IT security is arguably one of the most in-demand careers across the developed world today (in the UK, businesses saw a 63% rise in cybercrimes in 2017). A deficit in up and coming talent has meant that there is currently a huge demand for cyber security professionals and it’s growing.
If you’re looking to start a career in cyber security, then there are plenty of entry-level positions available. Finding that first entry level job is not only about finding a role that fits your qualifications but one that puts you on your desired career path.
In this guide, we’ve broken down some of the most common entry level cyber security jobs and what you need to know about applying for them.
A cyber security specialist is an umbrella term for a number of entry and intermediate level IT security jobs. Various organisations hire employees who can protect their data by probing weaknesses, monitoring networks for any breach attempts, and solving any gap in security.
● Cyber/Information Security Analyst – As front-liners in defending networks, you will be tasked to analyse any security risk. You then need to install firewalls and encryptions, as well as monitor systems for any breach.
● Ethical Hackers – Also called Pen Testers, ethical hackers perform tests on networks, probe their security, and come up with ways to defend the system against any vulnerabilities. You might see similar roles advertised like Security Analysts, Information Security Consultants, or Network Security Specialists.
● Security/Network/System Administrator – Although these three roles may vary slightly, they are all responsible for managing and maintaining the upkeep of a computer network within an organisation.
● Cyber/Information Security Analyst – Starting salary of around £25,000, which can go up to £35,000 with more experience you acquire.
● Ethical Hackers – An average starting salary of £25,000.
● Security/Network/System Administrator – Average salary of £22,381/£25,192/£25,507.
Some organisations may not require any formal qualifications, but in general, most cyber security professionals have IT or computer science degrees. IT security professionals are increasingly entering the profession with degrees in other non IT related Science Technology Engineering or Mathematics (STEM) subjects. Popular degrees include IT Computer Science, Forensic Computing, Mathematics, Physics, Network Engineering and Networks and Security.
Experience is essential for any entry level IT security job and certifications may also be required. Some good places to start in this area would be CompTIA A+ course, CompTIA Network+ course, or CompTIA Security+ course. You would also have to take more courses the more you progress in your career such as GIAC, CISM, CISA, and Cisco Certified Network Associate. If you get on the ladder of a good company, it’s likely they’ll sponsor you through this as part of your ongoing professional development.
Senior-level security jobs include Security Architect, Security Manager, Security Consultant, or IT Project Manager. Some of the highest-ranking security jobs are Security Directors and Chief Information Security Officer.
Computer forensic experts use analytical skills to collect and examine information that is stored or encoded in computers, especially after a security breach.
They are required to follow strict protocol, given that they handle sensitive information. Their records are always detailed and logged, especially since these are often used in legal proceedings.
Computer Forensic Analysts are the Sherlock Holmes of the digital world. You would not only work with your employers but also with law enforcement agencies. Tasks include:
● Using forensic tools to extract data
● Dealing with sensitive data or images
● Securing devices against any breach
● Recovering files that are needed to investigate a case (e.g. tracing people)
● Following electronic trails to unearth links between individuals or groups involved with the case
● Producing highly-detailed technical reports of any and all findings
● Presenting evidence as court witness
Look out for these job roles: Cyber security apprenticeship, Junior cyber security analyst, Junior security content engineer, Junior cyber intel analyst, Junior threat researcher, Junior Incident Response Analyst, and Junior forensic computer analyst.
The average salary for an entry-level position is £21,000 to £25,000 a year. With more experience, this can go up to £30,000 to £45,000 a year, with senior roles earning as much as £80,000.
Salary variations would depend on the skillset that you currently have, the location of the organisation, and the size of the company. Any certifications that you’ll get during your career can help you earn more.
You can enter this field via earning a university degree (e.g. cyber security, forensic computing, other related subjects), applying for apprenticeship, or getting on-the-job training (e.g. start as database administrator, IT support technician).
Since you’ll be handling sensitive info, a lot of companies would require that you have security clearance, which would involve a full background check.
To improve your chances, you can take the Cyber Security Challenge UK and the PwC Cyber Security Challenge. You can also get certified for CISSP, CISA, Certified Ethical Hacker Course, Security+, and Cisco Certified Network Associate.
With more experience, you can progress to roles like Senior Analysts, Head of Security, or Security Consultant.
A career in cyber security is rewarding, both in monetary terms and the fulfilment that comes with successfully defending a network. Information security is a crucial part of any organisation’s operational infrastructure and the bigger the organisation, the more critical data there will be to protect, meaning more cyber security roles within it. Larger organisations are also likely to have extensive training programmes and will invest in their trainee and junior cyber security employees’ careers.
That’s not to say smaller organisations aren’t as valid, when it comes to getting your first cyber security job. As with everything that technology touches, you need to be flexible and open to learning new things and smaller organisations may allow you to get a much wider range of experience as you are expected to deal with various elements of the company’s information security. The downside is that there may be less room for movement within the company.
Cyber criminals are always coming up with new ways to breach systems, so whatever your first cyber security job, you need to be able to keep up and this involves constant development and learning.