Do you think a career in cybersecurity might be for you? Cybersecurity is an in-demand, fast-growing field with a need for qualified employees, offering high median salaries, job opportunities in a variety of sectors, and a challenging, fast-paced work environment.
If you're excited by the prospect of protecting organizations' digital assets and intelligence from security breaches, but aren't sure if you're right for the job, it's important to do your research on the field, find out what typical cybersecurity jobs look like, and learn more about the skills needed for cybersecurity careers.
Those pursuing a career in this field will need to have a broad set of technical, professional, and functional skills, as well as the specific cybersecurity skills and key soft skills in demand by employers that will set you apart from the competition. We've created a list of top cybersecurity skills to help you see what it takes to be a professional in the cybersecurity field.
The Top Skills Required for Cybersecurity Jobs
As a cybersecurity professional, problem-solving will play a major role in your day-to-day work. Those in the field need to find creative ways to take on and address complex information security challenges across a variety of existing and emerging technologies and digital environments.
As the name implies, cybersecurity is a technology-focused field: you will be likely be tasked with responsibilities such as troubleshooting, maintaining, and updating information security systems; implementing continuous network monitoring; and providing real-time security solutions. Being technologically savvy is essential in order to perform the daily activities of a cybersecurity professional.
Knowledge of Security Across Various Platforms
Cybersecurity isn't just limited to computers: you'll need to be comfortable working on a variety of operating systems, computer systems, mobile devices, cloud networks, and wireless networks - and keep up to date on advances in the field for all of them.
Attention to Detail
Being able to defend an organization against cyber breaches requires you to be highly vigilant and detail-oriented, in order to effectively detect vulnerabilities and risks. You'll like be responsible for continuous network monitoring and will need to be able to quickly identify concerns and come up with real-time security solutions to address them.
As a cybersecurity specialist, you'll be working closely with individuals in other roles and departments, and it's important to be able to effectively communicate and explain your findings, concerns, and solutions to others. It's important to be able to speak clearly and concisely on cybersecurity strategy and policy, as well as to be able to convey technical information to individuals of different levels of technical comprehension.
Fundamental Computer Forensics Skills
While computer forensics and cybersecurity are two separate fields, they're closely related - and having a foundation in computer forensics can help you excel in your cybersecurity career. To be able to effectively protect organizations' digital assets and prevent security breaches, you'll need to have a solid understanding of what happens if your efforts fail, and how compromised data is recovered. Most cybersecurity degree programs will have a computer forensics component for this reason.
A Desire to Learn
As with any technical field, cybersecurity is fast-changing. Anyone who works in the field will need to be committed to keeping current with best practices and emerging industry trends, and will always need to be learning and self-educating - both on and off the clock.
An Understanding of Hacking
To effectively protect an organization's network and infrastructure, you'll need to know how they can be exploited in the first place - that's why most cybersecurity professionals must learn how to "ethically hack." Essentially, you need to have the same skills as a hacker, to fully understand how a system could be breached, and in turn, create effective solutions for thwarting these attacks.
How Do You Build Cybersecurity Skills?
While some of the skills listed above are ones you should naturally have - for example, an inclination for analytical thinking and technology - others are ones you will need to develop through formal training or education. Depending on your background, a certificate or degree in cybersecurity is a good place to start: they'll give you a solid foundation in the principles of cybersecurity, in addition to an overview of security across a variety of platforms, programming and development, digital forensic investigation, specific technical skills (such as those relating to computer and operating systems and networking) and more.
Given the growing popularity of this field, there are an increasing number of cybersecurity degree programs available to prospective students, both online and campus-based. Regardless of the mode of learning you prefer, you should look for a school that is regionally accredited, non-profit, and has a well-recognized cybersecurity program. Third-party validation from both the higher education industry (for example, U.S. News & World Report rankings) and the cybersecurity industry (such as SC Magazine's rankings) are important. And if possible, look for a program that has been recognized by the U.S. government - for example, Champlain College has been designated a Center of Academic Excellence by the National Security Administration and the Department of Homeland Security.
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