How to get a Job in Cybersecurity

Cybersecurity JobI was recently interviewed for a CBS News article on finding a career in cybersecurity, but they had to cut some of my response for length considerations. So I am sharing the full interview in this post. Let me know your questions, or best advice in getting started in the cybersecurity field in the comments. -Bill H

What kind of degree is needed to secure a job in our field?

The field of cyber security encompasses a wide array of roles to include: computer network defense, ethical hacking, secure systems design, cyber security management, and many more. Because the roles are varied, there are a number of ways that you can secure a job in the field. I know a number of excellent cyber security professionals who have made a great contribution to the field without a degree.

That being said, a degree will open you up to many more job opportunities, higher pay rates, and make it easier for an organization to hire you. Obtaining a Bachelor’s of science in information systems, computer science, or a specialized information security degree is a safe bet. It is possible to make the case for a business or finance based degree if for instance your aim is to specialize in risk management.

What’s the most challenging aspect of your job?

Some of the most challenging aspects of my job are solving tough client problems, managing and working with teams over long distances and in different time zones, developing applications to automate cyber security processes, and working long hours when a cyber security incident occurs or if a critical project requires it. Though these present challenges, they are also what make the job fun and worth pursuing in the first place.

Even though the cyber security profession has been around for a while now, as a society we are now realizing how critical the role is. Almost every aspect of our life is connected to the internet. This includes our banking information, our identities, our family’s’ personal information, cell phones, and medical devices. Cyber security professionals are the new breed of defender that work to ensure that we are preparing ourselves to face these challenges. It’s a very exciting time to get involved in the field.

After graduation, how hard was it to transition into the working world?

By the time I completed my degree I was already working in the cyber security field. I joined the Army National Guard as an Information Technology Specialist after the terrorist attacks on 9-11. After being activated during Operation Iraqi Freedom III, I spent a year in Iraq where I worked 12 hours days, 7 days a week in a network operations center where I honed my skills and improved my knowledge considerably. This allowed me to pursue my cyber security career path when I returned home to the United States. Deciding to perform military service is a very personal choice. I chose to sign up out of patriotism, however, I am very grateful the training and experience the Army provided me has lasted well beyond my years of service.

What advice would you give someone who is pursuing a career in Cyber Security?

One thing to be aware of is that certifications are big in our industry because they show an employer that you have a standard level of knowledge in a focus area. My recommendation for certification obtainment in order of increasing value (and difficulty) are: Network +, Security +, and the Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP). The CISSP is an advanced certification, but it’s one you should keep in mind as you grow into your cyber security career.

The final piece of advice I have is the advice I give to anyone with questions on what career to pursue: do what you love. Work at something you are passionate about. There is a lot of learning, hard work, trial and error, reading, coding, testing, and working on nights and weekends, so you will serve yourself best to make sure you are going to enjoy the journey. Not sure what you are passionate about? Jump into cyber security and give it a go. You can always change up later if you decide it’s not right for you.

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