It’s true–cyber security jobs are hot.
Whether you’re attracted to the thrill of helping to keep people safe, looking for more excitement and challenge in your work, or want a stable tech career with a variety of options and opportunities, cyber security is an amazing choice.
The even better news? If you’re looking at how to get into cyber security, it’s likely not as out of reach as you think. Cyber security is a field where skills over degrees can triumph, meaning you don’t have to have a computer science or informatics degree to work in the field. In fact, many cyber security professionals have no formal college degree at all. What is required is dedication to developing a key set of skills that will propel you forward.
We answered your most common questions about getting started in cyber security, as well as offer our tips and advice to make your mark in this growing field.
How do I train for cyber security?
Hands-on experience is the #1 training tool any aspiring cyber security professional needs in order to succeed. In fact, lack of hands-on experience is the number one complaint companies have when screening job applicants. Fortunately, this can be a simple fix.
The DIY path is to build your own testing lab. Many do this with old computers and online resources like
Metasploit, which help you set up penetration testing environments (AKA, environments that allow for ethical hacking and help you find security vulnerabilities). While there are amazing resources out there, it can be overwhelming to jump in on your own if you have little to no knowledge or experience.
Cyber security training is now a common offering at coding bootcamps. But when looking at programs, it’s important to make sure they provide intense hands-on training and don’t just test your knowledge of concepts without practice.
At Eleven Fifty Academy, we are proud to be home to the first Cyber Range in the State of Indiana. This real-world simulation environment provides state-of-the-art training for the most common security threats like ransomware and web defacement. Students are immersed in 14 unique attack scenarios and get to work in teams to resolve cyber attacks using technology found in corporate SOC (Security Operation Center) environments. Scenarios range from simple to complex, multi-stage attacks so that students get diverse, hands-on experience.
What skills are needed for cyber security?
Working in tech requires a mix of hard skills and soft skills. Cyber security is no different!
The Hard Skills
Understanding computer networks, or how computers connect and communicate with each other, is fundamental to understanding cyber attacks and how to prevent or lower the risk against them. It’s also one of the most sought-after skills and knowledge bases expected of cyber security jobs applicants.
Knowing programming languages is NOT a major skill set required for cyber security pros, but that doesn’t mean it won’t give you an edge. We recommend getting basic skills in languages like Python, Java and Ruby to truly stand out in the field.
Other key hard skills include:
- A grasp of computer architecture
- How to use common operating systems (Windows and Linux are the go-to for cyber security training)
- Antivirus and antimalware techniques and software
- Data and cryptography
- Cloud computing
The Soft Skills
While a lot of cyber security work is behind the screen, a surprising amount of your time is interacting with people.
Some cyber security jobs more than others are focused on working directly with people and having an understanding of how they interact with devices. This can entail training individuals on privacy best practices, safety precautions and procedures, and more.
But communication is incredibly important no matter what your role looks like. Whether interacting with your team, reporting information to non-technical individuals, or working alongside them to troubleshoot and handle problems, you need to be able to communicate.
Another key area to work on is developing your cyber security mindset. The best cyber security pros need to be able to think a few steps ahead of people and put themselves in an attackers’ mindset. What would an attacker see as a vulnerability? What is a user likely to do that will compromise their security and/or the security of the organization? Become suspicious. Think critically. Work on your observation skills as you look at the world around you and prepare to jump into action.
Other great soft skills to develop:
- Empathy and interest in people
- Project management
Which certification is best for cyber security?
Certifications are not always a requirement for entry-level cyber security jobs, but they do give you a boost. They’re proof you have proficiency and have gotten hands-on experience in the field even if you don’t have previous cyber security job experience.
Numerous certifications are out there, like Certified Ethical Hacker (CEH), which shows you know how to ethically hack and test systems. Many certifications are better after some years of experience and are designed to help you grow in your career.
At Eleven Fifty, Cyber Security students work toward two base-level certifications from The Computing Technology Industry Association, also known as CompTIA. The Network+ Certification shows you have an understanding of networks, the internet, and security concepts. The Security+ Certification builds on those security concepts and shows you’ve mastered various security threats, including how to identify, stop, and prevent them.
How do I get started in my cyber security job search?
Like with most fields, networking can play a major role in helping you get where you want to go in your career. We recommend these actions to get started:
- Find and attend local meetups to connect with others for support, learning, and, of course, general networking. Many cities have cyber security specific groups, like Indianapolis CyberSecurity (ICS), the Indianapolis chapter of CyberSecurity Non-Profit (CSNP). If yours does not, look for general tech meetups to immerse yourself in the overall community.
- Continue to learn and sharpen your skills at conferences or online webinars and workshops. While COVID-19 has restricted many of the in-person events, the good news is that many have gone online, giving you wider access to events outside of your normal geographic area.
- Reach out to cyber security and tech pros in your community you admire and work to build relationships. People are surprisingly good to connect and share their knowledge as long as you’re respectful of their time.
- Follow thought leaders on social media and read industry articles to stay on top of the field. Tech changes fast! No matter where you are on your career journey, you need to be in the know of the latest developments in your field. A good place to start is to follow the Chief Information Security Officers (CISO) at companies that interest you.
- Build your personal brand online, especially through a well-built LinkedIn profile catered to industry terms and keywords.
What is the cyber security salary range?
Entry-level cyber security jobs tend to be around $65k nationally, but many factors can play a role in changing this number. Where is the job located? Do you have certifications? Do you have a college degree (again, not necessary, but it could provide a small boost)?
More important than the starting salary is the earning potential. Most tech careers do not stay stagnant for long when it comes to salary. As cyber security becomes more crucial and continues to face critical demand across the globe, salaries are likely to continue climbing. Advancement within your career is also likely to happen quickly. While you may be looking at $55k-$65k to start, many experienced cyber security analysts see their salaries increase well into the six-figures.
Whether you’re considering cyber security as a potential career path or are determined to make it happen for you, remember that any career in tech is a journey. In addition to constantly learning, you must remain flexible, immersed in your passion, and dedicated to being the best you can be in order to succeed.
Think cyber security or another tech role is the right choice for you? Check out these additional cyber security and tech career resources:
- Cyber Security Terms 101: 50+ Terms to Get Started in Cyber Security
- Cyber Security Certifications: What You Need to Know
- 5 Characteristics of a Cyber Security Pro
- Train on Indiana’s First Cyber Range
- Why Cyber Security Bootcamp? An Interview with Nick Tamanini
- How to Build Your Personal Brand in Tech
- Attend a FREE Intro to Cyber Security online class
- Talk to an Eleven Fifty Academy team member about your tech career path