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How To Become A Cybersecurity Specialist? 5 Things To Know

4 Min. Read

With the growing and concerning increase in cyber attacks comes the ever-expanding need for cybersecurity specialists.

Now more than ever, many of us conduct most – if not all – of our business admin, personal and professional data, and financial endeavors online, which makes us vulnerable to a cyber attack.

In September 2022 alone, an estimated 35.6 million data breaches and cyber-attacks were recorded worldwide. And the truly scary part – this is considered a “comparatively quiet month”.

So, with numbers like that, it’s safe to say there is a demand for cybersecurity specialists.

What is a Cybersecurity Specialist?

A cybersecurity specialist’s role is to secure online information systems and protect a company’s computer networks from hackers or other data breaches (whether deliberate or accidental). They will monitor, analyze, investigate, detect, and respond to online security breaches.

Typically, a cybersecurity specialist will work on or with an IT team to help protect a company from being vulnerable to security risks, data breaches, information leaks, theft or fraud, financial losses, etc.

Companies that deal with sensitive information, such as financial details, personal data, private information, and so on, will need the skills of a cybersecurity specialist to ensure no vulnerable information falls into the wrong hands. More often than not, cybersecurity skills are outside that of a traditional IT worker.

What is a Cybersecurity Specialist?
Flickr Image by Idaho National Laboratory

How to Become a Cybersecurity Specialist?

If you have an interest in becoming a cybersecurity specialist, here’s what you need to do:

#1 Have Strong Technical Skills

Good technical skills are non-negotiable!

To get into the cybersecurity industry, you would need prior knowledge of computer networking, security protocols, computer science, and data encryption.

You would also need to understand a hacker’s mind, motives, and next move. Staying one step ahead of a hacker is key to nailing the cybersecurity game.

#2 Study to Become a Cybersecurity Specialist

Knowledge is key, and many organizations will only take on a candidate for a cyber security role if they come with certification from professional organizations, such as the SANS Institute.

Cybersecurity specialization requires certain skills that generally cannot be self-taught, and most hiring organizations will require prior knowledge, education, and certification to back you up. This means investing in a cybersecurity course or looking into higher education.

Most companies will not expect you to have PhDs or an MA, but the more knowledge and experience you have working with information technology (IT), the easier you will find expanding your knowledge and dipping into the realm of cybersecurity. For example, having a Bachelor of Science degree in computer science is a good start.

The good news is, it won’t require quitting your day job either. You can study around work with an online course or something like the Open University. If you have no prior experience in this area, a course will help you on your way to obtaining an entry-level role in cybersecurity, in which there will very likely be room for growth and expansion.

Cybersecurity is one of the industries where education and certification are crucial, as most (if not all) companies will not be willing to offer full training. The more education you have, the better your chances of getting a foot in the door.

#3 Cybersecurity Experience

Or at least experience working with IT.

While many companies will hire for roles based on attitude and potential (which is great), the need for IT security experience is also important.

This can come in the form of internships, work experience, or working in another role within the IT sector. Demonstrating more than a working knowledge of information technology and the needs and expectations of a cybersecurity specialist will help you get into the industry.

Cybersecurity Experience
Flickr Image by Hagerstown Community College

#4 Networking

Networking also plays a key role when trying to crack into any industry.

Building a professional network of network-orientated cybersecurity professionals will help you seek out roles and can act as tangible referees when applying for a cybersecurity job.

Joining online organizations is a good place to start.

#5 Choose an Area

The cybersecurity field is rapidly expanding, one of which has many areas of expertise to delve into, so finding the specialization you’d like to begin with is a good start.

Some of the focal areas include:

  • Cloud Security
  • Cyber Defense
  • Digital forensics & incident response
  • Open-Source intelligence (OSINT)
  • Penetration testing & red teaming
  • Security management, legal, & audit
  • Cybersecurity & IT essentials

How to Become a Cybersecurity Specialist: FAQs

Some qualifications required by the cybersecurity industry may include:

See Also: Microsoft Cybersecurity Architect

How long does it take to become a cybersecurity specialist?

Timelines vary depending on what specific area you’re heading into and the level of your current technical background and expertise. But generally, it can take 2 – 4 years to acquire the required skills, experience, and certification for an entry-level cybersecurity engineer role.

What are the top skills you need for a cybersecurity career?

Some of the skills that are pivotal for a career in cybersecurity include:

  • Problem-solving
  • Advanced technical knowledge and prowess
  • An understanding of cybersecurity across multiple platforms
  • A keen eye for detail
  • Knowledge and understanding of hacking
  • Good communication skills
  • Constant desire to learn

Does cybersecurity require a knowledge of coding?

Generally speaking, most entry-level cybersecurity roles do not require a background in coding.

Can a beginner learn cybersecurity?

Due to the ever-growing need for workers with cybersecurity skills, it has never been a better time for a career change into cybersecurity. The industry is crying out for skilled workers, so doing your research into accredited education and certifications and then finding entry-level roles within cybersecurity is definitely an option for cybersecurity novices.

If you have some prior knowledge, experience, and a fundamental understanding of why a company needs a cybersecurity analyst or specialist, you have better chances of finding an organization that will offer in-house training (or pay for additional training) to further your knowledge and skills in cybersecurity.

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Thank you for reading my blog.

If you have any questions or feedback, please leave a comment.

-Charbel Nemnom-

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About the Author
Charbel Nemnom
Charbel Nemnom is a Senior Cloud Architect, Swiss Certified ICT Security Expert, Certified Cloud Security Professional (CCSP), Certified Information Security Manager (CISM), Microsoft Most Valuable Professional (MVP), and Microsoft Certified Trainer (MCT). He has over 20 years of broad IT experience serving on and guiding technical teams to optimize the performance of mission-critical enterprise systems with extensive practical knowledge of complex systems build, network design, business continuity, and cloud security.

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