Is cyber security and digital forensics a good career?

With the rapid growth of technology and internet connectivity around the world, cyber threats have also increased exponentially. As a result, the demand for cyber security and digital forensics professionals has skyrocketed in recent years. But is it really a promising career path worth pursuing? Let’s take a detailed look at the pros and cons of building a career in cyber security and digital forensics.

The growing need for cyber security

Cyber attacks and data breaches have become common occurrences that target individuals, businesses, and governments alike. A report from RiskBased Security revealed that a shocking 7.9 billion records have been exposed by data breaches in the first nine months of 2019 alone. This highlights the alarming rate at which sensitive data is being compromised.

As per another report, global losses from cybercrime are expected to reach $6 trillion annually by 2021. This number illustrates the staggering cost of cyber attacks on the worldwide economy.

Moreover, a study by ESG and ISSA found that 63% of organizations faced a shortage of cyber security skills in 2019. With the shortage of talent and the rising frequency of cyber attacks, there is a huge unmet demand for trained cyber security and digital forensics professionals.

Growing career opportunities

The massive demand for cyber security talent has led to a boom in career opportunities in this field. Some of the top jobs include:

  • Information security analyst
  • Security engineer
  • Security architect
  • Penetration tester
  • Security consultant
  • Incident responder
  • Forensics investigator
  • Security auditor
  • Chief Information Security Officer (CISO)

These jobs are available across all industry sectors, including IT, telecom, healthcare, retail, finance, utilities, and government organizations. There are also opportunities to work with law enforcement agencies and cyber security vendors.

Lucrative salaries

The high demand coupled with acute skills shortage has driven up the salaries for cyber security roles. According to the (ISC)2 Cybersecurity Workforce Study, the average global salary for information security professionals is $90,000 annually. In the US, cyber security salaries average around $112,000 per year.

Higher designations command even bigger paychecks. For instance, the average salary for a Chief Information Security Officer in the US is about $239,500 as per PayScale.

Designation Average Salary in USA
Entry Level Cyber Security Analyst $65,000
Information Security Manager $140,000
IT Security Director $170,000
Chief Information Security Officer (CISO) $239,500

Clearly, a career in cyber security promises excellent financial rewards in addition to an exciting and challenging profession.

Dynamic work environment

For people who love solving complex puzzles and issues, cyber security offers a dynamic and stimulating work environment. The field is continuously evolving with new technologies, threats, tools and regulations.

Cyber security roles involve researching, analyzing, investigating, identifying and neutralizing threats. Professionals need to stay updated on the latest security trends and threats to implement robust defenses and mitigate risks.

Every day brings new challenges that require creative problem-solving skills and out-of-the-box thinking. Cyber security work also provides opportunities to collaborate with diverse teams and make major contributions that impact organization-wide security.

Growing industry

The cyber security industry has been growing at a brisk pace over the past decade. Research firm Gartner predicts that worldwide spending on information security will cross $170 billion by 2022.

Several factors are fueling this growth, including:

  • Increasing frequency and complexity of cyberattacks
  • Stringent data protection regulations
  • Shift towards cloud computing and remote work
  • Proliferation of IoT and connected devices
  • Big investments in security tools and infrastructure

This exponential growth translates into stability and abundance of job opportunities for cyber security professionals. The industry is also working actively to attract more talent and bridge the skills gap.

Career advancement and leadership opportunities

Cyber security offers clear paths for career progression, from entry level to advanced roles. Professionals can choose to gain expertise in specific domains like application security, network security, incident response, forensics or compliance.

They can also move into leadership and management positions as Information Security Managers, CISOs and Security Directors. Tech companies are also appointing Chief Security Officers (CSOs) dedicated to overseeing all security initiatives.

With each year of experience, cyber security professionals gain knowledge and credibility to assume bigger responsibilities and influence strategic decisions. Many sought-after cyber security experts also pursue consulting careers and establish their own firms.

Job security

The persistent talent crunch and soaring demand act as assurance that cyber security jobs are highly secure. Information security has become a top strategic priority due to which professionals are being valued more than ever.

Cybersecurity positions have one of the lowest unemployment rates across IT occupations. Data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics reveals that network and computer systems administrators had an unemployment rate of just 1.7% in 2018.

With cyber threats growing unabated, organizations continue to heavily invest in security infrastructure and skilled teams. This offers long-term employment stability for cyber security professionals.

Global mobility

Cyber security skills are sought after across geographic regions. Professionals can leverage their in-demand expertise to immigrate to other countries or even work remotely for employers worldwide.

Many nations even offer expedited visa options to attract cyber security talent. For instance, Australia’s Global Talent Independent program provides a fast-tracked pathway to permanent residency for highly skilled cyber security professionals.

Global mobility brings immense career growth opportunities as well as higher salaries and better quality of living. Cyber security roles provide professionals the flexibility to choose where they wish to live and work.

Societal impact

At its core, cyber security aims to create a safe digital world for governments, businesses and citizens alike. By protecting critical infrastructure, data, and privacy, security professionals make an invaluable impact on society.

Their skills and passion serve the greater purpose of enabling technological progress in a secure manner. For those motivated by a higher cause, cyber security offers a meaningful career path to empower institutions and safeguard our hyperconnected world.

Exciting work culture

The technology industry is known for innovative cultures that promote out-of-the-box thinking, flat hierarchies, and diversity. Cyber security professionals get exposure to agile work practices, flexible schedules, remote work options and learning opportunities.

Many tech firms have recreational spaces with gaming zones, recreational rooms, gyms, snack bars and cafeterias that encourage creative collaboration. The emphasis is on productivity rather than rigid policies. Cyber security roles typically enjoy good work-life balance as well.

Challenging learning curve

While a college degree and cyber security certifications are preferred, the field rewards skills over qualifications. Cyber security requires continuous learning to stay updated on the evolving threat landscape.

Professionals need to master complex tools and technologies across domains like networking, operating systems, cryptography, cloud computing, programming etc. Keeping pace with new developments via training, conferences and communities can be demanding.

Moreover, the field typically expects availability outside work hours to handle emergencies like breaches and outages. The high-pressure environment also brings risks of burnout and work-life imbalance.

Strenuous work conditions

Cyber security roles can be high-stress and strenuous, especially for incident response teams. Professionals are expected to think and act quickly during security events that could severely impact organizations.

They need to carry out time-sensitive forensics, track sophisticated attackers, patch vulnerabilities simultaneously across systems and minimize business disruption. This requires working for prolonged hours under extreme pressure.

Such crisis-mode work conditions lead to fatigue and ultimately contribute to the high attrition seen in the field. Many professionals switch careers midway or transition into non-technical cyber security roles to avoid burnout.

Steep learning curve for beginners

The cyber security field presents a remarkably steep learning curve for new entrants who lack any background or experience. They not only have to learn a broad spectrum of technical domains but also stay updated continuously.

Most entry-level cyber security jobs require proficiency across operating systems, networking, system administration, databases, analytics, programming etc. Simultaneously gaining expertise across so many areas can prolong the time to become job-ready.

Beginners also need to master the tools and techniques used in domains like ethical hacking, forensics, risk assessment, compliance etc. The absence of structured learning pathways exacerbates the already difficult transition into cyber security roles.

Risk of outsourcing and offshoring

The cyber security talent gap has led more organizations to leverage outsourcing and offshoring as cost-optimization approaches. iT staffing firm Mondo estimates that 82% of companies now outsource cybersecurity functions.

Offshoring of security operations like monitoring, penetration testing and incident response to overseas providers has also grown exponentially. While this mitigates talent shortage, it also takes away promising job opportunities from the domestic workforce.

Moreover, offshoring and outsourcing can raise risks of compromised data, inferior execution and lack of visibility for organizations. But its cost savings appeal makes the trend likely to continue growing and impact local hiring.

Constant Evolving Threat Landscape

One of the biggest challenges in cybersecurity and digital forensics is the constantly evolving threat landscape. New attack techniques, malware variants, and evasion tactics emerge constantly.

Staying ahead of the latest threats requires continuous learning and research. This can be mentally taxing for professionals who need to be in a perpetual state of learning just to keep their skills and knowledge current.

Moreover, it becomes challenging to select and implement effective security controls when new zero-day exploits, unpatched vulnerabilities, and advanced persistent threats are unleashed at a rapid pace.

Dealing with False Positives

Modern cyber defense relies heavily on security analytics tools like SIEM and anomaly detection systems. While these tools provide visibility, they are also notorious for generating excessive false positives.

Security teams often spend a large chunk of their time chasing false alerts and minimizing noise instead of responding to actual incidents. Tuning these systems to reduce false positives while not missing true attacks is an uphill battle.

Workplace Stress

While exciting, cybersecurity roles also bring tremendous workplace stress. Professionals are responsible for securing the organization’s most valued data and assets.

The fear of making mistakes that could lead to successful breaches keeps professionals under constant pressure. Long and unpredictable work hours also contribute to burnout.

Often cybersecurity teams are understaffed and overworked trying to stay on top of an avalanche of daily security tasks. All these factors damage work-life balance and mental health.

Lack of Context for Threat Intelligence

Today’s defenders rely heavily on threat intelligence feeds to stay updated on active threats targeting their industry and region.

However, these intelligence alerts often lack context on adversary motivations, capabilities and attack patterns. This makes it difficult for security teams to prioritize response and remediation based on true risk levels.

Threat intel is most useful when enriched with contextual factors like victim demographics, observed stages of the kill chain, and attacker behaviors.

Lack of Skilled Cybersecurity Professionals

Worldwide shortage of skilled cybersecurity talent continues to be a major workforce challenge. Organizations struggle to recruit professionals with competencies in security monitoring, incident response, forensics, penetration testing etc.

College grads also often lack the practical hands-on skills beyond theoretical knowledge. As talent demand outpaces supply, organizations end up with understaffed and overworked security teams.

Even outsourcing providers face a crunch of qualified personnel leading to delivery gaps. Addressing the workforce shortage via education, training and diversity remains an uphill task.

Constant Patching and Updating

Enterprise security teams get bombarded with an endless stream of patches for OS, software, firmware and drivers. Assessing risk severity, testing patches, scheduling downtime, and installing updates across thousands of endpoints is a relentless task.

The workload spikes significantly when a serious vulnerability like Log4j or Heartbleed is disclosed. The absence of a robust patch management process can allow adversaries to exploit known bugs and breach networks.

Rising Costs

As networks expand and threats increase, organizations have to continually invest in new security tools, infrastructure and staff. Gartner forecasts that enterprise security budgets will grow on average by 5% annually through 2025.

But security leaders still struggle to get sufficient funding due to competing priorities. Demonstrating ROI and getting management buy-in for security initiatives thus becomes an ongoing hurdle.

Additionally, rising vendor and personnel costs due to high demand also strains security budgets. Striking the right balance between cost management and effectiveness is tricky.

Lack of Security Training for Employees

Despite efforts by security teams, many employees still lack good cyber hygiene habits and awareness of threats like phishing, ransomware and business email compromise scams.

Neglecting ongoing security training and testing through methods like simulations makes employees susceptible to social engineering and insider threats.

Building a workplace culture of security-aware employees who serve as a strong last line of defense remains an unsolved challenge for most organizations.


In summary, a career in cyber security offers many compelling benefits like high pay, abundant job opportunities, exciting work, leadership potential, stability, and societal impact. However, the field also brings its share of challenges including a difficult learning curve, stressful work conditions, evolving threats and risks of outsourcing.

For those with aptitude and passion for the field, the rewards clearly outweigh the frustrations. Cyber security is a highly promising career path today given massive talent shortages, lucrative salaries, flexibility of work options and rising demand. Aspiring professionals who undertake formal education, certifications and continuous learning can excel in this fast-growing field despite its admitted challenges.