8 min read

The Path to a Career as a Cybersecurity Specialist

Posted On March 01, 2023 By Anubhav Chakraborty

8 min read

That often means that continuing education is required — both in the form of formal, industry-recognized certifications —  and in the form of informal learning and tracking industry developments. Computer science and business students may want to pursue cybersecurity because they’ve heard job openings and opportunities for career advancement are abundant. That’s true, but career success hinges on having a sincere interest in the topic and a willingness to discover and study the aspect of cybersecurity that most captures your interest. Before investing in higher education or certifications, explore salaries in cybersecurity and learn about the projected career outlook for the coming decade.

Becoming a cybersecurity engineer requires hard work and dedication, but it is doable. According to (ISC)², 26% of cybersecurity professionals surveyed started in a different field. Eight percent explored cybersecurity concepts on their own and were recruited to work in the field. A cybersecurity engineering job is unlikely to be the first role in your career. First, you should seek entry-level cybersecurity jobs to help you gain experience and build your skills. For those who take the non-college route, a cybersecurity bootcamp can also provide a good education.

  • Like most other careers in cybersecurity, it’ll be a great start to earn your degree relating to the cybersecurity specialist category and then get industry certifications, clearances, and practical experience.
  • Certifications like ITF+, CompTIA A+ and Network+ give you the background you need if you don’t already have it, and CompTIA Security+ is recommended to begin your career as a Cybersecurity Professional.
  • As the job title implies, cybersecurity specialists are expected to have a certain level of training and expertise that allows them to give advice and training on the latest digital best practices.
  • If you’re considering becoming a cyber security specialist, this may extend to wanting to learn how to protect computers and computer networks.

Make sure to opt for a degree program for a security specialist which offers access to several certifications, such as the Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP). By doing so, you’ll also be learning the material that each certification requires, putting you ahead as you get ready to graduate and land your first job in this exciting field. Once you land a general cyber security role, you can build up your skills, knowledge, and experience to apply for the role you really want.

It is intended for those who wish to remain immersed in hands-on enterprise security, incident response and architecture, for example, as opposed to strictly managing cybersecurity policy and frameworks. The CompTIA Cybersecurity Analyst certification assesses the skills needed to apply behavioral analytics to networks to improve the overall state of IT security. The certification covers tools such as packet sniffers, intrusion detection systems (IDS) and security information and event management (SIEM) systems. As new methods in threat intelligence emerge, the security analyst job role has gained more importance, making these skills essential for most organizations. After earning CompTIA Security+, cybersecurity professionals can take the next step by pursuing an intermediate-level cybersecurity certification, such as CompTIA Cybersecurity Analyst (CySA+) or CompTIA PenTest+. Security Operations Center (SOC) analyst is the most popular entry-level cyber security position.

Some cybersecurity professionals pursue experience before earning certification. Whatever path they choose, security specialists need strong technical skills and a commitment to continuing education. The cyber security career path is a roadmap you can use to navigate the cyber security industry, direct your career, and land your dream job. Its five stages take you from learning the IT fundamentals to being an expert in one of many cyber security fields. This article detailed the skills and knowledge required at each of the career path’s stages and the roles these qualify you for.

Tools and technical skills needed to be a cybersecurity professional

The bottom line is, the fight against cybercrime is multifaceted and requires a wide range of talented people with acutely honed skills to work collaboratively. As well as being a committed learner, if you want to match the pace of the criminals determined to outsmart you, you’ll need to be curious too. You can’t rely solely on others to provide you with the information you need to be successful. There’s no substitute for knowledge, especially in a crisis, and in the event of a cyberattack you need to be an expert. However, whether you will advance to higher positions is a different matter.

Plan on getting a degree from an IT field such as computer engineering, information security, computer science and programming or any relevant discipline that offer cybersecurity specialization. Strategists – The professionals are expected to be smart to proactively implement security measures and controls within an organization and weigh the consequences of any action, if any. High-level security protocols require the professional to perform tactical and strategical evaluations of the workflows, dependencies, budgets, and resources.

Consider Certifications

While the role of a cybersecurity specialist may seem technically daunting, it can entail much more than programming. In fact, some cybersecurity roles don’t require a background in computer science—and can still help drive meaningful business decisions. Payscale also reports that in 2023, cybersecurity specialists will be compensated across a wide range, depending on experience, responsibilities, become an it security specialist learning and geography. A 2019 Burning Glass Technologies report notes that most cybersecurity jobs (65%) require a bachelor’s degree. Undergraduate majors like cybersecurity, computer science, and computer forensics can provide candidates with the skills to pursue security specialist jobs. Cybersecurity specialists can anticipate strong employment growth over the coming decade.

Find Cyber Security Specialist Jobs Near You

The tool is used for scrutinizing the details of network traffic at various levels, from the connection-level information to the small pieces that constitute a packet of data. By capturing data packets, specialists can investigate various characteristics of individual packets. There are many powerful tools in the cybersecurity ecosystem, and they’re rapidly advancing, Howard observes. “Yet becoming overly dependent on specific tools, and not applying learned experience to situational issues, can be a trap for many newcomers,” he warns. IT professionals work in practically all other industries; protecting sensitive information isn’t only relevant to the technology sector. In fact, the highest average salaries for IT employees are in the defense, aerospace, PR, communications, advertising, medical, pharmaceutical, biotech, military, and homeland security industries.

Gaining industry experience in such roles can prepare candidates for core security positions. They play a crucial role in protecting organizations’ valuable data and ensuring the integrity and confidentiality of information. Still, one of the major draws for many cybersecurity specialists is the ability to work remotely. Cybersecurity is the ideal industry for remote workers as it’s usually possible to access a company’s network without having to visit the office in person. Thus, many cybersecurity companies can hire the best talent regardless of physical location. To minimize the chances of this happening, most companies set up strict education requirements and are looking to hire applicants with bachelor degrees.

Security Assessment

You may decide to choose a more generalized set of available positions, because this will allow you to get more experience for any position for which you receive a job offer. In general, the pathway follows a hierarchy of skills needed for IT security; each certification builds upon the skills from the previous one. Read more about why it’s great to start your cybersecurity career at the help desk. If you have limited experience in IT and aren’t quite ready to start with CompTIA Security+, then you’ll want to start earlier on the pathway.

Top Online Programs

Penetration Tester is an official title for what you may know as an ethical hacker or a white hat hacker. Hackers of this kind are hired by organizations to attempt to breach their systems with their hacking abilities and software. During this process, no information is stolen or lost – pentesters are careful not to harm the organization they’re infiltrating. They are merely creating a controlled simulation of a cyberattack that exposes the organization’s security systems’ weaknesses. You’ll also manage any cyber-attacks and monitor their effects on the company.

However, most programs will provide labs for hands-on learning to analyze real-life security threats. A major corporation or organization uses a security specialist to protect its software and network security system. A security specialist is a smart career path to take to begin your career in cyber security, as you’ll be the go-to person responsible for the overall safety of your employer’s data.

For instance, the basic IT and networking skills you acquire at Stages 1 and 2 are required to learn the skills and knowledge you must gain at Stage 3 to find a general cyber security role. “You need to understand the technology for you to be able to secure it,” Ahamad says. “In the context of cybersecurity, it’s networks, and computers and software.” However, for some (but not all) master’s program tracks, you might need a computer science or engineering undergrad degree. Some top programs include Georgia Tech, New York University, Stanford University, Carnegie Mellon University, and the University of California, Berkeley. Cybersecurity specialists play an interesting role in the companies and organizations where they are employed.


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