Starting a Cybersecurity Career in Chicago: 3 Things to Know


An illustration depicts two students exploring cybersecurity Chicago jobs.

Unprotected data and unchecked hackers pose two of the biggest threats to cybersecurity in the United States. Meanwhile, the shortfall in qualified workers certainly doesn’t help the situation.

In the Chicago area alone, almost 14,000 cybersecurity positions sit open, waiting to be filled, according to the organization CyberSeek. (There are almost half a million openings around the nation.)

During the pandemic, when many industries were turned on their head, the need for cybersecurity exploded. After all, remote work comes with more risks and associated ransomware attacks. Not surprisingly, job postings saw a 65% increase.

Cybersecurity positions pay well. Many starting positions top $90,000 a year. And it gets even better in the Land of Lincoln. Chicago boasts the highest average annual pay for chief information security officers, at $162,000. Chicago also has higher-than-average salaries for:

  • Penetration testers
  • Security analysts, architects, managers and engineers
  • Information technology positions

So, how do you prepare for this burgeoning, challenging and well-paying field?

Here are three things to know.

1. Most Industries Need Cybersecurity Expertise

Because cyberattacks are so common and indiscriminate, every field has a need for cybersecurity experts.

The huge data breaches dominate the news, but smaller ones happen daily and can run up crippling costs—in both money and time—for government organizations, health care providers, nonprofits, schools, retailers and small businesses.

That means you’ll have your pick of industries in which to work. Cybersecurity jobs are available in finance, health care, law enforcement, energy, retail and e-commerce, and, of course, tech companies.

2. Skills and Know-How Are Important

Multiple paths exist if you want to launch a cybersecurity career. However, training and education are paramount.

Many professionals start in computer science or specifically major in cybersecurity, or go back to school to earn a certificate in the subject. But the path is not set in stone. Others in the field might have degrees in digital media, computer game technology or information systems. And plenty of folks switch to cybersecurity from seemingly unrelated fields. It’s not unheard of!

As long as you’re willing to learn—in the classroom, online and from experts in the field—you can make a go of it. While some professionals step into the career right out of college, but many others transition over after doing entry-level work in a related field, such as IT.

Bottom line: You have to thoroughly understand how technology works and how it is changing. Remember, you can’t protect it if you don’t really know what it is.

3. Certification Will Help You Move Forward

More than a third of cybersecurity jobs require some type of industry certification. Meaning, even professionals who already have experience in IT will probably need outside training and certification to transition into cybersecurity.

On top of that, management-level jobs in the field are highly specialized. So, if you have your sights set on the higher rungs of a cybersecurity career, begin outlining your career and education map now.

If you decide to go after a degree in cybersecurity, expect to take courses in cryptography, information assurance, cybercrime investigations, digital forensics, network security, and management information systems.

Keep in mind, you are never alone in pursuing this passion in the Windy City. Cybersecurity networking groups and associations host chapter events in downtown Chicago and community outreach events all over the area.

Build Your Cybersecurity Skills—Just Outside of Chicago

At Elmhurst University, located 30 minutes from downtown Chicago, you can earn an Undergraduate Certificate in Cybersecurity online. Request more information about our technology programs by completing the form below.

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