The number of jobs in Information Security is booming year on year, along with salaries now often outstripping the CFO. However, this is still an industry just out of school itself – it’s young, it’s still relatively new. You’re unlikely to yet come across a career advisor who will know what Cyber Security entails, let alone be able to direct you on the right path. So what do you need to know to build a successful career in Information Security?
It is not enough to just go to university, graduate, and hope to walk in to a cyber security job. Information Security is a specialism that requires an enormous amount of grounding. You can start building your information security roots young with nothing more than PC access. For example, you can start to discover if you have the right aptitude and determination by playing challenge games to build your skills on sites such as Big Ambition.
During your student days you might be ready to start entering competitions, such as the Cyber Security Challenge which will not only give you a chance to develop your skills, but a chance to demonstrate them, and be noticed.
Ideally you need to be good at another area of technology before attempting to build a successful career in cyber security. Common entry points for information security include system administration, networking and development. You need to make sure that you’ve got no gaps in your tech knowledge. Essentially you also need a firm grounding in programming. If you can’t code then your information security career will only go so far.
Many of these skills can be self-taught using online tutorials, books, and playing in your own ‘lab’ on your own computer. However, there are now industry- and employer-recognised degree routes that are valuable alongside your self-acquired skills. The two main ones to consider are Information Technology Management for Business (ITMB) and Software Development for Business. These courses are now available across a range of colleges and universities.
Whilst there’s no doubting that an information security degree will be an excellent Launchpad for your career, once you’ve got it the degree rapidly becomes less important than what you’ve actually done. This is why it is essential to have started building a showcase of your cyber security skills along the way. Get used to this – information security is all about being one step ahead of the game.
You need to adopt a love of projects, delving in to them and extending your skills with a view to showcasing your abilities. To do this you need to demonstrate you can identify an information security problem, come up with a solution and develop the tool that is needed to be the solution.
The world of Information Security is news-focussed. You need to stay abreast of cyber security news and developments and know what the problems are. There are several ways to do this.
You can join the IISP network affordably as an Affiliate Member, allowing you to open the door of the industry and learn from the big names.
You can find yourself a mentor, either through your university course or by undertaking a placement or work experience, showing a thirst to learn from the best.
You can attend conferences and see what the big news headlines are, and importantly, start to network.
Networking with others in the information security career world is essential, far more than for many other professions. Gone are the days that cyber security was the preserve of the anti-hacking individuals who stayed behind their own four walls. Successful cyber security professionals are not just exceptional with their IT skills, but they are group problem-solvers, strong communicators and know how to think on their feet in business environments.
Information Security is still having to make its voice heard on business boards. Understanding business strategy and risk, along with financial management, rapidly becomes essential to an individual building a career in information security. Information Security professionals need to be proactive at selling the need for cyber security, and understanding the ramifications within the business model and the business budget.
Adding these management and finance skills to your repertoire will become essential to progress beyond the starting blocks of an information security career.
Whilst those in the Silicon Valley might turn up to work in shorts and tees with a baseball cap and lie in ‘thought pods’ dreaming up the next IT big thing whilst munching on their corporate ice-cream sundae: for the vast majority, this isn’t the reality. You can’t simply be a backroom hacker turned good. You need to think about your professional image and hone it.
The information security industry, with its need and reliance on networking, means you need to get known and for a reputation that will stand you in good stead for years to come. So, polish that image, get professional, and take the first steps to your future.
The future high earners are most likely going to be in the Information Security Industry. Business is realising their very success is down to the strength of their cyber security, so it’s a career worth getting started in. We hope our tips help set you on the right path.