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The Ultimate Guide to Starting a Cybersecurity Career

Cybersecurity

Cybersecurity is a fast-paced industry that offers job seekers diversity and many other job perks.

Data breaches and other cyber attacks are a real threat to all businesses, and organizations place high importance on their network security. This means that cybersecurity specialists - particularly those with higher qualifications like a cybersecurity masters - are in high demand across all industries.

Cybersecurity can offer a long and satisfying career, but you will need to be prepared to work hard to gain the required skills and expertise. Cybersecurity professionals typically have to dedicate several years to their education and earn a bachelor’s in a relevant subject followed by a cybersecurity masters program. Gaining these qualifications requires time, energy, and money, so you must do your research and have a solid understanding of what will be involved. If you are interested in working in cybersecurity, then here is everything you need to know about starting a cybersecurity career.

What is cybersecurity?

Broadly speaking, cybersecurity is the process of protecting digital data, networks, and computer systems from theft or damage. Cybersecurity focuses on safeguarding a company’s digital assets from cyberattacks, particularly against the loss of sensitive data. The main goal of a cyber attacker is typically to access, steal, or destroy a company’s sensitive information. Cyber attackers may also try to gain access to a company’s digital systems to sabotage business processes or to extort money and personal information from users. Take a look at this article by CISCO for more information on what cybersecurity involves.

Why is cybersecurity essential?

Recent cybersecurity statistics show that 64% of companies have experienced a cyber attack.

These stats also reveal that the average cost of a data breach in small and medium-sized businesses is a whopping $3.9 million. A cybersecurity breach can destroy a business and result in significant losses. Experiencing a cyber attack is also likely to harm business productivity, as there is likely to be a period of downtime when employees are unable to complete their work activities.

On top of the financial losses, a cyber attack can also cause irreversible damage to a company’s reputation, especially if a customer’s sensitive information is stolen. Consumers expect businesses to keep their personal information secure and protected. A data breach can cause serious damage to your credibility and cause customers to lose trust in your brand, product, and services. According to experts at Bitdefender: “A company can lose more than half of its customers following a data breach.” This is why it is essential that companies take cybersecurity seriously and take steps to protect their digital data and systems against cyber attackers.

What roles does the industry offer?

Cybersecurity is a wide and diverse industry with plenty of rewarding jobs on offer. Many roles are technical and require a cybersecurity masters degree or another higher qualification. Although, some cybersecurity roles only require a bachelor’s degree and relevant experience. Cybersecurity professionals work in a wide variety of industries, including healthcare, government, finance, law enforcement, and technology. Many cybersecurity professionals start working as generalists and then specialize in an area of cybersecurity such as data loss prevention or network security. You should have the opportunity to choose a specialization while you are studying for your cybersecurity masters degree. It is recommended that you have an idea of the area of cybersecurity that you are interested in before you enroll in a cybersecurity masters program. That way, you can focus on the topics that will best suit your future career goals and aspirations.

If you are interested in working in the field of cybersecurity, then you must explore what roles the industry has on offer. This will allow you to pursue a career path that with be well matched to your skills, passions, and interests. You can visit a reputable careers site like learnhowtobecome.org to learn about different cybersecurity roles. Work placements and networking should also give you an insight into the cybersecurity industry and help you choose a specialization.

What skills do cybersecurity professionals need?

As mentioned, cybersecurity is a technical field, and professionals working in the industry must possess specialist skills and knowledge. Fortunately, many of these skills can be learned by studying for a bachelor’s degree in cybersecurity or a cybersecurity masters program. That said, there are some basic skills and interests that you should have to be successful in the field of cybersecurity. Here are some key skills that aspiring cybersecurity professionals should possess:

  • Operate computers effectively - Cybersecurity professionals must know how to use computers, and many roles require advanced computing skills. A cybersecurity specialist must understand how to operate various computer models, access digital systems, and understand the principles of IP and interfaces. Basic computer skills should be acquired while studying for a qualification like a cybersecurity masters.
  • Basic knowledge of networks - Cybersecurity professionals must have a basic knowledge of networks and how they work. Students completing a cybersecurity masters program should become confident in basic networking concepts, including routing, switching, and subnetting. The majority of cybersecurity specialists also become experienced in more advanced areas of networking, such as algorithms and search engine configurations. Being confident in networking principles will give you a competitive edge and help you secure the highest-paying cybersecurity roles once you graduate.
  • Understand computer languages - Cybersecurity specialists must have a good understanding of at least one computer language. In cybersecurity, everything works via coding, and cybersecurity experts must be able to interpret and program this language. Some of the most popular cyber languages include Java, HTML, and Python. You may have the option to specialize in certain programming languages while you are completing a cybersecurity masters degree or another higher qualification.

Having these basic skills is a must if you want to pursue a career in cybersecurity. Along with these skills, you should also be tech-savvy and have an interest in analytics, computers, and technology. Earning a cybersecurity masters qualification is a big commitment, so you must be certain that a career in cybersecurity is right for you before you enroll.

What qualifications do I need to work in cybersecurity?

Cybersecurity offers job seeks plentiful job opportunities, high salaries, and excellent career progression. That said, becoming a qualified cybersecurity professional involves several years of training and assessments. Cybersecurity specialists typically require a bachelor’s followed by a cybersecurity masters degree. These programs are designed to equip students with the skills, knowledge, and expertise needed to be successful in the ever-evolving field of cybersecurity. Here is the traditional route to becoming a cybersecurity specialist:

Step 1: Complete a bachelor’s degree

Most cybersecurity specialists start their career path by completing a bachelor’s degree in cybersecurity, IT, or computer science. Most bachelor’s degree programs take four years of full-time study to complete. You can choose to study at a campus or earn your qualification online via distance learning. If your degree is in a related topic, then you may be able to complete a conversion course before enrolling in a cybersecurity masters program.

Step 2: Enrol in a cybersecurity masters program

Many IT graduates go on to complete a cybersecurity masters program. Many roles require an advanced certification like a cybersecurity masters degree, particularly in senior positions. Earning a cybersecurity masters qualification will give you a competitive advantage in the job market and help you stand out from your peers. Again, you have the option to complete a cybersecurity masters via a campus-based course or distance learning. An online cybersecurity masters program is the preferred option for students who are already working or have other commitments like children.

Step 3: Gain a higher qualification

For many cybersecurity professionals, a cybersecurity masters degree is sufficient. However, some cybersecurity specialists decide to expand their expertise and improve their job outlook by earning a higher qualification like a cybersecurity Ph.D. A Ph.D. will equip you with the highest skill set and prepare you for senior positions in the cybersecurity industry. Cybersecurity professionals with a Ph.D. are well-respected in their field and benefit from higher earning potential and more career advancement opportunities. Nevertheless, earning a Ph.D. qualification is a massive commitment that will require significant time and money. You must carefully weigh up the pros and cons and decide whether a higher qualification is the best option for you and your career.

Step 4: Secure an entry-level position

Once you have gained the required qualifications, you can start applying for entry-level positions. According to cybersecurityeducation.org, some top entry-level cybersecurity roles are system administrator and network administrator. With experience, you will be able to start applying for more senior cybersecurity roles such as IT Manager or Security Director.

How can I gain industry experience?

Having the above qualifications is essential if you want to become a cybersecurity specialist, but gaining relevant experience is just as important. Employers will expect graduates to have a certain level of experience. Some organizations may even regard relevant experience more highly than qualifications. If you are hoping to work in cybersecurity, then you should think about building your work experience as early as possible, ideally while you are still at school or college. You will likely be required to complete placements during your bachelor’s or cybersecurity masters program. However, you shouldn’t rely solely on these placements to gain experience. Building a solid portfolio of placements and internships will set you apart from your peers and demonstrate your interest and passion for the industry. Here are some easy ways to get cybersecurity experience and boost your career outlook:

  • Teach yourself to code by reading coding books or watching online tutorials.
  • Take part in cybersecurity training courses and competitions.
  • Practice securing your computer and network. Then, attempt to hack your systems and record vulnerabilities. You can then work to make your computer more secure.
  • Apply for summer IT internships in organizations.
  • Volunteer at cybersecurity conferences and training courses.
  • Attend local IT and cybersecurity networking events to build connections with people in the industry and expand your professional network.
  • Volunteer to help local businesses improve their cybersecurity.

How do I advance in my career?

Once you have secured an entry-level position, you will need to consider how to advance in your career. The good news is, cybersecurity specialists are in high demand and have a bright career outlook. This means that you shouldn’t struggle to progress in your career once qualified. As discussed above, many IT specialists choose to specialize in a particular area of cybersecurity whilst studying for a cybersecurity masters qualification. Specializing can help you advance in your career as you will become an expert in your chosen field. It will also mean that you get to work in a field that is best suited to your interests and work preferences.

Another simple way to advance in your career is by earning additional certifications. Completing a qualification like a cybersecurity masters or P.h.D program can boost your credentials and earning potential. However, extra training courses and certifications can also update your skillset and give you a competitive advantage. The world of cybersecurity is fast-paced, and professionals must remain up to date with the latest software and trends in cybersecurity. Completing regular refresher courses is recommended for every cybersecurity specialist. Being proactive with your professional development and help you advance in your career and become successful in your chosen field. 

Conclusion

Cybersecurity can offer a lucrative career for those with the relevant skills and knowledge. Data security has never been more important, and organizations are recognizing that network security is essential to their productivity, reputation, and profits. The demand for cybersecurity specialists means that professionals working in the industry enjoy many job perks such as high earning potential and excellent job security. Training to become a cybersecurity specialist takes time, and you will usually be required to earn a higher qualification such as a cybersecurity masters. However, your hard work should pay off in the long-run as you will enjoy a successful and satisfying career in the fast-paced and dynamic cybersecurity industry.

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