Getting Ahead in the Cybersecurity Career: A 5-Step Plan

Cybersecurity Career

Are you looking to break into the cybersecurity industry? The good news is that there are plenty of opportunities out there, but the bad news is that you need to be prepared. That is why, in this blog, we will provide you with a five-step plan to get ahead in your cyber security career path.

Step 1: Pre-Professional

These are people who are interested in a cybersecurity career but have no prior experience in the industry. Many cybersecurity professionals have degrees in computer science, but that doesn’t mean a musician or someone with another liberal arts background couldn’t work in the field. Research has stated that former journalists are an excellent threat to researchers due to their experience researching topics and communicating their findings in writing. Twenty-year veterans of law enforcement or the armed forces who are ready to make a career change would also excel in the field of cybersecurity. Many have prior experience as police detectives or investigators or have honed their IT and information-collection chops while serving in the armed forces. All of these can help you become a successful cybersecurity professional.

Step 2: Entry Level (1 to 3 Years)

While many entry-level jobs are in network management and IT support, some also exist for those with a background in business or the liberal arts who are working toward relevant security certifications.

Start in the field as a security operations center (SOC) analyst. Even though it can be tiring to work in a SOC for 12–18 months and get the basic cybersecurity certifications, this gets you ready for the next step in your cybersecurity career.

An entry-level data science professional can earn from $40,000 to $75,000. All you need is a data science-related bachelor’s degree and a cybersecurity certification from a reputed institute like USCSI.

Step 3: Mid-Career (3 to 5 Years)

Professionals in the cybersecurity field have reached this level once they have learned the basics of security and started to specialize in an area that interests them.

People who started their careers in networking may have chosen to focus on network security or cloud security infrastructure, while others who worked on incident response teams may have decided to focus on forensics.

Others may have experience programming or hold degrees in computer science but have decided to specialize in DevSecOps because of the promising job prospects in this growing field. It’s because developers tend to prioritize speed in releasing new products over ensuring the safety of those products. The expected salary during this phase is $75,000 to $100,000, and one needs a bachelor’s degree and multiple certifications.

Step 4: Senior Level (5 to 8 Years)

Leaders of threat intelligence teams, as well as those in charge of pen testing and incident response teams, are often found at this step of a cyber security career path. Many have realized that they are not suited for upper-level management and would rather deal directly with clients to identify security flaws and assist them in implementing solutions. Some choose to do a risk analysis and spend their time telling the CISO and upper management about the many risks that the company could face.

Others may also be technically trained, but they devote their attention primarily to legal and ethical compliance matters. They may have a technical background and have also studied policy. For instance, someone specializing in the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) would require not just a technical background but also knowledge of international commerce and politics. Moreover, one needs a history in e-commerce security, web development, and administration to become an expert in PCI DSS.

The expected salary during this step of the cybersecurity career is $100,000 to $150,000. You need to be a bachelor’s as well as a master’s degree holder, along with other cyber security qualifications, to be the top threat hunter and earn up to $250,000.

Step 5: Security Leader (More Than 8 Years)

Security executives, commonly termed CISOs at major firms with a C-suite, are cybersecurity specialists who can handle both projects and individuals. The top CISOs have broad backgrounds, including IT training and bank risk departments. Some specialized in risk and compliance, while others handled a few arrays of Windows servers and then networked them.

CISOs often acquire computer science or business degrees with IT management concentrations. A master’s in computer science with a cybersecurity focus is helpful but not necessary for experienced cybersecurity professionals. Nonetheless, from this point forward, people can earn between $150,000 and $250,000. The highest-paid executives at Fortune 500 companies even earn more than $250,000 per year.

The Bottom Line

Though the path to success in a cybersecurity career may seem daunting at first, taking the time to research and prepare can make it a much easier journey. By taking one step at a time, you will be well on your way to an exciting career in cybersecurity.

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