According to MIT’s Technology Review, 3.5 million jobs in information technology will be available in the cybersecurity field by 2021. There will also be a scarcity of qualified candidates: less than one in every four will have the necessary education, skills, and experience. With such encouraging statistics, there is no better time than now to read through an ultimate guide on how to become a cyber security specialist.
IT security, also known as cybersecurity, is a vast industry with applications in virtually every other industry. When the majority of sensitive information is stored online, data, system, and network security are critical in today’s digital age. There were 80,000 cyberattacks per day in 2018 alone – that’s roughly 30 million attacks in a single year!
Consider the fact that the average cost of a cyberattack on a company is $2.4 million. In that case, it’s no surprise that businesses are investing more than ever in cybersecurity. Cybersecurity experts are in high demand and in high demand. If you want to be one, you should first learn what kind of job it is, how you can advance your career, and how to get your foot in the computer security industry door.
What Do Cyber Security Professionals Do?
The primary goal of all IT professionals who become cyber security specialists is to safeguard data. This data can range from a list of a company’s clients and their contact information to highly sensitive and confidential information on which entire governments rely. A specialist may be in charge of directly protecting information, but they may also be in charge of protecting entire information systems as well as networks through which that information spreads.
While the title “security specialist” is broad, it typically includes any combination of the following responsibilities:
- Security system development, testing, analysis, and implementation
- Identifying and managing security flaws
- Responding to security incidents, threats, and other occurrences
- Creating threat prevention strategies
- Creating reports for administrators on a regular basis, and more
The responsibilities of various positions in the IT security sector will differ. Even two identical job titles in two different companies are unlikely to have the same responsibilities. Your specific role will be determined by your level of experience, the nature of your organization’s business, and the specific responsibilities of your job.
What Kinds of Jobs Are Available in Cybersecurity?
A cybersecurity specialist is an entry-level position in the world of computer security. It is a starting point from which you can branch out depending on what suits you and what skills you want to develop further. A security specialist typically monitors existing security infrastructure, makes recommendations for improvements, performs system checks, and investigates potential new risks.
In the United States, the average security specialist salary ranges from $69,123 to $76,336 per year.
Computer Forensics Analyst
An information security crime investigator is another term for a computer forensics analyst. Professionals in this field are tasked with inspecting cyberattacks and identifying the perpetrators as well as the exact methods they used to infiltrate a computer or network system.
There are cybercrime units in law enforcement, but a computer forensics analyst isn’t required to work there. They can be hired as independent security consultants to assess an organization’s vulnerabilities in order to prevent future cyberattacks.
Despite the fact that this is a dynamic and challenging job, the average salary (when compared to other IT security positions) is relatively low: from $57,755 per year according to Glassdoor to $73,892 according to Payscale.
Information Security Analyst
According to US News, the position of information security analyst is ranked fifth on the list of the best technology jobs. Analysts of this type create and implement security policies and strategies, ensure they are regularly updated, monitor the effectiveness of these policies, and adjust them as needed. A security analyst may also be assigned the responsibility of organizing security training for other employees.
While this type of work is exciting and unpredictable, it can also be time consuming. Security analysts work long hours and are frequently called in during their spare time to handle a security incident.
Their average annual salary is $76,410, which is comparable to that of a cybersecurity specialist. The US Bureau of Labor Statistics, on the other hand, lists an information security analyst’s annual salary as $99,730 or $47.95 per hour.
Penetration Tester (Pentester)
Penetration tester is an official title for what is commonly referred to as an ethical hacker or a white hat hacker. Organizations hire this type of hacker to try to breach their systems using their hacking skills and software. No information is stolen or lost during this process because pentesters are careful not to harm the organization they are infiltrating. They are simply creating a controlled simulation of a cyberattack that exposes the weaknesses of the organization’s security systems.
Pentesters get a lot of satisfaction from their work. Their findings and reports are critical to the improvement of a company’s security policies.
Software Security Engineer
Software security engineers create security programs such as firewalls and intrusion detection systems using their knowledge of coding and programming languages. They must be skilled at problem solving, critical thinking, software development, working as part of a team, and developing positive working relationships.
Security engineer jobs necessitate continuing education and staying current on all technological advancements. The cybersecurity field is evolving at a rapid pace, and if a security professional does not keep up, they will quickly fall behind.
The average yearly salary for a security engineer varies depending on the type of engineer. Engineers in cybersecurity and data security earn between $91,598 and $99,834. Network security engineers typically make around $79,686 per year.
Security Architect Security architects are a step above security engineers in charge of overseeing general security work. A vulnerability assessor is a security architect, and security engineers develop the necessary software structures based on their recommendations.
The primary responsibility of an architect is to identify the strengths and weaknesses of a company’s defensive systems. To successfully determine what tactics an actual hacker might use to harvest protected data, they must have a hacker’s mind.
Security architects oversee the security budget, personnel, and other resources. They manage IT security teams and prepare detailed reports for senior management.
Security architects are among the highest-paid cybersecurity professionals due to their extensive list of responsibilities; their annual salaries range from $106,362 to $124,051.
Chief Information Security Officer (CISO)
Along with the Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Chief Financial Officer (CFO), and possibly the Chief Technical Officer (CTO), the Chief Information Security Officer is one of the highest-ranking job roles in an organization. Because they are in charge of the entire cybersecurity department, CISOs must have excellent security management and organizational skills.
They are in charge of everything, from identifying security risks to developing mitigation strategies and ensuring they are no longer a threat. A CISO must also collaborate closely with other leadership positions as well as the employees who work for them, which necessitates excellent communication skills.
Once you’ve landed this prestigious position, you can expect to earn an annual salary of around $179,763 on average.
What Do You Get Paid for Working in Cyber Security?
All of the salary averages in the preceding table should be regarded with caution. When you become a cyber security specialist, your specific salary in the information will vary depending on a few different factors. Aside from your actual job responsibilities, your earnings will be influenced by your level of cybersecurity education and experience, the industry your company is in, its size, and location.
Education and experience
Cybersecurity professionals with a bachelor’s degree earn more than those with a high school diploma. It doesn’t matter if this is a cyber security degree or a degree in a related field, such as computer science. According to statistics, only 23% of IT professionals with a master’s degree or higher believe their degree helped them obtain a higher salary, so anything beyond a bachelor’s degree is not required.
In terms of experience, the size of your salary is also directly proportional to the amount of experience you have. Even if their job titles are the same on paper, senior-level positions pay more than junior-level positions (for example, a senior pentester will earn more than a junior pentester, regardless of the fact that they share much of the same duties).
IT professionals work in almost every other industry; protecting sensitive information is not limited to the technology sector. In fact, the defence, aerospace, public relations, communications, advertising, medical, pharmaceutical, biotech, military, and homeland security industries pay the highest average salaries for IT employees.
While a security expert is likely to earn a high salary regardless of industry, they are more likely to earn more in any of those fields.
Revenue and business size
It is widely assumed that global technology companies such as Google, CISCO, Amazon, and others pay their IT employees well. This, however, is not entirely correct.
Entry-level jobs at these corporations may not pay as well as entry-level jobs at smaller businesses. Google and Amazon have access to hundreds of thousands of tech employees, and many applicants flock to them for the chance to have the company name on their resume. Only as you advance through the ranks and gain promotions in these organizations will you begin to earn more than your counterparts in other companies.
Location of the company
Because of Silicon Valley’s undeniable influence on the global technology market, the average tech salary in the San Francisco area is the highest, at $145k per year. Seattle, WA tech employees earn slightly less, at $138k, than those in New York, NY, at $133k, Denver, CO, at $117k, and San Diego, CA, at $113k.
Of course, the figures presented here are simply averages. There is no guarantee that working for a company in San Francisco will pay you more than working for one in Denver. Nonetheless, these statistics point to certain patterns that you may want to consider when deciding which organization to work for next.
What is the best degree for cyber security?
We’ve already discussed how having a bachelor’s degree increases your chances of earning more money. But, in the end, how important is a college degree for becoming a cybersecurity specialist?
Given the sensitivity of IT security work, employers rarely hire those with no formal education (and especially if they have no prior work experience at the same time). Hiring managers prefer to see at least a bachelor’s degree in an IT-related science on the job application to ensure that their information and security measures and systems are in the best hands. Candidates with associate degrees may also be considered.
A college degree will also give you an advantage when it comes time to advance in your career. Some employers may differentiate between traditional and online degrees, but it usually doesn’t matter how the degree was obtained.
Certifications for Security
Having a variety of relevant cybersecurity certifications under your belt is a huge advantage, regardless of whether you have a degree or not. A computer security specialist who constantly improves their skills and strives to stay up to date on the latest regulations and frameworks will be highly valued by their superiors and will be among the first in line for a salary increase.
What combination of certifications you require depends on the type of job you want. The following are some of the most common security specialist certifications:
- CISM – Certified Information Security Manager CCNA
- Routing and Switching – Cisco Certified Network Associate
- CISSP – Certified Information Systems Security Professional
- CEH – EC-Council Certified Ethical Hacker
- CEH – EC-Council Certified Ethical Hacker
- CEH – EC-Council Certified Ethical Hacker
- SANS – Certifications in System Administration and Network Security
Base-Level CompTIA Security+ Certification Skill Sets
Aside from taking a course and receiving a certificate at the end, you can also choose to sharpen your skills on your own. There are hundreds of free and paid online course options that will provide you with more theoretical and practical knowledge but will not lead to a desirable certification.
Any job skill can be divided into two categories: hard and soft. Hard skills are specific to a job and can be easily tested or measured. The following are some of the most important hard skills for an IT security specialist:
- Languages for programming (PHP, Java, C#, C++)
- Cisco hardware and software for network security is required.
- Knowledge of SIEM (Security Information and Event Management)
- Ethical hacking, best coding practises, and threat modelling are all examples of best practises.
- Knowledge of the UNIX, Windows, and Linux operating systems is required.
Understanding of the Mitre Att&ck framework
Penetration tests, vulnerability assessments, and other services
Soft skills, unlike hard skills, are not as easily quantifiable and applicable to any industry position. Because information security professionals must work in teams and may be subjected to intense pressure at times (for example, when confronted with an ongoing cyberattack), they will require the following soft skills:
Consideration for others
- Making sound split-second decisions in an emergency
- Problem solving that is both creative and technical Excellent attention to detail Active listening
- Ability to communicate clearly
- Others include adaptability to any work team or environment.
Don’t forget to include both hard and soft skills on your resume. Even if you lack a relevant college degree or certification, clearly demonstrating your strengths may be enough to land you an entry-level position at a cybersecurity firm.
Everyone must first become acquainted with their desired job before embarking on new career paths or changing careers. They should also look into career opportunities and other industries with which they might be able to collaborate if they so desire. This is especially important in the field of computer security, where you can pretty much find work in any field you want.
Pay close attention to the most important factors that will determine how much you will earn in a specific position. The good news is that IT professionals earn twice as much as the national median wage in the United States. It is almost certain that you will earn a good living wherever you work in the IT security industry.
Finally, think about what additional training or education you’ll need to get into the cybersecurity job market. If you don’t already have a bachelor’s degree, consider getting one. Earning a few certifications would be beneficial, as would becoming proficient in the hard and soft skills required of a security specialist. Make a list of everything you want to accomplish and work on, and then take your time. Be patient and hardworking, and there’s no reason why your efforts won’t be rewarded.