To those who aren’t familiar with cybersecurity, the word might conjure up mental images of robot security guards jangling huge sets of keys. While the reality is a lot less futuristic, cybersecurity is definitely one of the hottest digital careers out there.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the cybersecurity field is expected to grow by 22% over the next decade, and it’s predicted there’ll be 1.4 million jobs in cybersecurity by 2024. That growth is driven in large part by an increased need for cybersecurity professionals — especially as more companies move their operations online and into the cloud.
If you're curious about what it takes to be a cybersecurity professional, you've come to the right place! In this guide, we break down exactly what a career in cybersecurity entails; including what kind of cybersecurity jobs you can get, and how hard it is to break into the field.
Let’s get right into it!
What Kind of Jobs Are There in Cybersecurity?
As you break into the field of cybersecurity, it’s important to get a sense of the different directions you can explore within the field. Being a cybersecurity bootcamp graduate can mean there are multiple different roles available to you, which all involve a variety of different tasks and responsibilities.
Some of the most popular entry-level cybersecurity positions include:
Security auditor. Security auditors will audit and assess a company’s systems and processes to ensure they remain compliant. They’ll also flag any potential risks, and provide actionable steps for better protection against cyber attacks.
Information security analyst. This is one of the most popular cybersecurity roles, and entails developing security strategies, researching IT security trends, and monitoring networks in order to protect an organization’s computer systems.
Forensic examiner. Forensic examiners recover, analyze, and preserve digital evidence and data in the case of cyber attacks or breaches. They’ll also work out how the person was able to breach the system in the first place.
Gaining entry-level experience, and building up your understanding of security systems, can take you into mid-level cybersecurity roles such as:
Penetration tester. Also known as ‘ethical hackers,’ penetration testers will test and hack a company's security systems to identify weaknesses and opportunities for non-ethical hackers to strike.
Security engineer. Security engineers design, test, and maintain security systems that protect companies and employees from cyber attacks. They’ll also lead incident response teams when security breaches occur.
Experienced cybersecurity professionals can climb the career ladder to the very top, which includes c-suite roles like Chief of Cybersecurity or Chief Risk Officer (CRO).
What Kind of Companies Hire Cybersecurity Professionals?
Accelerated by the global pandemic, a growing number of companies are recognizing the need to be protected from cyber attacks and data leaks. In 2022, there’s an average of 1.2k cyber attacks happening every week — which affects almost every industry and sector under the sun.
For cybersecurity job seekers, this is great news: There are truly more cybersecurity jobs than ever, and you’ll be spoilt for choice with the kind of company (and industry) you can enter into.
The industries which are fertile ground for cybersecurity careers tend to be the ones that handle sensitive information, including:
Financial institutions (e.g., banks, credit unions)
Telecommunications companies (e.g., wireless and landline carriers, internet service providers)
Government agencies (e.g., law enforcement agencies and military branches)
Healthcare companies & national health services
Retailers & e-commerce companies
Major companies like Deloitte, EY, and Accenture are also known to regularly hire cybersecurity professionals at every level. To keep abreast of new vacancies, we recommend bookmarking cybersecurity job boards like Cybersecurity Jobs and Infosec-jobs.
Can You Work Remotely in Cybersecurity?
Remote work is here to stay, so it’s important to understand how flexible your new career path is (and how much scope there is to work from home).
Like many digital careers, cybersecurity is a job that can easily be performed remotely — especially with the addition of remote-collaboration tools that make it easier to update and sync with colleagues across time zones. External pen-testing, malware reversing, and other cyber-intelligence activities are usually best performed in a focused and autonomous way — making remote working an even better option for cybersecurity professionals who get distracted easily.
Ironically, many cybersecurity professionals are hired into companies to help them manage the risks of remote work. As cybersecurity professionals help create — and act as the guardians of — cybersecurity and data protection guidelines around working from home, they’d certainly have the companies trust when it came to performing their job remotely in a responsible way. To learn more, check out our on-demand sessions on being a Digital Nomad in tech.
Is Cybersecurity Hard to Get Into?
Protecting a company from cyber attacks is a significant undertaking, so companies require at least 5 years of professional experience in order to trust someone to do the job, right? Wrong!
As we’ve seen, there’s a global talent shortage for cybersecurity professionals — which means employers are looking to hire as soon as possible. They’re much more concerned about the technical skills needed to perform the role’s basic tasks than your previous experience or college degrees.
When it comes to learning in-demand cybersecurity skills, beginners are spoiled for choice. There are multiple credible cybersecurity bootcamps designed specifically to transform you from complete novice to job-ready professional.
On the Ironhack Cybersecurity bootcamp, you’ll get the chance to work on several projects that will establish and solidify your skills as well as doing a final review on risk and security management processes and security models. You’ll also get bespoke career support from industry leaders who know exactly what employers want to see, and how to succeed in your first cybersecurity position.
In short, no — cybersecurity is not hard to get into. All you need is a laptop, the time to dedicate to an intensive bootcamp, and a vested interest in the field! We write more about this in our guide to breaking into cybersecurity with no previous experience.
What Skills do Cybersecurity Professionals Need?
In order to land your first role as a cybersecurity professional, you need a resumé that showcases the in-demand skills employers are looking for.
Let’s unpack some of the most important hard and soft skills you’ll need to learn:
Computing skills. Cybersecurity professionals need to understand how systems work, from the hardware level up to the application and software levels. They need to be able to identify vulnerabilities in these systems and find ways to defend against them.
Problem-solving skills. The ability to investigate incidents, identify patterns, and resolve issues directly with stakeholders is essential for a cybersecurity professional.
Communication skills: Part of problem-solving involves explaining technical details in ways that others can understand — and speaking with stakeholders who aren't technical experts themselves.
Analytical skills: You'll be analyzing data from a variety of sources all day long as part of your job description, so if you’re considering a career in cybersecurity — chances are you already have an analytical mind!
It’s equally important to master these soft skills as it is to get to grips with the technical skills. Employers want personable, proactive cybersecurity professionals who are able to slot seamlessly into tech teams and directly impact business goals.
To give yourself the best shot, it’s worth investing in an intensive Cybersecurity bootcamp. There, you’ll go from complete beginner to job-ready cybersecurity professional in just 12 weeks.
What Does Cybersecurity Career Growth Look Like?
As an entry-level cybersecurity professional, you won’t have any trouble landing your first role. But what about beyond that? How much scope is there to grow and develop — and what does a typical cybersecurity career path look like?
As they first start out, many junior cybersecurity professionals opt for jobs that’ll give them the most exposure to security systems — like cybersecurity specialist or security administrator — so that they can specialize down the line. After a few years of experience, you might find yourself getting promoted to a more specialized mid-level position, like penetration tester or forensic analyst. As these roles require a keen attention to detail, and a comprehensive understanding of security systems, you’ll need a few years of preliminary experience first.
With career progression comes the opportunity to specialize — both in the work you do, but also in the industry you work in. Many industries have specific requirements when it comes to cybersecurity, so you could decide to build a niche as a healthcare or finance cybersecurity professional. This will allow you to get to know specific systems incredibly well, and understand exactly what cyber threats are most commonly faced in your industry.
With enough years under your belt, you’ll also have the choice to explore management positions; like security manager or incident response team lead. That’s not to say that individual contributors won’t benefit from limitless career growth: If you’re passionate about cybersecurity, the sky’s the limit!
What Makes a Good Career?
There’s a reason cybersecurity has had 0% unemployment for nearly a decade. With a growing number of major companies investing more in their cybersecurity efforts, cybersecurity bootcamp graduates can take advantage of the numerous opportunities and steady career paths available.
But cybersecurity might not necessarily be the right path for you. When searching for a new career path, it’s important to consider what kind of work will be the most rewarding above all else.
Here are some questions to ask yourself when figuring out your dream career:
Do I like this field? Do enjoy learning about new things in this field, and networking with industry professionals?
Will this field still be relevant in 10 years' time? After all, you don’t want to find yourself in the same boat a few years later.
Is it lucrative? If you can comfortably sustain yourself while doing what you love, you’re onto a winner!
If you’re still unsure which path to take, we recommend checking out our Career Vision Planner.