The cybersecurity field is rich with career paths and specializations as organizations scramble to stay ahead of innovation and cyber threats. Here are several specialties within the cybersecurity field:
Analysis and Intelligence
According to the National Initiative for Cybersecurity Careers and Studies (NICCS), professionals who analyze systems examine and evaluate information to determine if it is useful for intelligence. This can include broad analysis of sources across the greater intelligence community, analyzing data related to vulnerabilities and threat assessment, which is conducted in collaboration with law enforcement.
For example, one position in this specialization, an IT auditor, identifies vulnerabilities in a network and develops plans to mitigate security breaches. Attention to detail is critical, both to detect issues and accurately record information for stakeholders.
Security Operations and Administration
These roles provide the framework for the system, overseeing support, administration and maintenance to ensure the overall IT system performs correctly and securely. Potential job titles include:
- Customer service and technical support technician: fixes issues, installs updates and troubleshoots for system users.
- Data administrator: maintains the databases and data management systems that store, query, protect and use data.
- Network services professional: installs, operates, maintains, configures and tests networks, firewalls and related hardware (like routers, cables, or switches) to ensure information transmission is secure.
- Systems administrator: installs, configures, troubleshoots and maintains the hardware and software server configuration, which includes accounts, firewalls and patches and their related passwords and accounts.
Investigation and Forensics
Cybercrime professionals blur law enforcement and investigations, striving to solve online crimes. This can be achieved by interviewing and interrogation, surveillance and balancing prosecution with additional intelligence gathering. These investigations can range from file system recovery to investigating crimes against children. NICCS states that they may also be known as cyber forensic analysts, digital forensics technicians, or digital forensics analysts.
Of course, the cybersecurity organization at large needs leaders at the help to manage, offer direction, develop the strategy, and advocate for the department to maximize the effectiveness of the work.
Cybersecurity leaders are responsible for planning strategy, aligning personnel, developing infrastructure, establishing requirements, enforcing policies, planning for emergencies, and generating security awareness among users.
Training and Awareness
User education is a vital part of cybersecurity strategy, as employees often (unintentionally) pose the greatest threat to security. IT training teams develop, deliver and evaluate training courses and approaches.
On the legal front, legal advice and advocacy partners offer legal advice, support policy change and advocate for clients in legal briefs and proceedings.
For example, Governance, Risk and Compliance (GRC) auditors quantify risk, conduct audits for best practices and policies and align business risk at large. When this team identifies issues, they track and evaluate them until the issues are addressed.
Threat Detection and Mitigation
This specialization fuels the assumption that all cybersecurity professionals know how to hack. In reality, specialists dedicated to threat detection may, with permission, attempt to breach a system. But they also focus heavily on credential and access management. For example, as a security tester, you conduct system penetration and vulnerability to isolate potential gaps.
Another career in this area, according to Cyber Seek, is incident analyst. Incident analysts respond to security incidents in real-time, striving to isolate the cause, conduct damage control and prevent future incidents. Incident analysts are often privy to highlight sensitive information and may require a security clearance. They may also be known as an information security project manager, a security project manager or a senior information security analyst.
Security Architecture and Development
This specialty provides the framework for the system itself, from concept through procurement or development. This includes risk management, software development, systems architecture, system development, systems requiring planning, and technology research and development (R&D).
Although there is some overlap among these functional specialties, cybersecurity experts expect they will continue to evolve as technology innovations further transform the landscape.
To learn more about cybersecurity careers, check out our cybersecurity career guide.