Where to Earn the Most for Your Cyber Skills

Posted by Nancy Dunham

where to earn the most for your cyber skillsIn 2015, a typical worker in a cyber security job earned $109,790.

Ready to nab that top salary you know others in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) careers earn?

You may want to head west, specifically to California.

As in years past Silicon Valley — specifically San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clarita – is where the top STEM earners work. Average pay in those areas is $105,920 according to survey results presented by SmartAsset.

So what’s that mean in dollars and cents for you?

Computer and information research scientists there have median annual incomes of $154,160, software app developers earn on average $147,220 and computer network architects gross $144,670 on average.

One reason pay is so high, suggests SmartAsset, is because of the high concentration of STEM talent.

Those high salaries are thanks to the major tech employers in the San Jose area – Google, Facebook, Apple, Intel, Adobe Systems, PayPal, Tesla and eBay.

The same high salaries are true in San Francisco, San Mateo and Redwood City home to Twitter, Dropbox, GoPro, Jawbone, Uber, Airbnb, Craigslist,, Square, McKesson Corp.

The area is home to 120,000 STEM employees, which translates into just over 12 percent of the total workforce. Employees with computer and math-related positions are the highest earners.

Computer network architects earn median annual incomes of $139,110. The average annual income for computer hardware engineers is $137,790. Software developers – systems software earn an average of $130,610.

But don’t book your flight to seek your West Coast fortune just yet. As you know information security specialists is a rare specialty. While cyber security specialists in San Francisco earn an average of $149,744, according to a salary survey released by, you may not want to accept. Adjusting the salary for cost-of-living using data from Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA) that salary is equal to only $119,346.

Things aren’t much better further north in Seattle where the average salary $128,470. Adjusted that equals $119,349, about $3 more than the California salary.

So just where can cyber security pros get the most out of their high incomes?

The analysis by ranked the top 15 cities for tech pros based on the “real” value of an information security specialist’s salary.

The top six: Minneapolis ($131,302 translated into $127,757); Seattle ($128,470 translated into $119,349, as listed above); San Francisco ($149,744 translated into $119,346, as listed above); Dallas ($118,841 translated into $117,890); (Denver $123,222 translated into $117,308); and Chicago ($119,168 translated into $111,303).

Do some of these listings seem odd? Not really.

Big box giant Target is located in Minneapolis and has scrambled to regain consumer confidence since its 2013 security breach. So, clearly, they are hiring cyber security pros.

What about New York ($131,623 translated into $102,271), which placed ninth? Yes, there are cyber pros there but Salt Lake City paychecks ($105,889 translated into $106,207) comes in eighth due to employer incentives. Silicon Valley capital San Jose ($125,889 translated into $99,075) comes in tenth.

Clearly the Pentagon relies heavily on cyber security professionals. But Arlington, Virginia ($92,587 translated into $74,254), its home, comes in at No. 15, with adjusted salaries that are 72 percent lower than those in Minneapolis, noted Indeed. And neighboring Washington, D.C. ($114,951 translated into $92,191) comes in at No. 12.

Those that think that seems odd, should consider Indeed’s analysis:

“At first glance, information security specialists in Washington, D.C. seem to be doing pretty well: On average, they make around $114,951 a year. By contrast, their peers in Salt Lake City make $105,889 a year. Therefore, an information security specialist who moves to DC from Salt Lake City is in line for an almost $10,000 pay bump — correct?,” reported “Well, not exactly. The price of rent, tax, food, transportation and education all have a big impact on take-home pay, and after factoring in Washington DC’s higher costs of living, the picture gets a little complex.”

One variable to consider is rent. Median rent on a Washington, D.C. apartment was $2,595 a month (about 27 percent of an information specialist’s salary), reported Indeed. In Salt Lake City, monthly rent was $1,445, about 16 percent of the specialist’s salary. What that means — jobs may be plentiful in the DC metro area and somewhat secure, but don’t look for the major paycheck.

The bottom line – no matter where cyber pros work the salaries are high.

The caveat, according to Indeed, is that to secure those salaries you need more than interest and even talent.

“Many employers are looking not only for skills and experience,” they noted. “but also certifications.” And if you want to move up the ladder, you’ll also need to work on your soft skills.

This entry was posted on Monday, October 16, 2017 6:32 am

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