Security Specialist Salary and Career Outlook

| Liz Simmons Modified on April 27, 2022

Security Specialist Salary and Career Outlook

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Security specialists help organizations protect their information and data from cyberattacks. These professionals monitor computer systems for intrusions and implement best practices to improve cybersecurity. A career as a security specialist typically requires a bachelor's degree in a field related to computer science.

Cybersecurity specialist salaries tend to exceed the national average. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports information security analysts, a career similar to security specialists, earned a median annual salary of $103,590 as of 2020.

This page explores job prospects and salaries for security specialists. The BLS does not report on security specialists specifically. Instead, we use BLS data from information security analysts, whose jobs are similar.

What Is a Security Specialist's Job Description?

Security specialists, also called cybersecurity specialists, secure computer systems to protect organizations' valuable data and information. Security specialists work in computer security, a specialized subfield of computer science. Typical duties include troubleshooting security systems, installing new security products, and testing security components.

A career as a security specialist entails educating staff members on security products and procedures and assisting with other information technology issues.

Security specialists must stay up to date on security best practices and emerging cyberthreats. A career as a security specialist entails educating staff members on security products and procedures and assisting with other information technology issues. Security specialist duties also include making security recommendations to management.

Important skills for security specialists include testing and auditing, security risk management, IT security and infrastructure, and intrusion detection. With cyberattacks increasing in recent years, the demand for cybersecurity professionals continues to grow. Security specialists find work in industries like banking and insurance, government agencies, computer research and development, and aerospace.

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How Much Does a Security Specialist Make?

According to January 2022 Payscale data, security specialists earn an average annual salary of $66,960. The average salary for security specialists can increase substantially over time, making this job a lucrative long-term career choice.

Cybersecurity specialist earnings vary by experience, education level, and specialization. Other factors impacting salaries for security specialists include location and industry. To maximize earning potential, consider the data below about salary differences.

$66,960


Source: Payscale

Security Specialist Average Salary by Experience

The average salary for security specialists varies significantly by experience level. Security specialists with less experience earn lower average salaries than professionals with longer tenure in the field.

According to Payscale data from January 2022, security specialists with less than one year of experience earn $56,230 per year on average. The most experienced security specialists — workers with more than 20 years on the job — earned an average salary of $92,990.

Security Specialist Average Salary by Education

Generally, the average salary for security specialists increases alongside education level. For example, Payscale data from January 2022 reveals professionals with only an associate degree in cybersecurity earn an average annual salary of $52,000, compared to $73,000 for graduates with a bachelor's degree in cybersecurity.

The average salary for a security specialist with a master's degree in cybersecurity was even higher: $89,000 a year as of 2022. A security specialist might pursue higher education to qualify for advanced and management-level positions.

Weigh the time and monetary commitments of completing additional education with the potential benefits of higher salaries and better job opportunities.

Discover which education path is right for you

Security Specialist Average Salary by Location

Location also impacts the average salary for a security specialist. Some states, cities, and metropolitan areas pay a higher average salary for security specialists than others. Demand for the profession, cost of living, and population density all impact salary. Cities usually feature higher salaries and more expensive costs of living than rural areas.

The BLS does not provide career data for security specialists. The tables below present data for top-paying metro areas, cities, and states for information security analysts, a similar career.

Top-Paying Cities for Information Security Specialists, 2022

City Average Annual Salary Percent Above the National Average
Phoenix, AZ $114,670 49.4%
Washington, D.C. $107,650 40.3%
San Diego, CA $105,000 36.8%
Source: Payscale

Security specialists earn high salaries in Phoenix, San Diego, and Washington, D.C.

Top-Paying Metropolitan Areas for Information Security Analysts, 2020

Metropolitan Area Number of Security Specialists Employed Average Annual Salary
San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara, CA 1,870 $147,160
San Francisco-Oakland-Hayward, CA 2,590 $136,910
Idaho Falls, ID 210 $130,620
New York-Newark-Jersey City, NY-NJ-PA 8,280 $130,000
Bridgeport-Stamford-Norwalk, CT 160 $128,750
Source: BLS

California boasts two of the top-paying metro areas for security specialists. Cybersecurity professionals also make high salaries in Idaho Falls, Idaho; the New York-Newark-Jersey City metro area; and the Bridgeport-Stamford-Norwalk region of Connecticut.

Top-Paying States for Information Security Analysts, 2020

State Number of Security Specialists Employed Average Annual Salary
California 10,470 $125,990
New York 6,450 $125,920
New Jersey 4,000 $123,280
Washington, D.C. 1,810 $119,460
Virginia 16,160 $116,920
Source: BLS

Top-paying states for security specialists include California, New York, and New Jersey. Washington, D.C. and Virginia also rank in the top five.

Security Specialists' Job Outlook and Career Prospects

Pursuing a career as a security specialist can lead to excellent job security in positions with above-average salaries. Because of the ongoing threat of cyberattacks, job growth projections for security specialists and related careers is very high. The BLS projects a 33% growth for information security analysts from 2020-2030.

Other factors spurring demand for cybersecurity professionals include the increasing use of cloud services and electronic medical records. Cyber Seek reported over 500,000 cybersecurity job openings across U.S. industries as of January 2022.

The BLS projects a 33% growth for information security analysts from 2020-2030.

With experience and additional education, security specialists can advance into better-paying management positions like chief security officer or computer and information systems manager.

The data below is not specific to security specialists but represents information security analysts, a similar career with BLS data.

+33% from 2020 to 2030


Source: BLS

Best Locations for Security Specialist Careers

Location impacts the type and number of potential jobs for security specialists. The demand for cybersecurity professionals varies by region, state, and city. Security specialists typically find more job opportunities in metropolitan areas than in rural parts of the country. However, the growing prevalence of remote work may mean physical location matters less for career decisions than it once did.

Top States for Security Specialists

Virginia and California provide some of the best opportunities for cybersecurity specialists. Both states offer high salaries and plenty of security specialist job openings. This makes it easier to find a good-paying job in these states.

The top-employing states for a career as a security specialist include Virginia, Texas, and California. Florida and Maryland also rank among the top five.

The data in the following tables is not specific to security specialists, but represents information security analysts, a similar career with BLS data.

Top-Employing States for Information Security Analysts, 2020

Top-Employing States Number of Security Specialists Employed Average Annual Salary
Virginia 16,160 $116,920
Texas 13,410 $113,400
California 10,470 $125,990
Florida 7,600 $95,190
Maryland 7,090 $111,310
Source: BLS

States With the Greatest Projected Increase in Employment for Information Security Analysts, 2018-28

State Percent Projected Change, 2018-28 Average Annual Openings
Greatest Projected Percentage Increase
Utah 59.3% 80
District of Columbia 52.6% 220
Colorado 50.3% 510
Virginia 45.4% 1,930
Nevada 44.2% 70
Most Projected Average Annual Openings
Virginia 45.4% 1,930
Texas 38.2% 1,040
New York 34.3% 830
Florida 44% 750
California 32.7% 630
Source: Projections Central

Top Metropolitan Areas for Security Specialists

Large metropolitan areas often offer higher average salaries and a larger number of jobs for security specialists. However, security professionals should also consider cost of living and quality of life in these areas when applying for jobs.

Top-employing metro areas for cybersecurity specialists include Washington, D.C.-Arlington-Alexandria; New York-Newark-New Jersey; and Dallas-Fort Worth-Arlington. Other metro areas with high levels of security specialists include Boston-Cambridge-Nashua and Baltimore-Columbia-Towson.

The data below is not specific to security specialists, but represents information security analysts, a similar career with BLS data.

Top-Employing Metropolitan Areas for Information Security Analysts, 2020

Metropolitan Area Number of Security Specialists Employed Average Annual Salary
Washington-Arlington-Alexandria, DC-VA-MD-WV 15,750 $117,920
New York-Newark-Jersey City, NY-NJ-PA 8,280 $130,000
Dallas-Fort Worth-Arlington, TX 6,130 $117,480
Boston-Cambridge-Nashua, MA-NH 4,520 $109,220
Baltimore-Columbia-Towson, MD 4,370 $112,870
Source: BLS

Best Industries for Security Specialist Careers

Diverse industries employ cybersecurity specialists. Consider both the number of jobs for security specialists available and the average salary for security specialists by industry. Some of the top-paying industries offer a very small number of jobs for security specialists, so the chance of finding work in that industry may be lower.

The data in the tables below is not specific to security specialists, but represents information security analysts, a similar career with BLS data.

Top-Paying Industries for Information Security Analysts, 2020

Top-Paying Industries Number of Security Specialists Employed Average Annual Salary
Electronic Shopping and Mail-Order Houses 330 $132,150
Other Information Services 680 $131,050
Semiconductor and Other Electronic Component Manufacturing 790 $128,330
Automotive Repair and Maintenance 40 $127,150
Legal Services 660 $125,980
Source: BLS

Employment by Industry for Information Security Analysts, 2020

Industries With Highest Employment Number of Security Specialists Employed Average Annual Salary
Computer Systems Design and Related Services 36,280 $108,910
Management of Companies and Enterprises 13,330 $104,960
Credit Intermediation and Related Activities (5221 and 5223 only) 10,880 $110,490
Management, Scientific, and Technical Consulting Services 7,410 $110,440
Insurance Carriers 5,450 $103,230
Source: BLS

Upward Mobility for Security Specialists

The cybersecurity field offers upward mobility through more advanced roles. These career opportunities include working as chief information security officers, information security consultants, security directors, and computer and information systems managers. These jobs differ from security specialists in their scope and level of responsibility.

These senior security positions may pay above-average salaries for security specialists. For example, Payscale data from January 2022 shows chief information security officers earn an average annual salary of $166,940. Computer and information systems managers earned a median annual salary of $151,150 as of 2020, according to the BLS.

Security specialists can move into these roles through experience, additional education, and professional certifications.

Learn More About Security Specialists

What Is a Security Specialist?

What Is a Security Specialist?

This page describes what to expect from a career as a security specialist, including typical duties and work environments.

How to Become a Security Specialist

How to Become a Security Specialist

Learn the steps for becoming a security specialist. We outline typical education and experience requirements.

Day in the Life of a Security Specialist

Day in the Life of a Security Specialist

This page includes a summary of what to expect from a typical day on the job as a security specialist.

Certifications for Security Specialists

Certifications for Security Specialists

Find out which certifications can help you land jobs for security specialists. We explain what to expect from the certification process.

Security Specialists' Salary and Career FAQs

What are the highest-paying security specialist jobs?

Many jobs for security specialists offer high salaries. For example, information security analysts earned a median annual salary of $103,590 as of 2020. The potential salary for a security specialist varies by experience, education level, location, and industry.

Where is the best state to work as a security specialist?

The answer to this question depends on your preferences and needs. In terms of salary and job availability, California and Virginia are two states with promising career prospects for security specialists.

How do I increase my salary as a cybersecurity specialist?

Ways to increase a cybersecurity specialist salary include pursuing higher education, earning a certification, or moving to an area with more cybersecurity jobs. The average salary for security specialists goes up for those with higher degrees.

What degree do you need to have a security specialist career?

For a career as a security specialist, you often need at least a bachelor's degree in a computer science-related field. Completing a master's degree can open the door to more advanced jobs with higher salaries.


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