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How to Get Into Cyber Security Without a Degree? A Comprehensive Guide

How to Get Into Cyber Security Without a Degree? A Comprehensive Guide

With cyber-attacks and data breaches on the rise, the demand for cyber security professionals is higher than ever. Job openings in the cybersecurity field have increased by 350%, growing from one million vacancies in 2013 to 3.5 million in 2021, as reported by Cybersecurity Ventures. 

While the number of unfilled positions stabilized in 2022, it remained at 3.5 million in 2023, with over 750,000 of these job opportunities located in the United States. The industry is actively trying to attract new talent and address burnout concerns, but the gap between supply and demand is anticipated to persist at least until 2025.

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Many aspiring cybersecurity experts think they need a specialized degree to break into the field. But that’s not necessarily true. While a degree in cyber security or computer science can open doors, there are many ways to get cyber security jobs without a degree.

This comprehensive guide will walk through multiple pathways to get into cyber security without a degree. Whether you’re looking to switch careers, gain hands-on skills through certifications, or follow an alternative education route, you can position yourself for an in-demand role securing systems, networks, and data.

You’ll learn:

  • How to get into cyber security without a degree
  • How to get essential skills, credentials, and experience through certificates, bootcamps, apprenticeships
  • Strategies for networking and building a portfolio to impress hiring managers

With the right combination of technical expertise, soft skills, and determination, you can break into cyber security without the time or cost of a traditional college program. Let’s dive in!

What Does a Cybersecurity Analyst Do?

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A cybersecurity analyst looks into cyber threats and works to protect systems and data from attacks. They dig into data to pick up on irregularities that could point to a breach or an attempted hack.

When they notice something suspicious, they speak up and raise the alarm so the issue can be dealt with before any major damage is done. Cybersecurity analysts also carry out research to stay on top of new hacking techniques and security trends.

In addition, cybersecurity analysts often team up with others in the IT department to run tests and simulations to find any weak points or vulnerabilities in a system. They think through different scenarios to close up any gaps that could be exploited by hackers. Their job involves a constant back and forth between offense and defense – always looking to break in from an attacker’s point of view, then building up defenses based on those insights.

Overall, cybersecurity analysts play a key role in keeping data safe from those who want to steal it or hold it hostage. Their vigilance and expertise help organizations stand their ground in the face of cyber threats.

What Employers Are Looking For in a Cyber Security Candidate?

Here are some soft and hard skills that employers look for in cybersecurity candidates:

  • Soft Skills

Curiosity

Cybersecurity professionals need to be extremely inquisitive and constantly on the lookout for potential threats or vulnerabilities. They cannot just sit back and passively monitor systems – they must actively dig into logs, configs, etc. to sniff out any issues. Cybersecurity pros who are curious will proactively pore over systems and data to figure things out. They will drill down into technical details, following any lead to get to the bottom of a problem.

Attention to Detail

Having a sharp eye for detail is a must-have for any cybersecurity role. Professionals in this field need to meticulously comb through system logs and configurations to spot any potential issues or loopholes. Overlooking something small could allow attackers to slip through the cracks and wreak havoc. Cybersecurity pros have to be able to pick up on obscure, finer points that others might gloss over. They cannot afford to skim past any minor exceptions or anomalies in data – they must parse through it thoroughly.

Imagination

To outsmart cybercriminals, cybersecurity pros need to think like them. They have to put themselves in the shoes of an attacker and imagine how they would go about penetrating systems and exploiting vulnerabilities. Thinking creatively about how to breach security allows cyber pros to shore up those weak points proactively. The most skilled cybersecurity experts brainstorm about all the possible ways they would hack a system if they were trying to break in. This outside-the-box thinking allows them to hunt down flaws before the bad guys can take advantage of them.

Persistence

Cybersecurity work involves constantly hitting walls in the hunt for solutions. Professionals in this field need to be able to power through roadblocks without losing steam. Rather than letting themselves feel defeated, they must be able to persevere through frustration. Cyber pros have to be stubborn and willing to bash their heads against tough problems until they crack them. They need the grit and determination to keep grinding away at an issue until they finally unravel it. Giving up is not an option – they have to see things through.

  • Hard Skills

Risk Analysis and Mitigation

Cybersecurity pros must methodically examine systems to identify areas of vulnerability. They need to be able to carry out structured risk assessments, probing for weak points across networks, applications, and more. Once vulnerabilities have been brought to light, cybersecurity experts then need to be able to develop action plans to seal up those security gaps. They have to put safeguards in place to lock down exposed areas and mitigate any risks.

Digital Forensics

When cyberattacks do occur, cybersecurity professionals need to kick into response mode. They must leverage digital forensics skills and specialized tools to log, analyze, and monitor any hacking activity on the network. Cyber pros have to work quickly to trace the attack back to its origin, determine exactly what the bad actor accessed or compromised, and scope out the full extent of the breach. Only then can they take steps to stamp out the attack and prevent further infiltration.

Wireless Security

With the proliferation of mobile devices, securing wireless networks is a key cybersecurity skill set. Professionals in the field need to be well-versed in strategies for locking down WiFi networks and individual mobile devices. They must put protocols in place to control access, encrypt data, detect intrusions, and prevent malware or hacking of wireless-enabled gadgets. Keeping rogue access points in check and mobile data air-tight is imperative.

Cloud Security and Virtualization

As organizations embrace the cloud, cyber pros must stay on top of securing virtualized infrastructure and cloud-based systems. They need to implement policies and security controls tailored specifically to virtual environments and cloud platforms. Cybersecurity experts have to ensure they can lock down critical assets across on-premise, cloud, and hybrid systems. With more data and apps living off-site, cyber pros must be able to secure expansive virtual networks.

Cyber Security Jobs Available Without a Degree

Are you wondering how to get into cyber security without a degree? Are you asking yourself, “Do I need a degree in cybersecurity?” You’ll be pleased to know that there are numerous cybersecurity jobs available without a degree.

This section will talk about cyber security jobs without a degree. There are plenty of opportunities in this field, and we’ll show you how to get started and build a successful career, even if you don’t have a traditional degree. Let’s dive in and discover your path to a cybersecurity job.

  • Cybersecurity Specialist

A cybersecurity specialist diligently looks after their employer’s systems to ward off hackers or data breaches. They put to the test firewalls, security software, and other applications, and utilize their findings to make improvements and beef up security. Generally speaking, you will need to have some programming skills and a basic grasp of security principles to succeed in this role.

  • Systems Administrator  

A systems administrator oversees IT services — including security — for their employer. If you plan to take on an administration role, you should read up on getting certified as a Certified Incident Handling Engineer Administrator (CIHE) or Certified Penetration Testing Consultant (CPTC) to back up your skills. A systems administrator may carry out day-to-day tasks like installing new software, setting up user accounts, troubleshooting issues that crop up, and keeping systems up to date.   

  • Junior Penetration Tester

A penetration tester may work in-house or for an outside security firm. They specialize in thinking and acting like hackers to test security defenses to strengthen them for the future. Here, technical skills, including programming languages, are particularly necessary to carry out penetration tests and pinpoint vulnerabilities.

  • Information Security Analyst  

An information security analyst creates and implements procedures that the entire IT department follows to protect your employer’s systems from malware, breaches, and other security problems. Certifications like Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP) can help you get a leg up and move forward in this role. An analyst may carry out risk assessments, install and update security software, monitor networks for irregular activity, and

How Can You Get Into Cybersecurity Without Any Experience?

Here are some tips for getting into cybersecurity without any experience:

  1. Start with an Online Course

Take your first steps into cybersecurity by signing up for an introductory online course. This will allow you to dip your toe in the water and get a taste of different cybersecurity topics and concepts. Choose a course that provides a broad overview so you can figure out which specific area interests you the most.

  1. Familiarize Yourself With the Fundamentals

Spend time getting up to speed on the fundamentals of cybersecurity. Brush up on things like encryption, network security, ethical hacking, risk management, and compliance. Having a solid grounding in the basics will stand you in good stead when you start applying for roles. Resources like online tutorials, books, podcasts, and videos can help build up your foundation.

  1. Take Advantage of Online Resources

Lean on the wealth of free online cybersecurity resources to augment your learning. Follow top cybersecurity pros on blogs and social media. Sign up for newsletters focused on cybersecurity trends and best practices. Check out online cybersecurity communities to connect with others new to the field. Tap into these resources to stay on top of developments in the industry.

  1. Find a Specialization and Ideal Career Path

Once you have a general sense of the cybersecurity landscape, zero in on a particular specialization that fits your interests and strengths. Pinpointing an ideal career path early on, whether in penetration testing, incident response, or another specialty, will allow you to tailor your education and experience. Reach out to cybersecurity professionals in roles that appeal to you to get insights about their day-to-day work.

  1. Complete a Cyber Security Bootcamp

Consider completing an intensive cybersecurity bootcamp, either online or in person. Bootcamps condense learning into a short timeframe, equipping you with in-demand skills for the field. The hands-on learning and career coaching can help launch you into the industry. Make sure to vet different bootcamps thoroughly first.

  1. Pursue a Cyber Security Certification

Earn an entry-level cybersecurity certification to bolster your resume. Certifications demonstrate your commitment to starting a cybersecurity career and developing specialized skills. Review which foundational certifications match up with your interests, like Security+, CEH, or CompTIA CySA+. Studying for a certification will force you to fill in any knowledge gaps.

  1. Gain Practical Experience

Look for opportunities to start gaining hands-on cybersecurity experience, even in informal settings. You could take up an open-source cybersecurity project to hone your skills. Offer to assist a cybersecurity professional you know with basic tasks to get experience. Apply for cybersecurity internships to work alongside seasoned professionals. Any practical experience can give your resume a boost.

  1. Find a Mentor

Seek out a mentor, either within your network or through a formal program. Learning from a seasoned cybersecurity professional can be invaluable for newcomers. A mentor can pass on insights about the field, provide guidance on getting started, and give feedback on your resume and goals. Make the most out of the mentoring relationship by being proactive and asking lots of questions.

  1. Build a Strong Network

Work on expanding your professional network in the cybersecurity community. Attend local Meetup events or conferences to connect with others in the industry. Reach out for informational interviews to pick people’s brains about their career journeys. Maintain relationships with those you meet to turn them into career contacts. Having a strong network will help you become aware of open opportunities.

  1. Update Your Resume and Apply for Entry-Level Jobs  

When you begin applying for jobs, customize your resume to each opening. Emphasize the skills and experience you do have, like any certifications, training, or related skills. Convey passion and willingness to learn on the job. With persistence and a tailored resume, you can land an entry-level cybersecurity role to jumpstart your career.

What are Some Strategies for Networking and Building a Portfolio?

Getting cyber security jobs with no degree is certainly possible, but it takes a proactive approach and solid self-motivation. 

Here are some tips to help build up your skills, network, and portfolio to win over hiring managers even if you don’t have a degree:

  • Take advantage of free online courses and certifications to bulk up your knowledge. Sites like CCS Learning Academy allow you to take cyber security classes from top institutions and educators for free. Earning certifications like CompTIA Security+ or EC-Council’s CEH will validate your skills on paper.
  • Attend local tech meetups and conferences to mingle with and pick the brains of industry professionals. Hand out business cards, connect on LinkedIn and follow up to turn contacts into connections. The more cyber security pros you network with, the more you’ll learn and the more doors may open up.
  • Reach out for informational interviews and shadow days with companies you’re interested in. Getting your foot in the door gives you valuable insights into their operations and may lead to an internship or job offer down the road.
  • Set up your home lab environment to tinker and experiment hands-on. Simulate attacks, test defenses, and probe for vulnerabilities to sharpen your skills and gain practical experience. Document your activities to showcase in your portfolio.
  • Contribute to open-source cyber security projects to collaborate with other experts and demonstrate your abilities in action. The code samples and solutions you work on can double as portfolio items.  
  • Start your cyber security blog or YouTube channel to establish yourself as a thought leader. Discuss the latest cyber threats, interview industry veterans, analyze high-profile breaches – flaunt your passion and knowledge.
  • Compile an online portfolio highlighting relevant projects, contributions, certifications, and skills. Quantify your accomplishments with metrics. Ask others to review your portfolio and provide feedback to refine it.

With disciplined self-study, active networking, and a stellar portfolio conveying your capabilities, you can open up cyber security career opportunities even without a college degree. The key is to go above and beyond to build up and demonstrate your expertise continually.

How to Boost Your Cybersecurity Earnings?

Interested in making more money when you’re just starting in the cybersecurity field? This section will guide you as you begin your cybersecurity journey. We have tips and strategies to help you earn more in cybersecurity from the get-go. Let’s get started!

  • A Degree

Although degrees are not always a hard requirement nowadays, obtaining a bachelor’s or master’s degree in cybersecurity, computer science, or a related field can still give you a leg up and allow you to command a higher starting salary. Going through a formal education program builds up your foundational knowledge and shows employers you are committed to the field.

  • Upskilling or Certifications  

Pursuing cybersecurity certifications is a great way to expand and round out your skillset. Programs like the CISSP or CEH allow you to demonstrate expertise in niche areas like risk management or ethical hacking. Studying for certs also helps you bone up on the latest cybersecurity best practices and technologies. Keeping your certifications up-to-date by recertifying shows you are dedicated to continuous learning.

  • Experience  

If you’ve already landed an entry-level cybersecurity role, look for opportunities to freelance on the side to clock up more hands-on experience. Reach out to your network or local businesses who need help with tasks like penetration testing, vulnerability assessments, or implementing new security controls. The more experience under your belt, the more attractive you’ll be to future employers.

  • Networking

Getting to know colleagues in your workplace and attending local security meetups or conferences gives you a chance to tap into the cybersecurity network. Follow industry leaders on social media and reach out to make connections. You never know what job leads or career advice networking contacts may be able to share with you. The relationships you build can be invaluable.

Conclusion

Do you need a degree in cyber security? Can you get a cybersecurity job without a degree? While it is possible to break into cybersecurity without a college degree, it would be a mistake to think you can get by with no training whatsoever. The comprehensive guide we’ve explored has debunked the myth that a degree is an absolute necessity for a successful career in cybersecurity. The vast majority of cybersecurity jobs require some type of certification, even if a degree is not mandated.

According to Exabeam, over 33 percent of cybersecurity pros have obtained the Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP) designation. Another 23.7 percent have earned the Certified Ethical Hacker (CEH) certificate, while 22.7 percent have been certified in CompTIA Security+.

If you want to get into cybersecurity with no prior experience and without a degree, you essentially have two main learning pathways to consider: self-guided study and boot camps.

The self-guided route entails diving into cybersecurity materials on your own time and motivating yourself to follow through. You can leverage online courses, books, tutorials, and other resources to bone up on relevant cybersecurity domains and prep for certification exams. This pathway requires discipline and perseverance.

CCS Learning Academy’s boot camps offer a more structured approach to gaining cybersecurity skills on a faster timeline. Reputable camps will walk you through key topics and techniques, equipping you with hands-on training. They essentially condense months or years of learning into an intensive few weeks or months of focused study. Boot camps culminate in certifications, immediately validating your new abilities for employers. However, boot camps can be expensive.

Cybersecurity certifications are the key to qualifying for cybersecurity jobs without a college degree. Self-paced study or boot camps can prepare you for certification tests, demonstrating your knowledge and abilities instead of formal education. The training pathway you choose depends on your budget, learning style, and timeframe.

FAQs

Q1: Is it possible to start a career in cyber security without a college degree?

Answer: Yes, it’s entirely possible to start a career in cyber security without a college degree. Many professionals in the field have entered through alternative routes such as certifications, self-taught skills, bootcamps, and relevant work experience in other IT roles.

Q2: What are the first steps to take for getting into cyber security without a degree?

Answer: The first steps include gaining a foundational understanding of IT and cyber security basics. This can be achieved through online courses, certifications, self-study, and practical experience. Networking and building a professional online presence can also be beneficial.

Q3: What types of certifications are beneficial for entering cyber security?

Answer: Entry-level certifications like CompTIA Security+, Certified Ethical Hacker (CEH), and Cisco’s CCNA are great starting points. They provide foundational knowledge and are recognized in the industry.

Q4: How can I gain practical experience in cyber security without a degree?

Answer: You can gain practical experience by working in entry-level IT roles, participating in cyber security internships, contributing to open-source projects, engaging in Capture The Flag (CTF) challenges, and setting up your own home lab to practice skills.

Q5: Are there specific entry-level cyber security roles suitable for someone without a degree?

Answer: Yes, roles such as Cybersecurity Technician, IT Support Specialist with a focus on security, Network Administrator, and Junior Penetration Tester are suitable for individuals without a degree but with some foundational knowledge and skills in IT and security.

Q6: How important are networking and professional connections in the cyber security field?

Answer: Networking is extremely important in cyber security. Building professional connections can lead to job opportunities, mentorship, and valuable insights into the industry. Engaging in online forums, attending cyber security conferences, and joining professional groups are effective ways to network.

Q7: Can online courses and bootcamps be effective for learning cyber security?

Answer: Yes, online courses and bootcamps can be very effective, especially for those without a degree. They offer structured learning paths and cover essential topics in cyber security, often with practical, hands-on learning experiences.

Q8: What soft skills are important for a career in cyber security?

Answer: Important soft skills include problem-solving, analytical thinking, attention to detail, strong communication skills, and a continuous learning mindset. Cyber security professionals often need to explain complex concepts to non-technical stakeholders.

Q9: How can I showcase my skills to potential employers in cyber security?

Answer: You can showcase your skills by building a portfolio of projects, obtaining relevant certifications, maintaining an active LinkedIn profile, blogging about cybersecurity topics, or contributing to forums and open-source projects.

Q10: What is the role of self-study in building a career in cyber security?

Answer: Self-study plays a crucial role in cyber security education, especially for those without a degree. It involves staying updated with the latest trends, learning new tools and technologies, and continuously improving your knowledge and skills.

Q11: Are there any specific industries that offer more opportunities for cyber security professionals without a degree?

Answer: Industries such as technology, finance, healthcare, and government often have a high demand for cyber security professionals. However, as cyber threats increase, opportunities are growing across virtually all industries.

Q12: What challenges might I face when entering the cyber security field without a degree?

Answer: Challenges may include competing with degree holders, proving your skills and knowledge to potential employers, and the need for continuous learning and skill development to stay relevant in the ever-evolving field of cyber security.

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