How to Start a Career in Cyber Security (+FREE eBook)

How to Start a Career in Cyber Security

Why is it so hard to get into cyber security? 

This a common lament of many of those aspiring to enter the booming cyber security industry and get access to high salaries, a remote work lifestyle, and rewarding career opportunities. 

But if you don’t know how to enter cyber security and you feel lost and confused by the advice, where do you even begin?

Don’t panic! We’ve done the hard work for you. 

In this guide on how to start a career in cyber security with no experience, you’ll learn about the cyber security landscape, foundational knowledge for cyber security careers, certifications, getting cyber security experience, and standing out in the job market.

So, without further ado, let’s dive in.

Understand the Cyber Security Landscape

Disillusionment is inevitable in the pursuit of truth and justice.

—Anonymous

What Is Cyber Security and What Does It Encompass?

Cyber security comprises many entry points and job types. The following is a diagram showing the various domains of operation under the umbrella:

The essence of all the cyber security domains above is risk management. No one would hire someone inexperienced to mitigate risks professionally; the stakes are too high.

That’s why entry level positions in cyber security are hard to find, but those requiring experience are everywhere.

Cyber Security Careers List

Most cyber security professionals specialize in at least one domain. Here, we list examples of cyber security job titles and responsibilities.

Technical jobs require you to handle security incidents on the machine level, such as ethical hacking. In contrast, non-technical jobs refer to positions that don’t involve direct technical manipulation on a day-to-day basis, such as legal or managerial roles. 

Read Top 10 Careers in Cyber Security and 50+ Cyber Security Job Statistics and Trends to learn more about the jobs mentioned below.

Technical
Penetration Tester/Ethical Hacker
Security Operations Center Analyst
Security Administrator
Network Security Architect
Cloud Security Engineer
Cyber Crime Analyst/Investigator
Non-Technical
(Chief) Information Security Officer
Financial and Risk Analyst
Information Security Auditor
Cyber Security Sales Engineer
Cyber Security Attorney
Content Creator (write for us)

Here’s a diagram labeling different cyber security roles with their domains:

You don’t need to set your career path in stone, but we advise you to consider your direction. The following are some courses that’ll clarify your picture of the cyber security landscape:

Cyber Security Education and Development

“Investing in yourself is the best investment you will ever make. It will not only improve your life, it will improve the lives of all those around you.”

―Robin Sharma

If you’re wondering how to get into cyber security without a degree, you’ve found the right section in this guide. Here, we describe how your education and career unfold over time and explain how to make a career change.

The most important fundamental skills you need are IT, Networking, and General Cyber Security, usually through getting relevant certifications. These correspond to Stages 1, 2, and 3 in the roadmap below.

It takes roughly 11–12 months for a beginner to learn basic IT and networking skills, while it takes as little as three months for those with prior IT knowledge.

You’ll use what you’ve learned to decide on a direction in Stage 4: Advanced Generalist or Cyber Security Specialist

Advanced Generalist roles have a broad understanding of both offensive and defensive aspects of cyber security, while specialists focus on one of these two aspects.

Apart from technical skills such as programming, it’s essential to develop non-technical and soft skills, such as critical thinking, creativity, strong communication skills, resilience, and leadership. 

Here’s an overview of the professional skills you need in each stage of your cyber security career. You don’t need to know all of them at once, develop the ones that best suit your career goals:

The beginner-friendly courses on information security fundamentals below will help you get started on your cyber security education.

Cyber Security Certifications

“Anyone who stops learning is old, whether at twenty or eighty. Anyone who keeps learning stays young. The greatest thing in life is to keep your mind young.”

—Henry Ford

You may have noticed that almost every cyber security job advertisement contains terms such as CISSP, CCNA, CEH, A+, or Security+ in the job description. 

These are the names and acronyms of various industry-recognized IT and cyber security certifications. If you have a certification, you’ve met a certain industry competence standard.

From How to Get Cyber Security Experience (Fast):

[If] there’s one area where employers are still sticklers for “must-have” requirements, it’s industry-recognized certifications. By way of illustration, in 2022, 90% of cyber managers said they prefer to hire people with certifications—which is up from 81% in 2021.

The majority of these certifications carry a price tag. Some companies allow employees to apply for an allowance to take these exams if they align with the employee’s role. 

For example, if you’re an IT analyst at a bank and want to upskill in penetration testing, you can make a case for them to cover a fraction of your CEH expenses.

Cyber Security Career Path Certification: How to Get into Cyber Security Without a Degree

Those who do not know IT would benefit from the preparatory course material in basic IT certifications such as that of CompTIA ITF+.

Suppose you have some IT knowledge and live in the US or a region that values CompTIA certifications. In that case, you have a no-brainer. 

CompTIA has a stackable certification pathway of A+, Network+, and Security+. Earning this trio proves your solid IT, Networking, and General Cyber Security foundation and qualifies you for entry-level cyber security positions.

If not, consider other entry-level certifications, such as those from Cisco

For example, if you already possess some IT knowledge but need more networking expertise, Network+ and CCNA have overlapping content, except that many employers outside the US accept CCNA for networking and junior IT positions.

Once you’ve mastered Networking or General Cyber Security fundamentals, take a suitable cyber security certification that aligns with your career goals, such as OffSec Certified Professional, CySA+, and CEH

The following courses will gear you toward getting your first certification:

Gaining Cyber Security Experience and Building a Portfolio

“The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second-best time is now.”

—Anonymous

It’s rare to find cyber security job advertisements that don’t require experience. A typical position may require two to five years of experience, preferably with a certification. 

But how can you fill a cyber security skills gap without relevant experience?

The good news is that the required experience isn’t difficult to obtain. Hiring managers are open to recruiting people from non-cyber backgrounds, provided you’ve earned suitable IT and cyber security credentials.

How to Start a Career in Cyber Security With No Experience

You have several options to gain practical experience:

  • Showcase aspects of your non-cyber experience that would be valuable in a security role. If you worked in a technical role, emphasize your relevant technical expertise. If not, highlight soft skills such as project management, explaining technical concepts to non-technical users, and understanding and responding to business dynamics.
  • Earn industry certifications.
  • Network with people in cyber security:
  • Build your portfolio:
  • Take up a cyber security internship.

Now that you know better what “cyber security experience” actually means, it’s time to get your hands dirty. Here are some courses that’ll give you hands-on experience counting toward your cyber security career:

Making Yourself Job Ready

“Failing to plan is planning to fail.”

— Famous quote attributed to Benjamin Franklin

Having gained cyber security knowledge, skills, and experience, how do you tell employers they should hire you? 

After all the time and money you’ve invested, it’s discouraging to have mastered everything you could only to realize you fit nowhere on the job market or give employers a reason to choose other candidates over you.

Marketing Yourself and Personal Branding

It’s standard practice for companies and organizations to conduct background checks on their job candidates. 

The more strongly your online presence supports your cyber security career goals, the more likely they’ll choose you over someone less outspoken.

To secure your first job, you must demonstrate your abilities and passion for cyber security. Create a public profile on LinkedIn or other social media platforms and document your work and projects. 

Whether it’s your first or umpteenth time setting up a virtual lab, for example, keeping a record of your learning progress matters.

Network with others in the field through conferences and open-source projects, and share what you know with the cyber security community, including on Stack Exchange or Stack Overflow

Social media also has hashtags related to cyber security, such as #cybersecurity or #infosec. Be humble and respectful, and people will be willing to mentor you.

Setting up a Resume

You must provide a resume for each cyber security job you apply for showcasing your certifications and experience relevant to the jobs you’re applying for.

Instead of blasting the same resume to every employer, it’s more prudent to tailor it to different job descriptions so that hiring managers and resume-scanning algorithms can deem you a suitable candidate.

We have more tips on what makes a good cyber security resume.

Looking for Jobs

Once you have the skills, experience, certifications, and a solid online presence delving into cyber security, look at local job boards and notice the job descriptions, titles, and roles. 

How many years of experience do employers require? What skills and certifications do they mention? What are the responsibilities of a successful candidate?

If you are in the US, the recommended job board is Cyber Security Jobs. Register for Job Alerts immediately to get notified about the roles that interest you and fit your skill set. In the UK, look into JobServe, CyberSecurityJobsite, and others.

Preparing for Interviews

Once an organization has responded to your application, your next step is to ace the job interview. 

Know what they may ask, and prepare your answers well; get well rested and hydrated the day before, and remember to take any necessary leave if you can.

We have a detailed breakdown of typical cyber security job interview questions.

Cyber Security Career Roadmap

The cyber security industry offers diverse job prospects with many security foci. A solid foundation in fundamental hard and soft skills allows any aspiring cyber security professional to enter it confidently.

A common interview question across all industries concerns your career plans in the short term, such as in one, three, or five years. The diagram below explains how your cyber security career will progress as you devote yourself to this industry.

The following courses can help you prepare for the cyber security job you have in mind:

Accelerating Your Cyber Security Career Journey

While the above seems daunting, you’ve found the right place to jump-start your cyber security career.

At StationX, our passion has always been recognizing these challenges, so we built the Accelerator Program

Here, you’ll find a vibrant ecosystem built to keep you on track to building your career in cyber security, with personalized learning paths, unlimited mentorships, mastermind groups, and a supportive community to keep you engaged and committed to your journey.

Conclusion

Now you know how to start a career in cyber security with no experience. Much of your progress will boil down to actions you take starting today; you’re in control.

Sometimes, you may doubt yourself on this journey. 

You’ll wonder if you’re strong enough to face your fears of failure and inadequacy, about whether you have what it takes to excel in this highly competitive yet in-demand field, and you might even be anxious about the time needed to master everything.

The good news is that you don’t have to face them alone. A few of our informative articles conclude by wishing you success, but we’re offering you a unique opportunity to bring you there this time. 

Our Accelerator Program will help you enter cyber security smoothly and land an industry role quickly.

This program combines the essential elements for success in cyber security. You’ll have access to a wide selection of courses that build certifiable skills, hands-on labs that you can replicate to gain experience, and mentorship tailored to your current situation that walks you through the process of transforming from a neophyte to a professional in this exciting field.

What are you waiting for? Take the first step now.

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  • Cassandra Lee

    Cassandra is a writer, artist, musician, and technologist who makes connections across disciplines: cyber security, writing/journalism, art/design, music, mathematics, technology, education, psychology, and more. She's been a vocal advocate for girls and women in STEM since the 2010s, having written for Huffington Post, International Mathematical Olympiad 2016, and Ada Lovelace Day, and she's honored to join StationX. You can find Cassandra on LinkedIn and Linktree.

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