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How to become a cyber security professional

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What's it like to be a cyber security professional?

Meet the students:

Meet Learning People student Charles. Charles took control of his career by enrolling on the Certified Ethical Hacker Collection.

Since passing his exams, Charles landed his dream job at tech industry giant Telefónica. We speak to Charles about pursuing his career as a cyber security professional and hear his advice for future students.

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What is a cyber security professional?Is being a cyber security professional right for me?How do I become a cyber security professional?

Cyber security professional job profile

The role of a cyber security professional is one of the most exciting and fastest growing in tech. With career opportunities available worldwide, the demand for cyber security professionals continues to outstrip the supply, which makes the role both lucrative and highly desirable. 

No two days will be the same as a cyber security professional. The work itself can be separated into five areas of expertise:

  • Critical infrastructure security
  • Application security
  • Network security
  • Cloud security
  • Internet of Things (IoT) security

These varied and exciting specialisms  provide endless options for you to work in different sectors. The work you do, as a cyber security professional, is critical to the operational security of an organisation, its data, employees, and end users.


What is the salary of a cyber security professional?

The salary expectations of a cyber security professional remain high, even for those new to the sector.
Source: itjobswatch 2022

SOC Analyst median salary £55,000

Penetration Tester median salary £62,500

Certified Ethical Hacker median salary £65,000

CISSP (Certified Information Systems Security Professional) median salary £67,500

Cyber Security Architect median salary £90,000

Cyber security professional skills

The skills required to become a cyber security professional will vary depending on your chosen specialism or role within an organisation. However, working either defensively or offensively requires a strong working knowledge of how to design, configure, manage, and troubleshoot a network infrastructure.

Fortunately, with advances in educational technology and the associated live lab environments, these skills can be mastered in a matter of months prior to embarking upon cyber centric certifications. This removes the need for 2 to 5 years of ‘on the job’ experience in 1st line system or network support.

Soft skills and attributes you will need to become a cyber security professional are:

  • Communication skills
  • Problem-solving skills
  • Attention to detail
  • Technical aptitude
  • A desire to learn
  • Genuine interest in the subject of cyber security
  • A desire to protect organisations and individuals

Cyber security professional responsibilities

Your responsibilities as a cyber security professional will vary according to your specific role. 

The role of a cyber security analyst will include the following responsibilities:

  • Scanning and assessing networks for vulnerabilities
  • Monitoring network traffic
  • Investigating violations
  • Preparing reports that document a security breach.

As a penetration tester you’ll be responsible for:

Performing social engineering tests
Reviewing physical security
Locating, assessing and managing vulnerabilities
Suggesting security improvements
Preparing technical responses to security questions

Certifications required to become a cyber security professional

Fortunately, there are many certifications available to help you become a cyber security professional whether you are looking at entry level, or have many years of technology experience. 

If you are  looking to start your career in cyber security from scratch, the essential certification is the CompTIA A+ Core, which validates your skills to support core technologies such as security, cloud and data management. 

You can then move on to CompTIA’s Network+ which will provide the core knowledge and skills required to design, implement, troubleshoot and maintain both wired and wireless networks, key skills in both defensive and offensive cyber security roles. 

By then gaining the CompTIA Security+ which covers risk assessment and management, incident response, forensics, enterprise networks, hybrid/cloud operations, and security controls, you are automatically graded as an SIS (secure infrastructure specialist). 

These three core certifications are globally respected and accepted as cornerstone skills in information technology and best practice for cyber security.  


How to gain work experience

There are many ways you  can gain work experience in cyber security. Many of our students will be advised to firstly look to a friend, family member, or place of existing work who have an IT infrastructure in place and then with agreement, provide a security assessment by either monitoring network traffic, or even attempting to breach the system ethically to ascertain any vulnerabilities. Regardless of whether this is ‘paid for’ or undertaken without charge, the resulting work serves as both a record and visibility of activity, skill-sets, and actions.

Competitions and Bug bounty websites also act as great platforms to hone your skills whilst adding valuable work to your portfolio.

Being active in the industry by attending events, either online or virtual is also a fantastic way to validate your interest and engagement with cyber security. Cyber security events also enable networking opportunities and provide attendees with valuable insight to emerging technologies and trends.   


Related careers

Becoming a cyber security professional opens up a variety of related career options. Once you have established a career as a cyber security professional, it’s very possible to diversify as a network security engineer, security architect, cyber security manager, or Chief Information Security Officer. The career diversification will be dependent upon your favoured specialism but also the industry trends and demands in the future. 

How do you get into cyber security?

Meet the experts:

Clem Craven Senior CSIRT at BT explains the initial route to take if you’re serious about getting into cyber security. Find out what he has to say, and take a look at the CompTIA Network+ and Security+ as the gateway into the career.

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