It’s not easy to identify lines of work where all these boxes are going to check off, but a career in cyber security could be what you’re looking for.
The Need and Potential for Cybersecurity Professionals
According to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, cybersecurity professionals report an average salary of $116,000 … roughly $55.77 per hour. For perspective, this is nearly three times the national median income for all full-time workers.
Despite the incredible earning potential, a huge disparity exists between the demand for cybersecurity professionals and qualified talent in the workforce. A recent study from Capgemini reports a 25 percent gap between demand for cyber talent and the existing supply.
By 2021, it’s believed the shortfall in available cybersecurity professionals could be as high as 3.5 million employees.
According to the Capgemini study, 68 percent of organizations report a high demand for cybersecurity skills — and specificity is a chief concern. It’s often possible to find a cybersecurity generalist, but far more challenging to identify and hire someone who is capable of managing enterprise-specific technologies.
This may be bad news for employers, but it’s good news for people who choose to go into the cybersecurity industry right now. A huge demand for workers is one thing, but that demand comes with plenty of opportunities for rapid advancement.
How to Get Started
The cybersecurity field is as diverse as the range of industries out there. Jobs range from deeply technical to research to management. Regardless of the track you think you might take, however, here are some specific tips that will help you get started.
- Experience Over Education
The first question people often ask is, “Do I need a cybersecurity-related degree?”
“The short answer to this question is ‘not usually,’ but it depends on the job and the employer,” IT security professional Susan Morrow writes. “You definitely don’t need a specific degree in cybersecurity to get into the field, but if you want to study for one, it certain won’t hurt you and might result in a higher starting salary.”
The essential step is to get plugged in, gain some work experience in a related field, and start building contacts. Experience will almost always overrule formal education.
- Don’t Pigeonhole Yourself
As previously mentioned, there is a certain demand for specificity in cybersecurity, but be wary of pigeonholing yourself too early on in your career. There’s something to be said for picking up a swath of skills (which translates to more opportunities).
There’s tremendous demand for cybersecurity professionals with multi-disciplinary backgrounds inside and outside of the field. You could do anything from basic IT security for private companies to working in the rapidly growing electronic warfare space.
Start broad and then zero in on a couple of specialties without neglecting other core areas. Building a solid foundation of knowledge on the front end will only help you down the road.
- Don’t Let Certifications Hold You Back
The cybersecurity field is repleted with certifications. And though there’s nothing wrong with getting them, you should resist the urge to pile up a bunch before you start to apply for jobs.
This strategy encourages procrastination. It’s better to learn the fundamentals, apply for jobs, and then pursue certifications as you are also gaining real-world experience. You’ll find this to be a much more sustainable path.
- Learn the IT Basics
If you don’t have a background in IT, it’s essential to at least learn the fundamentals so you’re on a fairly level playing field with the rest of the people in the industry. You can learn IT basics a number of ways.
Your approach could be as casual as taking some online courses or enrolling in a course or two at a local community college. Just be sure to take some initiative to make it happen.
Enjoy Stability and Potential With Cybersecurity
In a world where technology seems to be lowering job prospects in many professions, experts remain quite bullish regarding the cybersecurity industry. Jobs in this specialty are predicted to stay in high demand for years to come. Could this provide an opportunity for you to get started in a new career?