How to Start Your Career in Cybersecurity
By Sai Digbijay
Cyber Security epitomizes the perfect storm in employment opportunities for anyone that wants to build a lucrative long-term career in an IT-related field. The perfect storm is created by the fact that:
- Cybersecurity is a high-growth industry. According to Global Market Insights, the cyber security market will grow in size from $120 billion (2019) to $320 billion by the year 2024. Also, the Official Annual Cybercrime Report for 2019, predicts that companies will increasingly face ransomware attacks. (attacks every 14 seconds in 2019 to attacks every 11 seconds by 2021). This means that more human resource is required to bolster cybersecurity.
- Cybersecurity has a severe shortage of talent. Cybersecurity Ventures Ltd. forecasts that there will be 3.5 million available jobs for cybersecurity experts by 2021.
- Cybersecurity pays well. With the high demand for cybersecurity jobs and the unmatched shortage of professionals in the industry, organizations are paying experts more and more.
- Companies are increasingly hiring based on a candidate’s potential than their proven track record, especially for those seeking to enter the sector at the bottom of the salary scale.
Figure 1: Most organizations are unprepared to deal with cyber attacks
The cybersecurity industry can be intricate and complicated to the point that people seeking to start a career in the field can feel daunted (and for those that are already in the industry to feel jaded). This is why it is crucial for anyone that wants to start (or build) a career in cybersecurity to go about it in an organized manner.
Additionally, it is essential to remember that employers will often choose candidates with a specific set of skills and experience to match the openings that they have in their organizations. Furthermore, candidates with recognized certifications will usually be chosen over those without any certification. With all this in mind, here is a guide that will help you start your career in cybersecurity on a strong foundation.
1. Acquire a degree in cybersecurity
Cybersecurity has a vast knowledge-base for anyone that wants to be effective at thwarting attacks. As such, knowledge in a single domain is rarely enough for a candidate to be employed in an organization. For this reason, it is vital for students and cybersecurity professionals to build a foundation based on an understanding of different topics such as wireless networks, digital forensics, ethical hacking, mobile security, etc. Acquiring a degree in cybersecurity is the most effective way to get this information because the knowledge is organized and taught by several experts with the required expertise.
The flip side of the same coin confirms the importance of acquiring a degree in cybersecurity because most of the employers expect candidates to have at least a bachelor’s degree. Most of the degrees offered by reputable training institutions such as the EC-Council University (Bachelor of Science in Cyber Security - BSCS) cover several useful topics including security threat assessment, incident response, computer security management, and much more.
2. Augment skills with industry-recognized certifications
Enhancing the knowledge acquired through a degree is critically important for anyone that wants to build a stable career in the cyber security industry. The fact of the matter is that more often than not, degree courses lag behind the up-to-date information and skills that certifications can offer. For this reason, longevity and growth in a cybersecurity profession depend on continuous learning. Since organizations will ask for verifiable proof that a candidate has acquired additional knowledge and skills to match current and future threats, it is essential to be certified.
Necessarily, the degree will provide a global view of the cybersecurity industry including the skills required to be effective in the industry while certifications provide optimal knowledge to help candidates remain current in the constantly evolving cybersecurity industry.
There are several certifications that an individual can pursue, including:
- CEH (V10)- Certified Ethical Hacker
- CND-Certified Network Defender course
- CISM®- Certified Information Security Manager
- CISSP®- Certified Information Systems Security Professional
- CISA®- Certified Information Systems Auditor
- CCSP-Certified Cloud Security Professional
- COBIT®5- Control Objectives for Information and Related Technologies
- CRISC®- Certified in Risk and Information Systems Control
- CHFI-Computer Hacking Forensic Investigator Certification course
Cyber Security Career Learning Path
Then again, instead of tackling all the certifications one at a time, it may be better to take the Cyber Security Certification Training that combines training and preparation for all of the above certifications in one convenient package.
Another track that you can follow to build skills is the VAPT or Vulnerability Assessment & Penetration Testing track offered by the EC-Council.
Figure 2: VAPT Ethical Hacker Certification Track
3. Other skills to acquire beyond certification
Beyond degrees and certifications, candidates that can demonstrate attention to detail, motivation, curiosity, adaptability, and work ethic are more highly valued than candidates that cannot display these aptitudes. These abilities can hardly be taught, and it is, therefore, up to the individual to hone these skills by themselves. Other skills that may prove to be valuable in the cybersecurity industry may include communications skills and project management skills.
Figure 3: Cybersecurity workers need to know IT and understand their industry
Through immersion and a quest to acquire knowledge and skills in different cybersecurity areas, an individual can prime themselves to be the best employee that can provide the most value to an organization that requires to defend against cyber-attacks.
Cybersecurity experts need to adapt to the ever-changing methods that cybercriminals use to breach security. For example, a cybersecurity expert needs to be as much aware of human social engineering or spearfishing tactics as they are to ‘spray and pray’ tactics that cybercriminals may choose to use.
Additionally, besides the skills taught through formal degrees and certifications, some of the on-the-job skills that will be required can be attained through:
- Doing experiments on your own to understand different environments that can be attacked and the necessary mindset to attack and counter the attacks
- Do a lot of reading on your own and stay up-to-date to understand the latest technologies and ideas used or that can be used to breach security. This can be done through reading cybersecurity news, blogs, articles, subscribing to websites, listening to podcasts, attending webinars, etc.
- Networking and staying connected to industry experts and the hacker community
- Ask questions to anyone that can provide useful answers, and that can help you become a better cybersecurity expert.
4. Apply for an internship
Last but not least, the best way to put into practice the knowledge and skills acquired through a degree, certification, and self-learning is through an internship. By becoming an intern, an individual can build their confidence to grow professionally and personally as well as gain the opportunity to land a job. Additionally, an internship will help a candidate to learn how to better communicate, make better decisions, and gain the in-depth knowledge that will help them acquire peak performance in an on-the-job environment.
The cybersecurity industry has lots of opportunities now and for the foreseeable future for anyone that wants to build a career in this sector. That said, a pragmatic approach is required for anyone that wants to have a successful, lucrative, and long-lasting career. Through a combination of formal education and informal learning, individuals that want to start a career in cybersecurity can do so based on a strong foundation.
About the Author:
Sai Digbijay is a content specialist for Cyber Security courses at Simplilearn. He writes about a range of topics that include data science, project management, cloud computing, and marketing. He values curious minds and scrambles to learn new things.