A career in cyber security is incredibly rewarding. In addition to helping organizations keep their information safe and helping to make the world a better place, cyber security professionals are also paid very well, typically earning over $100,000 per year.
Interested in pursuing a career in cyber security? Here are seven tips to help you get started.
- Start learning and doing. While a degree in computer science doesn’t hurt, you don’t need any particular approval or certification to get going. What you invest in learning will come back as a great career opportunity.
- Earn certificates. A full degree or extensive credentials isn’t essential. Basic credentialing and having at least some aptitude is sufficient to get an entry-level job. Obtaining security+ or Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP) certification goes a long way toward showing employers that you can handle the job duties of a cybersecurity job.
- Show initiative. There are numerous books and courses on cyber-related skills like reverse engineering malware and tracking malicious activities on the internet. Employers are interested in people with basic skills who can be turned into very proficient cyber security engineers and investigators by supporting self-study combined with team-led reinforcement of those principles.
“Self-directed learning and experimentation are critical,” says Sean Tierney, head of the cyber intelligence team at Infoblox. “College degrees, vendor training, and professional certifications are great. However, the most frequent interview question is always along the lines of, ‘Tell me about your home lab, what kind of systems you’re running, and work you’re doing?’ Followed up by, ‘What have you learned?’”
- Find your passion. There are so many industry segments and application areas, from network security to endpoint protection, application security, threat intelligence, and more. You may work with products or services, with vendors or customers, in a commercial company or the public sector, in operational roles or leadership, in known technologies or new ones under development — the options are practically endless.
- Keep your options open. Many jobs in cyber security are technical, but some aren’t technical at all. The industry needs people with a wide variety of skills — communication, interpersonal, leadership, investigatory, and business understanding. The truly difficult challenges in cybersecurity relate to leadership of and collaboration between people, and on the most strategic level, it’s about risk management.
- Expand your horizons. The best security professionals have well-rounded experience in tech work. According to Tierney, “The thing that will make you good at security is that you are great at something else first. For example, become a master of the fundamentals of data networks, be an expert at administering multiple operating systems, or be proficient at multiple scripting languages (Python, Bash, etc.).”
Rod Rasmussen, Infoblox vice president of cyber security agrees, saying, “If you’re already in IT, then spend time studying up on network security, dealing with endpoint hygiene, or whatever is related to the work you’re already doing. You will find that you will become ‘the security guru’ in your office pretty quick by doing that and from there, the transition becomes a lot easier.”
- Network with industry professionals. Online networking is great, but in-person networking is even better. Try getting involved in meetups, attending conferences, and asking current security professionals for advice over coffee. Tierney says, “Get to know as many people in the industry as you can. Get involved in open source or community projects. Another thing often overlooked in networking is offering to help others more than you ask for help.”
Ready for Work
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(19 Mar 2019). How to Begin a Career In Cyber-Security. Forbes.
Bradford, Laurence. (27 Feb 2017). How To Start A Lucrative Career In Cybersecurity. Forbes.