5 Data Protection Careers to Make a Real Difference

We live in a world where huge amounts of data is digitized and vulnerable. It seems like every day some company is in hot water over hacks or mismanagement of very sensitive data. In most cases, that data is found in centers (ideally) protected by cybersecurity measures. These centers have become so big and so commonplace, entire laws are being written about how to manage them. The GDPR, which applies to the European Union, is the most significant step thus far.

The GDPR is basically a set of rules that simplify the environment and give EU citizens more control over personal data. Companies that use data centers must now comply with the GDPR’s terms, ensuring that personal data is collected legally and protected. The United States does not currently a nationwide standard, but experts think it’s only a matter of time. That makes the job field of data protection very promising. Here are five career paths that are only going to get more in demand:

Cybersecurity engineer

Sometimes also called a data security engineer or officer, the purpose of this job is to protect an organization’s data from external attacks. The engineer is tasked to build, maintain, and fix systems so all the data they contain stays safe from prying eyes. The engineer is usually part of or works very closely with the company’s IT team. Responsibilities include checking out new technology and security methods; implementing and complying with corporate security policies; and installing firewalls and other security tools.

Qualifications: You can find cybersecurity engineering jobs in a wide variety of companies, but fields with large data centers like financial services, consulting firms, and computer system design firms really need them. To become a cybersecurity engineer, you’ll need a graduate degree, lots of experience working with security and engineering systems, a proven attention to detail, and outside-the-box problem-solving. Certifications like the CompTIA Cybersecuirty Analyst and CompTIA Advanced Security Practitioner are also recommended.

Salary: According to Payscale, the average salary is between $64k and $136k, for an average around $95,000.

Data protection officer

Described in the GDPR, all EU companies dealing with EU citizens’ personal data are now required to appoint a data protection officer. This person is responsible for overseeing an org’s data protection policies and making sure they comply with the GDPR rules. Responsibilities include educating the company and employees on requirements; providing training in data processing; monitoring data protection actions; keeping records; and being the go-between for the company, GDPR supervisors, and people whose data is stored with the company. While there is no American version of the GDPR yet, it might only be a matter of time, so anyone interested in data protection should keep an eye out for an officer position.

Qualifications: At least in the EU right now, there’s no specific qualifications for a data protection officer, but they will need skills like knowledge of data protection law and computer systems. They’ll also need to be experts on their company’s specific IT structure, processing methods, and so on.

Salary: On ZipRecruiter, the salary has a wide range in the United States as low as $19k a year up to over $156k. In Europe, the average salary is €71k.

Security software developer

All data protection centers need secure software. This software is what protects the data from external attacks. Someone needs to create that system, and that’s where security software developers come in. Their primary responsibility is working with a team and monitoring the development of a company’s systems to make sure they’re truly secure. This work includes designing and testing new tools and security software systems, and problem-solving weaknesses.

Qualifications: To be a security software developer, you first have to be a software developer in general. This will most likely require at least a bachelor’s degree in computer science or software engineering. Experience is also important, and most jobs will want at least 5 years in software development. To show you know your stuff regarding security, getting cybersecurity certifications like the ECSP (EC-Council Certified Secure Programmer) prove you have the needed skills.

Salary: On PayScale, this high-tier job makes between $65k and $143k a year, with an average of $106k.

Penetration tester

How does a company know if their security is tight enough? They get a penetration tester. These testers essentially mimic an external security attack to test the strength of the system and identify weaknesses. Responsibilities include using the right hacking tools; reading up on new methods black hat hackers are using; collecting data; hunting for security holes; and suggesting ways to improve security.

Qualifications: A penetration tester might not be a permanent position for a company, depending on its size, but every data-based company will use one at some point. To qualify for the job, you will need a lot of experience. A background as a software developer, systems admin, or something similar is common for pen testers. A strong knowledge of all computer systems, like Linux, is also very important. To build up your resume, get certifications like CompTIA Security+ and CompTIA Linux+ to prove your skills.

Salary: On PayScale, a pen tester makes between $56k and $132k a year, with an average of $82k.

Forensic computer analyst

When something goes wrong and there is a real attack on a data-based company, someone needs to figure out what happened and how to manage it. There is where a forensic computer analyst come in. They might work for private firms, law enforcement agencies, and so on. Tasks include recovering data from damaged or destroyed hard drives and other storage devices; investigating the origin and scope of an attack; and writing reports on their findings. Depending on the specific job, an analyst might be called on to testify in court.

Qualifications: A forensic computer analyst job starts with a bachelor’s degree in computer security or a similar field. Experience in cybersecurity, IT systems, and more might also be required. Certain certifications can help boost your credibility, such as the GIAC Certified Forensic Analyst or GIAC Certified Forensic Examiner certifications.

Salary: On PayScale, salary ranges between $46k and $116k, with an average of $72k.