Cyber Careers path
By Kate Hilpern
Once seen as the domain of government agencies and sci-fi novels, cyber security is now one of the fastest growing industries globally, with a wide range of exciting tech and non-tech careers available.
Cyber security – what is it?
Not so long ago, if your child said they were interested in a career in cyber security you’d have wondered whether they were taking their sci-fi novels a bit too seriously. Today, the demand for specialists is growing faster than in IT across all industries ranging from finance to retail and from healthcare to manufacturing – all of whom need to protect their valuable information from cyber breaches.
Cyber security is already a billion-pound industry and threats from malware, ransomware, phishing, DDoS attacks and hacking are only increasing the need for more people to join. Cyber security reduces the risk of these cyber-attacks and protects organisations and individuals from having their systems, networks and technologies exploited.
By 2022, it is estimated there will be 100,000 unfilled cyber security jobs in the UK alone and salaries are rising fast to help attract more people in, both in tech and non-tech roles.
Cyber security – what types of jobs are there?
Cyber security is a young, fast-expanding and extremely diverse field, with jobs specialising in everything from hacking and analysis to cloud storage and apps. Entry level jobs include network administrator, systems administrator, network engineer and web administrator, while some of the more intermediate and senior roles include:
Chief information security officer – the CISO takes the lead on all security initiatives. Once seen as security enforcers, these tech professionals are now seen as strategists helping to avoid cybercrime.
Security consultant – advisor, guide and all-round security guru. You’ll design and help build the strongest possible security solutions for a particular company, investigating what the most effective measures are.
Security architect – designs, builds and oversees the network and computer security of a company. You’ll plan, research and design strong security architectures for all IT projects and perform security assessments, among other things.
Computer forensics expert – acts as a digital detective, doncuting security incident investigations and recovering and examining data from devices, compilng evidence for legal cases and sometimes advising government.
Ethical hacker – these penetration testers legally hack organisation’s applications, networks and system to identify security vulnerabilities and then help solve any problems found.
Security engineer – builds and maintains IT security solutions for a company, as well as handling technical problems that come up. Configuring and installing firewalls and intrusion detection systems and performing vulnerability testing are among the many day-to-day tasks.
Security analyst – detects and prevents cyberthreats for a company, which involves planning, implementing and enhancing security measures and controls, conducting security audits and co-ordinating security plans.
Security software developer – develops the security software required by a company to protect themselves, often working with a team of developers to develop a company-wide software security strategy.
Cyber lawyer – this is one of the many non-tech roles available, with others ranging from marketers to researchers. The most sought-after lawyers in cyber security specialise in the advice and prosecution of data security and internet crime.
Cyber security – how do I get into it?
There is no single path into cyber security, but here are some of the main ones:
On-the-job training: Cyberworld likes badges and for many jobs you don’t need a degree or lengthy training programme; some are just 12 weeks. And as many companies are desperate for cyber specialists, doors are increasingly opening to beginners with potential, who are then encouraged to undertake this kind of training while working.
Apprenticeships: A more formal approach to training and certification from industry leaders. You’ll get both on and off the job training and a huge amount of industry experience. May or may not include a degree as part of that training. See our section on apprenticeships for more information; Institute for Apprenticeships for information on apprenticeship standards and content; and https://www.gchq-careers.co.uk/early-careers/apprenticeships.html for more specific information on GCHQ’s apprenticeships.
Degree: You have two options – via a degree apprenticeship (see above) or going to university independently. Cyber degree courses are offered by a growing number of British universities, as is the MSc in cyber security: digital.ucas.com. But a cyber security undergraduate and/or postgraduate degree isn’t the only graduate route in – you could also start in a junior role, which will give you the hands-on cyber experience you need for many industry-recognised certifications. Non-technical graduates should remember they have a range of transferable skills that are key to cyber security, especially in management and training.
Short courses: Can’t find an employer to put you through a cyber security course? Look into doing one yourself. Key certifications in cyber security can be found here: www.prospects.ac.uk/jobs-and-work-experience/job-sectors/information-technology/cyber-security-training.
Hacked is worth a special mention – they run short courses, apprenticeships and have created an excellent handbook: www.plymouth.gov.uk
Cyber security – what about gender?
Sadly, tech-focused careers are still seen as traditionally male, but things are changing and women should not be put off. WINC, Women In Cyber, is currently recruiting: www.pgitl.com/training/women-in-cyber
Cyber security – how much could I earn?
Cyber security roles are amongst the highest paying jobs in tech. Salaries range from around £20,000 for entry-level cyber security consultants to well over £100,000 for top security consultants.
Cyber security – what next?
There are several things you can do to get started:
- Improve your IT knowledge: this will help you understand the fundamentals
- Focus your interests: read up on cyber careers and make a shortlist of the areas that appeal to you, researching the best ways in
- Keep up-to-date: this is a fast-changing field. Read IT and security magazines, news sites and blogs and keep tabs on cyber security message boards, bookmarking the most useful websites
- Stay clean: run a background check on yourself and address any red flags. Cyber security employers look for ethical candidates
- Get practical experience: work experience may be invaluable both in reassuring you this is an industry for you and to get some valuable first-hand experience
- Network: meet people and make connections. Attend conferences, ask for tips over coffee with current security professionals, talk to local tech companies etc.
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