What It Takes to Make It in Cyber Security
Cyber security is a growing field; it’s projected to grow to 6 million jobs worldwide by 2019, with only an expected 4.5 million professionals to fill that need. So it’s no surprise that some IT professionals—as well professionals from other computer-related fields—want to break in (no pun intended). So if you think you want to be the next “Mr. Robot,” here’s some advice on the skills and background you’ll need to make it happen.
Knowing how to code is the basis of most tech jobs, regardless of the specialty. All other things being equal, the IT administrator who knows more programming languages will more likely get the job. In other words, if you want to work in cyber security, you need to know your assembly language from a regex in the ground. Strongly consider learning one, some, or all of the following languages:
Education and Certification
Today’s economy makes it hard to get a job without some form of education, and cyber security is no exception. Just as an IT degree will help you land a job as a network administrator, or a computer science degree will help you find a position as a developer, having a degree in a computer-related field will give you a leg up against the competition. While a specialized degree isn’t always necessary (in some cases, even a degree in business or mathematics may fill the need) there are degrees tailored specifically to the field you’re looking to work in.
Beyond a college education, there are also certifications that can help you in your journey. Certifications like the Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP) can help prove that you know what you’re doing and you’re qualified as a specialist in security. If you’re serious about the field, the cost of certification is often an investment that pays great dividends.
Cyber security is less of a field and more of a specialty, which means there typically aren’t any entry-level positions as a security professional. It should make sense, as handing the welfare of the whole system over to a beginner seems like a poor idea. You need to come to the job application with already some experience to your name.
One of the reasons for this is that, working in cyber security, you have to be capable of doing most of the functions of an IT administrator. Thus, one of the best ways to qualify yourself for a security job is to prove you know your way around networks. As it is, many security positions are looking for several years of experience, and IT work provides resume fodder with serious relevance.
An IT job, even an entry-level position, can teach you a host of useful skills that will be used frequently in security. Be sure you’re getting, among other things, a firm foundation in TCP/IP, routing and switching, network configurations, and VPNs. You will be toying with all these systems in more intimate ways working in security, so don’t be shy. Get all the practice that you can, which brings us to...
Most professionals in the industry agree that it takes practice to really make your mark. Building your own network and doing penetration tests on it is a good start. Offer to do pro bono work for charities and non-profits. Read up on the subject, and keep current with security techniques and technologies. You want your knowledge to be both broad and deep, as it takes a varied skillset to combat the host of intrusion attempts that will come your way.
If all this extra credit work seems like too much, compare it to life as an artist—it’s not a clock-in, clock-out kind of talent. It’s a significant portion of who you are as a person; you value a secure system, and you judge people and organizations, however unfairly, by their ability to batten down the hatches. What we’re trying to say is that, if you want to be the best, your eye should twitch every time you see a friend connect to unprotected wifi. If you don’t have a passion for it, you won’t get far.
With companies as big as Yahoo suffering incursions, what cyber security needs are experts—masters of the craft, not journeymen. So if you want to reap the rewards, be prepared to put in your dues. Learn more about our degrees in Information Technology.
The college does not guarantee a job. Gaining employment is the graduate’s responsibility. For graduation rates, the median debt of graduates, and other data see www.independence.edu/student-information.