As our world becomes more and more intertwined with technology, there is a growing need for cybersecurity specialists who are skilled enough to deal with the growing threat of hackers, cyber attacks, and insecure data. As pressures mount on CEOs to take more responsibility for their organizations’ cybersecurity, the field is expanding.
Those who can get into it will find themselves handsomely compensated for their skill and dedication.
It’s not all about the money, though—many people go into cybersecurity purely out of an overarching interest in technology. The aim also is to work in a field that’s relevant, upcoming and impacts real change in our digital world.
If you are looking for a field with guaranteed job security, look no further than cybersecurity.
While most modern tech-orientated professions are inherently safe, cybersecurity is by far the most secure. Employment Opportunities in the industry are expected to continue rising over the next decade or so, and that’s despite the fact that there is currently a cybersecurity skills shortage.
So not only is demand growing, it is growing alongside a shortage of skilled specialists. As a cybersecurity professional, you will have a job for life and could have the opportunity to diversify and work across lots of different industries, organizations, and government agencies. The possibilities are endless!
Getting into Cybersecurity: A Short Guide
Lots of people don’t consider themselves ‘worthy’ of a career in cybersecurity, either because they don’t think they are intelligent enough or they don’t have a background in tech.
While having a background is certainly advantageous, it is not a requirement—there are plenty of opportunities for people with non-tech backgrounds who want to transition over.
Let’s take a look at both options.
Traditional tech background: education at a good school
Of course, having a tech background and relative education in the fields related to cybersecurity—data science, computer science, and even some law courses are all great examples— are generally favorable, it is not the most important factor.
With a background in IT and tech, you will be able to get to grips with cybersecurity work at a faster pace than those who haven’t got one.
Tech-related skills such as programming, software engineering, and web development are all transferable to cybersecurity.
By being able to read, write, and understand code, you will be more likely to pick up on malicious code, technical red flags, and other cybersecurity threats quicker than somebody who has never come across a line of code other than the odd bit of HTML.
Some of the best schools in the U.S. for cybersecurity-related education and training include —
- Any Ivy League school that offers Computer Science, i.e. Harvard University
- Eastern Michigan University‘s Information Assurance Program
- Rochester Institute of Technology’s Computer Security Department
Computer Science should be the default choice at universities
Computer Science is by far the most popular subject for students wanting to go into cybersecurity and it is the most respected by employers. Popular jobs for CompSci majors and other technical backgrounds include —
- Penetration testers
- Technical analysts
- Security engineers
Remember, an anesthesiologist doesn’t skip his preliminary medical education that all doctors go through; information security is a specialization, not a starting point for a career.
CompSci teaches real in-depth knowledge that is useful for a career in information security. While there are specialist cybersecurity degree programs available, it is CompSci that is most valuable for people going down the traditional education route.
A technical background alone, though, while helpful, is not enough—building on-the-job experience is similarly valuable as it demonstrates that you don’t just have technical knowledge, but you know how to apply it.
That’s is an important aspect too; certainly what cybersecurity employers want to see.
Non-tech background: learning about tech through passion and transitioning
Having a non-technical background isn’t a bad thing.
In fact, it can be beneficial as, often, people from non-tech backgrounds think differently from those with tech backgrounds and this can be good for organizations that value skill diversity.
Although you may not have technical skills such as coding and programming knowledge, at least not to the extent required of technical analysts, for example, these can be learned over time and it is not always necessary to have these skills for certain positions. Popular jobs for individuals with non-tech backgrounds include —
- Technical copywriting
- Systems security consultant
- Auditing and policy compliance
Over time, as you learn more about the industry and build your technical skills and knowledge, it is possible to move onto other job roles such as those mentioned above.
Everybody has to begin somewhere and there are plenty of courses, certifications, and programs you can undertake to put you on the right track. These can often be done online and take significantly less time than a college degree does, with some completable in a few months!
Breaking into Cybersecurity Means Starting in Tech First
Although you don’t need a technical background so far as your education is concerned, it is a lot easier to transition into cybersecurity if you have already worked within a tech-related industry or vertical.
If you already have worked within a tech-related firm or job, great! You’re already in a great position to start transitioning and targeting cybersecurity firms by playing to your strengths. If you haven’t, that’s fine—it’s never too late to get started.
Here are 4 tips you can draw inspiration from in getting started…
1. Be well-rounded and have a diverse skill set
Who makes the best cybersecurity expert?
- Somebody with a broad range of skills and well-rounded experience
- Somebody who only specialized in security, period.
It’s the first person—the best cybersecurity professionals have a diverse skill set and lots of experience in not just security but other disciplines and areas of life.
If you are already working in a tech company or an IT-related role, learn everything there is to know about your current job and start thinking about the role from the perspective of a cybersecurity expert.
Even the most basic employee in the most basic IT role can demonstrate their skills by learning about network security and becoming their own office’s go-to security guy.
2. Brush up on your IT skills
If you aren’t working in or don’t have any experience with IT, start learning the basics and fundamentals. To get anywhere with cybersecurity, you need to understand the basic IT building blocks.
There are lots of online courses, resources, streamable content, and even night courses at community colleges that you can take advantage of in learning the basics.
Network infrastructure and management, basic programming, and cybersecurity basics such as penetration testing are all valuable skills that you will need to know.
3. Start to earn legitimate certifications
Like we have already said, there is no need for you to have a college degree to break into cybersecurity.
Yes, it helps but it is far from being a necessity.
There is a massive cybersecurity skills shortage right now. Not having a degree won’t prevent prevent you from securing work within the industry if you can demonstrate in-depth and workable knowledge.
Certifications and other ways for you to demonstrate your skills and expertise help in the long-term.
With basic certifications, you are credible enough to work in an entry-level role. From here, prove yourself and you will soon start rising through the ranks and taking on more technical work. Some great sources for certifications online include —
- CompTIA Security+
- Udemy: Cybersecurity for Beginners
These are just two of many examples. Some are more “legitimate” than others. Check out your local education institutions, too!
4. Make sure to do some networking
Given the current skills shortage, making sure the right people know who you are and what you are capable of is one of the most important and lucrative things you can do.
You need to get to know as many people within the cybersecurity and tech industries as possible.
Attend conferences, participate in networking events, have a presence online, get involved in debates.
Anything you can do to make sure your name starts to be known within the cybersecurity community, the better.
Constantly Work on Improving Yourself and You Will Make It
Anybody can get into cybersecurity. It doesn’t matter what your background is, what your grades are, or whether you’re an Ivy League CompSci prodigy.
If you want to make it, you can.
Cybersecurity has a huge skill shortage and firms are crying out for new talent.
Start right now by brushing up on the essential skills; look for entry-level or contractor work, and begin your journey.