How to Get Into Cyber Security in 2024: A Quick Guide

How to Get Into Cyber Security

Do you want to know how to get into cyber security? This guide will show you how. 

You’ll discover what you must do to enter this booming industry and get access to high salaries, a remote work lifestyle, and rewarding career opportunities. 

First, this guide will help you evaluate if you’re suited for a role in cyber. Then you’ll learn what skills are necessary to enter the field and how to demonstrate them with industry certifications. 

Finally, you’ll learn how to prepare and apply for cyber jobs by gaining experience, building an online presence, preparing for an interview, and finding the right job.

Let’s start learning! 

Evaluating Yourself in a Cyber Security Role

Cyber security is a very attractive industry to get into. It offers high salaries, remote work, and rewarding career prospects. 

There’s also a high demand for skilled cyber security professionals. But before you explore how to get into cyber security, you must consider whether it’s the right industry by asking yourself these questions: 

  • Is this a field you want to pursue?
  • Will it be a difficult journey?
  • Are you prepared to stick with it?

Is Cyber Security For You?

Cyber security is not for everyone. It can be an incredibly rewarding, high-paid, and fulfilling career choice, but it’s full of challenges. 

With a career in cyber security, your technical skills, analytical thinking, and communication will all be challenged and you need to assess if you are up for this commitment. 

To find out, take a look at our article Is Cyber Security for Me? 

This article details yes-or-no style questions that assess your suitability for a cyber security career based on your strengths and interests. It’s a great way to see if you’re a good fit and will enjoy the challenging career that cyber security offers.

Is Cyber Security A Difficult Journey?

Cyber security is an incredibly rewarding field. 

This has led to fierce competition around entering the industry, making getting an entry-level role challenging. Once you enter the industry, how difficult your journey will be depends greatly on your career path and existing skill set. 

A skilled manager and a highly technical reverse engineer will face very different obstacles along their journeys. 

There are career paths for technical and non-technical people in cyber, and each has its challenges. How well-suited you are to overcoming these challenges will dictate how difficult your journey will be. 

Getting an entry-level role can become easier with some of the resources we provide at StationX, such as courses, blog articles, and our accelerator program.

Will You Stick With It?

A career in cyber security can be challenging. 

You have to work really hard to acquire the prerequisite knowledge, skills, and experience required to enter the industry while keeping up with its fast-paced nature. 

You need to be a strong, resilient, and committed individual to stick with it and make it in the industry. If you are, you’ll be overwhelmed with the rewards it can provide.

The Biggest Challenge With Getting Into Cyber Security

Before going any further, you need to know the biggest challenge of getting into cyber security. It’s not learning the skills, earning certifications, preparing for a career, or finding a job. 

You must plan and implement strategies to keep yourself motivated to move forward, hold yourself accountable for doing the work, and build positive habits that allow you to persevere and break into the industry. Lacking a strategy to maintain your motivation is why people fail.

In short, the main reason people fail isn’t due to the difficulty of the material or an inability to master certain tasks. It’s that they give up. This could be due to time constraints, finding excuses to take a break but not a reason to return, or lacking the initial commitment to carry yourself through. 

At StationX, we recognize these challenges, so we built the Accelerator Program. This program offers more than any online course, certification, or training can provide. It is a complete system built to keep you on track to landing a role in cyber. 

The program includes personalized learning paths, unlimited mentorships, mastermind groups, and a supportive community where you can share your successes and be held accountable. 

Our Accelerator program will keep you engaged and motivated, empowering you to remain committed to your journey. Before moving on, make sure you have a plan to stay motivated and keep on track!

Learning Cyber Security

Once you decide to pursue cyber security as a career, you can move on to acquiring the knowledge and skills necessary to succeed in the field. This is typically a three-stage process.

Stage 1: Essential IT Knowledge

You need a strong Information Technology (IT) foundation to succeed in cyber security. This includes troubleshooting common IT issues, understanding the components of a computer, being skilled with the Windows and Linux operating systems, having basic command line experience, and the ability to communicate with a non-technical audience through documentation and reports. 

Many of these foundational skills are taught in high school or college classes, and you’ll likely already possess many of them if you are interested in computers. 

If not, there are many free resources where you can quickly pick them up. However, if you want a structured approach that covers everything you need to know, read The Best IT Certifications for Beginners.

Stage 2: Networking

After learning how one computer works, you need to know how it can connect to other computers, share resources, and communicate. 

This is where networking comes in. To work in cyber, you must understand how hardware, protocols, and software are used to communicate between devices.

Networking includes things like the OSI Reference Model, TCP/IP, networking topology, routing and switching, network protocols and ports, Domain Name System (DNS), and virtualization. 

An understanding of networking and the ability to create your own networks will provide you with a solid foundation to begin learning about cyber security. You can find a list of the best networking courses for beginners here.

Stage 3: General Cyber Security 

Once you have a strong understanding of IT and networking essentials, you’re ready to begin learning the basics of cyber security. 

Cyber security is a vast field made up of many domains such as application security, security architecture, auditing and compliance, cloud security, security operations, sales, engineering, and more. 

Cyber Security Roles Domains

At this stage, you’ll learn each domain very shallowly and explore which one you are most interested in. If you like discovering how things work and then breaking into them, you might enjoy being a penetration tester. 

Meanwhile, if you prefer building and maintaining stuff, you may like a role in security engineering. If you’re unsure of what domain you want to enter, you can always change positions throughout your career.

Acquiring these skills takes time. Setting yourself a realistic timeline is important. Individuals with experience in IT will need to devote around 200 study hours (three to four months) to cover all the learning material, while complete beginners will likely take 673 hours (11 to 12 months). For more details, read How Long Does It Take To Learn Cyber Security?

Cyber security is a constantly evolving field, as new tools, technologies, and hacks are released daily. 

This means that as a cyber security practitioner, you must be willing to learn new things and push your knowledge forward. It could be that you need to get another industry certificate, read up on the latest vulnerabilities, or learn a new hacking technique

The learning never stops.

How to Get Into Cyber Security Without A Degree

At this point, you want to work in cyber security and have gained some knowledge to help you do this. Next, you need a way to demonstrate you have the skills to enter the industry

This is where beginner cyber security certifications come to the rescue. Certifications are often faster and less expensive to earn than a degree.

Entry-level certifications prove to prospective employers that you possess certain skills and can fill a requirement, whether performing a penetration test or triaging security alerts. Unlike a degree, certifications hold global recognition due to the material being standardized regardless of your location. An employer doesn't know what your degree program taught you, but they know what an OSCP certification holder is capable of.

Employers don’t want to spend time and money teaching new hires the basics of cyber security. They want to train you to use their specific tools, follow their procedures, and fit in with their team. As such, they will filter job applicants based on credentials and favor well-known certifications.

This makes industry-recognized certifications—like the OSCP, Security+, and CEH—very popular. But before you go ahead and try to get an entry-level certification, you need to assess the skills it’ll teach you, how long it’ll take to complete, how much it’ll cost, and how much value it holds to employers. 

Let’s look at some entry-level certifications you can acquire at each stage of your learning journey.

IT Certifications

At stage 1, when you are learning IT fundamentals, there are several certifications you can go after. The CompTIA IT Fundamentals (ITF+) and CompTIA A+ are the most popular. 

The ITF+ proves that you are an advanced computer user, while the A+ demonstrates you have the ability to troubleshoot IT problems faced at the enterprise level. 

To learn the skills taught in these certifications, check out these resources: 

Networking Certifications

Stage 2 requires you to learn networking skills like building, troubleshooting, and administering enterprise IT networks. CompTIA’s Network+ and Cisco Certified Network Associate (CCNA) are the industry-leading certifications that demonstrate you have these skills. 

Great resources to prepare for these exams include:

Cyber Security Certifications

Once you’re ready to tackle cyber security content, you can choose from several entry-level certifications, including Google’s Cybersecurity Professional CertificateEC-Council’s Certified Ethical Hacker (CEH), and the SANS GIAC Security Essentials (GSEC).

The current industry leader, and the one most likely to get you a job, is CompTIA’s Security+. It demonstrates to employers that you fundamentally understand various cyber security concepts and tools across many cyber domains. 

To learn how more about CompTIA’s Security+, you can read this in-depth study guide or check out the courses below: 

How to Get Into Cyber Security With No Experience

Cyber security certificates are great. They demonstrate you have the prerequisite knowledge and skills to enter the industry. 

However, with the high demand for skilled cyber security professionals and fierce competition for places, an entry-level certification is no longer enough to qualify you for a position. 

You must do more to prepare yourself for your cyber security career. Let’s look at ways you can do that.

What Counts as Experience?

Experience counts for a lot when landing any cyber security role. It shows employers you have the skills to perform the role and can work well with others in a real-world environment. Gaining experience without being already in the industry can be difficult.

In How to Get Cyber Security Experience (Fast), we outline a three-step plan that can help you:

  1. Make the most of your non-cyber experience. This could include professional experience in general IT, network security and administration, or software development. As well as cyber-adjacent activities like attending/participating in a cyber security conference, Capture-the-Flag (CTF contests), and bug bounty hunting. Projects like building home labs, sharing code you've written, and even blogging can be included.
  2. Boost your credentials: Obtaining an industry-recognized certification with a strong hands-on component shows you have the practical skills needed for a role.
  3. Get help from people in the know: Seek support from people who already have experience and can help you stand out from the crowd, getting your foot in the door.

Build Your Online Presence

Often, having basic cyber security skills, a beginner certification, and some experience is not enough to stand out and land an interview for a role in cyber. 

You need an online presence that catches a recruiter or employer’s eye and has them contacting you for an interview.

The best place to build your online presence is LinkedIn. This is a business and employment-focused social media platform that connects candidates and employers. 

Creating a LinkedIn profile, uploading your resume and experience, and being active on the platform will get employers reaching out to you. 

You can also buid your online presence by creating cyber security content on platforms like Medium, GitHub, YouTube, or writing for StationX. It’s a great way to showcase your skills.

Prepare for the Interview 

Bypassing HR and getting an interview for a cyber security role is just the first hurdle. Once you reach this stage, you must dedicate ample time to prepare for the interview questions you are likely to be asked.

These will be a mix of questions designed to assess your ability to succeed in the given role. The questions you’ll be asked can be grouped into seven categories:

  • Personal: Questions about you as a person, your inspirations, motivations, and character.
  • Behavioral: Questions that assess your soft skills and ability to handle non-technical challenges.
  • Culture fit: How well you fit into a company’s culture based on your values, work style, or personality.
  • Knowledge-based: If you have the domain knowledge to succeed in the role you are applying for.
  • Technical: If you can demonstrate the technical competencies required to perform a role.
  • Situational: How well you respond to hypothetical situations based on past experience or technical expertise.
  • Problem-solving: Your ability to solve common cyber security problems or ones the company has experienced in the past. 

You can learn how to gain experience, build an online presence, and prepare for an interview in the following courses: 

Applying for Cyber Security Jobs

So you have your shiny cyber security certifications, a solid CV, and are ready for your first interview. Now is the time to start applying for cyber security jobs! 

Finding Jobs

To apply for entry-level cyber security jobs, you must know which ones exist. You’ll typically find the following listed on job websites as entry-level roles, although the position names may be slightly different:

  • Cyber Security Analyst: The frontline defenders that monitor and protect an organization’s networks and systems.
  • Junior Penetration Tester: Ethical hackers who simulate real-world cyber attacks on systems, networks, and applications to discover vulnerabilities before the bad guys do.
  • Security Auditor: Evaluate and assess the effectiveness of an organization's security controls and policies.
  • Vulnerability Tester: Identifies and assesses security weaknesses in computer systems, networks, and applications.
  • Cyber Security Sales Engineer: Reaches out to businesses to understand their cyber security needs and how a company can help them achieve these with a product or service.
  • Security Administrator: Oversees the installation of security solutions, management of these solutions, and troubleshoots any issues. 

To succeed when applying, try to match the jobs you search for with your current—or in-progress—certifications and skills. This will help you qualify for roles and bypass the dreaded HR filter that only looks to see if you have certain certifications, qualifications, or skills listed on your resume.

Job Searching Tips 

Now that you know what jobs to look for, how do you find them? 

Online job boards like Indeed, ZipRecruiter, or CyberSecurityJobs.com are the best place to find cyber jobs. 

These platforms allow you to filter jobs by location, certifications, skills, security domain/function, industry, and more. To help you get started, we have a full guide on how to apply for a cyber security job on CyberSecurityJobs.com.

Here are some tips when searching for jobs on these platforms

  • Don't be afraid to apply to positions you don't fully qualify for. Recruiters often include everything they can think of in a job description to reach the largest possible audience. So long as you meet 50-70% of the requirements, you should apply.
  • Don't worry about what the position is and if it doesn't align with your ideal goals. Once you're in the industry, moving around and finding your perfect role becomes easier. Just make sure you get in first.
  • Look for roles that match your current certifications, past experience, or skillset. This will make bypassing HR and doing well during the interview process easier.
  • Create job alerts that notify you when a new job is posted that matches your search criteria.
  • Tailor your CV to match specific roles when applying for a job. This helps you stand out and shows the recruiter you are a good match for the role.

Try one of the following courses to discover how to find the right cyber security job for you: 

Conclusion

Getting into cyber security is daunting. 

You have to learn a whole bunch of prerequisite IT and networking knowledge before you can even start learning cyber security fundamentals, you have to earn certifications to prove you have these skills, and you need to dedicate time to preparing and applying for jobs. 

There is a lot to do! 

As previously mentioned, the biggest challenge you will face is maintaining the motivate to persevere. To help you with this and get you into the cyber security industry as fast as possible, StationX offers an Accelerator Program

This program is specifically designed to provide you with what you need to succeed in cyber. It includes access to courses that build your skills, labs that give you experience, and mentorship that empowers you to land your first cyber security role. Check it out!

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  • Adam Goss

    Adam is a seasoned cyber security professional with extensive experience in cyber threat intelligence and threat hunting. He enjoys learning new tools and technologies, and holds numerous industry qualifications on both the red and blue sides. Adam aims to share the unique insights he has gained from his experiences through his blog articles. You can find Adam on LinkedIn or check out his other projects on LinkTree.

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