Although there's a skills shortage in cybersecurity, employers won't take just anybody, even for entry-level roles. You'll need to demonstrate a certain level of skill and experience to stand a chance. That's why it's crucial to take advantage of cybersecurity internships.
Here, we’ll discuss everything you need to know about cybersecurity internships and how to get one.
What is a Cybersecurity Internship, and How Can It Benefit You?
A cybersecurity internship offers an opportunity to gain real-world cybersecurity experience in an established firm. It introduces you to the work environment and the day-to-day responsibilities of a cybersecurity professional. You’ll deal with real threats trying to access, change, or destroy confidential company resources.
As an aspiring cybersecurity professional, you need the skills, certifications, and experience to convince potential employers. While you can level up your skills with online courses and earn certificates, experience may be tricky to come by.
This makes cybersecurity internships one of the best decisions if you’re new to the industry.
The Benefits of Cybersecurity Internships
Whether you’re a recent graduate or still training, cybersecurity internships help you accumulate job experience quickly. Interning reinforces your classroom knowledge with hands-on experience, strengthens your resume, and gives you a competitive advantage.
In addition, cybersecurity internships offer a chance to build valuable networks in the industry. This is such a competitive field, and it's not just about what you know; it's also about who you know.
Interns can establish connections with professionals, other participants, and mentors. This helps build reliable, professional connections for the future.
A cybersecurity internship can help you secure a permanent role in the same organization. Companies will prefer to hire their best interns rather than onboarding new employees.
By the end of your internship, you'll already be familiar with the company’s cybersecurity policies and procedures. As such, your cybersecurity internship can turn into a job offer if you successfully prove your skills, knowledge, and abilities.
But what can you do to prove your worth during an internship? Let’s take a look at what your day-to-day responsibilities will look like.
Responsibilities of a Cybersecurity Intern
A cybersecurity intern’s duties will depend on the type of internship, their skillset, cybersecurity specialization, and the organization. Here are some everyday responsibilities an intern should expect:
- Detecting vulnerabilities in network security.
- Minor incident response and handling.
- Helping out with tools such as SIEM, Netflow, IPS, DLP, and email gateway protection.
- Assisting with penetration testing and vulnerability assessments.
- Testing web application security and creating reports on findings.
- Researching cybersecurity threats.
- Record and track security incidents such as email threats, copyright violations, abuse reports, and compromised accounts.
- Assisting digital forensics analysis efforts and fact gathering.
- Debugging malicious software.
- Monitoring inbound security data.
- Providing first-level compliance monitoring.
- Any other duties assigned.
Understanding what you would be expected to do during an internship will help you audit your current skillset and find gaps you need to fill.
In the following section, you’ll learn the skills required to perform the duties above.
Skills Needed to Secure a Cybersecurity Internship
Generally, an internship transforms classroom knowledge into practical experience. It’s not a place to learn from scratch, so you’ll need to bring some skills on board.
Before applying for cybersecurity internships, having the required skills and knowledge to perform potential duties is vital.
Although technical skills are essential, employers also prioritize interpersonal skills like communication and teamwork. This is because cybersecurity requires seamless collaboration between multiple people and departments.
We’ve compiled a list of skills from real cybersecurity internship postings. This will provide insights into what a potential employer will expect you to bring.
In addition, it’s a good idea to use the following skills as resume keywords when applying for a cybersecurity internship. Since these are the most in-demand skills, your application will rank well with companies using applicant tracking software.
- Programming Languages, e.g., Python, Java, and PHP
- A working knowledge of Microsoft Word, Excel, Visio, TCP/IP, and basic web design.
- Vulnerability Assessment
- Operating systems, e.g., Linux
- Risk analysis and management
- Teamwork and Collaboration
- Willingness to learn
- Detail oriented
- Critical thinking
If you don’t have any of the technical skills above, don’t worry. Cybrary provides free entry-level cybersecurity training that teaches you foundational skills needed during an internship. This course is taught by an industry leader and helps you prepare for entry-level positions, including an internship. You’ll learn the fundamentals of computer networking, security controls, incident response, and compliance.
Types of Cybersecurity Internships
Each cybersecurity internship is unique. So, when looking for an internship, first understand the type you prefer. Let’s look at your options:
Paid Cybersecurity Internships
Paid internship programs are becoming increasingly popular, especially in information technology and cybersecurity.
Depending on the employer, interns may earn less than entry-level cybersecurity professionals or the same.
Paid internships frequently have a set end date and offer little in the way of additional benefits or rewards beyond the chance to gain beneficial work experience. If you're still in school, a paid internship provides additional income while you study.
Unpaid Cybersecurity Internships
As the name suggests, unpaid internships don’t offer monetary rewards. The only purpose is to prepare you for the workforce with hands-on training.
Most internships, such as summer, are unpaid. As a budding cybersecurity professional, experience should be the priority. Although some unpaid internships have no compensation, they usually have many opportunities to gain valuable skills and experience.
An externship means shadowing a cybersecurity expert at work. The intern follows the cybersecurity professional throughout the day, assisting them with tasks and learning about the job.
Externships are more focused on a cybersecurity career path. If you’ve chosen cybersecurity specialization, this could be an excellent choice to pursue. Externship timeframes are not as clearly defined as internship timeframes, which typically last for an entire season. Students may spend a single day or several months observing the expert.
Cybersecurity Internship for Credits
Money isn't the only reward you can get from an internship. Some colleges may allow students to earn credits by completing an internship.
The requirements for internships to earn credits will vary between schools. These internships usually take place during the summer when there are no classes. Note that internships for credits can also be paid.
How to Secure the Right Cybersecurity Internship
Applying for an internship is like applying for a job. Companies won’t give it out just because you asked. You must stand out among many candidates to secure the right cybersecurity internship.
Employers will prioritize excellent grades and extracurricular activities associated with cybersecurity if you're a student.
Non-students will also need to demonstrate their skills and suitability for the internship.
Here are steps to follow to secure a cybersecurity internship:
1. Choose a Preferred Internship Pathway
There are many cybersecurity positions available in the public and private sectors. So, choosing a career path before applying for internships is essential.
Working in government agencies will allow you to tackle terrorist activities, gather intelligence on espionage, and protect against foreign sabotage.
On the other hand, the private sector will offer the opportunity to fight threats peculiar to the organization.
Students may speak with their advisor about opportunities suited to their preferred pathways.
Before applying, you should also decide whether you want a remote or on-site internship.
2. Ensure You Meet Intern Skills Requirements
Most cybersecurity internships don’t require experience or certifications. But there are common skills requirements that we've mentioned above. Make sure you meet them or the specific requirements for the internship you plan to apply for.
Some organizations, especially government agencies, may require you to be a US citizen.
As a student, you should also ensure your grades, credentials, degree program, and schedule align with the company’s requirements.
3. Prepare Your Resume
Some internships require students to submit a resume and cover letter. Since it's unlikely that you will have many experiences, your resume should highlight your cybersecurity education and accomplishments.
This could include contributions to open-source projects, cybersecurity contests or bug bounty, volunteer work, skills, certifications earned, personal projects, and other extracurricular activities.
Don’t forget to include any other roles where you worked with computers, software, or similar tools. Write about your career goals and make sure they align with the program.
4. Find Cybersecurity Internship Opportunities
Armed with a completed resume and cover letter, it’s time to apply for cybersecurity internships. A strong reference, such as a professor or former employer, can improve your opportunities. Leverage professional sites like LinkedIn when looking for an internship.
There are many places to find cybersecurity internships. We’ll mention them in the following paragraphs.
Where to Find the Right Cybersecurity Internship
Let's look at where you can find the right cybersecurity internship, depending on your needs.
Government Cybersecurity Internships
Government agencies typically have numerous cybersecurity and information technology internship opportunities. Some government-sponsored internship programs in the United States include:
- Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) Student Programs: This paid CIA cybersecurity internship is open to graduates and undergraduates. Participants will work alongside industry experts and gain real-world experience.
- The National Security Agency (NSA) Cooperative Education Program: The NSA offers development programs for people already employed to gain the skills necessary for a career switch and internships for high school and college students. This is a paid opportunity, and the length depends on the program.
- Cybersecurity & Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) Internship: CISA’s paid internships are open to students in accredited programs. It covers students in high school to graduate level, including recent graduates. Interns will tour labs, meet senior management, and attend local conferences.
- Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Internship: Held in Washington DC, this 10-week cybersecurity internship places undergraduates and graduates interested in cybersecurity alongside other industry professionals in the DHS.
- Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) Cybersecurity Intern Program: The FBI’s cybersecurity intern program is a 10-week paid program open to current undergraduates and graduate students.
Private Cybersecurity Internships
If you prefer to work in non-government agencies, here are some private organizations with reputable internship opportunities.
- IBM Security Services Specialist Internships: IBM’s programs don’t require you to have a degree. You can become a cybersecurity intern or apprentice by applying to one of their entry-level programs.
- Palo Alto Networks: The 12-week internship program trains the next generation of cybersecurity talent. Interns will solve challenging projects and grow their professional network in a fast-paced environment.
- Meta: Formerly Facebook, Meta provides internship opportunities for aspiring cybersecurity and IT professionals. Interns will be paired with a mentor and contribute to real-world projects.
There are many more private companies with internship programs. Platforms like Indeed, ZipRecruiter, and LinkedIn are excellent when looking for cybersecurity internships.
The work doesn’t end when you get in the door. You’re there to gain valuable industry experience. Whether or not it’s a paid position, ensure you get the best on-the-job experience that will help you down the way. Remember to build relationships and create a reliable network of professionals.
Cybersecurity internships help you gain practical experience, build networks, and accelerate your chances of securing a permanent position. But you need the right skill set to be chosen in the first place.
Cybrary’s accessible and affordable platform is trusted by over 3 million other cybersecurity professionals. It provides a guided pathway to level up your cybersecurity skills, certification preparation to validate your skills, and hands-on labs to apply theoretical knowledge. Start learning for free on Cybrary.