UK cyber security salaries are rising - but skills shortages continue to bite

Cyber security worker at a desk in a server room with blurred wires and cabling in the foreground.
(Image credit: Getty Images)

UK cyber security salaries are bucking broader industry pay trends, according to new research, with workers enjoying healthy increases across the board. 

Cybershark Recruitment’s latest Cybersecurity Salary Survey, carried out in partnership with SC Media UK, found that salaries in 17 out of 20 categories of cyber security work increased last year.

"In four of the categories – critical national infrastructure, digital forensics, identity and access management (IAM), and business continuity management – average salaries reported by all respondents were up by 8% or more," the firm said.

"Topping the increases were roles in IAM, which were up 11% overall. IAM employees with more than 21 years of experience reported earning £120,000 to £145,000 while at the other end of the scale, IAM newcomers with 1-3 years of experience were earning £42,000 to £55,000."

Staff in the governance, risk, and compliance category also saw an overall increase of 2.5%, although those with more than 21 years’ experience were still pulling in salaries ranging from £160,000 to £235,000.

Changing jobs was traditionally viewed as an ideal opportunity to secure a significantly higher salary that those who stayed in their roles. However, increases of greater than 20% are becoming far less common, the study found. 

More than half of those who changed jobs reported getting a rise of up to 20% - a little more than last year. The number receiving a hike of more than that dropped from 37% to 30%, however. 

Around 12% said they changed roles for the same salary, down from 14% last year.

In terms of geographical areas, while London salaries showed almost no growth in the previous year, they are now back on track, with average increases of 4.86%.

"Northern Ireland has become a hub for cyber security companies and demand for candidates is extremely high, and so with demand we see salaries have risen an average of 9.73% across all year groupings," the report stated.

"Like last year, there are strong indications that salaries across the UK are coming into line with London salaries, areas such as Scotland, Northwest, Southeast and Northern Ireland as mentioned."

UK cyber security salaries are rising during a period of acute skills shortages

Despite an increase in UK cyber security salaries, the sector is still contending with an acute talent shortage, with industry experts warning that many organisations are struggling to attract - and retain - vital talent. 

Findings from ISC2’s 2023 Cybersecurity Workforce Study showed that the global security skills deficit reached a record high of 4 million.

Subsequently, organisations have been investing heavily in attracting more talent, with a parallel focus on bolstering internal upskilling efforts.

Work across industry, government, and academia to increase the flow of talent into the cyber security profession is also increasing, with a particular focus on encouraging students from primary school-age upwards to pursue careers in the industry. 

Last year, more than 50,000 students were enrolled in a UK government-backed program that aims to boost the cyber workforce by providing children with courses on digital skills and security

The Cyber Explorers program, which offers a series of free lesson plans and learning materials for young students, is led by the Department for Science, Innovation, and Technology (DSIT) in collaboration with the National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC). 

Emma Woollacott

Emma Woollacott is a freelance journalist writing for publications including the BBC, Private Eye, Forbes, Raconteur and specialist technology titles.