a good career option.

1. High demand and job security

According to a report by ISC2, the world’s leading member association for cyber security professionals, the workforce shortage is estimated to be around 3.4 million professionals in 2022.

Most (70%) of respondents state their organization needs more cyber security employees. More than half of respondents also claim that the lack of employees puts their organization at risk of a cyber attack.

Not surprisingly, there's significant demand for cyber security professionals from entry-level positions to senior management roles. Multiple sectors - such as healthcare, finance, government, and technology - need cyber security experts to protect consumer records and data.

Five Ontario hospitals reportedly had their customer data stolen from a cyber attack, which compromised the records of employees, patients and staff. Surf Shark VPN reports Canada ranked 10th for breach count worldwide, with more than 207.4 million compromised accounts since 2004.

2. Competitive Salaries

The allure of a career in cyber security extends beyond job security; it also offers the potential for six-figure salaries.

Cyber security roles often come with competitive salaries and excellent benefits. Whether starting as an entry-level analyst or rising to the ranks of a chief information security officer (CISO), individuals in this field can command impressive compensation packages.

The annual average salary in cyber security is $97,000.

Here's the salary range for cyber security roles in Canada:

The specialized skills and knowledge required for these positions result in higher pay scales. This makes it an attractive choice for those seeking financial stability and career growth.

3. Diverse Cyber Security Job Roles and Opportunities

The cyber security industry offers a vast array of job opportunities and diverse career paths.

Here are some examples of critical roles in the industry:

  • A Security Analyst monitors an organization's network for security breaches, investigates security incidents, and implements security measures.

  • An Ethical Hacker or Penetration Tester simulates cyber attacks and identifies potential entry points that malicious hackers could exploit.

  • A Security Architect designs, plans, and implements secure systems and networks to create comprehensive security structures and frameworks.

  • A Chief Information Security Officer (CISO) is a senior-level executive that oversees an organization's cyber security strategy. This role includes developing and implementing security policies, managing cyber security teams, and ensuring security practices align with business objectives.

  • A Security Software Developer designs and creates security applications, tools, and systems to protect networks, procedures, and data. These individuals work on developing firewalls, encryption tools, and antivirus software.

The diversity offered in cyber security roles allows professionals to explore different niches and develop skills catering to individual preferences and strengths.

4. Satisfaction of Protecting Businesses and Individuals

Beyond compensation and job security, working in cyber security can be a rewarding career. Cyber security professionals protect vital information, prevent data breaches, and shield organizations from malicious threats.

Protecting the digital infrastructure of businesses, governmental agencies, and individuals fills employees with a unique sense of purpose. The knowledge that their efforts directly contribute to the security of the digital world fuels their commitment and passion for their roles.

Challenges in a Cyber Security Career

A career in cyber security seems promising, but it comes with some challenges. The profession demands a unique set of skills.

Here are three common cyber security career challenges:

1. Constant Need for Upskilling

The evolution of cyber threats means that professionals must have a never-ending commitment to improving their skills. They may need to update their knowledge, attend workshops, learn new programming languages, and obtain cyber security certifications. These pursuits demand time, financial investment and a commitment to keeping up-to-date with the rapid evolution of technology.

2. High-Pressure Situations

Cyber security professionals often find themselves in high-pressure environments.

The consequences of a single security breach can be catastrophic, ranging from financial losses to reputational damage. Most teams need to address threats in real-time and make critical decisions on the fly.

Due to the high stakes, employees must have technical proficiency and remain composed despite immense stress. After all, their immediate response can significantly impact an organization's overall security.

3. Ethical Dilemmas and Responsibilities

There are a lot of ethical considerations for every role.

For ethical hackers, it’s important to detect vulnerabilities and respect an organization's privacy at the same time. On the other hand, incident responders and digital forensics experts must preserve evidence while following legal and ethical standards.

Developing and implementing security measures also entails navigating the ethical tightrope between security and user privacy. The decisions made by cyber security professionals have ethical implications on privacy, civil rights, and corporate integrity.

Is Cyber Security In-Demand in Canada?

Canada has witnessed a surge in the demand for cyber security professionals due to the rise in digital threats. Several factors contribute to the demand within the Canadian job market:

1. Job Outlook and Industry Growth Predictions

The Canadian job market for cyber security professionals is promising. In fact, there are 2,850 job openings in the country.

At Lighthouse Labs, the Cyber Security Program had the highest hiring rate out of all our programs in 2022, with 89% finding full-time employment within the first 180 days post-graduation.

Our alums have taken on diverse career paths. Some graduates became penetration testers who simulate real-world cyber threats. While others became policy writers who implement robust security policies to protect sensitive data from cyber threats.

The Canadian government has also shown substantial commitment to bolster its cyber security infrastructure.

The passage of the Communications Security Establishment (CSE) Act enhanced its capabilities to disrupt local and foreign cyber threats. The allocation of $875.2 million for CSE marks a significant step in fortifying Canada's resilience against cyber attacks.

2. Emerging Cyber Security Industry Trends and Technologies

As technology advances, so does the level of sophistication of online threats.

New technologies like cloud computing, the Internet of Things (IoT), artificial intelligence (AI), and blockchain technology present new possibilities that malicious actors might exploit.

As a result, cyber security experts need to understand emerging technologies to identify and implement robust security measures. Done right, they may also develop tailored security protocols that protect individuals against potential cyber threats.

3. Potential for Career Advancement

Cyber security offers a myriad of opportunities for career advancement in Canada.

As the field continues to expand, professionals can explore diverse career paths. These opportunities span from entry-level positions (i.e. security analysts and network security administrators) to senior-level roles (i.e. cyber security consultants, security architects, or Chief Information Security Officers (CISOs)).

Both the Canadian government and business organizations are also making substantial investments to grow their cyber security teams. The growing demand for cyber security professionals means more opportunities for career advancement.

How Long Does it Take to Learn Cyber Security?

A degree is one of many ways to become a cyber security professional.

Bootcamps allow students to learn the fundamentals in 12-30 weeks.

At Lighthouse Labs, we offer a 12-week Cyber Security Bootcamp, which consists of 5 lectures per week and 50 hours of study time per week. It's a short, immersive, and intensive program that can get you up to speed on fundamentals like networks, shell commands, Python, and firewalls.

If a full-time program doesn’t work for your lifestyle, the 30-week Flex Program is a good alternative. It consists of 2 lectures and 25 hours of study time per week. You can balance your studies with work or family commitments thanks to the extended period.

Regardless of the delivery method you choose, you'll graduate with a solid foundation and technical skills you need to succeed in the job market.

Expert Insights

In cyber security, insights from industry professionals can influence your decision to enter the field.

XYPRO Chief Product Officer Steve Tcherchian believes that mentorship is vital to advancing the field. He advised, "I would suggest to anyone deciding to enter this line of work to find yourself a mentor – listen and learn. The best leaders will be energized to share their experiences – both positive and negative – and want you to do better than them."

If you're looking to transition to the cyber security industry, now is a good time. Cyber Security Analyst Meenu Bhardwaj completed the Cyber Security Bootcamp at Lighthouse Labs as part of the ICT Boost Initiative. She transitioned from a career in civil engineering to French language instruction, eventually leading to cyber security.

Looking back at her experience, she tells aspiring students, "I would say it is never too late. I'm 35 years old today, receiving my cyber security diploma, and looking for a career change."

Product Security Architect at SAP and co-founder of the Leading Ladies Cyber community, Helen Oakley, thinks attending cyber security events or sessions is a core ingredient to success.

She told DefCamp, "You can take an official training, or maybe you have an option on taking some of the security tasks partially in your current job. Keep in mind many typical and non-security jobs can have some level of security responsibilities, too, and it could be a good way to start your career through the so-called soft transition. Read the job description, and between the lines, what do they want you to do? And, of course, network with the cyber security community to hear more about opportunities and build your connections."

Overall, industry leaders and professionals believe there is career growth in cyber security. Instead of stressing over your technical proficiency, it's more important to have a commitment to continuous learning and holistic skill development.

Comparison with Other Tech Careers

How Cyber Security Stands Out

Cyber security stands out as a specialized field that protects digital infrastructure. Since it revolves around safeguarding systems, it differs from areas like software development, data analysis, or network administration.

Here are some characteristics that set it apart:

  • Emphasis on Protection and Defense: Unlike development-focused tech careers, cyber security focuses on protecting and defending systems. It safeguards data, networks, and digital assets from threats and attacks.

  • Constantly Changing Landscape: The field of cyber security changes regularly. The rise of new threats and vulnerabilities means professionals must stay up-to-date with the latest developments.

  • Ethical Considerations: Understanding ethical considerations when dealing with data is crucial. Employees should not only be proficient at a technical level, but they must also consider their actions' legal and ethical implications.

  • High Demand: The demand for cyber security professionals is rising, and most organizations are looking to recruit more skilled experts. As a result, it's a lucrative and in-demand profession.

Does Cyber Security Require Coding?

While not every cyber security role requires advanced coding skills, a strong understanding of programming languages is essential.

Proficiency in languages like Python, JavaScript, or C/C++ can be highly beneficial for tasks involving threat analysis, vulnerability testing, and developing security tools or scripts.

Here's why:

  • Scripting for Automation: Many cyber security tasks involve automating processes like analyzing logs or running security scans. Programming languages like Python and PowerShell help perform this task.

  • Security Tools and Frameworks: Cyber security professionals often need to work with various security tools and frameworks, which may require coding skills to customize and optimize.

  • Eliminate Malware: To effectively combat malware and online threats, cyber security experts need to understand the code and behaviour of malicious software.

  • Identifying Vulnerabilities: Professionals must be able to write or analyze code to identify vulnerabilities in software and systems.

  • Incident Response: When responding to security incidents, knowledge of scripting and coding can be invaluable for analyzing and mitigating its impact.

Skill Overlap and Transferability

Many skills required for cyber security overlap with other tech careers, making it possible for individuals to transition into cyber security from related fields.

Here are some key areas where skills overlap occurs:

  • Networking and System Administration: Professionals proficient in system administration or networking often understand how systems work and how to secure them.

  • Programming and Scripting: Being proficient in programming languages like Python, JavaScript, or scripting languages is essential. Software developers can leverage coding skills to analyze malware, automate security tasks, or understand system vulnerabilities.

  • Data Analysis and Problem-Solving: Professionals experienced in roles requiring pattern recognition, identifying anomalies, and analyzing data may find these skills valuable in cyber security roles involving threat detection, incident response, or forensics.

  • Compliance and Regulatory Knowledge: An in-depth background in industry standards, policies, and regulations is valuable for some cyber security roles focused on compliance.

  • Soft Skills: Soft skills such as communication, collaboration, and project management are valuable. Having strong communication skills helps you translate complex security issues into understandable terms for non-technical stakeholders.

  • Cloud and DevOps: As more companies adopt cloud technologies and DevOps practices, professionals with expertise in these areas may transition into cyber security roles specializing in securing cloud environments or integrating security into DevOps pipelines.

Even if an aspiring cyber security expert possesses these skills, transitioning into cyber security roles might require additional education, certifications, or specific training.

Obtaining cyber security certifications such as Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP), Certified Ethical Hacker (CEH), CompTIA Security+, or attending bootcamps can help smooth the transition to a cyber security role.

Ready To Transition To A Cyber Security Role?

The cyber security job outlook seems promising. Some compelling reasons include high demand, competitive salaries, and a sense of purpose acquired from protecting businesses against cyber threats.

The path ahead may seem intimidating for those considering transitioning to a cyber security role.

To succeed, it’s important to stay committed to learning. If you need more technical knowledge, you can also explore online courses and bootcamps to acquire the skills required to get an entry-level position in this field.

If you want support while transitioning to cyber security, check out the Lighthouse Labs Cyber Security Program. We offer a 12-week Bootcamp or a 30-week Flex Program. Whichever option you pick, you will graduate with a diploma, real-world experience and core knowledge to enter the industry.