How to Become a Cybersecurity Specialist

So, you’d like to learn more about cybersecurity careers and how easy the industry is to penetrate? You’ve come to the right place. Cybersecurity is one of the fastest-growing fields in this decade.

With the Internet of Things (IoT) evolving before our very eyes, the world is becoming more connected than ever. Cybersecurity – and data protection for individuals and businesses alike – is a skill that will prove invaluable for decades to come.

According to a Clark School study at the University of Maryland, cyber-attacks occur in the US every 39 seconds. It affects a third of Americans each year. Furthermore, approximately 43% of cyber-attacks are aimed at vulnerable small businesses. The cost of data breaches is causing untold problems for firms of all shapes and sizes.

If you want to know what skills, qualifications, and experience you’ll need to get your foot on the cybersecurity ladder, read on as we explain the traditional and alternative routes to landing that all-important first role.

The importance of utilizing free educational material

Before you look at investing some of your hard-earned money in a cybersecurity course, invest some of your time in accessing all the available information online surrounding cybersecurity.

It’s true that you can arm yourself with substantial resources to try and master the industry and teach yourself the finer points of fraud detection and prevention online. This guide helps you to understand fraud analytics and the techniques that can be used to detect and thwart fraudulent attacks – both on individuals and at scale – is a prime example of content that you can digest at your own pace to build your knowledge.

If you decide to go down the self-taught route, it’s a good idea to pick an area of cybersecurity to specialize in. This will allow you to focus on content surrounding this field and prevent you from spreading yourself too thin. Common specialisms in cybersecurity include website security, cloud security, computer hacking, and cybersecurity legislation.

The conventional routes into a cybersecurity career

If you don’t want to head to university, you could always enrol in a place at college for a two-year associate’s degree in cybersecurity. This will give you an entry-level grounding in cybersecurity. Essentially, it amounts to the first half of a four-year bachelor’s degree in cybersecurity. If you can’t afford the full-time university life, this could be a suitable alternative.

Many colleges are now running associate degrees in cybersecurity remotely. Instead of campus-based learning, it could be possible to enrol in an associate degree and complete the course program from home.

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Alternatively, if you already have a full-time job but you’re keen to switch careers into cybersecurity, an associate degree could be the most sustainable way of learning around your current employment.

Associate degrees in cybersecurity should cover a broad spectrum of focus areas, namely the security of computer systems spanning hardware and software components, as well as network security from a domestic and commercial perspective.

Attacks on individuals are just as common as on corporations. Samsung’s new repair mode was recently introduced on next-generation Galaxy S21 devices to safeguard users’ sensitive data when their devices needed urgent repair by external technicians. This alone tells you how important data value is today.

On the flip side, a bachelor’s degree in cybersecurity will require you to commit four years of your life to honing your cybersecurity skills. Cybersecurity roles like information security analysts are some of the most coveted jobs in tech right now.

Bachelor’s degrees in cybersecurity are well-suited to those who have an aptitude for math, computer science, or engineering. You’ll also need to be adept at problem-solving, with the mental capacity to tackle and solve big issues.

If you feel that you’d like to specialize in a certain area of cybersecurity, you will probably need to complete a bachelor’s degree and follow that up with a master’s degree too. There is a growing number of remote and hybrid master’s degrees offered to cybersecurity grads. You may not have an undergraduate degree in cybersecurity.

You may have a degree in computer science or math that would also make you suitable to proceed in a cybersecurity master’s program.

Roles for those with master’s degrees in cybersecurity can prepare themselves for senior roles in companies like chief security officer positions. These give officers the freedom to develop and execute a framework or strategy that protects a company’s data and devices from external threats 24/7.

Information managers are also recruited from master’s graduates, as are security architects whose job it is to continually monitor an organization’s threat and develop the required procedures and infrastructures to combat such attacks.

The alternatives routes into cybersecurity

If you don’t fancy spending four years or longer at university, there are alternative routes to working in cybersecurity. The most popular one being apprenticeship programs. If you like the idea of earning on the job while you learn, cybersecurity apprenticeships could be the perfect entry into the sector.

According to The Uptide, there will be some 1.8 million vacancies for cybersecurity people across the private sector alone by the end of this year. Apprenticeships are helping to plug this skills gap. Most of the leading cybersecurity apprenticeship programs require applicants to have a high school diploma.

Some of the biggest names in technology are operating cybersecurity apprenticeships, including Cisco and Microsoft. The latter’s Cybersecurity Engineer Apprenticeship is part of its fabled “LEAP” program, during which apprentices can select cybersecurity as their specialization pathway. There is a blend of classroom-based study and hands-on projects to keep practical minds sharp.

Meanwhile, Cisco’s apprenticeship program has become a global effort, as it seeks to entice the sharpest technical minds into the world of cybersecurity. Its three-year apprenticeship in the UK is proving particularly successful, with apprentices also empowered to design their own curriculum based on their long-term goals and interests.

The EC-Council has also provided individuals with a clever alternative route into cybersecurity via ethical hacking. Becoming a “Certified Ethical Hacker” is now a credible option, with these qualifications now revered by industry peers and in high demand by employers.

Becoming an ethical hacker is an opportunity to tap into the mindset of the cyber-criminals themselves. It’s up to you to continually probe an organization’s network or infrastructure for potential weaknesses that can be flagged and resolved for future protection.

You’ll be familiar with all the latest tools and techniques that cyber-criminals use. All of which you can employ to lawfully hack an organization with the aim of improving the integrity of its data long-term.

Whichever route you take, there’s no doubt that a career in cybersecurity is one of the most futureproof on the planet. It will afford you with immense opportunities in the years ahead.

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