Cyber Security Careers and the UK Market

Cyber Security CareersIt would take a particularly news- and social media-deficient individual to not have heard about the most recent and high profile cyber security breach; the impact of extracurricular marital dating site Ashley Madison’s data leak was felt round the world. The fate of companies including Ashley Madison, Fiat Chrysler and Dixons Carphone, all targeted by hackers in the past quarter alone does little to appease the security concerns of global business.


The escalation of hacks and cyber security attacks has highlighted the vulnerability of many businesses’ IT security systems and companies are responding the only way they can, which means a strong market for cyber security jobs in the UK.  According to recent data released by professional services consultancy, Procurre cyber security roles account for 14% of new UK-based technology roles. The elevated demand for security professionals has in turn pushed annual salaries in this field upwards of £100,000 and with a global shortage of experienced and talented cyber security experts this is the field to be in.


Of 10,210 IT jobs in the UK, 1,420 are in cyber security jobs and feeding this buoyant market are 42 universities who currently offer specialist cyber security degrees. Leading into this degree of choice, cyber security has now been added to the curriculum for students taking “Tech Levels”, the technological equivalent to higher education, and will be on offer from 2016 as both academia and industry recognise the need for more attention to be paid in this area early on. The new qualifications, courtesy of exam board AQA, have been created with the help of technology giants including Siemens and Toshiba as well as professional bodies such as the Chartered Institute of Marketing.


In 2014 alone 90% of large organisations and 74% of small and medium-sized businesses in the UK suffered an information security breach pushing cyber security jobs ahead of cloud jobs and storage jobs in terms of hiring priority. Data losses can be highly devastating for businesses whose customers risk losing not only financial wealth but sensitive personal information leading to a loss of faith in those businesses unable to keep their information secure. The long term impact of cyber security attacks on businesses’ sales and revenue can be catastrophic, so the need for cyber security professionals with the right skillset and expertise is paramount for the UK market as well as globally.


Regulators are sticking their proverbial oar in too, applying pressure on companies to safeguard their data. The introduction of new European regulations surrounding data privacy adds the extra issue of a hefty financial fine to companies already managing a tarnished reputation in the wake of a data protection breach.


While fears of cyber security attacks plague many, for others this new and ever-evolving threat signals opportunity. Unlike the US market, whose cyber security industry is dominated by technology companies, the UK is seeing a far wider spread meaning more extreme competition for individuals in possession of the experience and expertise and a resulting skills shortage lending extra hype to an already much-coveted area of technology. As investors scramble to pour money into UK specialist cyber security firms and “trendy” cyber security start-ups, backed by inordinate sums of funding, pop up in abundance, the UK market finds itself divided between those specialist boutiques offering a single service and the Big 4, who present themselves as a “one stop shop” for clients’ needs at the other end of the spectrum.


Though their roots are firmly in audit, the clearly lucrative call for cyber security expertise has not escaped the Big 4 firms who view cyber security as the next frontier of growth and diversification, thus increasing opportunities in cyber security at the UK-based Big 4. Deloitte has seen a significant increase in revenues from its cyber practice, totalling more than 20% over the past 12 months, while PwC’s UK cyber practice has grown from 35 to 150 people in two years. KPMG has acquired a handful of cyber security boutiques and EY is confidently projecting its cyber security revenues will increase fivefold over the next five years.


One thing is certain; competition for talent in this area is intense as businesses face rivalry for skilled security experts not only from each other but also from universities and government organisations all looking to bolster their IT security systems. Large or small, the one thing all organisations can agree on is that they are trying to fight a threat that is impossible to quantify and they need the right people for the job. Facing pressure from customers, regulators and rival businesses alike, the race is on to build defences against the threat of cyber security. As opportunities outweigh those who can fill them, for individuals looking for cyber security jobs in the UK it is worth noting that while the Big 4 are equipped with the resources to offer competitive salaries, innovation and growth prospects in the field is more prevalent at the smaller companies.


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