What is Cybersecurity, Anyway? How to Get a Job in This Growing Field

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April 22, 2024 at 3:40PM UTC
Are you looking for a meaningful job with a meaningful salary? Believe it or not, you've come to the right place. 
Cybersecurity is one of those fields you see in headlines without really understanding the ins and outs of the industry. What is cybersecurity, and what cybersecurity careers exist out there? Fairygodboss held the "Intro to Cybersecurity" webinar with special guests Rebekah Mohr, a security manager at Accenture, and Minela Bajrovic, an Advanced Manufacturing Engineer at Halliburton with a specialization in machine monitoring, to answer all of your questions about the trending industry. 

What is cybersecurity?

There's one question we have to answer before we answer anything else: what exactly is cybersecurity? 
“Cybersecurity is all about protecting people’s data, protecting people’s IP, protecting an organization from cyber crime," Mohr offered. 
She went on to explain the difference between OT and IT cyber security, the primary division of careers in the industry: "IT stands for information technology, the big focus there is on confidentiality and information and data and IP. OT is operational technology, so now we’re talking about refineries, chemical facilities, water treatment plants and making sure that those are protected in a cyber fashion."

Are cybersecurity jobs in demand?

Yes. According to Mohr, there is a massive demand for qualified talent in the cybersecurity field. In fact, a 2018 report conducted by Cybersecurity Ventures and sponsored by Herjavec Group called "The Cybersecurity Jobs Report: 2018-2021" found there will be approximately 3.5 million open cybersecurity jobs by 2021, making it a massively in-demand sector in the U.S.

What kind of degree do you need for cybersecurity?

Both Mohr and Bajrovic agreed that a basic understanding of math and programming or coding helps both to land an initial job in cybersecurity and move around in the industry. Bachelor's degrees in computer science, information technology, math, statistics or a combination of the three disciplines may be helpful in your job search. 
However, the women were careful to say that a formal education in these topics is by no means a requirement of the field. In fact, Mohr spoke to the diversity of skills that are needed in the industry — everything from foreign language skills to the ability to practice law. 
There are several online programs that teach important cybersecurity fundamentals and provide "street cred," which Mohr called the key to success in the field. The women suggested studying up using The Open PLC Project, along with the ICS-CERT training modules. While some of the programs are free, others come with a hefty price tag. Mohr suggests working these more expensive learning opportunities into your compensation package when negotiating with an employer. 

What jobs are available in cybersecurity?

Many cybersecurity jobs fall into one of the two cybersecurity functions mentioned above: IT or OT. However, as Mohr and Bajrovic mentioned, not all cybersecurity jobs are incredibly technology-heavy and many do not require the stereotypical "cyber" skills like programming.
We rounded up 13 promising jobs anyone interested in the cybersecurity industry can consider, no matter their skills or proficiencies. 

13 careers in cybersecurity to consider:

1. Security consultant

Like Mohr, security consultants are experts in their field with a variety of responsibilities. They evaluate cybersecurity risks and guide organizations towards all-encompassing solutions. Each project a security consultant works on may be different, so they need to be flexible, tech-savvy and natural problem solvers with strong communication skills and a passion for helping people in their space. 

2. Manufacturing engineer with a specialization in security 

Like Bajrovic, manufacturing engineers who help to digitize and secure technology are strong players in the cybersecurity industry. Manufacturing engineers tend to have engineering degrees, and are both proficient in math and tech-savvy. 

3. Penetration tester

A penetration tester performs routine tests on an IT system to diagnose its weaknesses. Because they often use their own programs to try to break the system, technology skills are preferred, along with a strong attention to detail and excellent communication skills. 

4. Security software developer

Security software developers do exactly what you think they do: they build and integrate security softwares into applications softwares during the design and development process. They tend to have a computer science or programming background. 

5. Security architect

Security architects create and execute network and machine security across an organization, like an in-house security consultant. They tend to be big-picture thinkers who are adept in problem solving and technology solutions.

6. Information security analyst

Information security analysts act as the front line against cyberattacks. They protect networks from breaches by installing firewalls and encryption and routinely monitoring systems for strange behavior. 

7. Computer forensics analyst

Forensics analysts work with law enforcement agencies to deal with the aftermath of cyberattacks, doing things like recovering lost data, investigating data trails, and analyzing records and behaviors to establish suspects.

8. Security systems administrator

The security systems administrator is often responsible for the day-to-day operation of security systems, along with developing internal security procedures. This may include running daily tests and backups, managing a team of security analysts and other managerial tasks.

9. Physical security manager 

Physical security managers are responsible for managing and maintaining physical security measures, from security infrastructure like walls to teams of security professionals. 

10. Translator

Like in any industry, translators in the cybersecurity industry, well, translate conversations (and sometimes code) from one language to the primary language of their team. This can assist in security intelligence —  understanding the risks posed by cyber attackers. 

11. Ethical hacker

Ethical hackers are hired to infiltrate the security of their employer’s systems, testing security protocols using the same techniques attackers would. Ethical hackers usually have a CEH certificate and an extensive coding background.

Is cybersecurity a good career?

If they are anything like Mohr and Bajrovic, many people in the industry would say "yes."
 Mohr shared that she loved working in the cybersecurity industry for a variety of reasons, from the meaningful work to the good salaries. She said many women she knows in the industry love that they are causing real change and protecting real people, making each day feel a bit more purposeful than a day in any old office. 
At the same time, she said cybersecurity has amazing job security, as the work requires a unique amount of problem-solving and can't be automated. And with a shortage of qualified people in the U.S. to take cybersecurity jobs right now, the power to negotiate higher salaries, better benefits or continuing education opportunities is very present. Bajrovic echoed her sentiments, and added that being a woman in the growing industry offered the important opportunity to lay the foundation for a strong, inclusive industry of the future. 
Mohr also pointed out that the industry is multi-faceted, allowing plenty of space for career growth and exploration; it's truly an industry that you can grow and change within, as evidenced by the diverse career opportunities listed above. 

To gain more insights, watch the full webinar here


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