Pursuing a career in cyber security can be one of the best career paths in the foreseeable future. The number of jobs compared to qualified candidates is at an all-time low, making demand. As this already booming cyber industry continues to grow, more specialized roles emerge, giving you multiple career paths to embark on.
Cybercrime Magazine predicts that cybersecurity jobs will have up to 3.5 million openings by 2025 and is one of the fastest-growing industries in the world. With one of the fastest growing industries, you can utilize online resources to quickly gain the necessary tools and knowledge to become a valuable asset in cyber security.
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What is Cyber Security?
Having a career in cyber security means you are protecting the private information behind the business you are employed at. Cybercriminals strive to hack and exploit valuable information to turn around and sell on the dark web to the highest bidder.
Cyber attacks have been on the rise, and in December of 2023, China was relentless in attacking the United States infrastructure, which has helped to create a higher demand for cyber security jobs, so much so that by 2025, 750,000 of those job positions will be based in the United States.
As time continues to pass, cybercriminals are becoming more elusive and creative in how they execute their attacks. Vulnerabilities in data protection have never been easier to exploit, and the rise in attacks has increased tenfold over the years. Governments have set in place rules and guidelines that companies need to adhere to, but even then, it’s not enough.
Is College Worth it for a Cyber Security Career?
Having an onsite team constantly strengthening and monitoring the servers and data streams allows for a stronger and more secure connection, which can help prevent data breaches from cyber criminals. This high-demand field is desperate and willing to pay qualified people, but how do you become qualified without breaking the bank?
The intimidating part is where you start. Schooling can take four to six years and set you back nearly $100,000 before you even get a job. Once you find a degree in computer engineering, data science, or cybersecurity, you need to go on the job hunt, which can create a ton of stress, especially with the stacked student loans.
If you struggle to take the initiative and teach yourself the necessary skills to build your portfolio, then college would be more worth it for you. Still, the number of courses online can be more than enough to qualify you for an entry-level job, and even then, that is the primary goal.
Gather the skills needed to get your foot in the door because your career is much more secure once you have a cyber security job.
How to Build Your Cyber Security Portfolio Outside of Collegee
Remember, by 2025, the demand for cyber security jobs will increase by 3.5 million. The time to become qualified and find a job has never been better. Remember to work smarter, not harder. The access to information online has never been greater; companies like Google have created courses and resources to assist you in becoming certified and building your portfolio.
These days, especially in cyber security, it’s not so much that they are looking for a degree, but that you know and understand what you are talking about. If you can build that impressive portfolio without breaking the bank with student loan debt, you are much further ahead in your life. So how do you do that?
First, Coursera has an amazing course that will provide you with the tools and information needed to learn the basics and become certified as a cybersecurity expert. With that, they will offer a six-month course, which takes about 7 hours a week to prepare you properly.
Afterward, you will have a better understanding of all the foundational concepts of cybersecurity you’ll need to know, including common practices and how to protect networks, devices, people, and data from unauthorized cyberattacks. How to identify common risks, threats, vulnerabilities, and techniques to mitigate them and get hands-on using Python, Linux, and SQL.
On top of that, the course will bring an understanding of cybersecurity that network engineers or security analysts have. The greatest thing to note is that this course has a 75% positive career outcome from graduates who have become certified. Take the time to learn the trade, and you can have a successful career in cyber security.
Most cyber security jobs in the United States net a salary of $70,000 a year, starting with consistent raises and growth within the company. Becoming a valuable asset to a business, especially in protecting the most valuable information, can create valuable dividends for years.
Entry-Level Cyber Security Jobs
With this being the case, some entry-level jobs in cyber security to consider are Incident Response, Management, Administration, Consulting, Testing, and Hacking. Each of these allows you to blend your career with other positions and find a career you are truly passionate about.
Remember, there are multiple careers in cyber security, and more jobs are added every month. This industry is ever-growing. These are some of the different career opportunities out there.
Security incidents still happen regardless of how secure a business locks their information behind. As someone in incident response, you will help act fast with security breaks to ensure the information remains safeguarded.
The difficult aspect of this job is the odd hours you may be asked to work. Breaches and breaks in security can occur at any time, meaning you will have times when you are on call or working through the night. This can mean spending valuable sleeping hours as you type out code to work on the server’s security until the vulnerability is resolved.
The dangerous aspect is that when a data breach occurs, depending on how the information became compromised and what was released, it can determine how the government punishes the company, especially if HIPPA or other laws were ignored. If you are neglectful, the company can receive staggering fines, significantly hurting its profitability and possibly shut it down entirely.
Important skills to develop with this job are having inept attention to detail, technical writing and documentation, intrusion detection tools, and forensics software knowledge.
This job will require you to know coding, though they will usually be able to teach you what you need to know specifically. They also normally have a binder with the necessary coding for specific incidents that you’ll follow step by step.
Common certifications: GIAC Certified Incident Handler (GCIH), EC-Council Certified Incident Handler (ECIH), Certified Computer Examiner (CCE), Certified Computer Forensics Examiner (CCFE)
Management and Administration
Understand that Management and Administration will require more experience in the field before pursuing such a role. This particular job requires that you have leadership qualities and can manage projects and risks associated with cyber security. The ability to work well with others and collaborate is also important.
Cyber security managers oversee a business’s network and computer security systems. You will need to understand and ensure security compliance, which can be difficult to learn in and of itself. Typically, the highest security role in a company is a Chief Information Security Officer (CISO). Working in security at the executive level often means managing operations, policies, and budgets across the company’s security infrastructure.
Communication and leadership are key, but such qualifications can bring a successful career with a well-paying salary. Understand that leadership can still be earned, and you can work up to such a job. This could be a viable goal for you down the line.
Common certifications: Certified Information Security Manager (CISM), GIAC Certified Project Manager (GCPM), CISSP (Certified Information Systems Security Professional)
Businesses will go out and hire security consultants to test their computers and networks and locate vulnerabilities or security risks in their systems. Afterward, you go on the offense, tighten up where exploits can be utilized for attacks, and create a defensive wall to aid in such attacks.
You discuss and recommend options with the business and how to strengthen their vulnerabilities. Initially, you will work under a team manager who will guide and direct you to the tasks you must complete to secure their network and computers.
This job can also branch out into you doing this freelance or owning your own company. This, of course, will also take a great deal of knowledge in coding, but the problem-solving aspect can create a thrilling challenge.
One of the best things is that you are working with different companies and finding an array of problems to work on. No two jobs will ever be the same, making this job much more fun daily.
The skills needed to develop for this job would be a knowledge of penetration and vulnerability testing, threat management, and an understanding of operating systems and encryption.
Common certifications: CompTIA Security+, Offensive Security Certified Professional (OSCP), Systems Security Certified Practitioner (SSCP), Certified Security Consultant (CSC)
Testing and Hacking
This is the many hats position in the cyber security world, and there are a million names associated with the position. Such names include Offensive Security, Red Team, White Hat Hacking, and ethical hacking.
You can find the holes and exploits firsthand to work in offensive security. If you love hacking and coding, this is the job for you. Day after day, teams will bring you their projects, and your job is to break them. Attack, tear apart, break down by any means necessary, and then report back what you discovered.
The challenge can be fun, and the variety of projects you will be testing and hacking can allow for a great variety of work. While being a penetration tester, you’ll seek to help build a more secure system and network to protect the project at hand best.
Legally, become a bad guy! But seriously, this is where your skills as a hacker can be fully utilized and realized without finding yourself behind bars. You even get handsomely paid.
The skills needed are cryptography, understanding of penetration testing, and computer networks. Also, scripting and coding are required.
Common certifications: Certified Ethical Hacker (CEH), CompTIA PenTest+, GIAC Penetration Tester (GPEN), Offensive Security Certified Professional (OSCP)
Careers and Salaries
Once you have become certified, these are the Cybersecurity careers with approximate salary that you can further look into and find the specific qualifications needed to be successful. Remember, you may still need to learn additional knowledge first, but many companies will teach you on the spot.
- Intrusion Detection Specialist: $71,102
- Junior Cyber Security Analyst: $91,286
- Digital Forensic Examiner: $119,322
- IT Security Administrator: $87,805
- Incident Response Analyst: $67,877
- Cyber Security Consultant: $105,435
- Information Security Analyst: $98,497
- Ethical Hacker: $133,458
- Penetration Tester: $100,579
- Security Engineer: $114,898
- Cybersecurity Manager: $160,020
- Security Architect: $211,207
- Chief Information Security Officer: $301,873
Salary can be a viable reason you decide on a particular career path. Certain jobs, of course, require different skill levels and may also have different demands. Still, money and security remain in this industry, and such careers will only be more in demand for decades.
To Start a Career in Cyber Security in 2024
Cybersecurity is one of the fastest-growing industries in the world, and the demand for it has never been higher. As you continue searching for a career path, there can be no safer choice than Cyber Security. Cyber Criminals will never stop and are vigilant in finding new ways to exploit this valuable information, giving your career added security.
The more you can learn and understand about the cyber world, the better. Utilize the free resources while becoming certified through either Google, Microsoft or Coursera. The world of cyber security opens up to those who take the time to master the trade. The best thing you can do is understand the codes and programs that will be used during your career.
Python, Linux, SQL, and Perl are a few avenues to explore to learn cyber security better. Also, hesitate to network. The greatest way to get a job offer is by those in your inner circle. LinkedIn or even Facebook can be used to connect to recruiters and businesses while you continue to build your portfolio. Post regularly, show your skills and knowledge, and you will be amazed by the open doors
Never Give Up in the Search
Be patient. If you decide to go the college route or only certifications, landing a job or even an interview can take time. This industry takes time, especially to find someone to take a chance on you. Don’t become discouraged; use this to fuel your ambition to continue learning and growing. The position will open up, and you can lock down a job.
Remember, this is the fastest-growing industry in the world. To start a career in cyber security, you need to be persistent. Once you get your foot in the door, you can branch out in your career path, unlike any other industry. The ability to hop from one cyber security career to the next is nearly limitless, which gives you versatility unlike any other job.
While a job may be difficult, don’t be afraid to search for mentors. Having someone to turn to with cyber security can better aid you in your help on building your knowledge base and connections.
With that, the thing to consider is that AI is not only utilizing the security world but also the criminal world. The ability to better combat against such attacks is vital in today’s day and age. One of the best things you can do to prove your worth to interviewers is to learn coding. Every piece of information is stored and protected by code.
To best build your portfolio, learn to code and work in Linux. Both will help you utilize your skill sets and become a valuable team member. As soon as you learn coding, you can easily adapt to a grand array of jobs. Your cyber security career will significantly depend on your skills and portfolio. Still, if you can prove yourself during your interview, you will have a secure career for years