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How to Start a Career in Cyber Security [Step-by-Step Guide]

How to Start a Career in Cyber Security [Step-by-Step Guide]

Cyber security has become increasingly important in our digital world. As more of our personal and professional lives move online, the threats of hacking, data breaches, and cyber attacks grow. This was highlighted in March 2023, which saw a 91% increase in ransomware attacks compared to February and a 62% rise from March 2022. Cybersecurity analysts recorded 459 ransomware attacks in March alone, setting a troubling new record.

With cyber risks on the rise, there is a huge demand for skilled cybersecurity professionals who can protect our data and systems. Many organizations are urgently looking to hire information security analysts, network engineers, penetration testers, and other cybersecurity roles. This presents a great career opportunity for those interested in the field. The cybersecurity job market is expected to grow by 33% from 2020 to 2030, much faster than the average for all occupations.

This article provides a step-by-step guide on how to start a career in cyber security. It will cover the skills and certifications needed, degree options, building hands-on experience, crafting a strong resume, finding job openings, and interview preparation. The demand for trained cybersecurity experts is high, and with the right preparation, you can position yourself for success in this industry.

Why Starting a Career in Cybersecurity is a Good Option?

The major cyber attacks in April 2023 demonstrate the growing threat landscape and the need for more cybersecurity professionals.

  • The attack on the UK’s Criminal Records Office disrupted operations and potentially exposed sensitive data.

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  • The ransomware attack on Yellow Pages by the Black Basta gang resulted in stolen personal information like social security numbers and IDs.

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These incidents show that organizations across sectors are vulnerable to cyberattacks.

As cyber threats become more sophisticated and frequent, there is a huge demand for cybersecurity talent. A career in cyber security offers the opportunity to combat emerging threats. It allows professionals to use their skills meaningfully by protecting individuals, organizations, and governments from cyber attacks.

The field also provides intellectual challenges and rewards continuous learning. With strong employment prospects and competitive salaries, cybersecurity is a stable and lucrative career option. Starting a career in cyber security now will allow one to make a real impact on an organization and help build a safer digital world.

Cybersecurity Career Paths

There are two main career paths in cybersecurity – leadership/operations and engineering.

  • Leadership and Operations

This path is for people who are good leaders and understand information technology systems very well. You also need very good cybersecurity skills and knowledge.

Some jobs in leadership and operations are:

  • Chief Information Security Officer: The top cybersecurity leader in a company.
  • Information Security Analyst: Analyzes cyber threats and protects systems.
  • Global Information Security Director: Manages cybersecurity for a large global company.
  • Cybersecurity Consultant: Provides cybersecurity advice and services to clients.
  • Lead Software Security Engineer: Leads a team of engineers who build secure software.
  • Cybersecurity Architect: Designs secure computer systems and networks.
  • Cybersecurity Engineer: Builds and tests security into software and systems.
  • Penetration Tester: Tests systems for weaknesses by ethically hacking them.
  • Network Administrator: Manages and secures computer networks.
  • Cybersecurity Analyst: Monitors systems for threats and investigates attacks.
  • Security Auditor: Checks systems and processes for security weaknesses.
  • Engineering

This path is for people with engineering experience who want to build secure systems.

Some jobs in engineering are:

  • Lead Software Security Engineer: Leads a team that builds secure software.
  • Cybersecurity Architect: Designs secure networks and systems.
  • Cybersecurity Engineer: Builds security into software and systems.

Key Industries for Cybersecurity Professionals

Here is a detailed overview of some of the key industries where cybersecurity professionals can work:

  • Banking Sector

Banks store large amounts of sensitive customer data like account numbers, social security numbers, and financial information. This makes them a major target for cyber attacks.

Banks need cybersecurity experts to protect their systems and customer data from hackers. Cybersecurity roles in banking include security analysts, risk managers, and compliance officers.

Cybersecurity professionals help banks identify threats, detect intrusions, respond to breaches, and comply with regulations around data security and privacy.

  • Federal Government

The federal government handles classified information and provides many essential services. This makes government systems a prime target for cyberattacks by criminal groups or enemy nations.

The government employs cybersecurity experts in roles like information security analysts, network administrators, and penetration testers.

These professionals protect government data and infrastructure through activities like monitoring networks, encrypting data, developing security policies, and conducting simulated attacks to assess vulnerabilities.

  • Cybersecurity Law

As cyber-attacks increase, there is a growing demand for lawyers specialized in cybersecurity and data privacy laws.

Cybersecurity lawyers help clients respond to data breaches, negotiate with regulators, draft security policies to mitigate risk and stay updated on compliance issues around data protection.

  • Utilities

Public utilities like electric grids, water systems, and gas pipelines are increasingly digitized and at risk of cyberattacks.

Cybersecurity professionals help utilities identify network vulnerabilities, detect unusual activity, prevent unauthorized access, and recover from any breaches.

Strong security is crucial for utilities since a successful cyber attack could endanger public health and safety by disrupting essential services.

Why Choose Cyber Security as a Career?

Here is why choosing cyber security as a career can be beneficial:

  • Employment Opportunities

The cybersecurity field has a very high demand for qualified professionals. There are many open positions and not enough skilled people to fill them.

In 2016, the unemployment rate for cyber security roles dropped to 0% and has remained extremely low since then. This means it is quite easy to find a job if you have the proper cybersecurity training and certifications.

The high demand is driven by the continued rise in data breaches across all industries. As more companies are hacked, the need for experts to protect systems and data grows. Pursuing a career in cyber security is a stable choice that will provide ample job opportunities now and in the future.

  • Variety of Career Paths

Cyber security is a broad field that encompasses many types of roles. You can choose a career path that fits your interests and skills. If you like solving complex problems, you may want to be a cyber security architect who designs and implements system protections. Or, if you prefer leading teams, you could aim to be a Chief Information Security Officer who creates security policies and standards for an organization.

Some other cyber security jobs include security analyst, engineer, consultant, information security analyst, security software developer, cryptographer, and more. Each position contributes to security in a unique way. Having diverse options allows you to select a specialty that you find most engaging and rewarding.

  • High Salaries

The skills of cyber security professionals are in high demand, which directly translates to competitive salaries in the field.

On average, cyber security roles in the United States pay around $76,808 per year. This salary is significantly higher than most other careers. Cybersecurity workers are viewed as invaluable assets to companies as they combat data breaches that can cost organizations millions.

The combination of specialized expertise and critical importance to businesses contributes to the high earnings potential in the cyber security industry.

  • Job Satisfaction

Along with financial benefits, cyber security careers also provide intangible job satisfaction. Surveys of cyber security employees show that the majority are happy with their work.

In one study, 71% reported being satisfied overall, with 36% being very satisfied. 84% felt they were at an appropriate point in their career given their experience level.

Cyber security work allows you to continuously learn new skills in a cutting-edge field while making contributions that protect people’s privacy and a company’s assets. The challenging yet rewarding aspects of the job lead to high professional fulfillment.

In summary, cyber security is a wise career choice because it offers stable employment, diverse job paths, high salaries, and work satisfaction. The continuous demand for information protection means skilled cyber security professionals will enjoy great career prospects for years to come.

Steps to Start a Career in Cyber Security

Getting into cyber security doesn’t have a fixed path, and people take different routes to succeed in this field. Here are some steps you can consider, no matter where or when you start your cyber security journey:

Step 1: Get an Education

  • Pursue a bachelor’s degree in cybersecurity, computer science, information technology, or a related technical field. Many entry-level cybersecurity jobs require at least a bachelor’s degree. Look for programs that offer courses in topics like network security, ethical hacking, cryptography, and digital forensics.
  • Consider getting an associate’s degree or certificate in cybersecurity. Many community colleges and technical schools offer 2-year cybersecurity programs that can prepare you for some entry-level roles.
  • Take online cybersecurity courses to learn new skills. CCS Learning Academy offers beginner-friendly classes in subjects like network defense, malware analysis, and Linux security.

Step 2: Develop Foundational Skills

To become skilled in cybersecurity, it is important to build up expertise in several key areas. Some foundational skills to focus on developing include:

  • Networking: Gain an in-depth understanding of network infrastructure, protocols, and how networks operate. Learn about things like TCP/IP, routing and switching, network topology, and network hardware like routers and switches. Being able to configure, monitor, and troubleshoot networks is critical for cybersecurity roles.
  • Operating Systems: Develop expertise in common operating systems like Windows, Linux, and macOS. Learn how to install, configure, harden, and maintain OS security. Understand core OS components and functions. Gain hands-on experience working in the command line interface.
  • Programming: Learn to code in languages like Python, Java, C++, and Bash scripting. Programming helps automate tasks and develop security tools. Focus on fundamentals like data structures, algorithms, and writing secure code. Work on projects to practice coding skills.

In addition to building this technical knowledge, it’s important to get experience with key cybersecurity tools:

  • Firewalls: Learn how to implement and manage firewalls to filter traffic and block threats. Study different firewall architectures and rulesets.
  • VPNs: Understand how virtual private networks function to create secure remote access. Practice setting up and configuring VPN servers and clients.
  • Antivirus/Anti-Malware Tools: Use endpoint protection tools and analyze malware. Learn techniques for detection, prevention, and removal of viruses and other threats.
  • Password Managers: Employ password managers to securely generate, store, and fill in strong passwords. Enable multi-factor authentication when possible.

Beyond learning about these tools, it’s also critical to get hands-on practice through cybersecurity projects such as:

  • Penetration testing and vulnerability scanning to proactively identify system weaknesses.
  • Security monitoring and log analysis to detect threats and anomalies.
  • Incident response exercises to practice investigating and containing simulated attacks.
  • Setting up labs to experiment with different tools and system configurations.

Take a methodical approach to skill development, and don’t be afraid to get your hands dirty with practical experiments and projects.

Step 3: Earn Certifications

The CompTIA Security+ and Certified Ethical Hacker (CEH) certifications offered by CCS Learning Academy are great options for those just starting out in cybersecurity. These certifications provide a solid foundation of security knowledge and are some of the most popular certifications for landing first jobs.

Studying for these exams will teach you essential skills like threat detection, vulnerability assessment, security controls, and basic hacking techniques. The content is geared towards those without much hands-on experience.

CCS Learning Academy offers training courses and practice tests to help prepare for certification exams. Take advantage of these affordable resources.

Consider certifications like CISSP, CISM, and GIAC offered by CCS Learning Academy. These are well-recognized in the industry and validate your higher-level skills.

The certification exams will test your knowledge across diverse cybersecurity domains. Review the exam requirements carefully and use CCS Learning Academy’s specialized advanced courses to prepare.

With dedication and hard work, you can earn these premier cybersecurity certifications to take your career to the next level. The certifications demonstrate your expertise and open doors to more senior roles. Having relevant certifications will make you more hireable.

Step 4: Set up a home lab to practice cybersecurity skills

  • Install virtualization software like VirtualBox or VMware on your computer. This allows you to create virtual machines that act like separate computers.
  • Download some basic virtual machine images like Kali Linux or Metasploitable, which are made for security testing and practice.
  • Set up a few virtual machines on your computer to act as a small network. Have some act as servers, clients, routers, etc.
  • Practice skills like port scanning, vulnerability testing, sniffing traffic, installing firewalls, and intrusion detection systems on your virtual test network.

You can also purchase older computers, routers, and phones cheaply to practice on real hardware. Just make sure to isolate them from your actual home network.

Step 5: Participate in cybersecurity competitions

  • Find local or online Capture the Flag (CTF) competitions where you attack and defend systems to capture “flags.” This allows you to test skills against realistic challenges.
  • There are CTF events specifically for students at the college and even high school level. Search for local college events or sites like picoCTF for virtual events.

As you practice, you will gain experience in identifying vulnerabilities, exploiting systems, decoding information, and protecting assets. Make sure to participate legally and ethically, and follow all rules set by competition organizers.

Step 6: Get an internship in cybersecurity

Look online for open internship jobs. Go to websites like Indeed.com or LinkedIn.com and search for “cybersecurity intern”. Look for internships at technology companies or security companies.

Next, find companies you want to intern for. Go to their websites and look under “Careers” or “Jobs”. See if they have internship openings. Make a list of companies that interest you.

Then, apply for the internships. Read the job postings carefully. Follow the instructions to submit your application. This may require a resume and cover letter. Tailor these to each company. Highlight your skills, education, and interest in cybersecurity.

For the interviews, prepare answers to common questions ahead of time. Research the company so you can ask good questions too. Dress professionally. Arrive early. Be polite. Ask for feedback after.

Once you get an internship, work hard and learn all you can. Ask questions. Volunteer for projects. Get to know the team. Offer to help where needed. Show you are eager to gain experience.

Treat it as a learning opportunity, not just a job. Make professional connections. These may help you find a full-time job later.

Step 7: Apply for full-time jobs

After completing your cybersecurity internship, it’s time to start applying for full-time jobs. The internship gave you valuable experience and allowed you to learn new skills. Now, it’s time to leverage that to land your first role.

Start by updating your resume. Look for entry-level cybersecurity roles like security analyst, security engineer, SOC analyst, etc. Read the job descriptions closely to understand the required qualifications. Note the technical skills, certifications, and previous experience they expect candidates to have. Highlight the areas where you meet or exceed these requirements.

Apply to jobs both online and through your personal network. Many cybersecurity jobs are never posted publicly, so networking is key. Reach out to professionals you met during your internship and ask about open opportunities. Connect with alumni from your college program working in the field. Attend local security meetups and conferences to expand your contacts.  

With preparation and persistence, you can land an entry-level cybersecurity role after your internship. Highlight your specialized skills and ability to quickly learn new technologies. Show how your internship prepared you to hit the ground running in a full-time position.

Cyber Security Job Outlook

Cyber security jobs are expected to grow very fast in the coming years. These jobs keep computer systems and sensitive information safe from hackers and criminals. As more businesses and governments use computers and the internet, there is a greater need for cyber security experts.

Right now, there are not enough people with cyber security skills to fill all the open jobs. Employers are looking to hire many more information security analysts, network security engineers, computer forensic analysts, and other cyber security roles.

The government predicts that from 2019 to 2029, cyber security jobs will increase by 31%. This is much faster than most other careers. For example, all jobs on average are only expected to grow by 4% in that time.

Some reasons for the high demand are:

  • More hacking and cyber attacks every year
  • Companies storing more data online need help keeping it secure
  • New technology like cloud computing that requires cyber security
  • Not enough skilled people in the field right now

A career in cyber security looks very good for the future. People with cyber security skills are likely to find lots of job opportunities and earn generous salaries. Employers will compete for cybersecurity talent. Getting an education or training in this field is a wise choice for those seeking in-demand IT careers.

Cybersecurity jobs pay very well these days. More and more companies need help protecting their computer systems and data from hackers. This means there is a lot of demand for cybersecurity professionals.

Cybersecurity salaries are going up every year in many countries. Here are some examples of average yearly salaries for cybersecurity jobs:

  • In the United Kingdom, cybersecurity salaries range from £50,000 to £80,000.  
  • In the United States, cybersecurity salaries are usually between $75,000 and $120,000 per year.
  • In Canada, cybersecurity workers make around C$80,000 to C$150,000 per year on average.
  • In Australia, cybersecurity salaries range from around A$75,000 to A$135,000 annually.
  • In India, cybersecurity professionals earn approximately ₹608,750 per year on average.

So, cybersecurity is a well-paid career choice all over the world.

Conclusion

In conclusion, a career in cyber security can be incredibly rewarding. By following the step-by-step guide outlined in this article, you’ll be well on your way to launching your career in this fast-growing field.

With cyber-attacks and data breaches on the rise, skilled cybersecurity professionals are in high demand. If you have an analytical mindset, a passion for technology, and a desire to protect critical systems and data, a cyber security career may be right for you.

To further develop your skills and knowledge in cyber security, consider enrolling in certification courses offered by leading training providers like CCS Learning Academy. With our comprehensive cyber security programs taught by expert instructors, you’ll gain the specialized expertise to qualify for coveted roles in the cyber security domain.

Launch your career in cyber security today by following this guide and leveraging the top-notch training programs from CCS Learning Academy.

FAQs

Q1: What is the first step to starting a career in cyber security?

Answer: The first step is gaining a foundational understanding of computer science and information technology. This can be achieved through formal education, like a degree in computer science, or through self-study, online courses, and bootcamps focusing on IT fundamentals.

Q2: Do I need a specific degree to enter the cyber security field?

Answer: While a degree in computer science, information technology, or a related field is beneficial, it’s not always mandatory. Many professionals enter the cyber security field with degrees in other disciplines, supplementing their education with specialized certifications and practical experience.

Q3: What are some essential skills needed for a career in cyber security?

Answer: Essential skills include a strong understanding of networking and systems administration, knowledge of operating systems, familiarity with programming languages like Python or JavaScript, and a grasp of security principles and practices. Soft skills such as problem-solving, attention to detail, and effective communication are also important.

Q4: Are certifications important in the cyber security field?

Answer: Yes, certifications can be very important. They provide standardized recognition of your skills and knowledge. Certifications like CompTIA Security+, Certified Ethical Hacker (CEH), or Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP) are highly regarded in the industry.

Q5: How can I gain practical experience in cyber security?

Answer: Practical experience can be gained through internships, entry-level IT positions, personal projects, or participation in cyber security competitions and hackathons. Volunteering to manage security for small businesses or non-profits can also be a valuable way to gain experience.

Q6: What entry-level jobs should I look for in cyber security?

Answer: Entry-level jobs in cyber security include roles like Junior Security Analyst, IT Technician with a focus on security, Network Administrator, or Security Administrator. These positions can provide a good starting point for building a career in cyber security.

Q7: How important is networking in the cyber security field?

Answer: Networking is very important. Building a professional network can lead to job opportunities and mentorship. Engaging in online forums, attending cyber security conferences, and joining professional organizations are effective ways to network.

Q8: What is the role of continuous learning in a cyber security career?

Answer: Cyber security is a rapidly evolving field, so continuous learning is crucial. Staying updated with the latest security trends, threats, and technologies is essential. Regularly participating in training sessions, webinars, and workshops is important for career growth.

Q9: Can I transition to cyber security from a different IT role?

Answer: Yes, many professionals transition to cyber security from other IT roles. Skills from roles in systems administration, network engineering, or software development, for example, can be very relevant and provide a strong foundation for a career in cyber security.

Q10: What are some common challenges faced by beginners in cyber security?

Answer: Common challenges include keeping up with the fast pace of change in security technologies, understanding the complex and evolving nature of cyber threats, and gaining practical experience in a highly competitive field.

Q11: How can I stay informed about the latest developments in cyber security?

Answer: Staying informed can be achieved by following cyber security blogs, subscribing to industry newsletters, joining relevant online communities, and following thought leaders and organizations on social media.

Q12: Are there specific industries that offer more opportunities in cyber security?

Answer: Opportunities in cyber security are widespread across various industries, especially in technology, finance, healthcare, and government sectors. Any industry that handles sensitive data or relies heavily on digital infrastructure offers potential opportunities in cyber security.

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