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How to get into cyber security: 15 tips to start your career

Learn how to become an in-demand cyber security professional, no matter what your experience, with this handy step-by-step guide.

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Cyber threats are becoming increasingly more sophisticated and targeted. This makes it essential for businesses to invest in robust cyber security to protect their digital assets, safeguard employees, and preserve their reputation. 

Cyber security specialists are the skilled professionals behind these strategies, making their role in-demand across a variety of industries. With the cyber security skills gap continuing to grow, now is a great time to start your career. In this step-by-step guide, you’ll discover the skills, qualifications, and experience you need to kickstart your cyber security career.

How do I get into cyber security?

From entry-level roles to a more advanced career path, there are many opportunities to get into the varied field of cyber security. Below, you’ll find our top tips to start you on your path to success:

Develop a solid foundation of knowledge

To begin your cyber security journey, it’s important to first master the fundamentals. Find opportunities to learn about the core cyber security concepts, such as computer systems, networks, and security essentials. With this strong foundation, you’ll have the knowledge and confidence to take your learning and career to the next level. 

Take charge of your learning

There are many opportunities for self-directed learning to take your development into your own hands. Harness the power of online courses, textbooks, and digital resources to immerse yourself in cyber security. Take a look at FutureLearn’s varied cyber security courses, dedicated to equipping you with essential career-ready skills.

Gain industry-recognised certificates

Certificates help demonstrate your knowledge and skills to future employers. Look out for certifications that hold weight in the cyber security industry, such as the Certified Ethical Hacker (CEH) and Certified Information Security Manager (CISM). 

Develop your practical skills

Theoretical knowledge is vital, but practical experience prepares you for the workplace. Find internships, volunteer opportunities, or online courses with practical assessments to help you gain the job-ready skills needed to thrive in the industry. 

Stay up-to-date with industry trends

The cyber security landscape is ever-evolving. To help you remain competitive, stay up-to-date with different industry trends through blogs, podcasts, and cyber security news sources. 

Build your professional connections

Develop your professional network to open doors to mentorships and job opportunities. Engage in cyber security conferences, local security meet-ups, and become an active member of online forums and communities. 

Find your cyber security niche

Becoming an expert in a niche can set you apart from other job applicants. Identify a specific area of cyber security that interests you – whether it’s network security, penetration testing, incident response, or safeguarding the cloud. 

Create a home learning environment

To help develop your practical skills further, design an environment at home for hands-on learning. This will give you the opportunity to experiment with cyber security tools and hone your expertise.

Take on personal projects

Personal projects are a great way to showcase your dedication and skills to potential employers. You can build a portfolio by contributing to open-source security tools, developing security applications, or engaging in bug bounty programmes.

Apply for entry-level positions

After cementing your knowledge and skills, you’re ready to apply for entry-level positions such as a security analyst, IT support specialist, or junior penetration tester. In your application, make sure you emphasise your certificates, practical experience, and projects.

Develop your coding and scripting expertise

Using programming languages can help you advance in your career as you learn how to automate tasks and conduct in-depth security analysis. Familiarise yourself with frequently used programming languages, such as Python and PowerShell, to help you complete more advanced cyber security tasks. 

Gain workplace-ready skills with hands-on labs

Cyber security is all about using your knowledge and applying it in the workplace. Sharpen your practical skills by participating in hands-on labs, virtual environments, and cyber challenges offered by platforms like Hack The Box, TryHackMe, or OWASP WebGoat.

Hone your soft skills

As a cyber security professional, you’ll often need to translate complex cyber concepts and vulnerabilities to non-technical stakeholders. To do this, try to develop your soft skills such as communication, critical thinking, and problem solving.

Commit to lifelong learning

The cyber security landscape is in a constant state of flux. Stay up-to-date with emerging cyber threats and technologies through online courses, workshops, webinars, and continuous self-improvement to ensure you remain competitive.

Join online cyber security communities

Engage with seasoned cyber security professionals by joining online communities on platforms such as LinkedIn and Reddit. You can share insights, ask questions, and discuss working opportunities. 

Can you get into cyber security without a degree?

Yes, you don’t need a formal degree to become a cyber security professional. The dynamic nature of the industry places a strong emphasis on practical skills, relevant certificates, and hands-on experience. 

So, while a degree in a related field such as computer science can be advantageous, it is not essential for you to excel in your cyber security career. 

What should I specialise in within cyber security?

You should choose your niche based on your areas of interest. Gain practical experience in specialisations such as network security, incident response, cloud security, and other areas to discover which niche interests you most most. 

Are coding skills necessary for a career in cyber security?

While not mandatory, coding skills will help you automate tasks and perform in-depth security analysis. Therefore, the ability to use languages like Python and PowerShell can enhance your capabilities and also make you stand out from other candidates.

What are the soft skills that matter in cyber security?

Cyber security professionals often need to explain complex cyber concepts to non-technical people. Therefore, soft skills such as effective communication can help you convey the importance of cyber security to others in the business. 

In your role, it’s also likely you’ll have to make quick decisions in high-pressure situations and so critical thinking and problem-solving are other useful soft skills to have. 

How can I prepare for the future of cyber security?

With technological advancements and evolving threats, the future of cyber security is ever-changing. To best prepare for this, you’ll need to develop a proactive and agile approach to security to meet the demands of the future. 

Embrace lifelong learning with online courses, adapt to new challenges, and stay up-to-date with the dynamic landscape. 

Develop your cyber security skills with FutureLearn

A cyber security career gives you the opportunity to contribute to a company’s success by protecting its digital assets. If you’re ready to start your journey toward becoming a cyber security professional, take a look at our range of cyber security courses to help you develop job-ready skills. Your first step to your new career starts here. Check out these cyber security courses to get started:

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