Cyber Security Professionals

Cyber security professionals are fundamental in our online and interconnected world. They help prevent cyber attacks. They also assist with recovery when breaches do occur. They may perform tasks from installing encryption software to simulating attacks (https://mn.gov/deed/newscenter/publications/review/july-2016/information-analyst.jsp).

Meeting Industry Needs

Cyber security professionals are hired by a wide variety of companies: banking, healthcare, technology. They are also hired by the government.

Major companies experience major breaches – or at least attempted ones. Many heard about the Zoom breach in 2020. This was in part by unexpected circumstances and a big jump in usage. Cybersecurity, though, was already on the rise with the Bureau of Labor Statistics predicting a huge jump in demand between 2019 and 2029.

Even those who have been in business a long time have fallen victim (https://www.neit.edu/blog/cyber-security-job-outlook). The New England Institute of Technology notes that many healthcare organizations were impacted by a 2017 ransomware attack (https://www.neit.edu/blog/cyber-security-job-outlook). The University of California-San Francisco is among the organizations that lost a good deal of money recently recovering data in the recent past. And banks really rely on their professionals – they see a lot of attempts in a typical year!

A scan of job postings in early 2021 reveals companies advertising entry-level positions.

(ISC)² indicated in 2018 that those who are already employed are reaping the benefits of a job seeker’s market. They’re looking at the companies moreso than they are at the salary differentials.

Cyber Security Specializations

The Bureau of Labor Statistics published a profile of a cyber security consultant in 2018 (https://www.bls.gov/careeroutlook/2018/interview/cybersecurity-consultant.htm?view_full). She carries out specialized work in risk and compliance and notes application security and computer forensics as two other major areas of specialization.

Some students enroll in specialized cyber security tracks. The University of Arizona boasts three undergraduate tracks: engineering, defense and forensics, and law and policy.

Educational Foundations

Cyber security professionals typically enter the field with degrees at the bachelor’s level. A person may pursue his or her degree specifically in cyber security or in a related field like computer science. Some programs are offered as tracks within the computer science major.

Some professionals start out in the IT field at the associate’s level and work their way up over time. Others opt for a master’s — and may do so early in their careers. At Dakota State University, students can enter a 4 + 1 program, earning a bachelor’s in cyber security and then a master’s in computer science.

Students may seek out programs that have earned the National Center of Academic Excellence designation (https://www.nsa.gov/resources/students-educators/centers-academic-excellence/). Bachelor’s students may select from two types of designated program. The Cyber Defense Education (CAE-CDE) designation is awarded to programs from the associate’s level on up to the graduate level The Cyber Operations (CAE-CO) designation, described as highly technical, may be pursued at the bachelor’s or master’s level.

Schools tout high-tech labs and/ or cloud environments.

Among the highlights of cyber security programs are internships and co-ops.

Scholarships for Service Commitment

There are incentives available for promising students. The CyberCorps® Scholarship for Service (SFS) Program is a very lucrative scholarship program for students who are ready to make a commitment to spending some time in a government cybersecurity position. (Jobs are available at all levels of government from trial/ local to federal.)

Preparing for the First Job

Companies may use pre-employment assessments by companies such as imocha and SANS. Each makes a range available. Corporations can test the specific skill groups that they’ll need.

Students may want to give serious condition to how much practical experience they’ll get in their programs. Surprisingly, many grads and new career professionals are lacking the hands-on skills sought by employers, as a 2020 study revealed. Many lacked skills for even basic exploitation. Far more had the basics in data and cryptography, but mastery was uncommon (https://krebsonsecurity.com/2020/07/thinking-of-a-cybersecurity-career-read-this/).

Cyber security is a field where one can supplement formal education. There are vulnerability discovery tools available for free. Networking is also recommended (the human kind).

Preparation can begin even before college. SANS, a big name in cyber security training, has offered some advice for teens looking to break into the industry (https://www.sans.org/blog/entering-the-field-of-cybersecurity).

Cyber Security Certifications

There are many certifications available to enhance one’s resume. Some are only for those with quite a bit of experience.

The Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP) may be considered a “gold standard” (https://www.bls.gov/careeroutlook/2018/interview/cybersecurity-consultant.htm?view_full).

CompTIA Security+ is another well-known certification. It’s transitioning from SY0-501 to SYO-601.

Certified Ethical Hacker (CEH) is useful for some roles.Cyber Security Salary

Information security analysts earned an average $50.10 an hour in 2019 — $104,210 for a full-time schedule. The vast majority made between $27.79 and $76.37.

Professionals in closely related fields such as computer network architect also commonly earn six-figure salaries (https://www.bls.gov/ooh/computer-and-information-technology/information-security-analysts.htm#tab-8).

As for career outlook, that’s looking rosy (https://www.neit.edu/blog/cyber-security-job-outlook). Projected job growth for information security analysts is far above the average.