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How Do I Start a Career in Cybersecurity?

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Technology is playing an ever increasing role in our world and the demand for cybersecurity professionals has never been higher. The effort to protect data and systems is never ending and as bad actors continue to find new ways and methods of attack, cyber pros have to continuously improve their skills. If you’re interested in making a career in the dynamic field of cybersecurity, here’s a six-step roadmap guaranteed to help you secure your place in this high-demand industry.

Acquire Relevant Education and Certifications 

You need to build a strong educational foundation. While not all cybersecurity jobs require a bachelor’s degree, many do. So, consider attending college to major in computer science, information technology, or cybersecurity. 

If college isn’t for you, then grabbing yourself a few relevant certifications can help land that first job. A certification from an industry-recognized organization, such as Ascend Education, is a great way to demonstrate to potential employers that you have the skills and know-how to meet their needs. Certifications like CompTIA Security+, CySA+, and PenTest+; Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP); and Certified Ethical Hacker (CEH) will make your resume stand out. 

Develop Hands-on Skills 

Cybersecurity is a hands-on field, so it’s crucial that you take the time to develop hands-on skills. Make time to familiarize yourself with security tools, operating systems, and those important networking protocols. You can gain valuable practical experience by practicing labs, completing projects, or doing an internship. Having a degree of proficiency in various programming languages such as Java, Python, or C++ will also enhance your skills and open doors to more specialized cybersecurity roles.

Stay Informed about Industry Trends 

Cybersecurity is constantly changing with new threats emerging daily so, your skill-set and knowledge also have to keep improving. An easy way to stay informed about the latest vulnerabilities,  attack techniques and trends is to regularly read industry blogs, attend conferences, and interact with online communities in your field. Employers are looking for candidates who demonstrate a proactive approach to learning and staying up-to-date in the rapidly changing world of cybersecurity.

Network, Network, Network  

Networking is a powerful tool in any profession, and cybersecurity is no exception. Make sure you take the time to attend industry events, join online forums, and connect with seasoned professionals via professional platforms like LinkedIn. Engaging with more experienced professionals is a great way to garner valuable insights, develop mentorship opportunities, and can even lead to job referrals. The stronger your professional network, the more likely you will be to find new and better opportunities.  

Gain Real World Experience 

Real world experience is invaluable in the cybersecurity arena. If you’re having trouble finding a full-time cyber sec job, consider taking an internship or a part-time job. Non-profit organizations can be a great source for practical experience. They normally can’t pay and their systems often lack important cybersecurity protections. If you can afford to, sign on as a volunteer—I guarantee you’ll get all the hands-on experience you can imagine and more. 

Employers want candidates with proven real-world experience. You show up to the interview with a portfolio showcasing your skills and experience and you’ll have a big head start on other applicants.  

Soft Skills 

Technical expertise is great, but employers also want to make sure a potential employee knows how to communicate effectively, think critically and solve problems quickly. As a cybersecurity professional you will often communicate complex information to others who lack your technical acumen.  So, make sure your resume highlights your ability to work collaboratively, think critically, and communicate effectively. 

Finding a job in cybersecurity requires a combination of solid education, technical skills, constant learning of new happenings in the industry, networking with colleagues, and hands-on experience. By faithfully following this roadmap, you’ll not only be a qualified cybersecurity professional, you’ll also be in high demand. 

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