The Ultimate Guide to a Cybersecurity Career
The cybersecurity industry is skyrocketing, and if you are thinking of switching careers or starting fresh in the IT security sector, you’ve come to the right place.
This guide will answer any and all questions you might have on how to start a thriving new career in cybersecurity. Here’s a summary of the topics in this guide:
- Cybersecurity in Practice
- What does a Cybersecurity Professional Do
- How to Break Into the Cybersecurity Field
- Is Cybersecurity Right for You?
- Starting with a Non-Technical Background
- Starting with a Technical Background
- Network Online and In-Person
- Entry-Level Positions in Cybersecurity
- Common Entry-Level Cybersecurity Salaries
- Design Your Own Path
The field of technology is constantly changing and innovating, and its mark on nearly every business sector or industry is growing. As exciting and useful as the development of new technology is, we are simultaneously creating new network vulnerabilities to be exploited by bad actors.
Online banking, smart home devices, IoT sensors, remote traffic control, online monitoring systems: innovators are constantly cranking out new technological conveniences that permeate every aspect of our lives.
While technological advances have improved the way we communicate and conduct business, securing these impactful, yet vulnerable, devices and networks is just as important.
Still unsure if cybersecurity is the right career path for you? Consider the job opportunities that this career can hold for your future. Some analysts have gone so far as to estimate a 0% unemployment rate for the whole sector and the Bureau of Labor Statistics is projecting a 33% growth rate between 2020-2030 for Information Security Analysts jobs.
With over 460,000 job openings in cybersecurity nationwide and nearly 22,000 roles available in Florida, there’s never been a better time to become a cybersecurity professional.
Cybersecurity in Practice
Remember the recent attack on SolarWinds? The IT infrastructure management software company, based in Austin, Texas, came under attack as early as September 2019 and went unnoticed until December 2020.
During that time, hackers created back doors into software updates, leading to malicious malware downloads and attacks on select clients, including state and local governments as well as federal agencies and courts.
The result? Experts estimate the damage amounted to $100 billion but the biggest consequence is being unable to determine what information was accessed and how this may affect national security for years to come.
That’s what cybersecurity is all about: protecting the privacy and integrity of our digital data, from the pictures on your phone to top-secret government files.
Right now, the average person’s private information is spread all across different applications and platforms. For example, a user’s credit card information may be saved by rideshare applications or food delivery services. Their health and biometric data may be saved in fitness-focused, heart health apps, and to unlock their phone. Even private pictures are all saved to digital photo albums on cloud servers.
When you choose a career in cybersecurity, you’re choosing to be a defender of our digital world against the most elusive and malicious enemies. You’re choosing to make an impact in your communities and help those around you enjoy the internet and their beloved devices with peace of mind.
What Does a Cybersecurity Professional Do?
Cybersecurity professionals dedicate their careers to innovating and protecting internet-connected systems, hardware, and software from cyber threats.
Cybercrime threatens the private data of individuals, governments, and businesses alike, necessitating strong information security, and therefore creating an ever-increasing demand for cybersecurity professionals across every industry.
The Covid-19 pandemic is also playing a major role in increasing the job demand for cybersecurity professionals. Social distancing restrictions forced a majority of corporate and office jobs to become remote, and as a result, companies had to increase their cyber defenses to allow connections from outside of their firewalls.
In the same period of time, we also saw the rise of ransomware as a service (RaaS), which boils down to prepackaged cyberattack kits that enable even inexperienced hackers to carry out powerful attacks.
As a cybersecurity professional, you will be on the frontlines of this conflict, defending the privacy and integrity of our digital data against malicious actors.
If you are in the process of learning more about the basics of cybersecurity, you might want to start with this brief introduction to essential cybersecurity terms so you can become more familiar with the industry jargon.
How to Break Into the Cybersecurity Field
In today’s cybersecurity job market, you can enter the industry without a computer science degree. Tech giants like Google, Apple, and IBM no longer require candidates to have a degree from a college or university.
There are plenty of industry-trusted certifications, which can serve as an alternative to a traditional college degree, as well as part-time bootcamps that can help you build hands-on skills for your new cybersecurity career.
The University of Miami Cybersecurity Professional Bootcamp can help you hack into cybersecurity and start a thriving career whether or not you come from a tech background.
The way it works is really simple:
- It’s a part-time program
- Classes are 100% live & online during weeknights and weekends
- Takes about 10 months to complete
- Instructors are cybersecurity experts active in the field
- Our state-of-the-art virtual platform lets you practice with cyber labs and threat simulations that mimic real-world scenarios
- There are no prerequisites to apply
Our professional bootcamp is an opportunity for you to learn essential skills, gain hands-on experience, and create a network of professionals in the cybersecurity industry—everything you need to launch a successful new career.
Is Cybersecurity Right for You?
A common misconception about people who work in tech is that they are all mathematical child prodigies who were developing life-changing apps long before they could legally drive.
In reality, individuals working in tech come from a variety of backgrounds and hold a wide skill set that can include technical, non-technical, and other professional skills. No matter your background, it’s likely some of the skills you gained in other industries can translate into a fulfilling career working with cutting-edge technology.
Oftentimes, individuals interested in the field of technology don’t think their skills are relevant for something like cybersecurity. However, creativity is in demand now more than ever in technology.
In fact, creativity tops the list of soft skills companies need most in 2021, according to LinkedIn. Cybersecurity in particular often requires deep creative thinking to outpace and outsmart hackers. Practitioners must constantly think of new ways to withstand stealthy cyberattacks and protect sensitive data.
Other soft skills and traits that successful cybersecurity professionals possess include:
- Strong attention to detail
- Passion for technology
- Eagerness to learn and improve
Given the wide variety of individuals working in the tech field, you can rest assured there is a role out there that’s just right for your background and career aspirations.
Individuals choosing to work in cybersecurity and other technology roles report feeling challenged by their colleagues, supported by their managers, and that the opportunities they are given prioritize their growth.
To be effective, the cybersecurity workforce needs to be diverse, creative, and one step ahead of criminal hackers, who constantly think of ingenious ways to breach, hack, and attack systems every day.
This is why so many who excel in the cybersecurity field start out in other professions – they think differently and are highly adaptable. Since organizations across all sectors store data digitally in today’s modern, computerized world, cybersecurity specialists with expertise in a variety of other professions are especially valuable.
Cybersecurity isn’t just about understanding networks and systems. It’s about understanding how an industry works, how the people who run it think and behave, and, ultimately, how a particular industry organizes its systems and data on a fundamental, analog level.
Unlike most careers, there is no ideal background that’s needed to become a cybersecurity professional—anyone can do it. From ride-share drivers to school teachers, from 17 to 68 years old, cybersecurity is an industry that’s enticing and accessible to people of all backgrounds.
All you need to get started is the right training, hands-on practice in a lab, and an understanding of how cybersecurity and penetration testing is provided as a professional service.
Starting With a Non-Technical Background
If you consider yourself an individual with a non-technical background, rest assured cybersecurity specialists come from all walks of life and experiences.
A few non-technical skills that could help you succeed include problem-solving, decision-making, leadership, and communication skills. Soft skills such as these can be strengths when it comes to working in a fast-paced environment where confronting challenges is part of the day-to-day.
While the learning curve to get into cybersecurity may seem steep, you’ll be surprised to know that many cybersecurity professionals, and technology professionals in general, have stood where you stand today.
Here are some easy ways to get you started in cybersecurity:
- Download or Purchase an Introductory Guide. One way to learn about the field is through a good old-fashioned book or guide (whether physical or online). There are countless books that dive into the field and can teach you cybersecurity fundamentals in a very detailed manner. There may also be digital copies of these cybersecurity intro guides that can offer you a bit more content, including lessons, laboratories, or online support.
If you choose to go this route and purchase a text-based guide, make sure you invest in one that offers comprehensive coverage of the field and its technologies.
- Subscribe to a Cybersecurity Education Service or Channel. You can learn much of what you need to enter a new discipline from online video resources. When in doubt, turn to YouTube. While easily accessible and free, this route requires a great deal of self-discipline.
Additionally, searching for content that is relevant and covers the exact materials you need may sometimes be challenging. Free online video resources can introduce you to fundamentals as well as more advanced aspects of the field in an easily-digestible way.
If you choose to learn cybersecurity via pre-recorded videos, you will find convenience in having all lessons available to study at your desired pace.
- Enroll in the University of Miami Cybersecurity Professional Bootcamp. What if you could get a taste of what a job in cybersecurity is really like before committing to a set path into the field? The University of Miami Cybersecurity introductory course allows individuals to do just that, covering the fundamentals of cybersecurity while also providing an in-depth look at the industry and different roles.
Our introductory course is delivered 100% live and online, and includes Q&A sessions with instructors who are active cyber professionals, as well as hands-on laboratories simulating real-world scenarios. If you decide you want to enroll in a full training program after taking the introductory course, you’ll join a community of other students and instructors who will guide you and help you acquire the skills you need to enter the cybersecurity job market
Starting With a Technical Background
If you consider yourself to have a technical background, you’ll likely be able to leverage some, if not all, of your current skill set in a cybersecurity career. If your technical experience is not in cybersecurity, one way to advance into the field is to acquire industry-recognized cybersecurity certifications. The ideal path for you may be diving right into an intensive or accelerated course that can expose you to concepts beyond the fundamentals.
- Purchase or Download an Advanced Guide. One way to acquire more advanced knowledge in cybersecurity is to use preparation textbooks that cover the materials which may be on the most popular certification exams. Such textbooks or guides will often include potential questions you will encounter in the exam and real problems you can solve.
Ensure you are confident in your ability to self-motivate before committing to this method of educating yourself. A guidebook can provide you with challenging examples of things you may encounter in the field, but it will be up to you to solve them alone.
Hiring a tutor or joining a study group may be the best way to connect self-taught materials to an in-depth comprehension.
- Join the Workforce and Learn on the Job. Another way to obtain cybersecurity technical skills and certification knowledge is to pick it up on the job. See if you can get involved in any projects led by the cybersecurity or IT team within your organization, to gain some practical experience. By reaching out to coworkers or superiors about their experience working in the industry, you may have an easier time figuring out the best path for someone in your shoes.
Remember, the more skills and certifications you acquire before you start a job in cybersecurity or enroll in any additional training, the better equipped you’ll be in your career path.
- Enroll in a Bootcamp or Certificate Prep Course. Programs like the University of Miami Cybersecurity Professional Bootcamp cover the foundational topics that can assist you in acing the exams for globally recognized certifications. The information tested in these exams evaluates a professional’s knowledge of both the fundamentals of cybersecurity as well as more advanced problems that require in-depth training and technical knowledge.
Designed by industry-leading cybersecurity professionals, the program provides each student with the comprehensive knowledge and training necessary to pursue a career in cybersecurity.
Network Online and In-Person
As in any professional field, who you know is just as important as what you know. Networking and building relationships with cybersecurity professionals can be an important stepping stone in your career path.
There are professionals and organizations that are focused on expanding the industry and connecting tech-savvy, forward-thinking individuals with career opportunities. You can get acquainted with these organizations and professionals in several ways.
Cybersecurity conferences and online workshops or panel events occur year-round. To connect with specialists in your area, register for upcoming conferences and meetups. You’ll have a chance to not only network but also learn about organizations and new technologies emerging in the field.
To meet specialists at an in-person event or find an online cybersecurity community, check out these cybersecurity groups. If there are no cybersecurity events near you, you can always be the first to start a group and attract like-minded individuals.
Alternatively, social media is a particularly good place in which to promote yourself professionally. Many cybersecurity leaders have a strong social media presence and share their knowledge and insight to help up-and-coming cybersecurity specialists.
Entry-Level Positions in Cybersecurity
When considering a career in cybersecurity, it’s important to understand the different positions currently in demand. The industry is generally divided between red team and blue team roles.
Red teams focus on offensive cybersecurity tactics to test the efficiency and resilience of an organization’s systems. They mimic the activities and techniques of cybercriminals to determine if the company’s network can withstand a particular type of attack, or if there are vulnerabilities in the system.
Some examples of Red Team jobs include:
- Penetration Tester
- Offensive Cybersecurity Analyst
- Cybersecurity Crime Investigator
- Ethical Hacker
- Vulnerability Assessment Analyst
The Blue Team is the defense. They ensure that no one without authorization can access the network. It is the Blue Team’s job to make sure all systems remain secure at all times.
Some examples of Blue Team jobs include:
- Security Operations Center (SOC) Analyst
- Information Security Researcher
- Network Operations Center (NOC) Technician
- Network Security Administrator
- Digital Forensics Examiner
Organizations often employ a mix of Red Team and Blue Team specialists within their cybersecurity department, to ensure maximum protection across all devices and data. The two teams often work together to run advanced simulation scenarios to identify vulnerabilities and threats, and to determine how to improve operations.
Securing systems and infrastructure on a large scale requires a great deal of manpower across the gamut of cybersecurity subfields. This brings with it a tremendous opportunity for individuals to exercise their skills and creative thinking as they work on a variety of tasks, using the latest technology.
Common Entry-Level Cybersecurity Salaries
Like in every industry, job descriptions and salaries can vary a lot for cybersecurity entry-level positions depending on geographies, experience levels, and any certifications required.
However, the high demand for cybersecurity professionals nationwide has resulted in higher-than-average salaries, including for entry-level positions
You can use many different online tools to check your earning potential. Here are the ones we recommend:
- The Bureau of Labor Statistics is the official fact-finding agency for the U.S. government, and as such aggregates and reports official, verifiable data in the broad field of labor economics and statistics. According to their website, the median annual wage for information security analysts was $103,590 in May 2020.
- ZipRecruiter can also be a great tool. They use an algorithm to generate an estimated pay range for each job listing.
- Salary.com uses a combination of compensation consultants reviews and “applicable market pay data.” The website shows that the average salary for entry-level cybersecurity analysts in Miami, FL is $69,191 as of August 27, 2021, but the salary range typically falls between $63,062 and $75,835.
Other online resources include sites like Glassdoor and SalaryExpert, where you can browse through different entry-level positions in any location throughout the United States. Keep in mind that cybersecurity jobs can often be performed remotely, so you don’t have to limit your search to the specific locations you can commute to.
As you start negotiating your employment contract, researching the salary ranges associated with common entry-level cybersecurity roles is always a good idea, but keep in mind that the eventual salary you are offered will depend on a number of factors, including your level of experience, any certifications you might have, and your overall education.
Design Your Own Path
Every learner is different, so the best way for you to move forward is to assess your own background, skills, and experience and figure out what will work best.
However, it might help to hear what other learners who have already gone through our Cybersecurity Professional Bootcamp have to say about their experience with us. Hopefully, by listening to first-hand testimonials of people who have been in your shoes, you’ll be able to make a more informed decision for your future.
Here are a few:
- Andrew Wolff
- Sofia Solorzano
- Chase Mitchell
- Alvaro Nino
- Vince Urrutia
- James Harnage
- Dan Hahl
- Elizabeth Baker
- Anthony Mojica
Take the Next Step
Taking the first step is often not easy, but if you want to launch a career in a thriving tech field, it’s time to get started.
In this guide, you’ve learned what cybersecurity professionals do, how much their average salaries are, what certifications can boost your credentials, and what the most common entry-level jobs are.
If you are ready to change your career, the University of Miami Cybersecurity Professional Bootcamp is here to help you get started in this skyrocketing industry.
Not only is our bootcamp designed to give you an in-depth foundational knowledge of cybersecurity tools and techniques, but our virtual learning ecosystem has all the resources you need to practice and hone the skills you need to be job-ready.
We are in the business of changing lives and empowering people to pursue better opportunities for their future. That’s why our Cybersecurity Professional Bootcamp focuses on what matters: helping you gain the job-ready skills that recruiters look for.
With 100% live, online classes, you can keep your day job while you prepare for the next phase of your career. In just 10 months, you could be completing the University of Miami Cybersecurity Professional Bootcamp and getting your foot in the doot for your first job.
Our career services team will work with you from day one, helping you with your online profiles, interview skills, and networking opportunities. While we cannot guarantee job or internship placement, you’ll have access to our extensive network of national and local industry partners as soon as you are ready to join the cybersecurity workforce.
You also don’t have to commit to the full program right away. We offer learners the opportunity to test-drive our bootcamp by signing up for our Introductory Course. It is a stand-alone course, and in just 30 hours you’ll get a taste of our online learning environment, the quality of cybersecurity education we provide, and the practical skills you’ll be able to hone.
To learn more, you can visit our course page to download our course catalog and explore our syllabus.