The Virtual CISO with Steve King

Training & Security Leadership

How to Start a Career in Cybersecurity

A Guide to Seizing Opportunities and Pursuing Growth
How to Start a Career in Cybersecurity
Image: Getty Images

The digital age has brought unparalleled convenience to both our personal and professional lives. But this dependence on technology has also introduced new and sophisticated cyberthreats that elevate the demand for skilled cybersecurity professionals who can protect our data and systems. The field of cybersecurity is expected to experience a surge in job opportunities. Are you ready to seize them?

See Also: eBook: Secure Remote Access Simplified

Key Cybersecurity Roles to Consider

Before diving into how to start your cybersecurity career, let’s briefly explore some of the top job roles in this field:

  • Security analyst: Monitors networks and systems for suspicious activities, analyzes security threats and implements protective measures.
  • Penetration tester or ethical hacker: Tests the security of systems by simulating attacks to find vulnerabilities and recommends preventive strategies.
  • Digital forensics investigator: Collects and analyzes digital evidence after a cyber incident to help identify culprits and assist in legal processes.
  • Security engineer: Designs security frameworks to counter cyberthreats - typically an entry-level role.
  • Compliance manager and security auditor: Ensures that organizations adhere to necessary regulations and standards - more aligned with governance than direct technical intervention.

Additional roles include CISO, IT security consultant, security administrator and security manager, among others (see: What Are the Highest-Paying Cybersecurity Specialties?).

Steps to Building a Successful Cybersecurity Career

Follow these steps to kick-start your career in this challenging yet rewarding field.

  1. Establish a strong foundation.

    • Education: A bachelor’s degree in computer science, information technology or related fields is beneficial. Pursuing further studies, such as a master’s or doctoral degree, can accelerate your career progression.
    • Technical skills: Gain a solid understanding of networking; the Windows, Mac and Linux operating systems; and database management, such as SQL. Familiarity with artificial intelligence is an advantage.
    • Programming languages: Proficiency in languages such as Python, R and C++ is crucial for automating tasks, analyzing security data and creating security tools. According to an ISC2 report, 70% of employers view programming as a crucial skill in cybersecurity.
  2. Enhance your credentials with certifications.

    Validate your skills and knowledge through respected cybersecurity certifications, which can also enhance your employability and potential for higher earnings. Consider such certifications as:

    • CompTIA Security+
    • Certified Cybersecurity General Practitioner - CCGP
    • Certified Ethical Hacker - CEH
    • Certified Information Systems Security Professional - CISSP
  3. Gain practical experience.

    Practical experience is highly valued by employers. Ways to gain it include:

    • Setting up a personal lab;
    • Participating in cybersecurity competitions;
    • Securing internships;
    • Contributing to open-source security projects.

    A significant percentage of hiring managers prioritize hands-on experience when hiring, according to an ISC2 report.

    Also, put in overtime - ask your CISO for an unpaid internship.

  4. Develop essential soft skills.
  5. In addition to technical abilities, enhancing your communication, critical thinking, teamwork and leadership skills is vital. These skills are crucial during job interviews and throughout your career.

    Networking with professionals through platforms such as LinkedIn and X is also crucial for visibility and growth in the cybersecurity domain.

About the Author

Steve King

Steve King

Managing Director, Cybersecurity Marketing Advisory Services, CyberTheory

Steve King has served in senior leadership roles in technology development and deployment for the past 25 years. He is an author, lecturer and serial startup founder, including three successful exits in cybersecurity, and served for six years as the CISO for Wells Fargo Global Retail banking. As a co-founder of the CyberTheory Institute, King is passionate about the role Zero Trust must play in the future of cybersecurity defense. He is currently the managing director of CyberTheory and has held leadership roles in marketing and product development, operating as CEO, CTO and CISO for several startups, and served as CIO for Memorex and was the co-founder of the Cambridge Systems Group.

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