On the Money
In 2005, the average salary of security professionals in the United States rose to $90,000 from $85,600 in 2004. The median salary rose 5 percent to $79,000 from $75,000—besting inflation for that period by more than 2 percent. These findings from our soon-to-be-released 2006 ASIS U.S. Security Salary Survey show that compensation in 2005 continued along the upward trajectory of previous years. Median wages rose 6 percent in 2004 and 4.9 percent in 2003.
Other notable findings: Seventeen percent of respondents indicated that a portion of that compensation came from performance bonuses averaging $12,000, with a median bonus of $6,000. Stock options and profit-sharing were reported by only 4 percent of respondents, however. Five percent indicated that an average of $10,000 of their total compensation came from other security-related income. Those with international security responsibilities and those who report directly to the CEO receive compensation well above the median. The department or executive that the security department reports to also correlates to average and median salaries. Certifications also make a notable difference.
This year, for the first time we have explored the influence of other quantifiable factors —such as gender and military experience—from which the data provides new insight into some long-held assumptions. Apart from compensation, we include a look at trends in security budgets and staffing.
An analysis of compensation levels by industry sector reveals that security practitioners in the natural resources and mining sector had the highest average and median compensation levels—$114,000 and $100,000, respectively. This sector, also top-of-field last year, is, however, a niche industry, in which less than 1 percent of respondents were employed.
Government personnel, who constituted 11 percent of respondents, reported impressive gains in the market against other sectors, reporting an average salary of $94,000 than last year—a full 17 percent higher. (The median of $88,000 rose 7 percent.)
But there is a more narrow range of compensation in government than in business, as is shown by the variance in the average and median salaries in state government compared to those in the private sector. (See box below on methodology for definitions of median and average salaries.) In state government, the average salary among 2005 respondents was $82,000 and the median was a thousand dollars behind at $81,000. This portrays a relatively flat pay scale common in public service, in which there are relatively high salaries on the lower end of the spectrum and comparably modest incomes at the highest levels.
In the more Darwinian private sector, the average compensation in 2005 was $89,900 and the median well behind at $76,900. This greater disparity is even more evident at the outer edges of the scale—where salaries for entry-level security jobs in the private sector are far lower than in government, while compensation at the highest levels in business are unmatched in public service.
Security consultants fared better than other security professionals in the service sector and better than most security professionals in business or government. Security consultants earned an average of $101,000 and a median of $92,000.
By contrast, those in security management positions in businesses averaged $89,000 and reported a median of $78,000. Security service providers earned an average salary of $94,000—placing them in the middle of average salaries—but with a median of $77,000, they fall below security managers in other businesses.
While compensation is clearly highest among consultants, the opportunities are more limited in that field. Just 12 percent of respondents work as consultants, compared to 61 percent in security management. Security service providers other than consultants represented another 12 percent of respondents.
Another factor in compensation is level of responsibility. For example, the 29 percent of respondents who were top-level practitioners (CSOs by function if not title; i.e., in charge of the company’s security department) reported an average salary of $104,000 and a median of $88,000. All others reported an average annual compensation of $84,000 and a median of $76,000.
Even among top-level security practitioners, there’s a compensation hierarchy, depending on the extent of responsibilities. The number of facilities a security professional is charged with protecting and the geographic distribution of those facilities remain two of the surest indicators of individual compensation.
The salary reported for those charged with security at multiple facilities in more than one country averaged $133,000 with a median of $105,000. Those on the other end of this spectrum, responsible for a single facility, reported an average salary of $72,000 and a median of just $65,000.
The size of the security budget, the number of staff within the security department, and the number of staff members directly managed appear to have no direct relationship to an individual’s compensation.
Age, years in the security field, and years in security management are fairly comparable indicators of compensation, describing a rough ladder from bracket to bracket. In our sample, fully 69 percent of respondents were between the ages of 40 and 59. Just 3 percent were under the age of 30.
Fully 51 percent of our sample reported 5 or fewer years in service with their current employer, identical to last year’s survey, which was down 5 percent from the year prior to that.
Unlike previous years, however, respondents aren’t being rewarded much for changing jobs. Those indicating 0-5 years at their current organization reported just a 6 percent increase in compensation; not much above the overall average of a 5 percent increase and below that of those with 6-10 years in service at their current organization, who reported an 8 percent increase.
In the previous year, those with the least time working for their current employer had reported 8 percent increases and those with 6-10 years in service just 6 percent—a scenario indicative of greater emphasis being placed on recruitment than retention. The 2006 data, conversely, suggest either that more resources are being directed toward retention or the hiring market is cooling.
The department or executive that the security department reports to implies much about the role of security in the organization, and compensation rates vary accordingly. Fully 23 percent of respondents indicated that they reported directly to the CEO (up from 21 percent last year); they received an average salary of $100,000 and a median of $86,000.
Just 2 percent of respondents reported directly to the IT department; those practitioners had the highest average salary at $106,000.
Security professionals reporting directly to facilities departments, implying that their duties were primarily in the realm of physical security, reported the lowest earnings, with average and median salaries at $79,000 and $65,000, respectively.
The lucrative nature of IT security is also apparent in regard to how certifications held by respondents correlate to salary. Those with designations related to information security—less than 2 percent of respondents—reported an average compensation of $124,000. Only two factors across the spectrum of questions asked isolated higher average salaries: those holding a juris doctorate or Ph.D. ($143,000 and $147,000, respectively), and those managers responsible for multiple facilities worldwide ($133,000).
Respondents holding the ASIS Certified Protection Professional (CPP) designation—the most popular credential, with more than 40 percent of respondents having earned it— reported an average compensation of $95,900 and a median of $86,700. This median is 18 percent higher than those respondents holding no certification, and it is rising at a slightly faster rate.
Military veterans—42 percent of security professionals in our sample—maintained a slight edge over their colleagues with civilian backgrounds. In 2005, veterans of all services in our sample earned an average of $91,600 and a median of $80,000, rising 6 percent over 2004.
This may be attributed to the fact that more military veterans hold the top-level security position within their company (31 percent) compared to lifelong civilians (26 percent). But even comparing all top-level security professionals exclusively, military veterans had higher median and average salaries than their civilian counterparts.
U.S. Navy veterans in particular held a distinct advantage amongst the top-level cohort, with an average annual compensation of $124,000 and a median of $95,000, compared to lifelong civilians in the top spot, who averaged $101,000 and whose median salary was $88,000.
Navy veterans interviewed for this article cite some specific advantages of the Navy’s training philosophy and practice that they believe may account for the edge. It includes a 5-vector model that establishes a formal career plan to achieve a diversity and depth of critical skills as sailors advance from recruit through master skill levels. For Navy security forces, this model includes law enforcement, crime prevention, investigations, security administration, physical security, security force management, and expeditionary combat skills.
Other Navy vets credit their pay level to the fact that their military experience offers a unique opportunity to work in an environment that relies on many of the same facility-focused technologies, such as CCTV and electronics, currently used in corporate security today. This exposure, combined with the focus on interdependent systems, prepared many Navy veterans to establish themselves as consultants rather than taking positions in security management. On this point, the data seem to agree.
Among other service veterans, about 12 percent were consultants; while among Navy veterans, 21 percent worked in security consulting. Not only do they go into consulting more often, they also seem to do better at it, with Navy veterans earning 14 percent higher median and 32 percent higher average compensation as consultants than consultants without a Navy background.
U.S. Air Force veterans, who made up 12 percent of respondents, tended to go into security management, but they still did better on average than lifelong civilians. Air Force veterans holding the top-level security position within their company reported an average salary of $111,000 and a median of $88,400.
Veterans of the U.S. Army, the largest of American military forces, represented 16 percent of all respondents to the survey. Like the Air Force personnel, they gravitated to working in a security department within a business, rather than providing consulting services, but still fared well. Amongst those in the top-level positions, compensation averaged $104,000 with a median of $87,000.
Marines were most likely to be in security management roles, rather than consulting or security services. Those ex-Marines in the top-level positions reported average salaries of $100,000 and a median of $89,000.
This year’s survey also looked, for the first time, at compensation by gender and, not surprisingly, found a considerable gap. Women, representing just 10 percent of the sample, reported an average compensation of $80,000 and a median of $70,000. Men, by contrast, earned about 13 percent more, with average compensation of $92,700 and a median of $80,000. Compensation levels for women in the security profession rose 8 percent in 2005, compared to men at 7 percent, leaving the double-digit gap essentially unchanged.
Interestingly, the 13 percent gender gap represented here is identical to the gender gap found between male and female IT managers in a recent survey conducted by Information Week. As bad as that might sound, it could be worse. According to recently published research by the American Association of University Women, the pay gap for college-educated women as a whole, regardless of profession, is a whopping 23 percent. As it turns out, the security profession, thought of as a male bastion, is relatively progressive.
In seeking to understand the underlying cause of the gender gap, we analyzed several factors—including job level, sector, education, and age—among male and female respondents. We found that women were slightly less likely to hold the top-level security position at their company—25 percent compared to 29 percent for men. But when salaries are examined among women and men holding the same top-level job, the pay gap narrows to just 7 percent—with an $83,000 median for women and $89,000 for men. Among those not in the top level, the gap widens to 10 percent: $69,500 for women and $77,000 for men.
With regard to sector, women were proportionally represented across the board but with some interesting distinctions by industry. The government sector, for example, is a model of parity. In two other categories—education and other services, and wholesale and retail—women actually fared better than male counterparts, earning a striking 18 percent more in the latter category.
With regard to education, there was a negligible difference reported between men and women in highest level of education attained, although fewer women hold relevant certifications, with 52 percent indicating they hold no certifications compared to 41 percent of men.
One notable gender difference was age. Among female respondents, 66 percent reported being under the age of 50, while just 48 percent of men reported being under that age. That age differential may be a significant factor in the gender gap. Overall, respondents over 50 had compensations 27 percent higher than those 49 or less. It is also likely that women over 50 entered the work force at a time when the compensation climate was worse for women than it is today. The detriment of that early disadvantage would be magnified by the years in the work force. Among all respondents under the age of 40, the disparity between men and women is just 5 percent.
Budgets and Staffing Trends
While the primary purpose of the survey is to gauge compensation trends, information was also collected on budgets and staffing. Analysis of these numbers reveals mostly positive industry trends.
Security budgets rose across the board from 2004 to 2005. The largest median increases were reported in the combined transportation and utilities sector as well as in the construction sector, both of which saw a median 33 percent increase in security budgets. This was closely followed by the government sector, which saw a 25 percent rise in budgets.
The sharp rise in construction security budgets is greatly mitigated by the fact that they also represented the smallest security budgets, rising from a median of $150,000 to $450,000. The education sector reported the second lowest median security budget at just $839,000, and this field had only a modest 5 percent increase over the year prior. The slowest growing security budgets were in security and professional services—rising just 4 percent to a median $1.2 million. That also happened to be the category containing the largest percentage of survey respondents. Transportation and utilities sector median budgets, on the other hand, rose from $1 million to $3 million and represented the highest median budget in the survey.
Average budgets are another matter and, as with salaries, can be greatly affected by relatively few entities with very large-scale operations. Transportation and utilities, for example, reported an average security budget of over $32 million, less than $1 million more than the average in the government sector.
Security staffing levels varied greatly by industry. Leisure, security and professional services, and the financial sectors remained relatively flat, ranging from 0 to 3 percent above the year prior. The education sector led the pack with an ambitious 21 percent median rise in staffing over the prior year; an impressive feat given the budget realities that constrain that sector.
Across the board, the median number of personnel on the security staff was 20, though construction was notable for its low staffing median of 5. The government sector tied with leisure and hospitality for highest median staffing of 30.
As these statistics show, the security profession is keeping pace with inflation, and even making gains, both in terms of personal compensation and in terms of departmental budgets. That’s good news, considering that the range of issues with which security professionals have to contend also continues to grow.
Mike Moran is special projects editor for the ASIS International Publishing Department. He conducts and analyzes results for the ASIS salary survey each year.