Cybersecurity Career Options—Are They Right For You?

 

Cybersecurity Career Landscape

If you’re paying attention to headlines it’s no secret that growing threats to networks, devices, and users exist. And they are making cybersecurity a growing field of interest and one in high demand. 
 
From 2020-2030, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLM) estimates that there will be an increase of nearly 50K jobs for Information Security Analysts alone.
 
And that’s one role among many on the cybersecurity career landscape. 
 
Clearly, cybersecurity career options are worth a look and some consideration. Especially if you’ve not yet decided on a specific technical career path and the education to qualify for it.
 

Definition

But first, let’s take a minute to make sure we have the definition of cybersecurity clear. The term is now so widely used, in slightly varying forms, that one person’s version might not match another’s perception.
 
Here’s one solid cybersecurity definition by the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency of the US government:
 
“Cybersecurity is the art of protecting networks, devices, and data from unauthorized access or criminal use and the practice of ensuring confidentiality, integrity, and availability of information.” 
 
They go further to add context:
 
“It seems that everything relies on computers and the internet now—communication ...entertainment...transportation...shopping...medicine...the list goes on. How much of your daily life relies on technology? How much of your personal information is stored either on your own computer, smartphone, tablet or on someone else's system?”
 
Cybersecurity ranges across a broad spectrum, from highly technical to almost entirely strategic.
 
It’s clear just by scanning a list of typical cybersecurity functions, that they map almost perfectly to available career options.
 
Examples:
 
  • Data security
  • Network security
  • Physical security
  • Business continuity 
  • Security operations
 
Each function in this small but representative sample of cybersecurity contains a list of possible jobs. Within “Cybersecurity Consultant”, the BLS includes a good article about the various specialty options within the category, and what each demands.
 

Cybersecurity Jobs and Career Choices

At the top of the cybersecurity profession is the Chief Information Security Officer (CISO). The top in a management sense, and in terms of breadth of responsibility. 
 
This senior role requires equal portions of leadership, strategic thinking, management skills, keen business sense—on a broad foundation of technical understanding.
 
More specialized roles include security architect, engineer, analyst, investigator, and administrators. 
 
Each represents a different mix of hard technical knowledge and skills, plus “soft skills” that touch on the human side of the cybersecurity Rubik’s Cube.
 
Let’s dig into a few of these a bit further. 
 
While you may be just now considering your education towards a cybersecurity position—through a program like DigitalCrafts, or another—it’s never too early to form a sharp picture of where you’re headed. Of course, remaining flexible as interests grow while others wane. At the start, few people know exactly the career path they’ll follow.
 
Security architects concern themselves with higher-level analysis, planning, and designing. They’re continually monitoring cybersecurity performance for further infrastructure changes and cybersecurity improvements. 
 
This area calls on a wide range of experience, knowledge, and spans design through implementation. 
 
If you’re inherently a “big picture” thinker and are willing to invest in the education and experience required for this role, it’s worth serious consideration.
 
Security Engineers are at the technical heart of cybersecurity safeguards for an organization. They develop and maintain the code and the systems that do the heavy lifting for business-wide cybersecurity. 
 
They’re also the most highly paid among the technical positions in cybersecurity, averaging above the others, according to multiple salary-tracking resources.
 
Analysts make up a large share of the total cybersecurity professional population. With regard to responsibilities and the content of the work, theirs is not so technical. It is largely focused on business processes. 
 
That is, the way information flows, the ways in which it’s handled, how it’s processed and by whom, and the systems that carry it. They are all essential ingredients in the security analyst’s field of concern. 
 
If your own inclination is to go broader than a strict technical focus, and to work close to the operation of the business, the work of information security analysts might be very attractive to you.
 
Security pros on the operations and administration sides of the cybersecurity field keep the daily pulse of an information security infrastructure. 
 
They run the security code and systems that prevent attacks. They monitor cybersecurity safeguards for an Information Technology (IT) organization, within strict operating procedures. And they often identify and work to correct new and emerging vulnerabilities. 
 
These are exciting positions, working in real time to detect and neutralize cyber threats. Think of this area as the “ER” of the cybersecurity career spectrum.
 

Preparing for a Cybersecurity Career

First, do you have a sincere interest in the cybersecurity field? There are lots of IT career options in high demand. Consider carefully where to invest your time, energy, and funds before engaging in any educational program. 
 
Once you’ve decided the cybersecurity works for you, options to build the needed knowledge and skills comes down to three basic choices: Self-taught, career-focused bootcamp or similar program, or a college degree. 
 
There are pros and cons to each. And be aware that most cybersecurity roles require formal education to meet their practical standards in business. So, the self-taught route may be less attractive for aspiring cybersecurity professionals. 
 
Deciding between a high-intensity bootcamp and a longer, generally broader pursuit of a college degree may not be so easy. For many people it comes down to expense, opportunity cost, and the related value of time. 
 
Simply put, short and focused knowledge building in a bootcamp delivers job qualifications faster. This can leave more time to enter and work in the cybersecurity field, gaining invaluable real-world experience for career progression. 
 
Regardless of whether you choose the bootcamp or college path to qualification, there are many free resources online to “get your feet wet” in the cybersecurity area. Take advantage of them and speed your own preparation, no matter which formal education option you choose.
 
Also, look specifically for materials and guidance that relate to certification. Information security certifications can prove a powerful addition to your portfolio of qualifications, especially when opportunities for advancement are presented.
 
The best news is that the cybersecurity career landscape continues to grow rapidly and the number of great cybersecurity jobs, in a variety of specialties, keeps pace.
 
 
This post was written by contributor Marc Tramonte.
 
 
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