Breaking into cybersecurity: Jobs, salaries, and skills to succeed

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Are you considering a career, in cybersecurity but unsure about how to get started? This extensive guide provides all the information you need to begin your journey, in this field. It covers a range of topics including the sought after cybersecurity jobs, salary expectations, essential skills and practical steps you can take to kick start your career.

What is Cybersecurity?

To begin our exploration of entering the field lets start with the fundamentals; what precisely is cybersecurity?

Cybersecurity encompasses the practice of safeguarding internet connected systems, from attacks. Its objective is to establish a environment by employing technologies, procedures and methods to defend against unauthorized access, hacking, malware, phishing and other cyber threats..

Some common cybersecurity job responsibilities include:

  • Developing security strategies and policies
  • Monitoring networks for anomalies
  • Responding to security incidents and data breaches
  • Conducting penetration testing to identify vulnerabilities
  • Managing access controls and account permissions
  • Educating employees on security best practices

In today’s digitally-driven world, cybersecurity is more important than ever for safeguarding sensitive data, assets, and infrastructure. The continuous growth of cyber threats has created massive demand for cybersecurity professionals across industries.

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Why Break into Cybersecurity Now?

Breaking into cybersecurity now is an excellent career move for several reasons:

Huge Talent Shortage

Cybersecurity currently faces a massive talent shortage, with over 500,000 open positions in the US alone according to CyberSeek. As threats grow, demand for skilled cyber pros will continue to outpace supply. This extreme talent deficit creates abundant job opportunities for those entering the field.

Lucrative Salaries

With so much demand, cybersecurity jobs tend to offer generous compensation packages. According to PayScale, the average cybersecurity analyst earns over $85,000 per year, with senior-level roles earning well into six figures. Salaries also continue rising year-over-year.

Rewarding Work

Cybersecurity roles allow you to use your technical skills to safeguard companies, governments, and citizens. By protecting critical systems and data, cyber pros help enable innovation, connectivity, and digital transformation across sectors. The mission-driven nature makes this career path highly rewarding.

Remote Flexibility

Many cybersecurity roles offer remote work options, allowing you to telecommute full or part-time. This provides increased schedule flexibility and geographic freedom. With a nationwide talent shortage, most companies are open to remote candidates.

Strong Job Security

Cyber threats show no signs of slowing down, which means skilled cybersecurity talent will continue being in extremely high demand. This creates unmatched job stability compared to many other careers. As long as you keep your skills current, you’ll enjoy robust job security.

Overall, cybersecurity represents an appealing and future-proof career choice in today’s digital landscape. By starting your journey now, you can capitalize on fast growth, opportunity, and impact.

Most In-Demand Cybersecurity Jobs

Cybersecurity encompasses a diverse range of job roles and specializations. Some of the most in-demand cybersecurity jobs right now include:

1.  Security Analyst

Security analysts are tasked with monitoring networks and systems for security risks or data breaches. Key duties include reviewing security logs, performing vulnerability scans, installing security updates, documenting threats, and responding to incidents. This is often an entry-level role for aspiring cyber pros.

2. Security Engineer

Security engineers design, build, and implement an organization’s cyber defenses. This involves architecting and rolling out security platforms, penetration testing systems, and ensuring regulatory compliance. The role requires both deep technical abilities and communication skills.

3. Security Architect

Security architects oversee an organization’s overall information security framework and roadmap. They align security initiatives with business goals, manage teams of engineers, recommend technologies, and keep strategies updated against evolving threats.

4. Security Manager

Security managers develop and enforce an organization’s security policies and procedures. They educate staff on security best practices, oversee compliance, manage vendor relationships, investigate incidents, and handle documentation and reporting.

5. Security Auditor

Security auditors assess systems and controls to ensure they align with regulatory requirements and organizational policies. Audit activities include examining access controls, performing risk assessments, and identifying gaps or non-compliant areas.

6. Security Software Developer

Security software developers design and program security tools and applications that handle tasks like encryption, biometric authentication, threat intelligence, and anomaly detection. Strong coding skills are required for this role.

7. Penetration Tester

Penetration testers, also known as ethical hackers, simulate cyber attacks to uncover security weaknesses in networks, applications, and systems. The goal is to improve defenses before real attackers exploit the same flaws.

8. Incident Responder

When a security breach occurs, incident responders jump into action to minimize damage. Responsibilities include investigating incidents, gathering forensic evidence, mitigating ongoing attacks, restoring services, and developing strategies to prevent future incidents.

This overview highlights just a subset of the diverse cybersecurity career paths available. Other roles include Chief Information Security Officer (CISO), Security Consultant, Cyber Instructor, and more. Focus on finding a specialization that aligns with your specific talents and interests.


Key Skills Needed

Succeeding in a cybersecurity career requires a blend of technical and soft skills. Some of the most important skills to develop include:

  • Technical skills – Proficiency in operating systems, networking, coding, cybersecurity tools, and administering security controls. Understanding how to identify vulnerabilities and exploits.
  • Investigative skills – Ability to analyze security events and systems, extract insights, identify anomalies, and trace problems back to root causes.

Communication and collaboration – Conveying cybersecurity concepts clearly to both technical and non-technical colleagues. Partnering cross-functionally to implement security initiatives.

  • Problem-solving – Applying critical thinking to security challenges. Creatively overcoming limitations and gaps in controls. Adapting plans to address new threats.
  • Subject matter expertise – Developing in-depth knowledge of security principles, regulations, attack techniques, system architectures, and best practices. Committing to continuous learning.
  • Attention to detail – Ensuring precision in applying security configurations, investigating activity, documenting issues, and performing audits.
  • Situational awareness – Keeping constantly up-to-date on the evolving threat landscape and security tools. Quickly adapting to new developments.

Cultivating these skills early through education, certifications, and hands-on experience will help you stand out and thrive as a cybersecurity professional. Soft skills like communication and problem-solving are just as critical as mastering the technical components.

Educational Pathways

While no single educational path leads to a cybersecurity career, certain degrees and certifications can help you gain essential knowledge and land your first job. Common educational routes include:

Information Technology or Computer Science Degrees

A bachelor’s degree in IT, computer science, or a related technical field develops core skills in networking, programming, operating systems, and data management. Coursework often covers basic security principles as well. This degree can qualify you for numerous entry-level cyber roles.

Cybersecurity Degrees

Bachelor’s and master’s programs in cybersecurity offer specialized training in areas like ethical hacking, risk management, and cryptography. Graduates gain targeted security knowledge to pursue roles like security analyst, engineer, or auditor.

Computer Engineering or Electrical Engineering Degrees

Due to the complex system architectures involved in cybersecurity, degrees in computer or electrical engineering can also provide relevant foundations in systems design, networking, and technical concepts.


Industry-recognized certifications demonstrate your expertise in specific cybersecurity domains. Top certifications include CompTIA Security+, Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP), and Certified Ethical Hacker (CEH). Certs aligned to your desired role can boost credibility.

When weighing education options, consider pursuing a degree that develops your technical capabilities supplemented by certifications that target key knowledge gaps. Some employers may require a degree, while others hire based on skills. An education blending both technical depth and security specialization can maximize your career opportunities.

4 Steps to Start Your Cybersecurity Career

Ready to launch your new cybersecurity career? Follow these proven steps to go from cyber novice to landing your first job:

Step 1: Gain Basic IT Experience

Entry-level IT roles like help desk technician, systems administrator, or network technician provide foundational experience in troubleshooting, system architectures, networking, and working cross-functionally. Aim for an IT role that allows you to dip your toes into security issues.

Step 2: Study for Certifications

Obtain starter certs like Security+ and CEH to validate your core security knowledge. More advanced certs like CISSP and CISM can also help you stand out for higher-level positions. Gain hands-on practice through virtual labs as you study.

Step 3: Pursue Continuing Education

Enroll in online cybersecurity programs through reputable providers like Udemy or Coursera. Seek out trainings aligned with your target role like ethical hacking or risk management. Stay on top of new developments through blogs, podcasts, and news sites.

Step 4: Highlight Transferable Skills

On your resume, emphasize transferable skills from past experiences that translate to cybersecurity like communication, research, analysis, compliance, and problem-solving. Tailor your resume and interview answers to the specific role.

Moving from IT, engineering, the military, law enforcement, or a tech background into cybersecurity is very achievable by highlighting relevant abilities you already possess. Prove your passion and motivation to enter the field. With the right educational credentials and demonstrated skills, you can transition successfully.

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Cybersecurity Career Tips & Advice

Follow these additional tips to accelerate your cybersecurity career success:

  • Attend industry events and conferences to build your professional network. Follow cybersecurity leaders on blogs and social media.
  • Consider internships and mentors to gain real-world experience and advice early on.
  • Contribute to open source cybersecurity projects to showcase your skills.
  • Develop a growth mindset focused on continuous learning and improvement. Cybersecurity evolves rapidly.
  • Understand business needs and communicate cybersecurity in terms of risk management rather than solely technology.
  • Consider roles within industry, government, consulting, law enforcement, and third-party vendors to diversify your experience.
  • Gain experience with common cybersecurity tools and platforms used across the industry.
  • Consider cyber adjacent roles in privacy, compliance, fraud investigation, and risk management to get your foot in the door.

With passion and persistence, you can attain an exciting and meaningful career in the thriving cybersecurity field. Continue your learning journey remain driven and be open, to beginning at the foundation. The cybersecurity field embraces individuals, from backgrounds who’re eager to contribute their skills in addressing evolving risks. Are you prepared to become part of the cohort of cyber protectors? The moment to embark on this path is upon us.


Cybersecurity offers a continuously growing field where you can apply your technical talents to a mission-critical domain while earning an excellent living. Massive talent shortages amidst soaring demand for cyber protection guarantee plentiful opportunities industry-wide. Whether you’re switching careers from a technical background or launching your cyber journey straight from school, you can succeed by gaining the right competencies.

To recap, focus first on acquiring core IT and networking skills through entry-level roles, classes, or certifications. Specialize in a cybersecurity niche that excites you through further education and training. Soft skills like communication and business acumen are just as crucial. With persistence and dedication to continual learning, you can break into the cybersecurity career of your dreams.

Ready for next steps?

  • Research cybersecurity job openings to find roles that fit your experience and interests
  • Update your resume to highlight relevant IT, technical, and soft skills
  • Study for entry-level certifications like Security+ or CEH to validate core knowledge
  • Look into cybersecurity education programs, degrees, and bootcamps to invest in your learning
  • Attend local meetups and conferences to start building your professional network
  • Set up job alerts and follow top companies to find the perfect opportunity

The cybersecurity talent shortage means the industry needs you. All that’s left is taking action. Now is the time to skill up and launch the cybersecurity career you’ve been dreaming about!

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