Salary and Job Outlook for Incident Responders

| Holland Webb Modified on August 4, 2022

Salary and Job Outlook for Incident Responders

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Incident responders are the rescue squads of the cyberworld. In the wake of a data breach, these information security professionals patch leaks and secure digital systems.

An incident responder must possess core competencies in areas such as threat analysis, computer forensics, and security design. Typically, incident responders gain these skills through a combination of formal education, professional certifications, and job experience.

With additional education, experienced incident responders may become incident managers, directors of incident response, or chief information security officers. According to Payscale data from May 2022, incident managers earn an average salary of $87,810 per year.

Explore in-depth incident response salary and job prospects using the following guide.

What Does an Incident Responder Do?

Just like real-world emergency personnel are first to the scene of a crime, incident responders are the first to attend to a cybersecurity breach. These professionals use their cybersecurity expertise to stop leaks and restore systems.

Forensics experts, like real-world detectives, follow up on incident responders' work. This approach allows other information security team members to focus on testing, management, and long-term security strategy.

Incident responders work across an array of industries. Typically, however, they find employment where the risk of threat is most imminent: government agencies, financial institutions, and in healthcare and retail.

Incident responders often begin their careers as network or security administrators. They usually answer to incident managers or directors of incident response.

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How Much Can You Earn as an Incident Responder?

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the 2021 median annual salary for all computer and information technology jobs was $97,430 — almost $40,000 higher than the $58,260 median annual wage for all occupations.

As early or midcareer information security professionals, incident responders may earn less than this amount. However, by growing into management, strategy, or teaching roles and pursuing additional education or certifications, responders can increase their earning potential.

$87,810

Average Annual Salary of Incident Managers, May 2022

Source: Payscale

Incident Response Salary by Experience

Generally, earning potential increases alongside job experience. Incident responders with multiple years of work history typically earn higher salaries than new hires: According to Payscale data from May 2022, incident responders with 20 or more years of experience earn salaries nearly twice as high as their entry-level counterparts.

Employers often view experienced incident responders as seasoned professionals with skills improved by their time on the job. Because of their previous experiences, these workers are often more efficient at their tasks, which employers recognize through higher salaries.

Incident Response Salary by Education

Education also affects income. For computer science professionals, more education generally leads to higher wages. Earning a master's degree in information technology, for instance, leads to a $13,000 increase in average annual salary compared to holding only a bachelor's degree in the field, according to May 2022 Payscale data.

Not all education has to result in a degree to be valuable: Cybersecurity bootcamps, for example, offer concentrated training in areas like forensics and Cisco networking. These skills can result in career advancement and higher earning potential for incident responders. While bootcamps often cost much less than a full degree, they do not qualify for most federal financial aid benefits. These stipulations typically do not apply to veteran benefits.

Education can also lead to new career opportunities. Master's degrees may qualify incident responders for management positions. A doctorate could equip a manager to become a researcher, writer, or college professor.

The Payscale data in the table below highlights average salary data for all graduates of the listed degrees, not just incident responders.

Discover Which Education Path Is Right for You

Incident Response Salary by Location

Incident responders should consider a variety of factors when deciding where they want to work. These factors include job demand, cost of living, population density, quality of life, and local culture.

Though some locations offer higher salaries than others, these areas typically have higher costs of living. This means bigger paychecks may not have as much buying power in more expensive locations.

For example, California offers some of the highest average salaries for cybersecurity experts. However, these jobs are mainly concentrated in the San Jose and San Francisco areas. According to Payscale, San Jose's cost of living runs 49% higher than the national average while San Francisco is 80% higher.

Ultimately, the best indicator of where to live may not be financial, but personal. Proximity to friends or family, access to a career network, or nearness to healthcare facilities may override financial considerations.

Consider the data below. While tables with Payscale data reflect incident responder salaries, tables with BLS data focus on information security analysts, an umbrella term which includes incident responders.

Top-Paying Cities for Incident Responders, May 2022

State

Average Annual Salary

Percent Above the National Average

Houston, Texas

$132,930

51%

New York, New York

$127,500

45%

Seattle, Washington

$104,000

18%

Source: Payscale

Top-Paying Metropolitan Areas for Information Security Analysts, 2021

Metropolitan Area

Number of Information Security Analysts Employed

Average Annual Salary

San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara, California

N/A

$150,820

San Francisco-Oakland-Hayward, California

N/A

$149,250

Des Moines-West Des Moines, Iowa

890

$135,080

New York-Newark-Jersey City, New York-New Jersey-Pennsylvania

10,250

$134,390

Idaho Falls, Idaho

230

$134,100

Source: BLS

Top-Paying States for Information Security Analysts, 2021

State

Number of Information Security Analysts Employed

Average Annual Salary

California

N/A

$135,200

New York

7,500

$133,210

Maryland

7,330

$126,110

Iowa

1,280

$125,650

Washington, D.C.

2,130

$124,980

Source: BLS

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Incident Responders' Job Outlook and Career Prospects

Cybersecurity jobs are projected to grow much faster than average. The BLS states careers in this field will continue to expand quickly due to an increase in cybersecurity attacks. As these attacks grow in volume, hackers' techniques are also expected to grow more sophisticated.

Through job experience and additional education, incident responders can move into management roles such as incident manager, director of incident response, or chief information security officer.

Information security careers thrive in major cities. Metropolises like New York, Dallas, and San Jose harbor troves of data and will likely remain major centers of employment for incident responders. However, with the continued digitization of data across industries, smaller localities will also need the services of cybersecurity professionals.

The BLS projection growth data below is for information security analysts, an umbrella term which includes incident responders.

Change in Projected Employment for Information Security Analysts


+33% from 2020 to 2030

Source: BLS

Best Locations for Incident Responders

Incident responders can work from nearly any location. However, like many tech jobs, these positions are often concentrated in major metropolitan areas that serve as hubs for finance, national security, or technology innovation.

According to the BLS, Virginia, Maryland, New York, and Texas in particular attract cybersecurity personnel. However, as remote work becomes more common — and as businesses and governments in every state digitize their operations — even less populous states are likely to offer more incident responder positions in the coming years.

Top States for Incident Responders

When considering where to work, incident responders should take several factors into account, including average salaries, demand for incident responders, and cost of living.

As detailed in the tables below, even less-populous states like Iowa and Utah offer high growth trajectories for information security analyst and computer support specialist positions, umbrella terms which include incident responders.

However, the states with the highest number of cybersecurity professionals contain large metropolitan areas like New York City, Houston, and Washington, D.C. Though many of these states offer higher-than-average salaries, these regions typically have higher costs of living.

Top-Employing States for Information Security Analysts, 2021

Top-Employing States

Number of Incident Responders Employed

Average Annual Salary

Virginia

16,930

$121,940

Texas

13,530

$101,800

Florida

9,360

$102,850

New York

7,500

$133,210

Maryland

7,330

$126,110

Source: BLS

States With the Greatest Projected Increase in Employment for Computer Network Support Specialists, 2018-28

State

Percent Projected Change, 2018-28

Average Annual Openings

Greatest Projected Percentage Increase

Utah

28.2%

130

Nevada

21.4

190

Colorado

19.3%

420

Washington, D.C.

17.6%

50

Texas

16.7%

1,360

Most Projected Average Annual Openings

Texas

16.7%

1,360

New York

10.2%

1,300

California

10.1%

1,240

Florida

11.5%

900

Illinois

2.5%

880

Source: Projections Central

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Top Metropolitan Areas for Incident Responders

Employers across America need incident responders. Technology, finance, and government hubs like New York and Washington, D.C. can offer employees access to many career opportunities.

Cybersecurity professionals should also consider the cost of living and quality of life in these locations before committing to a job offer. The tables below use BLS data for information security analysts, an umbrella term which includes incident responders.

Top-Employing Metropolitan Areas for Information Security Analysts, 2021

Metropolitan Area

Number of Incident Responders Employed

Average Annual Salary

Washington-Arlington-Alexandria, D.C.-Virginia-Maryland-West Virginia

15,690

$129,110

New York-Newark-Jersey City, New York-New Jersey-Pennsylvania

10,250

$134,390

Dallas-Fort Worth-Arlington, Texas

5,400

$108,550

Baltimore-Columbia-Towson, Maryland

4,050

$130,580

Atlanta-Sandy Springs-Roswell, Georgia

4,020

$110,450

Source: BLS

Best Industries for Incident Responders

Nearly all industries benefit from cybersecurity specialists like incident responders. Specifically, financial and investment firms, technology manufacturers, and media providers are among the best-paying fields.

Banks of all sizes need help protecting their customers against financial fraud. Technology manufacturers produce hardware and software that require safeguards from hackers. Media providers must ensure the security of sensitive information like communication and intellectual property.

Learn more about top-paying industries for incident responders. The tables below use BLS data for information security analysts, an umbrella term which includes information security analysts.

Top-Paying Industries for Information Security Analysts, 2021

Top-Paying Industries

Number of Incident Responders Employed

Average Annual Salary

Remediation and Other Waste Management Services

40

$173,250

Other Information Services

10,130

$149,540

Computer and Peripheral Equipment Manufacturing

400

$144,040

Securities, Commodity Contracts, and Other Financial Investments and Related Activities

3,140

$142,070

Motion Picture and Video Industries

60

$141,070

Source: BLS

Employment by Industry for Information Security Analysts, 2021

Industries With Highest Employment

Number of Incident Responders Employed

Average Annual Salary

Computer Systems Design and Related Services

42,590

$110,450

Management of Companies and Enterprises

14,790

$108,000

Credit Intermediation and Related Activities

10,170

$112,660

Other Information Services

10,130

$149,540

Management, Scientific, and Technical Consulting Services

8,660

$110,780

Source: BLS

Upward Mobility for Incident Responders

Incident responders often start their careers as network or security administrators. With more education and experience, they may move into advanced technical or managerial roles, such as incident response engineers or cyber incident responders.

For example, technical specialists could become intrusion detection specialists. These professionals help find and stop unauthorized access to data. Cybersecurity experts on the management track can become security managers. In this role, managers oversee a team of specialists and report to the highest levels of corporate leadership.

Advancement to specialist and management-level careers may require multiple degrees or industry certifications. Typically, companies require at least a bachelor's degree in cybersecurity or a related field for advanced positions. Professionals can sharpen their skills with a master's degree or MBA in a security-related discipline.

Industry certifications may also benefit an incident responder's career. Popular certifications for incident responders include certified computer examiner, certified ethical hacker, certified computer forensics examiner, and certified reverse engineering analyst.

Learn More About Incident Responders

1

What Is an Incident Responder?

Explore the role an incident responder plays in the world of cybersecurity.
Learn More
1

How to Become an Incident Responder

Are certifications enough to become an incident responder, or do you need an IT degree? Learn about the paths to becoming an incident responder.
Learn More
1

Day in the Life of an Incident Responder

Explore the typical duties an incident responder tackles, including reverse-engineering data breaches and coordinating with the rest of the cybersecurity team.
Learn More
1

Certifications for Incident Responders

Certified ethical hacker? Certified penetration tester? These leading industry certifications can boost an incident responder's earning potential and lead to promotions. Find out which certifications to pursue.
Learn More

FAQ About Incident Response Careers


What is the average salary for an incident response position?

Payscale data from May 2022 shows the average salary for incident responders is $87,810 per year.

Where is the best state to work as an incident responder?

According to the BLS, the five highest-paying states for cybersecurity specialists are California, New York, Maryland, Iowa, and Washington, D.C.

Which industry is the best to work in as an incident responder?

According to the BLS, cybersecurity experts who work in information, corporate management, and finance and insurance earn the highest average salaries. For example, security analysts working in an information setting earn a median annual wage of $128,970, compared to the median wage of $102,600 for all information security analysts.

What is the typical career trajectory for an incident responder?

An incident responder usually holds at least a bachelor's degree in an IT-related field along with industry certifications. They often have 1-5 years of experience as a network or system administrator.


Featured Image: gorodenkoff / iStock / Getty Images Plus

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