Despite poor economy, it still pays (more) to be in security

Monday, August 9, 2010

ALEXANDRIA, Va.—Despite ongoing discussions that security budgets are being slashed, the salaries of security professionals continue to rise. According to an annual survey conducted by ASIS International, the U.S. Security Salary Survey, the median compensation for security professionals in the United States increased 6 percent from 2009 to 2010 to $93,000.

“We were surprised that salaries were moving at such a brisk pace and we continue to see a year-to-year increase,” said Mike Moran, special projects editor for ASIS International. In the five years that the survey has been conducted, the average compensation for salaried security professionals has risen 19 percent from $88,000 in 2006 to $108,000 in 2010.

Despite the overall increase, security salaries took a significant hit just a few years ago. Security professionals who had a significant amount of their compensation in the form of stock took saw a loss two years ago when the economy crashed. Also, “last year we took a bit of a dip, especially on the average and there was a definite stall in salaries last year, but this year it seemed to have resumed to its normal growth rate,” said Moran.

The study received responses from 784 participants working in 11 industries and nine geographic regions. The survey looked at 18 specific factors that impact compensation. Education and relevant industry certification continues to be a strong determinant of salary. Thirty-one percent of respondents held a master’s degree and reported a median compensation of $122,000. Those who have a Certified Protection Professional (CPP) certification earned a median salary of $118,000, according to the report.

One of the weakest determinations of salary is the correlation between title and income. “There are CSOs who make $40,000 and some who make $200,000,” Moran said. However, there is a very strong correlation between salary and the size of the security budget. Those who manage larger budgets, make larger salaries.

The report also found that those who work in the private sector tend to have higher average salaries than those who work in the government sector. However, those employed by the government have higher median salaries. “This seems to indicate if you start your career in the government sector you’ll start out at a higher rate, but transitioning to the private sector will garner higher compensation,” Moran said.