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I am currently a mobile developer and have been that for about 7 years now and I have been in IT for about 10. So I'm an experienced IT professional. I'm considering changing careers to either cyber security or computer forensics. But I would have to take an entry level position for cyber security or computer forensics. If I am at 95,000 a year as a developer would I be able to ask for the same or would I have to accept whatever the entry level pay is for one of those 2 careers?

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I needed to answer this because no one else said the magic words: Transferable Skills.

If I am at 95,000 a year as a developer would I be able to ask for the same or would I have to accept whatever the entry level pay is for one of those 2 careers?

Yes, however there's a lot of value in transferable skills and I would argue software development has a truckload of transferable skills. Research, communication and management are all just baseline skills.

Will you make what you make now? No. Will you make the same salary as an absolute newbie? I doubt it. There's a lot of value in the sorts of skills developers acquire in their careers.

  • That's what my answer was implying, the transferable skills, but good to use the term :) – fireshark519 May 15 at 15:04
  • I said "If some of your current skills are transferable" - same diff innit? – solarflare May 15 at 22:36
  • As you write your resume and prepare for interviews, think through some things you've done/learned, and how they apply to infosec. "I chose Java for the authorization parts of my app because C is too prone to overflow attacks." "I kept track of patch notices and scheduled applying the patches to my company's servers." There's LOTS of infosec related work in software development. Tell your story well, get paid better. – O. Jones May 16 at 10:42
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You will probably take a pay cut.

You can't ask for the same amount of pay as someone with 10 years experience in your new field. If you're applying for an entry level position you will get entry level pay.

If some of your current skills are transferable and you bring value to the business that another person normally would be unable to, then after some time you could ask for more pay. But for your entry level job you will need to be competitive. Expect a pay cut as part of that.

  • 2
    My $.02 is this -- make sure you have a good career growth plan in your new position. Although you are taking a cut, you want to 'catch up' quickly. As someone interviewing you, I would love to hear this question asked. – Robert Paulsen May 15 at 10:49
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You should expect your pay to be based on how well your skills and experiences fit the requirements for the new position.

Specifically, you asked,

If I am at 95,000 a year as a developer would I be able to ask for the same or would I have to accept whatever the entry level pay is for one of those 2 careers?

What you made as a developer is essentially irrelevant. The thing that matters is, what is a typical salary for an employee in the position you're seeking? If your skills in security match what an "entry level" person typically needs, and an entry level security tech makes 50k (or 100k, or whatever the number is), then that's what you should expect to make.

As with any career path change, be sure to prepare for inevitable questions in interviews - why are you making the change? What research have you done about the new role? What have you done to prepare yourself? How will your old skills help you in the new role?

In addition to proving that you're a good fit for the new role, you should also be ready to show that this is a carefully considered and prepared-for change, and not something you're doing on a whim. Employers are leery of career-path-switchers who act like they may be a risk for continual change - you don't want to come across as someone who's going to try out the new role and then jump back to your old stuff after 6 months, or leave for something else totally new.

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PenTester with training/experience in forensics here.

The skillsets required for these two (but especially forensics) are very different to standard development work. As such, you will probably take a pay cut.

HOWEVER:

As with all things IT, the ability to automate things is very valuable. Most forensic toolkits use Regular Expressions (a complex form of search query that usually looks like garbage to most people) and some scripting language (usually a form of Python) and depending on what area of forensics you're going into (PCI testing is a great example), these are VERY useful.

With penetration testing, scripting and automation will be limited to little time savers. However, dev skills will be a MASSIVE bonus if you want to go further (think Red Team engagements), as you will end up trying to create your own payloads (publicly available payloads are also publicly available to antivirus companies too).

My point is, you can easily carve yourself a niche and USP with your dev skills. Once you have a bit of training in your chosen field, you can start commanding your old pay rate or even more. You can easily carve yourself out a niche within any forensic or penetration testing team

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In "normal" career development, taking pay cuts is not usually a good choice.

However, there are situations when a pay cut is unavoidable. E.g., when changing your work from something you know to something in which you have no experience.

Extreme example: I am a programmer and I decide to start working in the shoe-making business. Of course, I will be a complete beginner, and salaries of shoe-makers are smaller than the salaries of the programmers, so a pay cut is unavoidable.

Now, the extent of the pay cut in your case, is another discussion. It depends on a lot of factors, and is a matter of negotiation between you and the employer.

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There is no right answer to this question I'm afraid.

To give you an example, I moved from Application Support into Project Management and received a substantial pay increase instead.

If the company you apply for to work in cyber security is mainly a mobile development company, they may pay you more since you not only know how to secure their product but understand how it was built, which helps you know better how to break some of the features, so you have an advantage over other people.

If instead you apply for a company with no mobile presence in a completely different market you have worked in, then the only benefit to the company is your cyber security knowledge, which as you have pointed out, might be lower than other candidates that have been working in the field for a while.

Be prepared to negotiate, but most importantly, if it is what you REALLY want to do, job satisfaction is more important than your salary (if you can afford the cut)

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We can't possibly know the answer to this without knowing what any one specific company is looking for in terms of experience and what they're willing to pay for that level of experience, but I'd wager that you probably would take a pay cut. Yes, you're still working in the IT field but you're working in a new discipline that requires a new body of knowledge (or mostly new), and requires a new skill set. Some of your knowledge and skills will carry over, but not likely enough to get you the same pay, unless your level of knowledge and experience in this new discipline happens to match your current salary, which is doubtful.

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