As you research information on technology careers, it doesn’t take long to discover that some of the top-paying jobs in IT are cybersecurity positions. But before you pack up and move to one of the cybersecurity hot spots, you need a plan. After all, sometimes it can seem like the certifications available to you are endless, and there are new ones cropping up every day. We’ll help you map out your cybersecurity career path, from beginner to advanced, including the certifications you really need to succeed.
If you don’t have any experience in IT, you’re probably wondering how to get into the cybersecurity field in the first place. The truth is that you’re unlikely to go straight to a cybersecurity role; most people in the industry start out in an entry-level IT position, like customer service at the IT help desk. These jobs will familiarize you with industry language and procedures, which will be valuable for your career growth.
Another important tip for beginners: Learn how to code and use a database. Functional knowledge of a programming language like Python or Java, as well as Microsoft SQL Server, will go a long way. And while you can get into cybersecurity without a degree, you’ll want to make sure you earn several beginner certifications in order to stay ahead of your competition. These entry-level certifications show employers that you have the skills to get started on the right foot. You can mix and match or bundle these credentials, as they complement each other.
Beginner cybersecurity jobs: IT technician, IT auditor, entry-level programmer/software developer, cybersecurity specialist
Beginner certifications: CompTIA™ Certification Training: A+, Network+, Security+
Perhaps you’ve got a few years of IT experience under your belt, and you are looking to improve your job prospects—and your salary. Cybersecurity is a great career for those who always want to learn and grow. At this stage in your journey, there are a number of directions you can take your information security career.
You can plan your cybersecurity career roadmap in a few ways. Do you have a particular field you’d like to work in? For example, government jobs may require different certifications than the private sector. Do you have interest in flexing particular skills? You can also specialize in one area, such as cloud technology, database protection, or applications. Build a powerful springboard toward these specialization options with mid-level certifications, and you may need to earn more than one to prepare for the particular needs of your dream job. Rather than raising your IT know-how, this part of your career is all about honing your cybersecurity knowledge and experience. Check out our article on cybersecurity jobs of the future for some ideas.
Mid-level cybersecurity jobs: penetration tester, cybersecurity analyst, network administrator
Your cybersecurity career salary will continue to rise as you get into the upper ranks of the industry. However, in such a competitive and fast-changing field, it’s always important to keep your credentials up to date. Plus, as you climb the industry ladder, you’ll find that different skills and certifications are needed. Many of these credentials wil require you to gain expertise and proven professional experience in the field as part of the certification process, bcause they confirm you’re qualified to deal with advanced problems or manage security teams and systems.
Nearly every experienced cybersecurity professional will find that project management skills are in high demand for more advanced positions. Some may also require some skill with numbers, for budgeting and finance purposes. And you will certainly discover that communication and interpersonal skills are nearly as important as your technical savvy. So in addition to adding to your advanced credentials, develop these soft skills throughout your career.
Advanced cybersecurity jobs: cybersecurity engineer, network architect, information security manager, chief information officer (CIO)
Whether you’re looking to start a career in cybersecurity or you just want to know how to get the most out of an advanced skillset, this field is full of opportunity for those who are prepared to take advantage of it. With the right combination of experience and certifications, you’ll be prepared for success no matter which path you choose.