Cybersecurity is an in-demand field that is becoming attractive even to those already in information technology.
Many IT roles are now increasingly saturated. On the other hand, there is a severe talent shortage in cybersecurity that needs to be filled by experienced professionals. Besides the high demand, cybersecurity roles also offer higher salaries.
It’s only natural to want to transition from IT to cybersecurity (focus keyphrase) since you already have existing skills that can be applied to information security.
Moreover, information technology and cybersecurity are closely related fields. This relationship has grown in recent years as more IT jobs demand a significant emphasis on growing security issues.
This is because cyber-attacks are happening at an unprecedented rate. Considering how expensive a data breach is for a business ($4.35 million), many companies seek skilled security professionals to protect their assets.
If you want to transition from IT to cybersecurity, we’ve compiled some steps you should follow. For those still unsure, this guide will show why cybersecurity could be an excellent career path, the skills you need, and how to attain them.
How Information Technology (IT) and Cybersecurity Careers Are Intertwined
Information technology and cybersecurity overlap in many ways. Careers in these fields share the goal of protecting data, people, and devices. Some professionals consider cybersecurity to be a subfield within IT.
For example, some IT positions require you to perform networking, database management, and system configuration and administration. Cybersecurity professionals also need core IT skills in their day-to-day activities.
However, the two fields still differ in more ways than one, especially through their approach.
IT uses hardware, software, and computer networks to store and share digital information.
On the other hand, cybersecurity protects those computer systems, networks, programs, digital devices, and the data stored in them from unauthorized access.
As a result, cybersecurity professionals need a unique skill set.
A background in IT is already an advantage. But to transition from IT to cybersecurity, you’ll need special education, skills, certification, and experience.
If that's you, the following paragraphs will highlight specific requirements to change careers successfully.
Requirements to Transition from IT to Cybersecurity
Whether they are intertwined or not, transitioning from IT to cybersecurity is still a career change. Companies looking for cybersecurity professionals require certain educational qualifications, skills, experience, and sometimes certification.
1. Education Requirements
A bachelor’s degree in cybersecurity, computer science, or another related field is not compulsory. However, it can boost your employability. An associate degree is an excellent idea if you don’t have the time commitment for a 4-year program but still desire formal education.
IT professionals with a degree may also pursue a master’s degree focused on security. This can provide a competitive advantage over other applicants. Fortunately, most companies hiring cybersecurity professionals will test you with real-world situations. This means employers will ultimately choose someone with the right applicable skillset over a degree.
That’s why you can sharpen your skills with online courses, cybersecurity bootcamps, self-training, and security certifications. These routes are relatively cheaper than a university degree and help you learn at your pace.
For example, Cybrary provides an accessible and affordable learning platform from industry experts. There is a wide range of courses tailored to your level that smoothens your transition from IT to cybersecurity.
This intensive and targeted education helps you acquire in-demand security skills, such as Ethical Hacking, with certifications upon completion.
2. Experience Requirements
Cybersecurity deals with sensitive data assets, systems, and networks. As such, experience is absolutely critical. You’ll need to prove you can handle an organization’s assets by demonstrating you’ve done it before. Most entry-level cybersecurity positions require at least 3 to 5 years of experience.
However, due to the significant skills gap, some companies may be flexible with the experience requirements. Transitioning from IT to cybersecurity may provide an added advantage in this regard. This is because general IT experience is still relevant.
Internships can make up for inadequate cybersecurity experience. This could be paid or unpaid, but they help you gain real-world experience and improve your employability.
3. Skills Requirements
Employers will look for certain skills in prospective employees. This includes technical and non-technical skills.
Here are some technical skills requirements to transition from IT to cybersecurity:
- Ability to code in programming languages like Java, Python, C, C++, and PHP
- System & network configuration and administration
- Firewall and intrusion detection
- Digital forensics and incident response
- An understanding of hacking
- Risk analysis and assessment
- Security auditing
- Cloud Security
Cybersecurity requires you to work with many people across different levels. This may not be the case in all IT roles. As such, companies will look out for soft skills like:
- A desire to learn
- Teamwork and Collaboration
- Attention to detail
You’ll learn most of the technical skills through education, but interpersonal skills must be developed personally.
4. Certification Requirements
Cybersecurity job postings will request at least one certification. There are several different certifications out there you can leverage. CompTIA Security+ is a good place to start if you're switching from IT to cybersecurity.
Unlike other advanced certifications, there are no prerequisites, but CompTIA recommends at least two years of IT administration, which is excellent given your IT background. This certification will help you get in the door in most cases.
Since cybersecurity is also a broad field, you’ll most likely specialize. Your choice of specialization will also influence the certifications you’ll pursue. You can read our full guide on the cybersecurity career path (link to article) to learn more.
How to Transition From IT to Cybersecurity – Step-by-Step Guide
Moving from IT to cybersecurity is a step up and can future-proof your career. Cybersecurity roles are expected to grow by 35% between 2021 and 2031. As more threats emerge, there will be growing demand for cybersecurity professionals.
IT professionals already have an advantage because they're likely to have the foundational skills needed in cybersecurity. Transitioning will build on your existing knowledge; in some cases, you only need to refine a specific skill set.
If you’re ready to transition from IT to cybersecurity, below are steps to follow:
1. Choose a Cybersecurity Specialization
Cybersecurity is a broad industry with several branches, job roles, and specializations. This means you have many opportunities to find a niche that fits.
Choosing a cybersecurity specialization, especially one closely related to your current IT role is a good idea. Specializing helps you focus and smoothen your transitional journey into landing your first cybersecurity job.
Doing this will also help you choose a cybersecurity role that matches your skillset and interests. Your transition becomes attainable to someone with your level of education and experience. From there, you can hone and diversify your skills.
2. Audit Your Skill Sets and Fill Gaps
Besides choosing a cybersecurity specialization, you should audit your current skillset to find where you’re lacking. Evaluate how your current skills measure against those required of cybersecurity professionals in your targeted specialization or job role.
This helps you identify the skills you need to refine and the ones you should get.
Create a strategy to address any shortfalls between your present abilities and what you need as a cybersecurity professional. Then, follow the plan. It might involve obtaining a higher degree, going to a cybersecurity bootcamp, or learning through online courses.
3. Get Cybersecurity Education
You need a form of structured education in cybersecurity – as we mentioned earlier. If you prefer a degree, get one in cybersecurity, computer science, or any other related field. The master’s degree option is the next option if you already have a degree.
However, due to the time commitment, you should consider alternative options like bootcamps, self-study, and online courses from a trusted platform.
They’re faster, and you'll be hired as long as you can prove your skills to potential employers. These online platforms also provide hands-on training, like labs, to help you learn with practical experience.
4. Gain Professional Experience
Getting work experience is important for two reasons:
- To prove your employability and abilities to employers.
- To write professional exams and gain industry-recognized certifications.
When transitioning from IT to cybersecurity, you can take on entry-level roles such as technical support, software development, and web, system, or network administration.
As an IT expert, getting professional experience should be more straightforward than someone just entering the industry. If you already work in an organization, try joining the cybersecurity department. Otherwise, you should leverage internships.
Alternatively, you can solve cybersecurity challenges independently and contribute to open-source projects.
5. Obtain Cybersecurity Certifications
It’s important to validate your skills with certifications. Some reputable online courses will provide certificates, which can convince potential employers of your skills. In addition, strive for professional certifications that are relevant to your role.
Some certifications that can be helpful include the following;
CompTIA Network+, Security+, CySA+
Certified Ethical Hacker (CEH)
Some certifications will require previous work experience as a prerequisite. Due to your experience in IT, you might qualify for some of the exams and gain your certificates quickly.
To transition from IT to cybersecurity, it's crucial to establish relationships with professionals in the field so that you can gain knowledge of how it operates. Attending conferences, webinars, meetups, other networking events, and platforms like LinkedIn can help with this.
Moving from information technology to cybersecurity is relatively easier. Both fields overlap, meaning you’ll already have core skills that you can refine. However, cybersecurity requires a unique skill set. Due to a skills shortage and high salaries, this is an excellent career change for IT professionals.
Cybrary provides an accessible and affordable platform to transition from IT to cybersecurity seamlessly. Already trusted by 3 million other IT professionals, Cybrary helps you chart your course in cybersecurity with the best chance of landing a job quickly. Start with our IT Foundations or Cybersecurity Foundations pathways today.