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How to Break Into Cybersecurity

One of the misunderstandings about technology jobs is that you must be a brilliant coder by the time you’re a teenager to break into the field. That’s simply not the case. Open-minded professionals who are willing to educate themselves on the foundations of the job will find they can excel in a tech career.

That applies to cybersecurity, one of the most in-demand jobs in the country. The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects a staggering 28% increase in the number of information security analysts by 2026*. They also report that as of May 2018, the mean annual pay nationwide for the job was $102,470.

Transitioning into a cybersecurity job can be accomplished with the right mix of ambition and commitment to learning. If you have an interest in this area, the job and salary numbers certainly show it can prove worthwhile to make the effort.

The following are some of the issues to keep in mind as you make this transition.

Evaluate Your Technical Skills and Soft Skills

If you don’t currently work in tech, then it’s important to evaluate your coding and development skills. Keep in mind, however, that not all jobs will require these skills. Some, such a cyber policy analyst or technical writer, are non-technical jobs, according to Springboard.

If you do need coding and development skills, then it’s time to learn the basics of information technology. Colleges are aware of the job demand. There are now degree and certificate programs that can get you up-to-date with the tech skills you will need very quickly.

Soft skills such as critical thinking and interpersonal skills can also serve you well. Cybersecurity workers often collaborate with people from other departments, often non-tech people. The ability to communicate well in such situations can make you a very attractive job candidate.

Pick a Specialty

There are many specialties to pursue within the cybersecurity field. It’s wise to set your sights early in the process on the area where you want to work. Knowing your end goal can make the journey go that much smoother.

Examples of positions within cybersecurity, according to Springboard, include:

  • Security engineer: They test network for vulnerabilities
  • Cryptographer: They analyze, decipher and develop encryption algorithms
  • Virus technician: They take the lead on staying up to date on the latest virus threats and how to defend a system against them
  • Penetration tester: They essentially operate as hackers, attempting to penetrate a system to find where they are weak.

Some of the other positions that offer an entry into tech and can open the door to cybersecurity include network administrator, security operations center analyst and vulnerability analyst.

As mentioned above, there are also non-tech positions within cybersecurity that you can aim for if you do not wish to develop expertise in the technical side of the job. They include developing cybersecurity policy for an organization or overseeing risk management analysis.

Other Factors in Launching a Cybersecurity Career

You know what kind of job you want in cybersecurity and the level to which you need to train yourself with tech skills. There remain some other factors that can give your career transition into a cybersecurity a jump start.

Develop Your Network
Networking is important no matter what industry you work in. It certainly applies when trying to transition into cybersecurity. As noted by Forbes, even though it’s a tech-driven age (and you are shooting for a tech industry job), in-person networking remains the most effective way to go. Consider conferences, meetups and getting together socially with those you know in the industry.

Stay up on Trends
A solid network can also keep you up-to-date on the latest trends in the cybersecurity industry. That starts with earning the right degree and getting certified in the area where you want to work. Networking at industry events, attending seminars and going to workshops at conferences all provide an opportunity to continue expanding your toolset.

Be Ethical
Ethics are of utmost importance in cybersecurity, where the integrity of entire computer systems could be in your hands. Despite the mythology around hacking, few companies are interested in hiring ex-hackers. Stay firmly in the “white hat” area of digital work. It will serve you well as you transition into a cybersecurity career and recruiters begin to look more closely at your background.

Look for Training
Many companies will train their employees to move into cybersecurity if they show the commitment, talent and ambition to do so. Make sure to check with your employer to see if any training programs exist.

Consider a Degree or Certificate
Earning a degree or certificate can help ease the transition. Both master’s degree programs and certificate programs are available for those looking to become experts in their new field. Both can open doors in terms of getting into the cybersecurity profession.

Take Eden Priela, who earned her Master’s in Information Technology online from Florida Tech in 2012. While her career path started off in law enforcement as a corrections officer, she used her master’s degree to pursue a new career in cybersecurity.

“I can say that I am now where I want to be in my professional career as a cybersecurity consultant for one of the Big 4. I’ve never dreamed of doing what I love and getting paid way more than I could have imagined. I couldn’t have done it without you, Florida Tech. I am forever grateful.”

Learn about Florida Tech’s cybersecurity programs here.


*Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, Information Security Analysts, on the internet at https://www.bls.gov/ooh/computer-and-information-technology/information-security-analysts.htm (visited April 24, 2019).

National long-term projections may not reflect local and/or short-term economic or job conditions, and do not guarantee actual job growth. Information provided is not intended to represent a complete list of hiring companies or job titles, and program options do not guarantee career or salary outcomes. Students should conduct independent research for specific employment information.

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