Hardest Cybersecurity Jobs to Fill in 2024: Top Roles & Skills

The cybersecurity job market is projected to grow by an impressive 32% through 2032, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), with about 16,800 openings for information security analysts each year.

This growth rate is significantly faster than the average for all occupations, underlining the critical demand for cybersecurity professionals. As businesses and governments worldwide prioritize information security, the need for skilled individuals in this field continues to outpace the supply.

This surge in demand is not merely about filling positions; it reflects the evolving nature of cyber threats and the requirement for innovative defenses and reliable anti-malware tools to protect sensitive information and systems.

The projected growth indicates that the demand for cyber defenders is high, and there is a significant opportunity for skilled individuals to make a meaningful impact in this field.

In this article, we explore the top cybersecurity jobs, most-wanted positions, and required certifications for specialists who get ready to fill them.

Key Takeaways

  • Cybersecurity expertise, vital for defending against increasing cyber threats, will witness a 32% job growth by 2032, highlighting the demand for skilled professionals.
  • Advancements in AI, ML, and IoT are reshaping necessary skill sets for cybersecurity, requiring a blend of IT proficiency, in-depth security insights, and adaptability.
  • Chief information security officers and security engineers are vital in the fight against rising cyber threats.
  • The emphasis on certifications, such as CISSP and CEH, highlights their critical role in validating expertise and competency in cybersecurity.
  • Rapid technological advances and cybersecurity threats require a diverse talent pool, including more women and minority groups, to tackle the lack of cybersecurity professionals.
  • Lifelong learning, skill diversification, and dynamic training programs aligned with practical apprenticeships are effective strategies to balance the worldwide shortage of skilled cybersecurity experts.

Impact of Emerging Technologies on Jobs in Cybersecurity

Emerging technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning (ML), and the internet of things (IoT) are reshaping cybersecurity job descriptions.

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Professionals must now possess a blend of traditional IT skills and knowledge in cybersecurity as HR teams increasingly demand more from their candidates to protect against and respond to cyber threats.

This convergence of skills underscores the evolving role of HR in identifying candidate profiles who have not only the technical expertise but also the adaptability and continuous learning mindset necessary for tackling the dynamic challenges in cybersecurity.

The Hardest Cybersecurity Jobs to Fill in 2024

The Hardest Cybersecurity Jobs to Fill in 2024

1. Chief Information Security Officers (CISOs): The Strategic Leaders

CISOs are critical leaders in cybersecurity, blending technical expertise with strategic management to protect digital assets, align security with business goals, and ensure compliance with standards like NIST and ISO27001.

They oversee policy creation, incident response, and technology controls, delegating tasks to prevent personal burnout.

CISOs must master cybersecurity technologies, assess evolving threats, and communicate effectively across all stakeholders to maintain a cohesive cybersecurity strategy.

Associated Certifications:

  • Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP)
  • Certified Chief Information Security Officer (CCISO)
  • Certified Information Security Manager (CISM)
  • Certified Cloud Security Professional (CCSP)

2. Security Architects: The Master Planners

Security architects design and manage robust security network architectures, identifying vulnerabilities and building multi-layered defenses to safeguard critical data and systems.

They require expertise in network architecture, encryption, firewall management, and advanced security strategies.

Proficiency in risk assessment tools, a deep understanding of cybersecurity interactions, and the ability to understand and communicate at all levels are vitally important for creating a solid security posture.

Associated Certifications:

  • Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP)
  • Information Systems Security Architecture Professional (CISSP-ISSAP)
  • Certified Information Security Manager (CISM)
  • Certified Cloud Security Professional (CCSP)
  • Sherwood Applied Business Security Architecture – Practitioner Cert (SABSA)

3. Security Engineers: The System Protection Specialists

Security engineers protect computer systems and networks by designing, implementing, and maintaining security measures to ensure data safety.

They assess vulnerabilities and develop risk mitigation strategies. They require expertise in firewalls, intrusion detection, encryption technologies, and programming languages like Python or Java.

Proficiency in risk assessment tools and a deep understanding of security protocols and standards are crucial for their role.

Associated Certifications:

  • CompTIA Security+
  • Certified Cloud Security Professional (CCSP)
  • Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP)
  • Information Systems Security Engineering Professional (CISSP-ISSEP)

4. DevSecOps Engineers: The Secure Development Advocates

DevSecOps engineers embed security within the DevOps cycle, ensuring secure software development from inception to deployment.

They unite development, operations, and security teams and advocate for secure coding and deployment.

Essential skills include automation, secure coding, security assessments, CI/CD pipelines, containerization (Docker, Kubernetes), cloud security, scripting languages, and compliance knowledge.

Associated Certifications:

  • CompTIA Security+
  • Certified Cloud Security Professional (CCSP)
  • Certified Ethical Hacker (CEH)
  • Certified Secure Software Lifecycle Professional (CSSLP)

5. Cybersecurity Analysts: The Frontline Defenders

Cybersecurity analysts safeguard digital assets by identifying vulnerabilities, monitoring unauthorized access, and evaluating threats to data security.

They need technical skills and regulatory knowledge, including proficiency in SIEM tools, an understanding of firewalls, antivirus software, IDS, programming for automation, and compliance standards like GDPR and HIPAA.

Their role, blending proactive and reactive measures, plus the ability to remain calm in potentially tense situations, is vital for an organization’s security posture.

Associated Certifications:

  • CompTIA Security+
  • Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP)
  • Certified Cloud Security Professional (CCSP)
  • Certified Cloud Security Knowledge (CCSK)
  • CompTIA Cybersecurity Analyst (CySA+)
  • GIAC Security Essentials

6. Application Security Testers: The Digital Safeguard Experts

Application security testers assess software for vulnerabilities using tools like Burp Suite, IAST, DAST, and OWASP, as well as other secure coding practices. They require proficiency in programming languages (Java, Python) and development frameworks.

They conduct automated and manual tests to enhance application security by identifying weaknesses and recommending solutions grounded in a deep understanding of vulnerability assessment and penetration testing methodologies.

Associated Certifications:

  • Certified Ethical Hacker (CEH)
  • GIAC Security Essentials
  • Certified Secure Software Lifecycle Professional (CSSLP)
  • Certified Cloud Security Professional (CCSP)

7. Penetration Testers: The Offensive Strategists

Penetration testers, known as “ethical hackers,” use their expertise in tools like Metasploit and Burp Suite and programming skills to simulate cyber attacks.

They aim to uncover vulnerabilities in systems, networks, and applications, enhancing security by preemptively addressing potential breaches. Knowledge of network protocols, APIs, and operating systems is essential.

Associated Certifications:

  • Offensive Security Certified Professional (OSCP)
  • Certified Ethical Hacker (CEH)
  • Certified Cloud Security Professional (CCSP)

8. Incident Responders: The Rapid Reaction Force

Incident responders swiftly manage and mitigate cyber threats, ensuring system restoration with minimal damage.

They require a deep understanding of operating systems and network protocols and experience with SIEM solutions such as Splunk and QRadar.

Skills in scripting languages like Python and PowerShell are crucial for task automation.

Associated Certifications:

  • GIAC Certified Incident Handler (GCIH)
  • Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP)
  • Certified Cloud Security Professional (CCSP)

9. Cyber Threat Intelligence Analysts: The Information Warfare Strategists

Cyber threat intelligence analysts are pivotal in preempting cyber threats, necessitating expertise in SIEM tools and cybersecurity frameworks for strategic defense.

Their effectiveness hinges on programming for task automation and data analysis, alongside analytical prowess to discern patterns in complex data.

This multifaceted skill set ensures they can efficiently identify and mitigate potential cyber risks, safeguarding organizational security.

Associated Certifications:

  • Certified Cyber Intelligence Professional (CCIP)
  • GIAC Cyber Threat Intelligence (GCTI)

10. Risk & Fraud Analysts: The Vigilant Protectors

Risk and fraud analysts are crucial in safeguarding an organization’s financial and data integrity by identifying threats, analyzing risks, and developing anti-fraud strategies.

Essential skills include proficiency in data analysis tools (SAS, SQL), fraud detection software, and cybersecurity principles. Incorporating machine learning for anomaly detection and familiarity with financial regulations enhance their ability to protect against fraud effectively.

Associated Certifications:

  • Certified in Risk and Information Systems Control (CRISC)
  • Certified Fraud Examiner (CFE)
  • Certified Cloud Security Knowledge (CCSK)

11. IT Security Compliance Officers: The Regulatory Guardians

IT security compliance professionals are pivotal in protecting organizational data and ensuring adherence to laws like GDPR and HIPAA and standards such as ISO/IEC 27001, NIST Frameworks, FISMA, SOX, PCI DSS, CIS Controls, and CCPA.

Their role demands strong analytical skills to interpret legal requirements, conduct risk assessments, and devise compliance strategies. Success hinges on continuous education and staying abreast of evolving standards and laws.

Associated Certifications:

  • Certified Information Systems Auditor (CISA)
  • Certified in Risk and Information Systems Control (CRISC)
  • Certified Cloud Security Knowledge (CCSK)

12. IT Security Auditors: The Assurance Investigators

IT security auditors assess an organization’s systems and practices for compliance with laws and standards, identifying vulnerabilities to enhance security.

They require skills in security frameworks, operating systems, networking, security tools, risk assessment, audit compliance, incident response, regulatory knowledge, and effective communication.

Associated Certifications:

  • Certified Information Systems Auditor (CISA)
  • Certified Internal Auditor (CIA)
  • Certified Cloud Security Knowledge (CCSK)

The list of most in-demand cybersecurity jobs delineates several roles that HR teams often find challenging to fill due to their complexity and the specific certification paths required.

Beyond the certifications mentioned, these positions command substantial salaries, reflecting their critical importance and the specialized skills they demand.

Tools of the Trade

Top cybersecurity roles require a toolset that integrates various open-source and proprietary tools to safeguard against threats and streamline security management.

This collection is just a sample of tools used to defend digital environments, ensuring organizations can proactively identify, respond to, and mitigate potential security risks.

Businesses leverage these specialized tools to enhance protective measures and maintain robust security postures.

Network Analysis & Monitoring
  • Wireshark
  • Snort
  • Nmap
  • OpenVAS

Vulnerability Assessment & Exploitation
  • Metasploit
  • Nessus
  • Burp Suite

Security Information & Event Management
  • Splunk

Intelligence & Reconnaissance Tools
  • Maltego
  • Aircrack-ng
Artificial Intelligence & Machine Learning
  • TensorFlow
  • PyTorch
  • Azure Machine Learning
  • IBM Watson
Specialized Security Tools
  • IoT Security Frameworks
  • Blockchain Security Tools
  • EnCase Forensic
  • AccessData Forensic Toolkit (FTK)
  • Autopsy

Challenges in Finding Qualified Candidates

Cybersecurity professionals face an unprecedented threat landscape. Despite the continued growth in the workforce, ISC2’s cybersecurity workforce study revealed that demand is still outpacing supply. The workforce gap grew an additional 12.6% in 2023, with the greatest rise in Asia-Pacific and North America.

A swift advancement of cyber threats could render some legacy skills obsolete, leading to a disconnect between job seekers’ capabilities and what employers are looking for.

This issue is compounded by companies desiring candidates with broad experience despite the rapid growth of the cybersecurity field outpacing the availability of such individuals.

Additionally, the lack of cybersecurity professional diversity within the sector narrows the scope of insights and approaches available. This underscores the need to broaden the talent pool by incorporating more women and underrepresented minorities to tackle the cybersecurity skills shortage effectively.

2023 global cybersecurity workforce gap
Source: ISC2 Cybersecurity Workforce Study, 2023

Top Technical Skills Required for Cybersecurity Careers

Cybersecurity professionals must possess diverse skills tailored to their specific roles.

Starting with roles like security analysts or junior penetration testers lays the groundwork, necessitating basic IT knowledge and a learning mindset.

Analysts should be proficient in network security, threat analysis, and using SIEM tools, while incident responders need a solid grasp of digital forensics, malware, and crisis communication.

Progressing to mid-level positions such as incident responders and security architects, individuals must hone specialized skills through experience, certifications, and focused expertise.

Security architects require deep knowledge of system architecture, encryption, secure coding, and compliance awareness. Penetration testers should be skilled in hacking methodologies, programming, and ethical guidelines.

At the senior level, roles like CISOs require a blend of technical understanding, leadership capabilities, and strategic insight, achieved through relentless learning and extensive professional experience.

CISOs need a comprehensive understanding of cybersecurity landscapes, strategic planning, and risk management to ensure they can navigate and mitigate complex threats.

This career trajectory underscores the importance of continuous skill development and adaptability at every stage.

How to Tackle the Cybersecurity Skills Gap

Continuing education and certifications equip individuals with essential knowledge and skills, laying the foundation for a successful career. Expanding one’s expertise through cross-training in various IT roles enriches a professional’s capabilities, offering a comprehensive perspective on safeguarding against cyber vulnerabilities.

This multifaceted approach to professional development fosters a versatile and resilient workforce capable of addressing an ever-evolving array of threats.

To mitigate the cybersecurity talent shortage, organizations should focus on nurturing their current employees through targeted training and career progression opportunities, fostering staff retention, and a new army of experts from within.

Simultaneously, adopting dynamic recruitment tactics, including competitive remuneration and clear paths for advancement, alongside tapping into diverse talent reservoirs, can draw external candidates.

Moreover, forging alliances with educational institutions and governmental bodies and instituting apprenticeship schemes that blend academic learning with practical experience presents a holistic approach to equipping individuals for the demands of a cybersecurity workforce, effectively bridging the skills divide.

The Bottom Line

Cybersecurity’s growing demand, fueled by escalating cyber threats, makes it a rewarding field, emphasizing the necessity for specialized skills and continuous education.

With a significant gap between the need for and supply of skilled professionals, those with the right expertise enjoy competitive salaries and advancement opportunities.

Investing in internal talent development and broadening recruitment approaches are vital in securing the necessary expertise for organizations. IT professionals can transition into cybersecurity, utilizing their skills as a foundation for specialized training, addressing the skills shortage, and strengthening digital security measures against emerging risks.

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John Meah
Cybersecurity Expert

John is a skilled freelance writer who combines his writing talent with his cybersecurity expertise. He holds an equivalent level 7 master's degree in cybersecurity and a number of prestigious industry certifications, such as PCIP, CISSP, MCIIS, and CCSK. He has spent over two decades working in IT and information security within the finance and logistics business sectors. This experience has given John a profound understanding of cybersecurity practices, making his tech coverage on Techopedia particularly insightful and valuable. He has honed his writing skills through courses from renowned institutions like the Guardian and Writers Bureau UK.