Cyber security is a broad field with a variety of roles in computer systems and network security. If you want to pursue a career in cyber security, this is an excellent time to do so. As Internet use continues to rapidly increase, so does the need for cyber security professionals.
How do you begin a career in this field? What is required to get a job in cyber security? We will answer these and other questions in this extensive guide on how to get a job or apprenticeship in cyber security. We cover everything you need to know, from educational requirements and skills needed to where to look for cyber security jobs, and everything in between.
What Is Cyber Security?
Cyber security, also known as information technology security, is a body of processes, technologies, and methods used to protect devices, networks, data, and programs from damage, attack, or unauthorized access.
Cyber security professionals play a crucial role within institutions that handle high-security data, such as the government, military, financial institutions, medical organizations, and education systems. Cyber security professionals help to ensure that the data is safe, private, and inaccessible to unauthorized persons.
Cyber Security Job Outlook
According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), employment in cyber security is projected to increase by 33 percent from 2020 to 2030. BLS also reports that 16,300 cyber security positions are expected to open each year leading up to 2030.
What Education Do I Need to Become a Cyber Security Professional?
Educational requirements will vary depending on the industry and employer you work for. Most employers will require a Bachelor’s Degree in Computer Science, IT, Systems Engineering, or a related field. While some employers may require a master’s degree, others may accept an associate degree, especially if the candidate has experience.
Finally, these days you can also become a cyber security professional by attending a coding bootcamp. A coding bootcamp is a short but intensive program that thoroughly prepares you for some of the best tech jobs out there, including cyber security.
Can I Get a Cyber Security Job Without a Degree?
It is absolutely possible to get a cyber security job without a degree. Cyber security is not hard to learn. Many employers prioritize skill and expertise over education level. This means that you can become a cyber security professional through alternative routes that are faster and cheaper than earning a degree, such as attending a coding bootcamp or community college.
With that said, the more sensitive the industry, the higher the educational requirements will be. So, if your goal is to work for a government agency or a medical institution, you may need a bachelor’s or even a master’s degree. For more exclusive jobs, you can also consider taking the SSCP exam and earning a certification.
Can a Coding Bootcamp Help Me Get a Job in Cyber Security?
A coding bootcamp is a great way to train for cyber security roles. Bootcamp students master the basics of cyber security and participate in projects to build their portfolios. They learn how to prevent cyber attacks and come up with solutions to retrieve stolen or damaged data.
These bootcamps offer intensive training in a variety of areas within the cyber security field. Students who complete the programs can work in cyber crime prevention, penetration testing, and other cyber security roles. These programs are also much more affordable and less time-consuming than bachelor’s degrees.
How Long Does It Take to Get a Job in Cyber Security?
The time it takes to get a job in cyber security varies based on the educational track you choose. If you plan to pursue a bachelor’s degree in a computer-related field, you will need four years on average. After their bachelor’s, many professionals choose to earn a graduate degree, which is another two years.
Fortunately, there are faster routes. You can attend a community college and earn an associate degree, which takes about two years. Lastly, if you choose to enroll in a bootcamp, you could complete your training in as little as three months.
Each option has its advantages and drawbacks. A bachelor’s degree is more expensive and time-consuming than attending a community college or joining a coding bootcamp. However, no small number of employers out there still require a bachelor’s degree for positions in this field.
Common Cyber Security Education Paths
There are several learning paths that lead to a cyber security career. When deciding what type of training institution to attend, consider the length and cost of the program, as well as the jobs you will gain access to.
Cyber Security Bootcamps
Cyber security bootcamps offer intensive programs that teach practical defensive and offensive cyber operations and skills. They also cover important cyber processes such as data encryption, risk assessment, threat modeling, network security, vulnerability scanning, code analysis, and incident response.
The best cyber security bootcamps have extensive career services to make sure that you find a job shortly after graduation. Bootcamps take as little as three months to complete and are more affordable than universities. However, a bootcamp education may not be enough for more senior positions that require a bachelor’s and even a master’s degree.
You can attend a community college for an associate degree in a computer-related field. These programs will help you acquire the knowledge and skills you need to start your cyber security career. Additionally, the credits you earn through community college can be transferred to a four-year university, which means you can complete your bachelor’s degree faster.
Community colleges are far more affordable than universities and can be completed in half the time. However, these programs are not as thorough as bachelor’s degrees and not all employers accept candidates with this educational background.
Cyber Security Degrees
A degree is the most popular educational pathway for careers in cyber security. The majority of employers require applicants to have a bachelor’s degree in a computer-related field. While the downside of a degree in cyber security is the cost and amount of time it takes, it’s definitely an investment that pays off quickly.
Key Cyber Security Skills to List on Your Resume
In addition to the knowledge you gain through education, there are really important skills that employers will be scanning your resume for. While most students prioritize technical skills, people skills are also crucial for a successful career in cyber security. We take a look at the most important technical and soft skills below.
As a cyber security expert, leadership skills are essential. You will be the one trusted by colleagues, senior management, and employers to protect very sensitive information, and will need to take the lead in decision-making and implementation. You’ll need to be able to communicate clearly and effectively.
Analytics and Intelligence
Cyber security professionals need to prepare for any threat that could violate the security policies of an organization. These security incidents include, but are not limited to, advanced persistent threats, ransomware, malware, denial-of-service (DoS) attacks, and phishing attacks.
Analytic and intelligence skills enable you to easily identify these threats, find weaknesses in the system, and quickly enact solutions. These skills also help you to foresee potential threats and plan accordingly.
Firewall Administration Skills
In order to perform the duties assigned to cyber security professionals, in-depth knowledge of software and hardware firewall mechanisms and infrastructures is essential. You’ll need to be able to install and maintain firewalls in order to keep computer systems and networks secure.
Where to Find Cyber Security Jobs
Most cyber security positions are advertised online on job boards, forums, and company websites. Some of the most popular job sites include Indeed, LinkedIn, and Glassdoor. Here are some of the easiest ways to find a cyber security job:
There is a wide range of job forums that focus on cyber security. Professionals in cyber security join these forums to exchange field-related information, provide updates, and share job postings. Examples of forums where you can find cyber security openings include Reddit, Liquidmatrix, and Slack.
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Job boards are probably the most popular option for job seekers. Some of the most popular job boards include Glassdoor, ZipRecruiter, Indeed, Monster, and LinkedIn. These websites post tons of jobs on a daily basis, and, through filters, allow you to narrow your search based on location, job level, and salary.
Although this is not the most popular method for finding jobs, it’s actually a very effective one. If you already know what company you want to work for, you can go to its website and visit its career opportunities page, where they list job vacancies. Additionally, most companies will allow you to subscribe to a newsletter, which often includes job openings.
How to Prepare for Your Cyber Security Interview
To ace your interview, you’ll want to be prepared for the questions that the hiring manager might ask. Below, we list some of the questions that you might encounter during your cyber security job interview.
Cyber Security Interview Questions
- What’s the difference between penetration testing and vulnerability assessment?
- What is cryptography?
- What differentiates symmetric and asymmetric encryption?
- What response codes are received from web applications?
The Five Highest-Paying Cyber Security Jobs
|Cyber Security Jobs||Average Salary||Projected Growth|
|Chief Information Security Officer||$159,877||33%*|
|Lead Software Security Engineer||$128,682||33%*|
|Cyber Security Architect||$146,768||33%*|
|Information Security Analyst||$99,944||33%*|
*Job outlook figure taken from BLS’s page on information security analysts
Chief Information Security Officer
A chief information security officer (CISO) is a senior-level executive in an organization. These professionals are responsible for building and maintaining the enterprise’s security vision as well as the strategies and programs needed to protect assets and technologies.
Lead Software Security Engineer
The lead software security engineer is involved in creating and maintaining security requirements, policies, and procedures. Professionals in this job role work with other experts on network architecture and prepare engineering designs for software solutions.
Cyber Security Architect
Cyber security architects are responsible for building, designing, and maintaining computer and network security systems in an organization. Once these security systems are in place, cyber security architects conduct regular testing and assessments and optimize solutions accordingly.
Penetration testers perform authorized tests on computer and network systems to expose areas that are vulnerable to attacks. They are also known as ethical hackers because they employ the same techniques as malicious hackers but with the opposite intent.
Information Security Analyst
Information security analysts protect an organization’s sensitive data to ensure that cyber attackers never gain access to it. Their role revolves around prevention, as they analyze security reports, keep updated on security trends, and adopt new preventative solutions. To become an information security analyst, you need problem-solving as well as research skills.
Cyber Security Career Path
The cyber security industry boasts a broad range of positions and potential career tracks, from security consultant and security administrator to cyber security engineer and network administrator. Below, we consider some of the most common entry-level positions as well as mid and senior-level roles.
Entry-Level Cyber Security Jobs
- Security Analyst – Security analysts protect businesses from cyber hackers who want to view, modify, or destroy their data.
- Security Specialist – Security specialists assist senior employees with onboarding new staff and are involved in ensuring computer and network data is protected.
- Cryptographers – Cryptographers use ciphers and specialized algorithms to encrypt data and develop new security systems. They often work with organizations that handle highly sensitive data.
Mid-Level Cyber Security Jobs
- Cyber Forensic Expert – Cyber forensic experts retrieve and recover data, analyze network traces, and collect evidence from computer systems during criminal investigations.
- Penetration Tester – Penetration testers identify vulnerabilities in computer systems using methods and techniques used by criminal hackers. Based on their findings, penetration testers create and maintain solutions to stop security breaches.
- Cyber Security Engineer – Cyber security engineers design, implement, and monitor security measures to ensure that enterprise-level applications are protected. They also install firewalls for preventative measures.
Senior-Level Cyber Security Jobs
- Chief Information Security Officer (CISO) – CISOs develop and maintain risk management and information security programs. They also work with stakeholders to improve security protocols and keep these stakeholders informed on security topics.
- Cyber Security Architect – Security architects design and develop software and hardware systems to protect computer and network systems. They also develop and maintain methods for preventing and addressing cyber attacks.
- Information Systems Security Manager – Information systems security managers are involved in choosing and enacting which security policies and methods are used by the cyber security team. They also oversee and document security operations.
Cyber Security Certifications
Cyber security certifications are an excellent way to demonstrate to employers that you have the necessary skills and knowledge required for the job. Although professional certifications are not mandatory, you should consider pursuing one, particularly if you don’t have a bachelor’s degree or lack experience.
The Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP) certification is popular in the cyber security industry. It demonstrates that a candidate is experienced in information technology security and can design, implement, and monitor cyber security programs.
The Certified Information Security Manager (CISM) is an advanced certification that validates a candidate’s expertise in information security management. Some of the topics it covers include incident management, program development, governance, and risk management.
CompTIA Security+ is an entry-level certification. It validates the skills required for all basic cyber security roles. This certification shows that you understand cyber laws, can respond to security incidents, and are able to assess an organization’s security systems.
Tips on How to Get a Job in Cyber Security
Cyber security offers a wide range of careers, some of which have quite broad responsibilities while others have very specific roles. Below we provide some tips to help you get started in cyber security and land a well-paying job.
Choose an Area of Focus
Cyber security is a very broad field, so you need to decide which area to specialize in. Preferably, you’d make this decision before choosing an education path, as you want to make sure that your education covers the skills required for your area of focus.
Networking is an important step in the job search. You can join job boards and forums where fellow cyber security professionals exchange tips, updates, and other relevant information. You can also use job boards and forums to let people know that you’re seeking employment.
Certifications are a great way to showcase your skills. They’re especially beneficial for people who do not have a bachelor’s degree or lack experience. If you decide to attend a community college or bootcamp, earning a certification is recommended.
Participate in Hackathons
One of the best ways to boost your skills is by participating in hackathons. Hackathons allow you to develop your software skills with professionals in related fields. Hackathons look great on your resume and will let potential employers know that you have solid penetration testing skills.
Never Stop Learning
Cyber security is a dynamic field. It continues to change as technology advances and evolves. You need to continuously update your cyber security knowledge and skills to remain relevant and effective in this field. There are lots of cyber security events, forums, workshops, courses, and tutorials that can assist in continuing your cyber security education.
Should You Get a Job in Cyber Security in 2021?
If you are interested in cyber security and up for the challenges of this fast-growing industry, then pursuing a career in cyber security is a great decision. Not only are cyber security jobs opportunities growing at an extremely fast rate, but these professionals bring home very large salaries.
Cyber Security Professional FAQ
There are education paths you can pursue in order to become a cyber security professional without a degree. For example, you can attend a community college or a coding bootcamp. If you choose one of these alternative routes, you will probably want to earn professional certification to buttress your resume.
Becoming a cyber security expert is challenging. However, if you are interested in pursuing this career and willing to put in the work, becoming a cyber security specialist is absolutely doable. The higher your education and experience, the easier it will be to enter this field.
You can become a cyber security professional by attending a university, community college, or coding bootcamp. Depending on your level of education, you may need to pursue a certification or do an internship to gain hands-on experience in the field and acquire key technical skills.
According to ZipRecruiter, cyber security professionals earn an average salary of $100,473 per year. However, the salary of a cyber security specialist increases with experience and varies depending on specialization.
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