Aug 30, 2022 - Technology

Cybersecurity's public-private salary gap

Average cybersecurity salaries in the <span style="background:#ff4e1f; padding:3px 5px;color:white;">private</span> and <span style="background:#e19310; padding:3px 5px;color:white;">public</span> sector, 2019-2022
Data: Lightcast; Chart: Simran Parwani/Axios

The gap between cybersecurity professionals' salaries in private industry and the public sector shows little sign of closing any time soon, per data from, a labor market research firm.

Why it matters: The pay disparity makes the Biden administration's giant hiring challenges — filling thousands of security and other tech-related positions in government — that much harder.

Details: From a 12% private-sector premium in 2019, the gap closed significantly to 8% in 2020 as the pandemic disrupted the labor market. In 2021, it bounced up to 15%, and it's 14% so far this year.

Of note: It took three years for the pay level for a typical public-sector cybersecurity worker to catch up to what a private-sector pro was making in 2019.

Yes, but: High-skilled labor in tech and other fields generally pays better outside government than in it.

  • People take government jobs anyway because they want to gain experience they can't get anywhere else — or just want to serve the nation.

Between the lines: The Lightcast data is based on advertised salaries. Private-sector employees in tech, particularly in startups, often receive additional compensation in the form of equity or stock options. That pay is much harder to quantify and is not included in this comparison.

Flashback: Last winter, the Biden White House launched an effort to boost cybersecurity recruiting in both the public and private sectors to fill what the administration estimated were 600,000 vacancies across both the public and private sectors.

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