Pursuing a Career in Cybersecurity
The cybersecurity job unemployment rate in the U.S is zero. Virtually anyone looking for a job in the field can find stable work, good pay, a generous benefits package, and probably a corner office with a view. In fact, 3.5 million cybersecurity jobs in almost any industry are projected to go unfilled globally by 2021.
The New York Times, Wharton School, Harvard Business Review, MIT Technology Review, Forbes Technology Council, and every other major news outlet have reported on the shortage of talent that has turned into near-epidemic proportions. With the spike in cyberattacks and data breaches worldwide in startups to enterprise-level businesses, the need for professionals in cybersecurity or any IT-related field is desperate.
Simply put, if you have a bachelor’s degree, less than five years of experience, and no on-the-job training, you’re still likely to land a job with a median pay of $98,000, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. How do you do it? Below is a brief guide outlining your path to a career in cybersecurity.
What Is Cybersecurity?
If you are a cybersecurity analyst, engineer, administrator, or consultant, your primary task is to protect a company’s systems, networks, and program from a data breach or cyberattack. More specifically, you prevent criminals from accessing digital assets or private information. A cybersecurity specialist works within the company infrastructure to implement effective measures to keep the company, its partners, employees, and customers safe.
As a cybersecurity administrator, you will utilize a multi-layered approach that incorporates various forms of security across the entire network. You will develop a unified threat management system in which all hardware, software, and equipment work together to create a solid layer of digital defense. You will also be responsible for maintaining, updating, and monitoring the system.
Lastly, you may be responsible for educating and onboarding all employees within your organization. You will teach best practices for preventing a cyberattack, as well as holding employees accountable for activity that could compromise the safety of the company. What more, you may be responsible for determining the root of a cybersecurity attack if one occurs, how to reverse the effects, and how to protect systems from similar threats in the future, as well as differentiating between various types of cybersecurity threats, including things like social engineering attacks, DDoS attacks, and so on. Your involvement in the protection of the company may range from entry-level to executive level.
What is the Required Education for a Cybersecurity Job?
The bare minimum requirement for a cybersecurity job is an associate degree in a tech-related field. Most employers are still looking for candidates who have a bachelor’s degree, preferably in IT or security. Some students choose to pursue doctoral degrees, however, while others attend technical colleges.
What will you study? Although universities differ in what cybersecurity curriculum they offer, most provide the following coursework:
- Infrastructure and security assessment
- Technology implementation
- Disaster recovery and business continuity
- End-user protection
- Ethics, law, and policy
- Data communication and networking
- Digital forensics
- Security systems, software, and other technology
When exploring cybersecurity programs, make sure that the courses are designed to meet your career goals and objectives. If you are currently working or have family obligations, you may also want to look at options for online and distance learning. Finally, when thinking about which school to attend, consider the institution’s reputation, faculty reputation, total cost, length of the program, flexibility, and admissions requirements.
What are the Required Skills for a Cybersecurity Job?
Like any other field, you will need a set of hard and soft skills to get a job and experience long-term success in cybersecurity. Some of the skills that employers will find useful include:
- Strong and concise written and verbal communication skills.
- Ability to work with individuals and teams in all departments of the company.
- Honesty, integrity, and the ability to remain discreet at all times.
- Programming skills such as system and network programming.
- A thorough understanding of security concepts and principles.
Also, you need to be adept at risk analysis, network protocols and identifying malicious codes. At the most basic level, you need to be able to recognize all tactics used by intruders to hack into a system. You need to identify their methods and their mindset.
What Types of Jobs Are Available in Cybersecurity?
As new cyberthreats appear, new job opportunities become available to address the need for security. As a cybersecurity professional, you have access to a broad spectrum of careers across multiple platforms, in almost any industry, at any business development level. Employers are currently looking for the following positions:
Chief Information Security Officer (CISO)
Digital transformation is an ongoing process for most midsize to enterprise-level companies. As such, IT experts are often enlisted to help make executive decisions regarding technology. As a chief information security officer (CISO), you will oversee the IT operations of your company. You will plan and coordinate security for the entire network, as well as lead a capable staff of security professionals.
Forensic Computer Analyst
This job is incredibly valuable in today’s harsh cyber climate. If you are a forensic computer analyst, your job is to investigate a security breach to determine what happened. You will handle all network components to identify vulnerabilities in the company’s system. Your primary goal is to restore the safety and digital integrity of the company.
Information Security Analyst (ISA)
As an information security analyst (ISA), you are the eyes and ears of the computer system and network. You develop programs and infrastructures that protect the company’s digital assets. Roles include software installation, data encryption, data recovery, and routine updates. You will also create a system that is scalable and can adapt to company growth.
The only way to determine if a system can withstand a cyberattack is to attack the system yourself. A penetration tester uses real-world scenarios to hack into a system. By hacking the system, you can identify the vulnerabilities and where a cyberattack is likely to occur. Ironically, to be effective at penetration testing, you have to think like a criminal.
IT Security Architect/Engineer
Both the security architect and engineer have overlapping roles. Your job is to establish, design, and maintain the security system. You may also be responsible for setting security policies and protocols based on the network. Plus, you will keep logs and develop automation scripts to monitor and track every incident of an attempted or successful attack.
Ten years ago, a career in cybersecurity seemed like an impossible venture. Only the smartest, most talented techies in the field could get those jobs. However, the landscape has changed, as more businesses are competing for top talent. So, if you are planning to take the leap of a career change and pursue a career in cybersecurity, then there is no better time than now. Good luck with your career choice!