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White Paper

Planning a Career Path in Cybersecurity

Date:
Oct. 14, 2013
Author:
James Michael Stewart

Abstract

As a society, we have all become heavily dependent on computers, network, and data stores. This in turn has exposed us to the risk of loss or compromise of those data systems. The need for personnel knowledgeable and experienced in security implementation and management has never been greater, and the need is growing.

Sample

Introduction

The field of cybersecurity is growing quickly; so quickly that there are positions sitting open waiting to be filled by qualified individuals. Are you one of those people ready to make a change in your career towards the future?

Cybersecurity is the arena of technology, methodology, and practice which focuses on protecting electronic information and the systems supporting it against compromise and attack. Cybersecurity encompasses standalone and networked computers, local networks and the Internet, hardware and software, private and public organizations, online and offline concerns, internal and external threats, domestic and international concerns, intentional and accidental events, all forms of attack (including electronic, physical, and social), and much, much more.

As a society, we have all become heavily dependent on computers, network, and data stores. This in turn has exposed us to the risk of loss or compromise of those data systems. The need for personnel knowledgeable and experienced in security implementation and management has never been greater, and the need is growing.

Areas of Competency

Cybersecurity has been formally defined by ISO/IEC 27001 and 27002 to include:

 Security policy
 Organization of information security
 Asset management
 Human resources security
 Physical and environmental security
 Communications and operations management
 Access control
 Information systems acquisition, development and maintenance
 Information security incident management
 Business continuity management
 Regulatory compliance

As you can see, there is an astounding breadth of concern for the cybersecurity professional. For smaller organizations with fewer staff, cybersecurity job positions will require competence across all of these areas of concern. For larger organizations with very large staffing abilities, a team of cybersecurity professionals may be assembled, with each member being a skilled practitioner in one primary topic.

Discover What Is Hot in the Marketplace

As with anyone seeking out a new job or a change in career, the first step is to discover what opportunities exist in the marketplace. Performing an initial assessment of offerings will provide you with a better understanding of what positions are available and what the minimum requirements are for each type of job.

I usually recommend starting with a job search site, such as indeed.com (a search engine of "all" job sites), and use keywords such as "cybersecurity," "cyber security," or "security." These terms will locate the majority of jobs related to the concept of cybersecurity. Take the time to look through many of the job listings uncovered by this search. After some review, pick a position or title that seems appealing to you, such as cybersecurity manager, database security administrator, security policy chief, security trainer, or security systems quality assurance. Then, search again with your selected title or position. Find at least 20 different organizations requesting applicants for that position and then take note of several items:

 1. Required certifications
 2. Required specialty education
 3. Required experience
 4. Starting and potential salary and benefits

As an instructor, I'm often asked what certifications are required to get a specific job. Unfortunately, that is a question that does not have a universal answer. Every organization will have its own requirements when selecting a potential new hire. You need to know what the marketplace in general seems to be requesting to get an overall sense for what is common and reasonable as requirements. Many of my students seem to think the answer is a single certification on their resume to get them the job of their dreams. Unfortunately, that is almost never the case. Most individual certifications are just part of the overall picture of what a company is seeking in a new applicant. Thus, performing a real-world position survey will give your expectations a solid dose of reality.

You might be quite surprised by what you discover when performing this investigation.

What Certifications Do I Need?

Having one or two certifications under your belt is rarely sufficient to land a new job position. And those job positions that can be obtained with minimal certification are unlikely to pay at the marquee level. Salary surveys over the last year or so often indicate that some cybersecurity jobs pay in excess of $100,000 per year, plus benefits. However, if you fail to read the fine print on these eye-catching headlines, you might miss the fact that the top-paying careers could require several years of specialized secondary education, may require dozens of certifications, and often mandate 10+ years of relevant experience.

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