Cybersecurity Career Path: A Beginner’s Guide

The time is now to start a cybersecurity career, as the need is more urgent than ever

Cyberattacks happen every day to all types of businesses and organizations. That’s why keeping hardware, software and digital information secure is more crucial than ever. However, there is currently a shortage of qualified cybersecurity professionals to fill security roles. In fact, it’s expected that within the next two years, there will be as many as 3.5 million cybersecurity jobs available.

There hasn’t been a better time to start a career in cybersecurity than right now. And, there are different career paths available in the cybersecurity industry. Let’s take a look at the industry, getting started with a cybersecurity career and the courses and training that are necessary.

Working in the Cybersecurity Industry

Cybersecurity involves protecting the digital data, computer systems and networks and other sensitive information of organizations. More specifically, it involves protecting those assets from cyberattackers. These criminals do far more than simply stealing identities and committing credit card fraud; they are responsible for sabotaging business processes, extorting money from users, and accessing, stealing or destroying sensitive data.

It isn’t only large corporations that require protection from cyberattacks. It’s essential for everyone, including government agencies, companies of all sizes and employees of these organizations. And these attacks are costly. This means that organizations are spending more to combat cyber attackers—it’s estimated that global cybersecurity spending will exceed $1 trillion from 2017 to 2021.

What does all of this mean? It means that the demand for cybersecurity professionals is huge and getting bigger every day.

Cybersecurity Job Types

Since the demand for digital protection is massive, it’s not surprising that the job outlook for cybersecurity professionals is excellent. According to the 2018 ICS2 Cybersecurity Workforce Study, there was a shortage of 454,800 cybersecurity professionals to fill open jobs in the U.S. alone. Globally, that number was 2.93 million. Fortunately for technology job seekers, the cybersecurity field encompasses many unique roles and career paths. Let’s look at some of the possible roles in cybersecurity:

  • Security generalist
  • Network security engineer
  • Cloud security engineer
  • Application security
  • Identity and Access Management (IAM) engineer
  • Security architecture
  • Penetration tester
  • Malware/forensics analyst
  • Incident response analyst
  • Cryptographer
  • Security trainer
  • Security auditor
  • Governance, Risk and Compliance professional

Keep in mind, these are only a handful of careers available in cybersecurity. The possibilities are nearly endless. Additionally, there are many other technology fields that are not security-focused but will benefit from having the knowledge of a security professional in key roles.

Getting Started in a Cybersecurity Career

So, what does it look like to get started in a cybersecurity career? Whether you are thinking about making a total career change or you’re in the technology industry already and are looking to gain the knowledge needed to do a little course correction, you will need to do some planning and training.

Do You Need a College Degree for a Cybersecurity Career?

The short answer to this question is: no. While a college degree may be helpful, it isn’t always required. In fact, the whole cybersecurity industry was really started by people who worked hard and had IT experience but didn’t have college degrees. Many of the people you find in cybersecurity roles today don’t have degrees, but they do have knowledge and experience. You can easily get the education you need to get started in cybersecurity through training and earning certifications in various security-related areas.

Key Cybersecurity Courses and Training

As with any technology field, it’s essential that you have a solid foundation of the fundamentals. You can do this on your own with the help of online training and obtaining specific certifications. Familiarize yourself with organizations such as the Computing Technology Industry Association (CompTIA), the International Council of Electronic Commerce Consultants (EC Council), Cisco Systems, the International Information System Security Certification Consortium (ISC2) and the Information Systems Audit and Control Association (ISACA). They are the major players in certifying IT and cybersecurity professionals.

Some of the most common certifications that are required by hiring organizations for cybersecurity professionals include:

CompTIA Certifications

  • A+
  • Network+
  • Security+
  • Linux+
  • CASP + (CompTIA Advanced Security Practitioner+)
  • CySa+ (CompTIA Cybersecurity Analyst+)

EC Council Certifications

  • CEH (Certified Ethical Hacker)
  • CHFI (Computer Hacking Forensics Investigator)
  • ECSA (EC-Council Certified Security Analyst)
  • LPT (Licensed Penetration Tester)

Cisco Certifications

  • CCNA Routing & Switching (Cisco Certified Network Associate)
  • CCNA Security (Cisco Certified Network Associate)

ISC2 Certifications

  • CISSP (Certified Information Systems Security Professional)
  • SSCP (Systems Security Certified Practitioner)
  • CCSP (Certified Cloud Security Professional)
  • CAP (Certified Authorization Professional)

ISACA Certifications

  • CISM (Certified Information Systems Manager)
  • CISA (Certified Information Systems Auditor)

Final Thoughts about a Career in Cybersecurity

There hasn’t been a more opportune time to start a career in cybersecurity. If you are considering a career that will help businesses and organizations keep their data safe, then now is the time to do it. Cybersecurity is an industry that is perfect for anyone who is interested in technology and who values rewarding work. Taking the right steps and obtaining the right training and certifications will help you get started on the cybersecurity career path.

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Paul Ricketts

Paul Ricketts

Originally from the UK, Paul Ricketts is the Director of Marketing at TrainACE, a Cybersecurity and IT Training organization in Greenbelt, MD. With a wealth of IT experience across multiple disciplines (including GIS, programming, and data analysis), since joining TrainACE Paul’s focus has turned to Cybersecurity and IT training.

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