Is a career in cyber security your next step up the ladder?

Cyber security is a very desirable industry to work in. It's fast-growing, the jobs are high-paying, and there's a market skills gap which means there are plenty of jobs to go around.

Whether you're transitioning from a tech-focused job, looking to make a complete career change, or are starting your career, in this article we'll explain how to get a job in cyber security, advise where a cyber security career path could take you, and show you ways to build on relevant technical skills to land a position in the industry.

What is cyber security?

In simple terms, cyber security is the practice of protecting computers, mobile devices, programs, systems, networks, and data from digital attacks which would access, alter, or even destroy sensitive information. It is also known as information technology (IT) security or electronic information security.

There are a few common types of cyber security across the business and mobile computing space including:

  • Network security: securing networks from intruders like attackers and malware

  • Information security: projecting confidentiality, integrity, and availability of data

  • End-user behaviour: teaching people about security best practices

  • Disaster recovery and business continuity: how an organisation responds to a cyber security threat or incident

  • Operational security: the processes and decisions for protecting and handling data

  • Application security: securing software and devices from threats

Why is cyber security important?

Cyber security as a function is important in any business as it protects the organisation's assets from theft and damage. Common cyber crimes include stealing bank details, advertising false products, spying on devices, infecting files with malicious code, stealing data, performing tasks on devices without permission, and locking down users' files until a ransom is paid.

An organisation will typically employ people that are familiar with various types of cyber security across the business, people, and processes, to secure and defend itself against data breaches. 

What cyber security jobs are out there?

Cyber security is a diverse field and, as a result, there is a plethora of jobs out there that require skilled professionals to safeguard businesses' information. Common jobs in cyber security include:

  • Chief Information Security Officer (CISO)

  • Security Architect

  • Cyber Security Engineer

  • Malware Analyst

  • Penetration Tester/Vulnerability Analyst

  • Computer Forensics Analyst

  • Software Developer/Engineer

  • Cyber Security Consultant

  • Cyber Security Manager/Administrator

  • Network Engineer/Architect

  • Systems Engineer/Administrator

  • Security Administrator

  • Ethical Hacker

  • Cloud Security Consultant

  • Security Operations Centre (SOC) Analyst

The cyber security skills shortage

A job in cyber security is a desirable one, particularly as there is a skills shortage in this industry, leaving many open vacancies. 

A recent report revealed the number of unfulfilled cybersecurity jobs grew by 350%, from 1 million positions in 2013 to 3.5 million in 2021. While the skills gap is levelling off, the research also suggests that there will be the same number of openings in 2025.

What's more, according to a 2020 report on the UK cyber security labour market, around 68% of cyber sector businesses have tried to recruit someone in a cyber role within the last three years. These employers reported a third of their vacancies as being hard to fill.

The average salary for cyber security jobs

Like most jobs in technology, cyber security jobs pay very well. According to Talent, the national average salary for a position in cyber security is £50,000. Entry-level positions can typically garner between £20,000 and £37,000, whereas the most senior cyber security experts can make £75,000 to £100,000. 

Here's how much you could earn in cyber security depending on your job title, but bear in mind that average salaries for cyber security jobs vary from city to city: 

  • Head of Cyber Security Operations: £100,000

  • Senior Manager Cyber Security: £90,000

  • Web Developer jQuery: £80,000

  • Cyber Security Lead: £70,000

  • Security Consultant: £57,554

  • Security Analyst: £45,000

  • Network Engineer: £45,000

  • Security Engineer: £40,000

  • Systems Analyst: £40,000

  • Consultant: £39,762

  • Systems Administrator: £37,010

  • Cyber Security Apprentice: £28,000

How to start a career in cyber security

As there are a variety of positions in the cyber security field, each role requires something a little different. As a result, educational requirements and qualifications vary. Typically. entry-level positions do not require a degree, but more advanced roles may require a bachelor's degree or even a master's. 

If you're looking to get into cyber security, there are many entry-level cyber security jobs which require no experience, such as a Cyber Security Trainee. In this instance, the employer will usually financially support accredited online training, practical training, official exams, and the Cyber Security Trainee position for two years, before offering progression opportunities to a Cyber Security Analyst position.

How to get into cybersecurity if you work in a technical field

Many skills required in other technical jobs are transferable into the cyber security space and serve as a solid starting point if you're looking to pursue a career in this industry. Those with jobs or experience in security intelligence, risk and financial analysis, and software engineering are well positioned to transition into this field.

While many people who work in cyber security have a degree in a related field, such as IT, computer science, or network engineering, academic credentials are not essential and experience can be more beneficial.

The top technical skill sets often required for targeting a career in cyber security include:

  • Risk assessment and management

  • Authentication

  • Linux

  • Information systems

  • Digital forensics

  • Coding and programming languages

  • Data management

  • Identity and access management

  • Mobile device management

  • Information systems

  • Network management

  • Database management

  • IT procedures

  • Security operations

  • Information assurance

How to get a job in cyber security with no experience

You can start a career in cyber security with no experience. While there is something for everyone, you must understand that you will likely start at the bottom of the ladder, which can be a hard adjustment if you are making a career change. That said, it's never too late to get into cyber security as it's a thriving, well-paid industry with plenty of opportunities.

Here are some of the most common technical skills required in cyber security, which you'll need to look at if you have no technical experience:

  • Penetration testing: checking a system for vulnerabilities by simulating a cyber attack

  • Cloud security: protecting applications, data, and resources in the cloud

  • Digital forensics: following digital clues to uncover crimes and crime attempts

  • Coding: understanding the coding languages and programs, such as Java and Python

  • Network security control: understanding wired and wireless networks and how to secure them

  • Operating systems: familiarity with MacOS, Windows, Linux, and their command-line interfaces

  • Incident response: devising and following incident response plans to minimise damage and loss during cyber attacks

Take your time researching each technical area of cyber security to see what is of the most interest to you and what aligns with your career vision. Then invest some time in enhancing your skills in those areas. If you're serious about a cyber security career and you don't have technical experience, a degree could be the best option for you. However, a degree is not essential. 

A smaller step could be taking an online course or even subscribing to webinars to get a flavour of the industry. These forms of learning are often less time-intensive, but will still be a valuable addition to your CV if you decide to pursue a career in cyber security.

What a career path in cyber security could look like

There are many opportunities for anyone to start and advance their career in cyber security. Here is a range of entry-level, mid-level, and advanced-level positions, stemming from the core technical skill sets of networking, software development, systems engineering, financial and risk analysis, security intelligence, and IT support:

Entry-level cyber security jobs

  • Cyber Security Specialist

  • Cyber Crime Analyst

  • Incident and Intrusion Analyst

  • IT Auditor

Mid-level cyber security jobs

  • Cyber Security Analyst

  • Cyber Security Consultant

  • Penetration and Vulnerability Tester

Advanced-level cyber security jobs

  • Cyber Security Manager

  • Cyber Security Engineer

  • Cyber Security Architect

Qualifications and certificates required for cyber security jobs

The UK cyber security labour market report suggests that the most common technical qualification is the Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP) accreditation.

Other top certifications often required for cyber security jobs include:

  • Certified Information Systems Auditor (CISA)

  • Certified Information Privacy Professional (CIPP)

  • Certified Information Security Manager (CISM)

  • Global Information Assurance Certification (GIAC)

  • CompTIA Security+ Certification

Each certificate will provide the knowhow for certain roles in cyber security, so it's important that you research each one to determine if it will unlock access to the job you're seeking. 

However, if you're an entry-level candidate, the CompTIA Security+ Certification is your best option, as the others typically require at least five years of experience in the industry prior to taking the course.

Soft skills required for cyber security jobs

As with any job, there is a range of soft skills required to succeed in a cyber security position. In fact, the UK cyber security labour market report revealed that three in 10 cyber firms say that job applicants lacking non-technical skills such as communication, leadership, or management skills have prevented them to some extent from meeting their business goals. This proves how valuable soft skills are for prospective employers in this space.

The most important soft skills for a cyber security job are:

  • Problem-solving: troubleshooting is a core part of a cyber security expert's arsenal as they uncover issues and find solutions

  • Work ethic: being independent, attentive, organised, reliable, and result-oriented are all strong qualities of a good employee

  • Communication and interpersonal skills: this industry is not just about tech, there are human factors involved too, so you need to be able to interact and communicate well

  • Adaptability: the cyber security landscape changes regularly, so you need to be prepared and keep your finger on the pulse in response to rapid developments

  • Curiosity: this industry requires talent that isn't afraid to ask questions to meet the evolving challenges that cyber security presents

  • Business acumen: cyber security threats can affect an entire business, not just its data. You'll need to know how cyber attacks make a business vulnerable and the risks at play

How to learn cyber security skills

If you're looking into how to get a job in cyber security, there are a couple of core ways to learn the relevant skills. If you apply yourself well, you might find that you can develop a cyber security skill set in just six months.

Self-study training programmes 

Self-study programmes are a couple of ways to learn or develop a skill set in cyber security. This may include free online resources, self-paced online lessons, or how-to books and blogs.

Must-read cyber security blogs include:

Enrol on a course

Investing in a certified course is a guaranteed way to boost your cyber security qualifications and experience. Most certified courses come with a hefty fee, such as a cyber security degree. However, there are plenty that are free or discounted. 

When weighing up how much time and money to invest, consider what qualification level you need to obtain to achieve your next career move. You may find a short programme spanning a few weeks does the trick.

Pursuing a career in cyber security is an exciting prospect, and doable with some technical knowhow or even with no experience at all. If you're looking into how to get a job in cyber security, start by submitting your CV for a free review to make sure your CV is up to par and guaranteed to make a winning first impression.

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