The rising demand for infosec jobs
The demand for cybersecurity jobs hasn’t waned in the last decade. On the contrary, the talent gap has been widening. And given the growing magnitude of data breaches across all industries — and a 50 percent increase in 2019 over the previous four years — it’s a good bet that this need will continue to grow.
Consider these numbers:
- In the United States alone, there’s an estimated cybersecurity workforce shortage of nearly half million workers (source)
- The ratio of supply to demand (meaning the number of workers to the number of openings) is 1.9 for the industry, compared to 4.9 national average for all jobs (source)
- The cybersecurity specialist occupation is growing at an annual compound rate of 30 percent (source)
- The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects a 32 percent growth in the employment for information security analysts between 2018 and 2028
While the demand is strong across the country, some states rise to the top based on criteria such as the number of openings and salary. Let’s take a look at some of the best states for cybersecurity jobs. (Note: Except for Virginia, these are not listed in any particular order of ranking).
Virginia: Top for public sector
Washington, D.C., and surrounding areas in Maryland and Virginia are hot for cybersecurity jobs and home to numerous cybersecurity companies. Virginia, in particular, takes the torch for the number of job openings in the public sector, as well as the number of private sector jobs outside of Silicon Valley. Consumer website Comparitech ranked Virginia as the No. 1 state for information security jobs, based on data such as salary, job openings and long-term projections.
Northern Virginia’s dominant role in federal contracting is one reason behind the state’s robust positioning. Of the top 100 federal technology contractors in D.C. area, 41 are headquartered in Virginia, including seven out of the top 10. According to CyberSeek (a project of the National Initiative for Cybersecurity Education), Virginia had 4,234 job postings for the public sector in 2019 and 45,435 in the private sector. For comparison, California had 3,440 and 68,683, respectively.
“Virginia has been at the forefront of growth as the cybersecurity industry has scaled up,” says the Virginia Economic Development Partnership on its website. “Given its dominant position in federal contracting, Northern Virginia is a breeding ground for the cybersecurity industry, and Virginia is seeing growth throughout the state with the establishment of company security operations centers.”
Texas: High growth potential
Home to tech behemoths like Dell and Texas Instruments — and the country’s top exporter of technology — Texas has risen to the top in the cybersecurity sector as well. Ranked No. 2 by the Comparitech report, Texas was the second state in 2018 for infosec analyst employment (according to BLS) and third in cybersecurity openings overall in 2019 (according to CyberSeek).
In its latest annual rankings, Business Facilities named Texas the top state for cybersecurity growth potential. The industry magazine based its rankings on criteria such as higher education resources, research labs and innovation centers, employment and the overall cyber ecosystem. Business Facilities specifically noted San Antonio, which bills itself as the “Cyber City,” for its mature and growing cybersecurity industry, including six NSA Excellence Centers, many cybersecurity hubs and more than 40 cybersecurity company headquarters.
According to the article, “What began in 1948 when the Air Force established its Security Service operations in San Antonio has grown into one of the nation’s leading cybersecurity hubs, with the highest concentration of cyber and intelligence professionals outside of the national capital region.”
New York: Best compensation
In addition to a high number of industry openings and a large supply of workers, New York state has the highest salaries of all states for cybersecurity analysts. BLS data shows the average pay for analysts was $58.65 in 2018, or a mean salary of $122,000.
New York City is pushing to become a global center for the industry and add 10,000 jobs. One initiative is Cyber NYC by the NYC Economic Development Corp., which seeks to bring in $100 million worth of public-private investments to make the city “an international landing pad” for cybersecurity. More than two dozen companies on the Cybersecurity 500 index are headquartered in NYC, including Booz Allen Hamilton, Accenture and Deloitte.
Colorado: Big employment growth
According to Comparitech, Colorado has the biggest five-year increase in cybersecurity employment, at 139 percent — compared to only around 37 percent for New York and Virginia. Business Facilities also ranked the state No. 8 for cybersecurity growth.
Considering the lower cost of living, it stands to reason that this would be a popular destination for security pros, especially those who love the outdoors. The cost of living is 77 percent higher in San Francisco, for example, so it’s not surprising that Colorado is the fifth in the nation in the highest concentration of tech workers in general. At the same time, an analysis by Indeed.com found that Denver, Colorado, was the fifth highest-paying metro area for infosec specialists.
After D.C., Virginia and Maryland, Colorado also shows the highest location quotient on the CyberSeek map. Location quotient measures the concentrations of the states’ cybersecurity job demand relative to the national average. With 1 being the average, Colorado’s quotient is 2.40. For comparison, D.C.’s is 7.9, Virginia’s 4.60 and Maryland’s 2.70 — while both California and Texas are under 2. (BLS shows smaller numbers, but Colorado still comes fourth after these same areas.)
California: Economic king
Silicon Valley still holds its own when it comes to tech — CompTIA says the state’s economy equals the combined total of the bottom 25 states. The technology sector plays a major role in that and the state has a notable net gain in tech employment, as well as having the eighth-highest concentration of tech workers.
Specific to cybersecurity, data from different sources shows that California has several things going for it. For example:
- It had the highest number of jobs advertised: 5,008 (Comparitech)
- It’s one of eight states with the highest location quotient (CyberSeek)
- Based on the employment level for analysts, it’s the third in the country (BLS)
But Silicon Valley may not necessarily be the biggest hub in the state, at least when it comes to security analysts — it’s the Los Angeles metro area that has the highest employment level (no. 6 in the nation), according to BLS.
In conclusion: Go anywhere you want
Regardless of whether you want to live on the East or West Coast or anywhere in between, the prospects for a career in cybersecurity are good, and that’s not likely to change any time soon. There are many great reasons to pursue a career in this field, and the strong job demand is just one of them.
- Data breaches increased 54% in 2019 so far, TechRepublic
- 2019 Cybersecurity Workforce Study, (ISC)2
- 2020 Emerging Jobs Report, LinkedIn
- Information Security Analysts, Occupational Outlook Handbook, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
- 2019 US Cybersecurity Salary & Employment Study – which state has the best prospects?, Comparitech
- Virginia Economic Development Partnership
- 9 Industries Driving GDP Growth in the Texas Economy, Investopedia
- Occupational Employment and Wages, May 2018, Information Security Analysts, BLS
- Business Facilities’ 15th Annual Rankings: State Rankings Report, Business Facilities
- Cyber NYC, NYC Economic Development Corp.
- The Top 10 Cybersecurity Hubs for 2019, CSO online
- U.S. Tech Hubs, Built In
- Cyberstates 2019, CompTIA
- Cybersecurity Spotlight 2018: Where Are the Highest Paying Jobs?, Indeed.com