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What Qualifications Do You Need For A Job In Cyber Security?

Cyber Security Professional

Cyber security is still a relatively new specialism and one that is changing all the time in response to the constantly evolving threat of cybercrime and cyber terrorism. Yet already there is a huge shortage of sufficiently skilled IT security professional, with around one million unfulfilled positions in the IT security sector (according to a report by Frost and Sullivan, this figure will reach 1.5m by 2020).

There are many reasons that individuals looking for a career in IT, might want to focus on going down the cyber career path. As well as an abundance of opportunities, salaries in cyber security roles are rising faster than those in traditional IT roles.

Cyber Security Jobs & Roles

Cyber security is a multidisciplinary field and knowing where to start can be daunting with so numerous job titles and specialisms out there. The main roles in cyber security can be broken down into a number of key areas, which I’ve outlined below:

Threat management and forensics: This area deals with identifying the root cause of a security breach by looking at the raw details as well as the business context and impact on the business/customers.

Risk analytics/management: Staff in these roles use their experience and knowledge to examine systems and identify any potential threats such as malicious intruders, malware, and denial of service attacks.

Policy making and strategy: Those in these positions are in charge of designing policies and procedures to minimise the risk of cyber attacks. They also build frameworks and collaborate with other similar experts to discuss overall strategies.

Security operations and security management: These roles concentrate on the monitoring, management and maintenance of the security aspects of the ICT infrastructure, people, and processes.

Engineering, design, and architecture: These roles are based around the monitoring and protection of systems from infiltration/cyber-attacks. Designing robust defences is vital.

Education, training and awareness: People here work to disseminate information about cyber security and educate others as to how to protect themselves against the threat of cybercrime.

Legal: Those in legal roles look at the legal ramifications of cyber attacks and how companies must ensure they comply with the law when it comes to the storage and use of data.

Relevant Degrees For A Cyber Security Career

As the above cyber security roles suggest, there is no one definitive career path. Some professionals will come from other IT roles, some will come into it straight from university and others may come from totally unrelated backgrounds. University qualifications in cyber security are a great stepping stone towards a career in this area but are by no means essential. Degrees in other STEM subjects (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) are also relevant.

Cyber Security Qualifications & Courses

Whilst there is no single qualification that is guaranteed to get you into a cyber security role, the ISO 27001 training courses are universally respected, as are specialist qualifications run by the likes of HP, CISCO and Microsoft.

The right cyber security course will depend on your experience; existing qualifications and what job you ultimately want to end up in. If you wish to move into more senior IT security roles, you may benefit from courses that are weighted towards managerial and project management skills. Alternatively, you may see yourself in a more technical role, which may necessitate a different set of skills and qualifications.

Unlike many IT roles, cyber security requires most candidates to demonstrate very good levels of communication and people skills, with the need to educate other non-IT workers often part and parcel of the role. There are a huge number of online IT security courses available, with the benefit that you don’t need to go to a central campus and can study part-time or full-time, whichever best suits your circumstances.

The following are very helpful to have if you wish to work as a cyber security professional.

Knowledge/understanding of:

  • scripting languages.
  • network architectures
  • evaluation and testing protocols
  • security framework development
  • network load balancing
  • firewall management.
  • general software development, architecture and administration
  • networking
  • systems administration

You also need to be:

  • empathetic
  • an excellent communicator
  • attentive
  • analytical
  • hard working
  • flexible/adaptable
  • dedicated
  • committed to continued development/self-improvement

There have been a number of high-profile data breaches and cyber attacks over the past few years, and the increased sophistication of those attacks has meant that organisations all over the world are looking to strengthen their defences as a matter of urgency.

A career in cyber security can be both fulfilling and rewarding for those who enjoy helping others since they will be defending individuals and organisations from the threats posed by malicious cybercriminals. For anyone looking at a career in IT, then cyber security represents a challenging, varied and rewarding extension of this.

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Rob Phelps is the owner and founder of UK based Cyber Security Jobs and Cyber Security Courses. He has been working in the IT security industry for ten years and has helped UK businesses establish their network security and source and recruit professional cyber security experts.

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