How do I know if a cybersecurity career is right for me?

by NU Online on 4/15/20 10:00 AM

The numbers paint a clear picture—cybersecurity professionals are in demand. Research from Cybersecurity Ventures shows that by 2021, 3.5 million cybersecurity jobs will go unfilled globally, due in part to a skills shortage. ISACA’S State of Cybersecurity 2019 report further found that nearly 70 percent of all organizations are attempting to fight threats with understaffed cybersecurity teams. These trends coincide as cyberattacks are on the rise, with businesses from retail to banking and government organizations regularly facing new threats to their data.

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Because of the field’s growth and sudden demand, U.S. News and World Report ranked information security analysts within the top 50 spots on its “100 Best Jobs” list. Professionals pursuing this field can expect to make a median salary of $98,350 and, in line with necessity, have several opportunities for advancement.

Nevertheless, due to already-acquired skills or long-term goals, some individuals are better cut out for cybersecurity careers than others, and pursuing a field based on market trends might mean you end up in a role that’s not adequately tailored to your strengths. On the other hand, because educational contexts outside of cybersecurity programs may not touch on the subject, many individuals with network administration or computer science backgrounds do not consider it for a career until they have to monitor multiple security threats on the job—although many of the skills learned in computer science are transferable in a cybersecurity role. With these points in mind, could a cybersecurity career be a good fit for your background? Think about the following points.


You are a Mid-Career Technology Professional

Whether you are employed in the private sector or a government job, being in a mid-level programming, systems administrator, or helpdesk role optimally positions you for pivoting over to cybersecurity. Although your employer might already have you assessing the network perimeter or interior for vulnerabilities, the more you research security concepts, the more you discover this occupation requires a specialized skill set.

You may have recently compounded your existing experience and knowledge gained from a previously earned bachelor’s degree in computer science or information technology (IT) by obtaining a CISSP or CompTIA Security+ certification. However, employers are now seeking more qualifications: beyond specific experience and certifications, nearly 90 percent of all openings require a bachelor’s degree in cybersecurity, according to a 2019 report from Burning Glass Technologies. A professional like yourself is optimally positioned to transition into a cybersecurity role.

Based on research from Dice, you already have the technical foundation in terms of understanding network architecture, management, and administration, operating systems, programming skills, and software development. Someone like you is likely already fluent in Java, C++, PHP, Python, and other scripting languages, and you might already spend part of your day analyzing software or diagnosing network issues. Also, a significant amount of overlap exists between computer science and cybersecurity degrees, so many of your previously earned credits will transfer, and with an increase in the number of online cybersecurity programs out there, including at Norwich University, you can likely complete targeted, skills-specific courses after work hours, ideally on a part-time basis around your existing obligations.

From this foundation, you are in a better spot to take advantage of the fastest-growing computer-oriented occupation. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, demand for information security analysts is expected to jump 32 percent by 2028. By comparison, growth across other computer science occupations averages to 12 percent.

You Have a Liberal Arts Background

While the increased emphasis on science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) skills has steered students away from the liberal arts, a 2019 report from the CNBC Technology Executive Council found that unfilled positions continue to exist across the technology field, leading companies to look for less-typical candidates. Among this pool are individuals with liberal arts backgrounds. In fact, based upon data from a 2019 Carnegie Mellon Software Engineering Institute Survey (SEI), a visible amount of cybersecurity professionals started their careers in an unrelated field.

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A common misconception about cybersecurity jobs—and one that has acted as a deterrent until now—is that all candidates must have only technical backgrounds. Professionals who have come up in communications, organizational, or analysis roles may be a better fit for a technical writing, risk assessment, legal, or project management position. A liberal arts background in addition to a cybersecurity degree can provide a foundation for those who are looking to move into leadership roles in the field.


You Have the Right Skills, Education, and Mindset

Along with the right background, individuals with certain skills, abilities, and mentalities are stronger candidates for cybersecurity positions:

  • You’re a problem-solver: Day to day, cybersecurity professionals across all levels are expected to examine network security. Even entry-level individuals are called upon to come up with innovative solutions to identify and address vulnerabilities and strengthen a network’s perimeter and interior protections.
  • You think like a hacker: Ethical hacking is at the heart of many cybersecurity roles. Overlapping with problem-solving skills, you need to routinely be examining your company’s network from the perspective of a cybercriminal to identify easily exploited facets and sensitive data and develop strategies to effectively halt cybercrime.
  • You have a critical, analytical mindset: In short, you never take anything as absolute, and you’re known to examine things from all angles, using abstract logic. This approach is essential for tasks ranging from routine network troubleshooting to managing a security breach.
  • You have strong communication skills: Especially for mid-career and management roles, you need to be able to clearly communicate objectives and strategies. You may also be expected to convey the urgency of potential security threats to non-technical professionals and guide a company-wide security plan.
  • You work independently: Although companies generally have cybersecurity teams, many individuals spend hours alone examining networks for threats, producing documentation, and developing solutions.
  • You have strong math and science skills: No matter your college major, entering into the cybersecurity field requires a strong math and science background, ideally with some exposure to programming and engineering concepts. Individuals eyeing a technical role should further be well-versed in advanced cybersecurity tactics and have procured multiple certifications following graduation.
  • You can concentrate on one task for lengthy periods of time: Entry-level cybersecurity jobs are known to be highly detailed at points. Candidates for these positions need to be extremely methodical and organized and must stay focused even through tedious, repetitive tasks.
  • You’re always learning: In the cybersecurity field, it’s expected that you’ll stay on top of the latest threats and continue your education to not only strengthen the network with the latest security developments but to also anticipate future cybercrime tactics.
  • You stay cool through high-stress situations: Network breaches are stressful events, but cybersecurity professionals need to handle them with aplomb. Although the situation isn’t life or death, security breaches, if not properly dealt with, could open up your employer to litigation and high fines, expose trade secrets and customer information, and negatively impact its reputation.

In addition to the attributes listed above, you are also a recent college graduate with a cybersecurity or STEM degree. Recent college graduates in these majors have the basic programming and engineering concepts skills for many entry-level cybersecurity jobs.

Norwich’s own bachelor’s degree in cybersecurity has received a CAE in Cyber Defense Education designation, while students have opportunity to choose from multiple concentrations to focus on an area of interest in cybersecurity.


Learn More About Studying Cybersecurity

Whether you’re returning to school mid-career or are applying to college as a high school student, Norwich offers traditional on-campus and completely online cybersecurity degree programs. Browse our program pages to learn more, or fill out a request for information form today.

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This post was written by NU Online

Norwich University Online offers several master’s degrees and bachelor’s degree completion programs as well as certificate and enrichment programs. Designed to accommodate students’ varied work schedules and lifestyles, our programs are delivered through a virtual and highly interactive learning platform that connects Norwich’s exceptional faculty and curricula to students across the country and around the world.

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