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Security Skills Command Premiums in Tight Market

Recession fears notwithstanding, cybersecurity skills — both credentialed and noncredentialed — continue to attract higher pay and more job security.

Company executives continue to voice concerns that a recession is likely in 2023, but cybersecurity professionals — along with IT workers and developers with cybersecurity knowledge — appear well-positioned to weather an economic downturn, according to technology-job experts.

Overall, professional certifications have provided declining salary premiums since 2018, but information security certifications continue to command significantly above-average pay premiums, according to an analysis of more than 4,000 employers in the US and Canada by Foote Partners LLC. Cybersecurity-related skills — such as AWS Certified Security, GIAC Certified Incident Handler, and Okta Certified Developer — make up more than half of the "winner" skills, those that have attracted the most pay and have gained the most in market value.

Noncertified security skills — such as cryptography, DevSecOps, and risk analytics — also attract high premiums, says Bill Reynolds, research director at Foote Partners.

"Obviously, security skills and certs are still commanding cash premiums beyond salary at the 4,057 employers [we surveyed] in the US and Canada," he says. "That’s a pretty large sample for a survey, so it’s quite meaningful."

Positioned to Withstand Recession?

The robustness of the cybersecurity job market comes as company executives continue to worry about a recession in 2023. The vast majority of company executives (83%) expect a recession in 2023 — as do 82% of investors, according to another online survey — and about half of organizations are pre-emptively cutting expenses. In many cases, that means layoffs. In the cybersecurity industry, nearly a score of companies have cut workers in the last three months, according to tracking site

The fears of a downturn have even affected the valuations of startup companies in the cybersecurity industry.

Because of the difficulty in hiring and retaining knowledgeable cybersecurity workers, however, layoffs will likely come from less-technical groups, leaving knowledgeable cybersecurity workers. In fact, the majority of companies (60%) still planned to increase the head count of their IT departments as of July 2022, according to the IT Spending and Staffing Benchmarks 2022/2023  report published by Computer Economics.

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