The Complete Guide to Careers in Cybersecurity

June 05, 2024

More than ever, the demand for cybersecurity professionals has skyrocketed worldwide, and for good reason. As cyber hackers and criminals advance their technological methods to obtain sensitive, personal, or financial information, more companies and individuals are at risk of losing thousands (or even millions) of dollars, if not their entire livelihoods.  

According to Statista, companies, governments, and individuals across the globe are expected to pay up to $13.82 trillion in cybersecurity damages by 2028. While these statistics may seem all doom and gloom, there is a bright side for cybersecurity professionals: The world needs you. The need for cybersecurity professionals will remain as long as technology advances. 

Whether you’re a student interested in information technology (IT) and security or a professional wanting to make a career change, opportunities in cybersecurity abound. Let’s look at some of the most promising options.

What Is Cybersecurity?

Cybersecurity professional in front of a screen.

Cybersecurity is a career path that involves minimizing risk and entry points from hackers that could obtain, steal, or distort important financial or personal information to extort money or disrupt business processes. Hackers may use a variety of methods or technologies to conduct these attacks, and mainly focus on infiltrating networks, Internet of Things (IOT) devices, datasets, applications, and websites.

Cyber attacks have massively changed in the past two decades. The first case of ransomware — malware that locks away a user’s data until they provide a ransom to the criminal — was the WannaCry ransomware attack in 2017. This significantly shifted the prevalence of cybersecurity attacks. In that case, more than 200,000 Windows users were affected. In 2023 alone, more than 317.59 million users experienced a ransomware attack.   

Criminals don’t stop there, either. With the help of AI, cybercriminals can use “deepfake”synthetic imaging to mimic authoritative figures in photos and videos to convince users to send important or financial information. 

However, just as these criminals can use adaptative methods, cybersecurity professionals also use similar technology to protect individuals, organizations, and businesses. By utilizing AI, professionals can detect potential entry points before an attack. In addition, software developers use cybersecurity practices when developing new Internet of Things (IoT) devices. With these advances, cybersecurity is less of a response to attacks and more of a preventative measure, saving organizations money and heartache. 

Do I Need a Degree To Work In Cybersecurity? 

No, you don’t need a degree to work in cybersecurity. However, earning a degree or certificate — no matter how big or small — can impress employers with your credibility. In addition, the higher the position, the more likely you will need additional schooling, especially when consulting and leading cybersecurity teams. 

Preparing for a Career in Cybersecurity in High School

You can start exploring your interest in cybersecurity as early as you want. Not all schools offer courses in cybersecurity or coding. However, many may offer AP Computer Science, AP Statistics, Calculus, or IT fundamentals, which can help you build the necessary skills and lexicon that you’ll use in cybersecurity and coding courses.

If your school doesn’t offer these courses, you can start or join a local cybersecurity club, where an advisor can help guide students through complex cybersecurity issues. Many schools also host coding clubs, where students can prepare for coding competitions nationwide. Winners of these competitions often receive financial prizes or scholarships, and if they don’t, it certainly looks great on a college application or resume. 

Further, it’s never too early to peek online to see what you can learn from cybersecurity professionals while you’re still in high school. Many websites like Khan Academy offer low-cost or free courses for young people interested in the subject.

College Degrees and Cybersecurity Training

There are varying degrees in cybersecurity, all with varying requirements. Each one can qualify you for different positions. The more education you earn, the more qualified you will be for certain positions, helping you expand your earning potential. Here are a few to consider: 

  • Associate Degree in Cybersecurity: An associate degree typically takes two years to complete and provides a foundational understanding of cybersecurity principles. This degree is ideal for those looking to enter the workforce quickly or for individuals already in IT who want to pivot to cybersecurity. 
  • Bachelor’s Degree in Cybersecurity: A bachelor’s degree is the most common educational path for cybersecurity professionals. This four-year program offers a comprehensive curriculum covering network security, cryptography, ethical hacking, and cybersecurity laws and policies. 
  • Master’s Degree in Cybersecurity: If you want to seek more knowledge on cybersecurity or gain a leadership role in the field, a master’s degree may be beneficial on top of a bachelor’s degree.This program, which usually takes two years to complete, delves deeper into specialized areas like advanced cryptography, cyber forensics, and security architecture. 
  • Doctorate in Cybersecurity: A doctoral degree is suited for individuals interested in research, academia, or high-level consultancy roles. This degree involves several years of intensive study and research, culminating in a dissertation that contributes to cybersecurity. 

Alternatively, you could always earn a computer science degree, which can be helpful in various other fields in the IT industry. To learn more about cybersecurity after earning this degree, you can also earn a certificate that can help boost your credibility and your earning potential:

  • CompTIA Security: Earn this certificate by taking this exam, which includes questions about current threats in the cybersecurity field and tests your knowledge on relevant subjects such as automation, the Internet of Things, zero trust, and risk management.
  • Certified Ethical Hacker (CEH): You can earn this certification after completing a 125-multiple-choice question exam covering cybersecurity fundamentals, including hacking methodologies, different types of scanning, return responses, and essential tools like OpenSSL and Hping. Often, you’ll need to complete some sort of education, boot camp training, and rigorous studying beforehand. 

Since cybersecurity is constantly evolving, it isn’t something that you can learn once and forget. Once you earn your education, constant development keeps you competitive in the job market. 

Other Educational Opportunities in Cybersecurity

Not all students can afford or want a traditional cybersecurity or computer science degree, and not every school offers cybersecurity courses. Thanks to online learning, anyone can learn more about cybersecurity through online boot camps, vocational schools, and even Reddit threads. 

These options may be particularly advantageous to adults or professionals with a full-time schedule, anyone with little time to dedicate to a traditional 4-year school, or even students hoping to expand their cybersecurity knowledge. Non-traditional methods are flexible, allowing you to finish courses independently. The only trade-off is that you may have knowledge gaps due to the lack of structure. To fill these gaps, you should also dedicate yourself to constantly researching and learning about cybersecurity trends that professionals discuss online. 

What educations do I need for a career as a cybersecurity professional?

Starting Your Career in Cybersecurity 

Developing a cybersecurity career doesn’t happen overnight. Instead, you’ll have to cultivate it carefully by first outlining positions and subfields you’re interested in and seeking them out.

Finding Your First Cybersecurity Job

Cybersecurity is a big field, which means there are plenty of entry-level positions available to start your career, including:

  • Security Analyst: Security analysts protect an organization’s software and networks from cyber threats. They conduct vulnerability assessments, analyze and respond to security breaches, implement security policies, and collaborate with IT teams to enhance security measures. 
  • Incident Responder: Incident responders investigate the source of a breach or an attack after it happened. Although it’s an entry-level position, most postings require two to three years of experience in IT or cyber forensics. If you operate well under pressure, are detail-oriented, and communicate well, this position may be for you!
  • Cryptographer: Cryptographers encrypt sensitive data from clients and companies so hackers can’t copy, steal, or change the data without knowing the encryption key. Since this position involves cryptographic theories, you’ll need a background in statistics, mathematics, and computer science. 
  • IT Security Consultant: IT security consultants typically work on an IT team, assessing and improving clients’ cybersecurity stances on a contractual basis. Like in-house security analysts, they develop security strategies, advise on data protection, and perform risk assessments. 
  • Penetration Tester: As the name suggests, penetration testers point out penetration or entry points in a company’s network or online infrastructures. Often, they perform “ethical hacking,” wherein they might construct fake phishing campaigns or other assessments to see how secure a company’s system is. Job postings for penetration testing often require one to four years in systems administration or network engineering. 
  • Compliance Analyst: Compliance analysts ensure adherence to regulatory requirements and internal security policies by conducting audits, developing compliance documentation, providing training, and monitoring regulatory changes. Key skills include knowledge of regulatory standards, strong attention to detail, organizational abilities, and good communication.
  • Security Operations Center (SOC) Analyst: SOC analysts are the frontline defenders in a security operations center, monitoring systems for threats and responding to incidents. They analyze alerts, investigate breaches, document actions taken, and collaborate with IT staff to improve security. Key skills include proficiency with SIEM tools, analytical thinking, attention to detail, and effective communication.
  • Cybersecurity Technician: Cybersecurity technicians assist in implementing and maintaining security measures to protect IT infrastructure. Their responsibilities include installing security software, monitoring alerts, performing system maintenance, and assisting in vulnerability assessments. Key skills include a basic understanding of network protocols, familiarity with security tools, strong problem-solving abilities, and attention to detail.

Although these are just entry positions, as you gain more experience — whether on the job or outside of it — you’ll be more qualified for higher-level and higher-paying positions. 

Cybersecurity Fields You Should Know

Within the cybersecurity field, you can specialize in particular emerging technologies. Each technology comes with its risks and solutions. You must keep updated on advancements as you learn more about the following fields and which technology you work with best. 

  • Blockchain Security: Cybersecurity experts in this technology will protect blockchain networks, a shared ledger of transactions, by encrypting the data and spotting suspicious activity within the transactions. 
  • AI Defense Mechanisms: Within this field, cybersecurity experts will develop AI algorithms to detect a potential cybersecurity attack by predicting threat patterns. 
  • Cloud Security: Though data stored on a shared cloud device is often more secure than traditional data storage methods, more hackers are finding ways to infiltrate it. Cybersecurity professionals will create protection policies specialized for cloud data.
  • IoT Security: These professionals will develop strategies for IoT networks, spot potential threats and entry points, and strategize firmware updates.

A truly strategic approach would be to specialize in more than one niche or type of technology. This means that as different employers adjust to changing technology trends, so will you. 

Applying and Interviewing

Once you decide which position you’d like to apply for and what industry you want to work in, you can start applying and interviewing. In this process, it’s essential to follow these tips:

  • Showcase Your Certifications: Most employers will check your qualifications first, and in cybersecurity, this means seeing how recent your certifications are and which ones you have.
  • Network: Research networking conferences, forums, and communities online for cybersecurity professionals. Here, people will share postings that may interest you.
  • Prepare for Interviews: Once you receive an interview, you must come up with a list of questions you have for the company and be ready to answer questions about yourself, how you might react in certain situations, and your cybersecurity skills. 

With these tips, you’re closer to getting your dream cybersecurity job. 

Example Resumes for Finding a Job in Cybersecurity

Many employers will use software to analyze dozens of resumes by only picking ones with the right keywords, even if that means tossing out perfectly qualified candidates. To pass through this software, tailor your resume to each application you apply for by using these keywords.

In addition, it’s important to keep your resume neat and organized. Here’s a resume format you can emulate with your own experience and education:

“John Doe
123 Cybersecurity Lane, Tech City, TX 12345
Email: [email protected] | Phone: (123) 456-7890
LinkedIn: | GitHub:


  • B.S. in Cybersecurity
    Tech University, Tech City, TX
    Graduation: May 2024
  • A.S. in Information Technology
    Community College, Tech City, TX
    Graduation: May 2022


  • CompTIA Security+, 2023
  • Certified Ethical Hacker (CEH), 2024
  • CompTIA Network+, 2022

Technical Skills

  • Security Tools: Wireshark, Nmap, Nessus, Metasploit
  • Languages: Python, Java, C++
  • OS: Windows, Linux, macOS
  • Network Security: Firewalls, VPNs, IDS/IPS
  • Cryptography: Encryption, PKI, SSL/TLS
  • Risk Management: Risk Assessment, Incident Response, Compliance (GDPR, HIPAA)


  • Cybersecurity Intern
    SecureTech Solutions, Tech City, TX
    June 2023 – Aug 2023
    • Conducted vulnerability assessments and penetration tests.
    • Monitored network traffic and responded to threats.
    • Implemented security policies and procedures.
  • IT Support Specialist
    Tech City IT Services, Tech City, TX
    Sept 2022 – May 2023
    • Provided technical support for network, hardware, and software issues.
    • Managed user accounts and access controls.
    • Conducted system maintenance and security updates.


  • Capstone Project: Network Security Simulation
    • Developed and secured a simulated network environment.
    • Implemented firewalls, IDS/IPS, and VPNs.
    • Conducted penetration testing and documented mitigation strategies.
  • Personal Project: Home Network Security
    • Set up and secured a home network.
    • Configured firewall and IDS.
    • Regularly tested and updated security measures.


  • Cybersecurity Club
    Tech University, Tech City, TX
    Sept 2021 – May 2024
    • Participated in competitions and hackathons.
    • Organized workshops and seminars.
    • Collaborated on cybersecurity projects.
  • Volunteer IT Support
    Community Nonprofit, Tech City, TX
    June 2021 – Aug 2021
    • Provided IT support and security advice.
    • Set up secure network connections.
    • Conducted basic cybersecurity training.

References Available Upon Request.”

Skills You Need to Succeed as a Cybersecurity Professional

Although each cybersecurity role may differ depending on the company and your daily responsibilities, most roles require a mix of technical and soft skills

Technical Skills Required in Cybersecurity

Your education, whether it be from a certified university or college or a boot camp, will teach you the following technical, otherwise known as “hard” skills: 

  • Cryptography: As mentioned earlier, encrypting code involves converting data into an unreadable format unless you have the key to decode it. You must know hash functions, public critical infrastructure, and secure communication protocols like SSL/TLS to gain these skills. 
  • Risk Management: Risk management involves identifying, assessing, and mitigating risks to an organization’s information assets. You’ll often build experience by conducting risk assessments, developing risk mitigation strategies, preparing incident response plans, and meeting compliance standards with relevant laws and regulations (e.g., GDPR, HIPAA, PCI-DSS). 
  • Security Management: This mainly involves following best security practices, auditing data, and creating authentication processes to protect any network, operating system, application, or data set.
  • Incident Response: Incident response involves preparing for, detecting, and responding to cybersecurity incidents to minimize their impact. You’ll need to know how to use specific tools to detect incidents and develop a response plan and post-incident review to minimize future incidents.

If you don’t learn these skills in school or boot camp, many organizations might be able to give you practice through an internship. 

Soft Skills Make a Difference

Even though most cybersecurity professionals need a lot of technical skills, they need just as many soft skills to support their work, including: 

  • Teamwork: Professionals often work in teams to address security challenges, respond to incidents, and implement security measures. Therefore, you must know how to work on a diverse team with collaboration as the cornerstone. 
  • Communication Skills: Clear and concise communication is vital for conveying complex technical information to non-technical stakeholders, such as executives, clients, or regulatory bodies. 
  • Problem-Solving: Cybersecurity professionals must identify and resolve issues quickly and efficiently.
  • Attention To Detail: Meticulous attention to detail is necessary for identifying potential vulnerabilities, analyzing security logs, and ensuring compliance with security protocols. A keen eye for detail can prevent minor issues from escalating into significant threats.
  • Adaptability: The cybersecurity landscape is dynamic, with new threats and technologies emerging regularly. As such, you need to be willing to embrace new tools and methodologies. 

Cultivating these skills isn’t easy, but the more you practice them in and out of the workplace, the easier it will be. 

What skills are needed for a job in cybersecurity?

Professional Development in Cybersecurity

Cybersecurity professionals are often stressed. This is mainly because, as mentioned earlier, cybersecurity continues to advance as cybercriminals seek out new technology and methods to infiltrate networks and steal data. 

With the advancement of IoT, cybercriminals can advance their tactics at a rapid rate. Since IoT devices are interconnected, they can test out new tactics on one device, and if it doesn’t work, they can test it on a different device connected within the same network. In particular, hackers will use Distributed Denial of Service (DDOS) attacks to infiltrate an edge network device, such as a router, to attack connected devices, rendering them vulnerable and unusable. This tactic and ransomware continue to be the most popular attacks. However, they won’t always be, so cybercriminals must continually find ways to build their skills and keep up-to-date about the latest trends. 

Professionals can use various methods, such as attending yearly conferences, engaging with online cyber communities, or even re-taking cybersecurity courses. These methods can also present networking opportunities, propelling your cybersecurity career further. 

Aspiring to High-Level Cybersecurity Roles

The best way to boost your earning potential in cybersecurity is to always plan for a high-level position. Here are a couple to strive for

  • Chief Information Security Officer (CISO): The CISO oversees an organization’s information security program. This role involves developing and implementing security strategies, managing security teams, ensuring compliance with regulations, and communicating with other department heads. To become a CISO, you need plenty of experience in various cybersecurity roles, strong leadership skills, and a deep understanding of business operations and risk management.
  • Cybersecurity Architect: Cybersecurity architects design and implement secure IT infrastructure for organizations. They develop security policies and protect systems and networks against potential threats. To gain experience, start as a security analyst or network security engineer and focus on system design and strategic planning.
  • Incident Response Manager: Similar to incident responders, incident response managers also handle cybersecurity incidents, but as managers, they are mainly the head of the coordinated response. In addition to experience in a traditional incident responder role, you must gain incident management and cyber forensics certifications.
  • Security Operations Center (SOC) Director: The SOC director oversees the operation of a security operations center, where security analysts monitor and respond to threats. This role involves managing SOC staff, developing monitoring and response strategies, and communicating with clients about these strategies. 

Although it may take time to build up enough experience to apply for these positions, once you do, you can be one of the key voices in the cybersecurity field. 

The Future of Cybersecurity Roles

Since cybersecurity is evolving rapidly, it’s difficult to reliably predict what the future will look like for cybersecurity professionals other than the fact that there will still be a future. The only differences may be what technology cybersecurity professionals will need to protect, such as cloud computing and IoT devices, and what technology they’ll use to protect these devices, such as AI.

In addition, Dotan Nahum at Cyber Defense Magazine states that the roles of cybersecurity professionals will inevitably blend beyond cybersecurity and IT departments. Cybersecurity, to be effective, is a group effort. The more everyone does in a team, a company, or an organization, the more protected they will be. Within the same Cyber Defense article, Nahum says that instead of focusing on minor efforts, cybersecurity professionals will experience more upward growth within companies, being promoted into business partners and influencers since cybersecurity is an integral part of business now. 

Whatever the future brings, it’s never too late to dive into cybersecurity. Within it, you have an expansive future ahead of you. 

Cybersecurity Career Resources

If you need help starting or advancing your cybersecurity career, check out the resources below:

Educational and Training Resources

  • LinkedIn’s List of Best Universities: If you want to gain an associate’s, a bachelor’s, a master’s, or a doctorate in cybersecurity, look at LinkedIn’s recommendations of the best universities for these programs.
  • Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP) Certification: Many cybersecurity leadership positions may require this certification, which you can earn after five years in cybersecurity. You’ll also become a member of ISC2.
  • Certified Information Security Manager (CISM) Certification: Most IT managers prefer cybersecurity applicants to have this certification, as it tests their knowledge of evolving security threats in technology like AI and blockchain. 
  • Certified Ethical Hacker (CEH) Certification: With this certification, you can prove your knowledge of hacking tactics, which is critical to preventing attacks from others.
  • Udemy: This resource offers various courses that range in cost and skill level. These courses teach you about ethical hacking, penetration testing, information security, and more. 
  • Coursera Cybersecurity courses: Coursera offers a cybersecurity course created by Google for beginners that takes around six months to complete. In it, you learn how to identify threats and vulnerabilities, earn basic skills in coding languages like Python and SQL, and use essential security management tools. 
  • Course Report’s “19 Best Cyber Security Bootcamps”: This resource lists 19 cybersecurity boot camps to assist anyone looking for certification but may not have a flexible schedule to earn a traditional cybersecurity degree. 

Professional Development and Networking Resources

  • ISC2: After earning your  CISSP certification, you can also become a member of ISC2, which hosts various career fairs and provides an online board for members to network and learn from one another.
  • ISACA: In addition to providing CPE certification, ISACA offers membership to cybersecurity professionals from over 200 chapters across the country so they can build their networks. 
  • SANS Institute: The SANS Institute hosts seminars and workshops for cybersecurity professionals to attend and advance their knowledge of current trends throughout the year.  
  • Black Hat Convention: A local meetup where you can network with other cybersecurity professionals and learn about the latest trends in cybersecurity. 
  • Mentor Cruise’s Cybersecurity Mentors: If you need help navigating your career, you can gain a mentor by using this resource, which connects mentees with mentors willing to share their experience and knowledge of the industry. 

Job Search and Career Advancement Resources

  • CyberSecJobs: This job board specifically caters to cybersecurity professionals by posting job listings from accredited and legitimate sources.
  • InfoSec Jobs: This resource provides listings for cybersecurity or information technology jobs. You can filter listings based on your interests and experiences.
  • Alta Associates: A recruitment agency that can help consult cybersecurity professionals on where to apply and other advice they may need if they’re interested in advancing their leadership potential. 
  • The Executive Search Group: This recruitment agency connects cybersecurity leaders to high-level positions at different companies or organizations. 
  • Coursera Resume and Interview Preparation Course: If you need help building your resume, organizing your application, and preparing for interviews, Coursera offers a course to advise you on what recruiters typically look for.

Industry Insight and Continuous Learning Resources

  • Oxford’s Journal of Cybersecurity: Published by Oxford, the Journal of Cybersecurity publishes the latest studies and research revolutionizing the computer science and cybersecurity field.
  • Gartner Cybersecurity Journal: Gartner regularly publishes articles and reports about cybersecurity trends and statistics professionals should know about. 
  • Darknet Diaries: A podcast about newsworthy and noteworthy attacks, breaches, and cybercrime. 
  • Online Forums and Communities: Engage with other cybersecurity professionals in discussions and information sharing on platforms like Reddit’s r/netsec or Stack Exchange’s Information Security site.
  • Reddit Thread r/netsec: This thread allows cybersecurity professionals to gather, ask questions, and tell notable stories about their experiences in the field.  
  • Information Security Stack Exchange: This forum provides a space for cybersecurity questions to ask questions they may encounter in their work.  
  • Compyl Risk Management Guide: This guide explains risk management in the context of cybersecurity.  
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