Where will I make more money in Cybersecurity: Governmental or private sector?

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Salary is an important consideration when applying for a job. However, in most cases, it is not the sole factor in the decision process. The geographical location, size of the company, advancement possibilities, health benefits, potential for raises, education assistance, savings plan/401K, and pension are all elements to contemplate.

There are many ingredients to wages. Where you work has a strong influence. Generally, salaries are higher where there is a steep cost of living, particularly housing. Cities with a more significant population tend to have more expensive real estate. Kiplinger reports that Manhattan, New York, has a cost of living at 148.5% above the national average. The median income there is $79,781. Whereas, it reports that Portland, Oregon, has the cost of living 31% above the U.S. average. The median salary is $61,532. The median home value in the latter is $915,300 and $352,700 in Portland. Both cities are on the 20 Most Expensive List for 2019.

The same financial publication lists Memphis, Tennessee, as one of the least expensive cities with the cost of living 19.4% below the U.S. average. The median home value is $94,200, and the average income is $38,230. Much cheaper place to live, but your salary could be considerably less.

DegreeQuery.com is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.

Private Sector

Cybersecurity has more job openings than qualified people to fill them. Therefore, from a job security perspective, this is a wise choice for a career.

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Salaries are increasing due to the accelerated demand: the average advertised salary in cybersecurity is $93,540 —16%, more than the average for all IT jobs.

Corporations can set their salary structure. Some of the elements of wage determination are education, experience, certifications, the profitability of the company, and geographical location. A company with fewer than one hundred employees may pay less than a large corporation with billions in assets. For example, Boeing had quarterly revenue of $22.9 billion in the first quarter of 2019. There is a job posting for an experienced cybersecurity assessment specialist at the company. They offer employee incentives, twelve weeks parental leave, top-ranked 401(K), and 100% payment to obtain or advance your STEM education at the college level. Although no salary figure is provided, the total compensation package is likely to be more attractive than a smaller, less profitable company is.

Cybercrime Magazine reports that working as a Freelance Bug Bounty Hunter can pay north of $500k to accomplished hackers. A Chief Information Security Officer (CISO) can earn between $380k and $420k at Fortune 500 companies in major cities. There are also job opportunities with cybersecurity consulting firms. For example, Cisco has an annual revenue of $49-50 billion. ScienceSoft in McKinney, Texas, is in the cybersecurity services; its revenue is $20-$25 million.

We do not have the salary data on the above companies. Instead, we look to wage information on reputable employment sites, such as Indeed. It reports an average income for IT Security Specialist at $114,402, based on 3,951 salaries reported from private companies in the United States.

PayScale, as a comparison, reports the average salary for a Cyber Security Analyst at $75,871, inclusive of up to $15k commission, $5,062 bonus, and $4,112 profit sharing. The site has the average early career for the position at $70,075.


As a federal government employee, the General Schedule (GS) payscale determines your income. The GS system applies to 70% of federal workers. There are two components to the base pay: GS Grade and Paygrade Step. There are fifteen Grades and ten Steps for each. A GS-1, Step 1 has a base salary of $19,048 (2019 data); Step 10 is at $23,827. The lower steps of each grade are typically a few thousand dollars less than the highest step in the preceding grade. For example, a GS-6, Step 1 is $32,716, whereas a GS-5, Step 10, is at $38,152.

The category or Job Series 082 refers to Security Administration. It has a GS range of 4 to 15. The Federal Bureau of Investigation and Department of Homeland Security are two of the agencies comprising the Series 082. An Information Technology Manager earns $111,107.05 based on the 2018 average.

There is another category on the federal pay scale, namely the Law Enforcement Payscale (LEO). The LEO is the scale used for the salaries of law enforcement officers at any of the 130 different Federal agencies. It ranges from LEO-3 to 10; the highest income is the LEO-10, Step 10, at $65,293 (2019). This maximum is lower than the GS-15, Steep 10 of $138,572.

An Intelligence Analyst in the U.S. Department of Homeland Security has an average wage of $79,096, according to PayScale. According to the FBI site, an Intelligence Analyst salary ranges from a GS-7 ($36,356/Step 1) to GS-15, Step 10 of $138,572. (Find out more about what degree you need to be an intelligence analyst.)

Private vs. Federal

The GS levels will dictate your salary, whereas the private sector does not these ranges and limitations. As stated above, corporations can pay what they deem is competitive (and beyond), according to the demand and need for cybersecurity professionals.

A 2015 report published on Nextgov stated that the average salary for federal cybersecurity workers was $110,500. The private sector, in this report, noted the average cyber professional earned $118,000 in 2015 — very little difference.

As addressed above, there are several elements to consider when deciding which sector suits your career. They each have pros and cons. At the federal level, you may have more paid vacation, better benefits, job security, a guaranteed pension, and more. The private sector can be less restrictive and controlled, yet have comparable pay and benefits. The federal government employs about 2 million full-time employees, which creates opportunities to branch into other areas of the cyber world. You could be limited in the private sector with fewer employees with a small cyber department.

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