Security Skills Are Sizzling

IT professionals with proven security skills, professional certifications and government security clearances have a distinct advantage in the technology job market.

Demand for IT security professionals with certifications is hot and does not appear to be cooling down. Whether for federal government organizations, enterprises or small and midsize businesses, several studies reveal a strong demand for security skills.

"Professionals with 'cyber' on their resume can command a 20 percent salary premium, as both the public and private sectors are becoming more aggressive in building their security-talent pipeline," Tom Silver, vice president at online technology job board Dice, said in a statement. "Efforts in cyber-security have been gathering momentum, but they've become white-hot in the last 24 months and there is a growing sense of urgency among officials and technology executives."

Security-related certifications are also in demand. A forthcoming quarterly analyst report on IT skills and certifications from Foote Partners ranks security certifications in continuing high demand along with network, virtualization, open source, Windows, and Java programming. But security certifications are undoubtedly the dominant force in 2010.

"The security bubble continues to burst in 2010," David Foote, chief research officer and CEO of Foote Partners, said in an interview with eWEEK.

Certifications in security auditing, security system administration and intrusion analysts among those expected to be in the most demand over the next six months.

"Since 2007, when this recession started, overall the market value of security certs is up 3 percent," Foote said in a podcast with Interarbor Solutions. "But if you look at all 200 certified skills that we track in this survey that we do of 406 skills, overall skills have dropped about 6.5 percent in value, but security certifications are up 2.9 [percent]."

Individuals with federal security clearances, for example, have a distinct advantage in the marketplace in terms of ability to obtain high salaries, according to a February study by Dice-owned At issue for employers, however, is a high turnover rate since the best way for individuals to reach these salary heights is by changing jobs, pointed out in the study.

"Continued increases in defense and homeland security needs drive both the strong job market and healthy compensation," said Evan Lesser, director of "However, government agencies and contractors should take note of the turnover issue, which isn't new, but indicates a level of competition to fill key security-cleared positions not seen in other industries."

Yet, turnover is not the only issue in play. Uncle Sam is having a difficult time attracting security professionals away from the private sector. Average salaries may be a tad higher with the government, but they are not necessarily enough to draw workers away from the cushion of the private sector.

The ClearanceJobs study revealed that on average those with Federal security clearances garnered salaries of $92,368. If you are willing to pass a polygraph test, then the average pay increases over 20 percent to $105,785. In terms of job satisfaction, 62 percent of 3,633 security-cleared workers polled found their job experiences positive.

"To be sure, professionals are becoming well-versed in the area, and certifications like CISSP allow them to demonstrate their skills," Silver said. "But at the end of the day, the pipeline of talent is still being filled with the first generation of technology professionals who have the option to make full careers of cyber-security."