How to Take the First Steps in Your Cybersecurity Career
Cybersecurity is a major focus for businesses now, with companies spending an average of 10.9% of their IT budget on preventing digital threats (Deloitte, 2020). But companies are struggling to find security professionals who can help fight off hackers—in 2021, there were up to 3.5 million vacant cybersecurity jobs (Morgan, 2022).
This means there’s never been a better time to start your cybersecurity career. This guide will look at how you can build on your IT knowledge to become a successful cybersecurity professional.
Are You Suited to a Cybersecurity Career?
Cybersecurity professionals require a specific blend of technical abilities and soft skills. You might be suited to this career path if you have the following qualities:
1. A Solid IT Background
You’ll need a solid grounding in the basics of IT systems, such as networking, operating systems, and security protocols. Many cybersecurity roles require a bachelor’s degree in an IT-related field, such as computer science or software engineering.
2. Some Coding Skills
Python is usually the go-to language for hackers, so cybersecurity professionals often try to learn a little of this language (Robleza, 2021). It can also help to understand:
- SQL, for working with databases
- Shell scripting for running automated tests
Entry-level cybersecurity positions don’t always ask for coding skills, but some familiarity with coding can help your long-term career prospects.
3. Ability to Learn Quickly
Cybersecurity professionals work in a volatile landscape, with new threats emerging every day. That can mean sudden changes to your processes, security protocols, and even the software you use to keep data safe. To develop a long-term career, you’ll need to stay informed about the latest threats by reading industry blogs and reports.
4. An Analytical Mind
You don’t need to be a math expert to succeed in cybersecurity, but mathematical thinking can help. In an entry-level position, such as a cybersecurity technician, you will need to analyze data, follow protocols, and identify unusual activity.
5. Strong Communication Skills
Cybersecurity is a team effort. You will work with other cybersecurity professionals, including technicians and managers, and you may need to collaborate with other members of the IT team. As you progress along a cybersecurity career path, you might find yourself preparing reports, interacting with non-IT professionals, and communicating security policies to users.
Things You Should Know for Pursuing a Cybersecurity Career
Every node on your network is a potential attack vector, and as such, cybersecurity professionals need a broad understanding of IT systems and their vulnerabilities.
For a successful cybersecurity career, you will need to understand each of the main elements of cybersecurity, including:
- Cyberthreats: You will need to understand the main strategies hackers use to gain access to data. This includes ransomware, malware, social engineering, phishing, and zero-day exploits.
- Vulnerabilities: Every network has weak points, and you’ll need to know where those vulnerabilities most commonly occur. This means understanding network architecture, operating systems, access control systems, cloud services, and application integration.
- Security countermeasures: You will need to understand the kinds of security architecture that organizations use to protect their data. This includes software such as firewalls and threat detection tools, plus hardware like biometric verification devices.
- Best practices: Cybersecurity ultimately depends on users doing the right thing and following best practices. You’ll need to know how policies can be comprehensive but also user friendly. You’ll also have to be able to support authorized users and answer questions about security procedures.
If you have an IT background, you might already have encountered some of the core concepts of a cybersecurity career. Now, you need to build on that foundation by learning as much as you can and getting some hands-on experience.
How to Get a Cybersecurity Job Without Experience
Taking your first step in a cybersecurity career can be a daunting task. Most jobs require experience, but how can you gain experience before you get a job?
Fortunately, there are plenty of opportunities to acquire the education and practical experience you need to kickstart your cybersecurity career, especially if you’re already working in IT. Here are a few options to consider:
1. Volunteer for Projects
If you’re already part of an IT team, you can ask to work on security-related projects. The cybersecurity team often needs people who can help with analysis, reporting, testing, and configuration. Get involved, ask lots of questions, and get to know your local cybersecurity experts.
2. Seek a Mentor
Mentorship is a great way to learn from someone who has already built a cybersecurity career—they can answer technical questions and advise you on finding your first job. If your current employer offers a mentorship program, ask if you can be paired with an experienced security expert. Otherwise, try reaching out to people in your network.
3. Build Your Knowledge
There’s a wealth of blogs, podcasts, and social media channels that talk about current cybersecurity issues. Cybersecurity Exchange by EC-Council is one such resource, with plenty of material for beginners. Use these channels to build your understanding of security issues and keep abreast of new threats and best practices. Doing so will help you sound confident and knowledgeable when interviewing for a cybersecurity role.
4. Pursue a Cybersecurity Certification
Studying for a relevant qualification is a great way to start your cybersecurity career. The right qualification will give you a solid foundation in cybersecurity principles. A certification like the Certified Cybersecurity Technician (C|CT) also offers participants the chance to get practical experience in a live environment.
Holding a relevant certification can show that you’re passionate about cybersecurity, and employers may prefer candidates who care about the role. While there are other pathways as well that can help launch your career in this domain, including a degree program, certifications focus on a specific skill. So, an entry-level cybersecurity certification can help secure a footing in the cybersecurity industry.
What’s the Best Certification to Start Your Cybersecurity Career?
The best cybersecurity certification offers relevant learning materials combined with hands-on experience.
The Certified Cybersecurity Technician (C|CT) is an ideal qualification for anyone beginning their cybersecurity career. The C|CT takes a multifaceted approach to ethical hacking, network security, digital forensics, and security operations to help learners acquire strong foundational skills in each domain, combined with practical hands-on training and critical-thinking challenges.
It’s a vendor-agnostic program with a broad curriculum that covers topics such as network defense, ethical hacking, digital forensics, and security operations.
Best of all, it offers 85 hands-on labs with live cyber range activities. You will see what it’s like to be a cybersecurity technician, dealing with live data and active threats. After completing the C|CT qualification from EC-Council, you’ll feel confident when interviewing for your first cybersecurity role.
EC-Council qualifications are vendor-neutral and recognized across the industry. Ready to learn more? Get your cybersecurity career started here.
Deloitte. (2020, July 24). Reshaping the cybersecurity landscape. https://www2.deloitte.com/us/en/insights/industry/financial-services/cybersecurity-maturity-financial-institutions-cyber-risk.html
Morgan, S. (2022). Cybersecurity jobs report: 3.5 million openings in 2025. Cybercrime Magazine. https://cybersecurityventures.com/jobs/
Robleza, H. (2021). Why do ethical hackers use python? Hacker Noon. https://hackernoon.com/why-do-ethical-hackers-use-python