Cybersecurity has never been more important than it is today. The world has become digital, data breaches have increased, and the COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated the need for digital transformation. These events have made the cybersecurity career path an exciting and hugely-rewarding prospect for many people.
Interestingly, there is a significant skills gap, meaning the demand for cybersecurity professionals far outpaces the supply.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, information security analyst jobs are projected to grow 35% from 2021-2031. This means numerous job opportunities are available to skilled professionals, but not enough people to fill them.
Cybersecurity is also a lucrative career path, especially with a median annual salary of $102,600. In addition, there are numerous pathways weaved into cybersecurity that you can specialize in.
For example, penetration testing, network engineering, security architecture, and incident response are only a few specializations.
As a dynamic and flexible career, cybersecurity allows you to either practice as a standalone consultant or work as part of an organization’s in-house team.
Entering the cybersecurity field is easy.
Whether you have a computer science background or not, Cybrary provides cybersecurity training that helps you ace professional exams, earn certifications, and become job-ready in record time.
Here, we'll discuss cybersecurity as a career path with a step-by-step guide on how to enter the industry.
Why Cybersecurity Is an Important Career Path
Cybersecurity as a discipline comprises a set of practices aimed at protecting systems, networks, and programs from cyber-attacks. Cyber and malware attacks constantly try to access, change, or destroy sensitive information and interrupt business operations.
Many small and large-scale companies have experienced severe data breaches that have crippled business processes and exposed confidential customer data.
According to a study from the University of Maryland, the rate of these cyber-attacks is increasing – every 39 seconds on average.
As cybercriminals develop new strategies to access complex security infrastructures, companies must stay vigilant about security flaws.
Hence, the need for skilled cybersecurity professionals.
But there are many more reasons why cybersecurity is a highly-sought after career path today. Some of them are:
1. Data Breaches Are Expensive
Cybersecurity is a growing field due to the cost of data breaches. Businesses simply can’t afford it.
For example, the average data breach cost is $4.35 million, according to IBM’s 2022 report. That amount will put most companies out of business.
There are also regulatory requirements that must be adhered to.
As such, businesses just can’t afford not to employ skilled cybersecurity professionals to protect their data.
2. Interconnectivity Has Increased Vulnerabilities
Our world has become so connected, which is excellent for many reasons. But this also means there are risks of loopholes in these technologies.
Cybercriminals are targeting more than just websites, servers, and computers. Any technology that is built with code is at risk of being exploited.
That’s why businesses need the best security professionals to detect and mitigate security threats before they cause irreparable damage.
3. New Threats Emerge Daily
There is a new cybersecurity threat almost every day. Businesses must implement measures to track, prepare for, and mitigate these threats. This is why the cybersecurity career path requires you to learn and evolve to be among the best constantly.
4. Cyber-Criminals Are Getting Smarter
As businesses improve their security posture, so do hackers find new ways to break into systems and networks. Cybercriminals are using sophisticated tools to compromise security frameworks.
Companies need to hire information security professionals to detect vulnerabilities before hackers and provide preventive measures to defend the company's assets.
5. An Increase in Automated Systems
As more business processes are conducted digitally, hackers have more opportunities to steal sensitive data.
While this is bad news for companies, it’s a boon for the cybersecurity career path because there is an increasing demand for skilled professionals.
What Does the Cybersecurity Career Path Entail?
The cybersecurity sector has a lot to offer prospective employees.
There is high demand. It is a lucrative field. And there are many opportunities for professional advancement and specialization. As the digital world continues to evolve, we may see new areas needing cybersecurity professionals, e.g., the Internet of Things (IoT).
If there is a time to learn cybersecurity, it is now.
But what will your career look like?
Most newbies will start in entry-level roles, such as system administrator, help desk technician, or software developer. Other entry-level roles include junior information security analyst and IT auditor.
As you earn certifications and gain experience, you’ll proceed into mid-level positions like Penetration & Vulnerability Tester, Ethical Hacker, and Cybersecurity Consultant.
From there, you will proceed to advanced-level roles like Cybersecurity Manager, Cybersecurity Engineer, Cybersecurity Architect, and other senior management positions.
You may also become the Chief Information Security Officer at some point, build cybersecurity teams, and design security policies.
Before applying to your first cybersecurity job, develop basic IT skills like network and systems administration, programming, data entry, and cloud computing. Although a degree isn't necessary to become a cybersecurity professional, having structured training will accelerate your career path.
Cybersecurity Career Roadmap: How to Enter the Information Security Field
Are you ready to enter the cybersecurity career field? Then, here is a step-by-step guide on the levels you should expect:
1. Learn Core IT and Information Security Skills
You need to learn the fundamentals of information technology.
The following skills are essential:
- System and network administration
- Working knowledge of operating systems like LINUX and UNIX
- Programming languages like Java, Python, and PHP
- Data entry, such as SQL and Database Management Systems
Cloud computing, routing protocols, and encryption will go a long way. Most times, you can learn these skills for free online.
You should also have a keen eye for detail and problem-solving skills.
2. Get a Structured Cybersecurity Training
It’s important to have a structured form of cybersecurity training. This could be through a Bachelor’s degree program, cybersecurity bootcamps, or guided online pathways.
Getting a Bachelor’s Degree in computer science or any other IT domain is unnecessary. However, some job postings may require a form of a college degree.
A 4-year degree might seem like a huge commitment to many people. So, an associate degree in cybersecurity, computer science, or other related fields might get your foot in the door.
If you don’t have a degree, there are a handful of platforms that provide a guided cybersecurity roadmap to kickstart your cybersecurity journey.
Ultimately, many organizations will prioritize your skillset over a college degree.
3. Take Professional Exams and Get Certified
Cybersecurity certifications demonstrate a high level of cybersecurity knowledge and experience. It proves to employers that your skills meet industry standards.
Obtaining credentials also increases your earning potential. The more certifications you have under your belt, the more marketable you’ll become.
There are several cybersecurity certifications available in this career path. As you proceed, your preferred specialization may determine the certifications you’ll pursue.
Some cybersecurity certifications have minimum prerequisites, such as work experience, a degree program, or another certification.
4. Test Yourself With Hands-on Cybersecurity Cases
The cybersecurity career path transcends theoretical work. Most of your day-to-day activities will involve dealing with real-world threats. So, it’s crucial to have practical knowledge. Learn more with Careers in Cyber
That’s why it’s important to have hands-on cybersecurity training with real-life simulations that prepare you.
5. Get Professional Work Experience as an Intern
Internships are an excellent way to gain work experience before landing your first cybersecurity job. It equips you with the practical skills, knowledge, and experience employers want.
An internship will also give you a competitive advantage over other applicants and add to your work experience for professional exams.
Cybersecurity internships may be paid or unpaid, depending on the company. You can also gain relevant job experience by contributing to open-source projects or working on solo cybersecurity projects.
Ensure you document your experience, progress, and achievements by creating a portfolio and resume.
6. Build Interpersonal Skills
Due to the nature of cybersecurity, this career path requires communication and collaboration. You need excellent interpersonal skills to communicate and collaborate with various teams and implement organizational policies.
7. Apply for Cybersecurity Roles
Lastly, you want to put it all together and apply for cybersecurity roles. It’s okay to start with entry-level jobs and build your way to the top.
Cybersecurity Career Pathways for Specialization
One excellent perk about cybersecurity is you can choose a specialization even before you land your first job. Alternatively, you can take your time and make a lateral move once you decide.
Let’s take a look at some career pathways to consider:
How would you like to be an organization's digital firefighter? Cyber-attacks are bound to happen no matter how much effort a company puts in. But someone needs to be there to respond when it happens. This is the job of an incident responder.
Your job is to monitor your organization’s network, fix vulnerabilities, respond to threats, and minimize impact when breaches happen.
Essential certifications for this role include EC-Council Certified Incident Handler (ECIH), GIAC Certified Incident Handler (GCIH), and Certified Computer Forensics Examiner (CCFE).
Engineering and Architecture
Cybersecurity engineering and architecture involve the systems, processes, and technologies implemented to ensure effective cybersecurity operations. As a security engineer, you'll design and implement defense systems against various security issues using your understanding of threats and vulnerabilities.
Essential certifications include Systems Security Certified Practitioner (SSCP), CompTIA Security+, and CISSP.
You can also work as a standalone cybersecurity consultant helping various companies solve different cybersecurity problems. This role involves profound skills in cybersecurity offense and defense, testing systems for vulnerabilities, and recommending security measures to strengthen them.
Essential certifications include Certified Security Consultant (CSC), SSCP, Offensive Security Certified Professional (OSCP), etc.
Management and Administration
There is a lot of opportunity to grow in cybersecurity. So, you may decide to advance into leadership positions like Chief Information Officer (CISO) or Cybersecurity Manager. In this role, you’ll be required to build and manage cybersecurity teams, ensure security compliance, and design security policies and procedures.
Essential certifications are CISM, CISA, CISSP, and GIAC Certified Project Manager (GCPM).
Penetration Testing and Ethical Hacking
Also known as the red team, this specialization is a proactive approach to finding vulnerabilities before hackers do. In essence, you simulate an attack on your company's systems and networks to find the weaknesses that potential cyber-criminals may explore.
Essential certifications include GIAC Penetration Tester (GPEN), CEH, OSCP, Licensed Penetration Tester Master (LPT), and CompTIA PenTest+.
Cybersecurity is an in-demand career path with many opportunities and lucrative salaries. Regardless of your previous experience and background, you can transition into cybersecurity with the proper foundational training.
If you want to break into cybersecurity but don’t know where to start, Cybrary’s free cybersecurity foundations provide a career path. It covers core security concepts you'll need across different cybersecurity roles. Learn cybersecurity for free now.