Cyber security has become an essential aspect of every organization’s operation. As technology continues to evolve, so do the risks and threats posed by cyber criminals. So, it’s no surprise that cyber security is now one of the most in-demand professions worldwide.
Cyber security professionals have the skills and knowledge to keep digital data and assets secure and keep digital networks functioning reliably. They’re needed in every sector where digital systems underpin critical enterprise functions.
You’ll find cyber security professionals everywhere, from banking to e-commerce, health, transportation, and manufacturing. But breaking into the cybersecurity profession can feel overwhelming if you’re new to the game.
There are many different paths to take and things to learn, but we got you. In this blog post, we’ll show you how to get started in cyber security, from getting educated and certified to gaining practical experience and building your network.
Cyber Security Professionals are in High Demand
63% of surveyed businesses in North America have a shortage of cybersecurity-savvy IT professionals, which makes them vulnerable to attacks, according to a study by (ISC)2. Image source: Berkeley.edu
While the corporate world’s digital footprint is growing exponentially, the security force for the digital world hasn’t expanded at the same pace. There is a substantial need for specialists to fill the gap between technological advancement and the growing parallel risk of cyber threats.
In the United States, for instance, the demand for security analysts is projected to grow by 35% between 2021 and 2031, an unusually steep rate. In 2022, the country employed over 1.1 million people in the cyber security workforce, while nearly 800,000 jobs remained vacant.
At the same time, the cost of a data breach for organizations rose, with the average total reaching $4.35 million in 2022.
While demand is high for cyber security professionals, you should know that it’s a challenging role that requires a specialized technical skillset. Getting the proper training, experience, and certifications can help you choose a specialty, build a network, and break into the industry faster. The following tips will help get you started.
Train for Entry Level Cyber Security Jobs
Prospective employers will look for evidence of your educational foundation in Information Technology (IT). Some cyber security professionals have Bachelor’s degrees in IT computer science, IT, or certificates in cyber security programs.
If your heart is set on the top job as Chief Information Security Officer (CISO), responsible for a company’s overall security strategy, you may need a Master’s level degree.
Before shelling out for tuition, however, you can get a primer in cyber security essentials at no cost. Open online educational platforms, such as edX, Udemy, Coursera, and Codecademy, offer a range of free introductory courses and tutorials on cyber security.
If a university program is not for you, bootcamps are an excellent option. These online or in-person intensive study programs teach specific technical skills over several weeks or months.
Many bootcamps have recruitment relationships with industry partners, opening career doors faster. Find a bootcamp that matches your skill level and focuses on an area you’re passionate about.
Develop and Certify your Cyber Security Skillset
Cover your bases by building your cyber security skillset in the core areas of risk assessment, authentication, and information systems.
- Risk assessment involves identifying threats and assessing their impact.
- Authentication refers to techniques and tools to verify user identities online.
- Information systems are how data is gathered, processed, stored, and transmitted.
Familiarity with various programming languages is recommended, especially the Linux operating system, which security specialists prefer for digital forensics.
Alongside skills and coding knowledge, soft skills, like communication and teamwork, are vital in cyber security. An eye for detail is another key attribute. Cyber criminals spend their time looking for easy-to-miss vulnerabilities to exploit, and you must be equally attentive.
Once you’ve started developing your skills, it’s time to test and demonstrate those abilities through industry certifications. Employers use them to validate your security proficiency; they show that you know and observe best practices in providing operational and privacy protections.
You can often prepare for certification exams by completing self-directed learning modules online. A solid credential for people in entry-level cyber security jobs is the Certified Information Systems Auditor certification (CISA).
The Certified Information Systems Security Professional certification (CISSP) is an advanced accreditation to work towards. With more valuable credentials on your resume, the better as you can leverage them to command a higher salary.
Entry-level positions fall primarily into technical and management areas. People in technical roles engage more directly with security engineering, analysis, and prevention and work in cloud security, access management, and penetration testing.
Those who choose management roles provide security oversight and focus their strengths on security training, audits and compliance, and risk management.
Get Hands-On Experience in Cyber Security
The best way to hone your skills as a cyber security professional is by applying what you’ve learned in practical situations. Look for paid and unpaid internship opportunities at organizations to get hands-on experience – and your foot in the door.
Another way to gain valuable experience is by contributing to open-source coding projects or participating in coding hackathons. You may not be practicing cyber security skills per se, but all programming involves building secure systems and eliminating vulnerabilities.
Working on group projects also expands your circle of professional contacts. Gather references, keep track of your work, and build a coding portfolio on a dedicated website or GitHub. A coding portfolio lists your education, certifications, and experience and showcases projects you’ve worked on via screenshots and links.
If you’re just starting, these can be school projects or contributions to open-source initiatives. Keep your finger on the pulse by following security experts and reading security websites. Staying aware of new threats, vulnerabilities, and backdoor breaches is a sure-fire way to demonstrate your commitment and dedication to future employers.
Use Networking to Land a Cyber Security Job
Whether you do a university degree, a bootcamp, or work on an open-source project, you are plugging yourself into a network of industry professionals. Fellow students, tutors, professors, team members, and co-workers are all members of your emerging professional network.
These contacts are essential when you’re trying to land your first position or looking for a job change later in your career. You need people you can count on for technical advice, job recommendations, and references. Expand your professional circle by joining industry organizations and attending cyber security conferences.
Get Started on your Cyber Security Career Path
Once you’ve acquired foundational training, entry-level certifications, and project experience, you’ll feel confident embarking on a career path in cyber security.
With so many job vacancies, you may have the freedom to be selective and find that perfect fit with an organization that excites you and a team that helps you grow.
Given today’s pace of technology change, cyber security is a thrilling and vitally important domain to work in. It’s an excellent time to take those first steps into a cyber security career. Visit our career page for resources and information, or contact us for career support.
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