Information security salaries start to rise, recruitment rebounds

Information security job vacancies are opening up, and some pay scales are starting to trend upward, according to salary survey results from recruitment specialist Acumin Ltd.

Job vacancies for information security professionals rose sharply in the last quarter, marking what could be the start of a recovery from the recession that plagued the U.K., and much of the world, last year.

The latest quarterly survey from recruitment specialist Acumin Ltd. shows that the recruitment freeze is now beginning to thaw in some sectors, and this is helping salaries to recover, albeit slowly.

"We've seen more new job vacancies in the last quarter than for the whole of last year," said Chris Batten, joint managing director at London-based Acumin, which produces the quarterly information security salaries report exclusively for

Infosec salary snapshot

View current information security salary levels, compiled by Acumin Ltd.

The report tracks job vacancies in the U.K. and the range of salaries being offered. The latest figures show that while information security salaries are creeping up in some areas, they have mostly failed to recover to the levels of early 2009.

The survey focused on three categories:

Pay scales are showing a slight increase among consultancies, but only for the more junior end of these businesses. According to Batten, this is because the big consultancies face pressure from their customers to bring down day rates.

"They can't afford to take on well-paid senior consultants when their own rates are being squeezed," Batten said.

End users
The figures show that many end-user organisations are once again taking on permanent staff to handle security. This is reflected in a small shift in salary levels, especially at the junior-level systems administrators and operations. Those with special skills, such as risk management, or those whose role involves negotiating and dealing with other departments of their organisations, also seem to be in higher demand.

The one exception is in the banking sector, where Batten says a recruitment freeze is still in place, and where security vacancies are "very few and far between." "There is a fear of taking on permanent staff at the moment in the banks, probably because they fear a double-dip recession," Batten said. "If they take on any staff, it will be for core banking skills, not security."

The effect of that is to leave existing banking security staff working far harder to keep their jobs, he said.

Service providers
This area has definitely picked up in the last quarter and pay has in some cases gone back to the levels of 2008 and 2009. People working in channel sales and network security are particularly in demand.

2010 Career Impact Survey

The latest 2010 Career Impact Survey from professional body (ISC)2 reports that information security professionals in mainland Europe fared slightly better during 2009 than those in the U.K. (ISC)2 gathered opinions from 3,000 information members worldwide, with 800 from Europe, 150 of which were from the U.K.

In Europe, 47.9% of respondents had pay rises, while the figure in U.K was 41.7%. In Europe, 55.2% of those with hiring powers said they were recruiting, while in the U.K. it was 41.9%.

In the U.K., 6% said they had lost their jobs, and 10.7% had taken pay cuts. In Europe, only 4.1% were laid off, and 9.8% had their pay or benefits cut.

CLAS consultants -- those cleared for high security work in the government sector -- are still struggling to earn the rates they might have expected more than a year ago. Many security professionals chose to go for CLAS certification last year, and according to Batten, the numbers swelled from around 500 CLAS consultants at the end of 2008 to around 700 at the present time. This has inevitably dampened pay scales, especially for those with little relevant experience in government related work.

Future is bright for information security jobs
Although recruitment is starting to revive, it will take a while before information security salaries begin to increase by any noticeable degree. According to Batten, the well of unemployed security professionals -- plus contractors who would like the comfort of a permanent role -- will ensure that vacancies can be filled without organisations having to offer more money.

"Demand is currently soaking up spare supply at the moment," he said, "but I can see salaries climbing back to 2008 levels by the second or third quarter of this year."

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