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CISO Pay Keeps Rising, But Stress Does Too

A new report by executive search firm Heidrick & Struggles shows the growing rewards, but also occupational hazards, for chief information security officers.

dollar 3706548 640smallAs Help Net Security explains, the report shows median CISO cash compensation (base and bonus) of $584,000. That’s up from $509,000 last year and $473,000 in 2020. Median total compensation, taking into account annual stock grants or long-term incentives, was $971,000, compared with $936,000 last year, according to Heidrick.

Pay particularly spiked for new CISOs, likely due to a friendly market for job seekers as companies compete to find qualified applicants for this crucial role. However, as CNBC notes, Heidrick also found some troubles in the world of CISOs. Asked the most significant personal risks CISOs face relating to their position, 59% of respondents cited stress, while 48% pointed to burnout.

Heidrick’s cyber practice leader Matt Aiello told CNBC that some security pros are quitting CISO positions at a phase in their careers when it’s obvious that they can take on a different operational job. Aiello is quoted as saying, “What we’re hearing in off-line conversations is that it’s a great role, but it’s very hard and the regulatory pressures are increasing, and that makes being a CISO even more challenging.”

CISO pay in Heidrick’s survey varies widely by industry, as Becker’s Hospital Review observes. Financial services or fintech led the way, with cash compensation of $847,000, followed by $656,000 for consumer, retail and media, $551,000 for technology and telecoms and 546,00 for healthcare, biotech and life sciences.

As Cybersecurity Dive notes, CISOs at the 95th percentile saw much higher remuneration. These outlier CISOs reported median cash compensation of $1.6 million and total compensation of $4.4 million.

The global survey was based on responses from 327 CISOs or people in CISO-equivalent roles.

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