People often ask about what qualifications they need to break into a fast-growing field like cybersecurity. The knowledge needed is highly technical, and of course there are no guarantees. But if you look at the job postings, there are three kinds of qualifications that significantly improve a jobseeker’s chances:

Cybersecurity postings by required education level and minimum experienceA bachelor’s degree

There are lots of jobs in the IT world that don’t require a college degree. Help desk positions, for example, have long been a good entry point for people who don’t have a bachelor’s degree. And there is a continuing debate in the tech world about whether a college degree matters, with many arguing that coding skill doesn’t depend on college.

Even so, more than eight in 10 (83%) of job postings for cybersecurity workers ask for a bachelor’s degree or higher. That means “quick fix” training programs won’t necessarily close the talent gap, or allow a jobseeker to compete.


A certification

More than one-third of cybersecurity job openings ask for a certification, compared to 23% of all IT jobs. The Security + certification serves as the entry level, with an average salary of $75,484. Additional certifications can bring greater benefits. Becoming a Certified Information Security Professional, for example, brings a salary premium of more than $17,500 over Security + alone.

More importantly, there are more job openings than certification holders right now, in some cases with three openings for every certification holder. So a certification makes a jobseeker much more marketable.

Cybersecurity certifications

A security clearance

Of course, a government clearance to handle classified material isn’t a requirement for a cybersecurity job in retail or insurance. But in the Public Administration and Manufacturing/Defense sectors, a clearance makes a big difference. About 11% of all cybersecurity jobs overall call for a clearance, but in Public Administration that rises to 29%.

Another indication of how having a clearance helps a cybersecurity career is that positions that require a background check are harder to fill than others. Jobs that require clearances take 10% longer to fill on average than cybersecurity jobs in general.
Security clearances required for cybersecurity jobs

Dan Restuccia is Chief Analytics Officer at Burning Glass Technologies.