As a member of the Cybersecurity Training and Awareness Team at Motorola Solutions, this week’s Cybersecurity Awareness Month theme, “Cybersecurity Careers: Explore. Experience. Share.” is near and dear to me. Being a continual student of the ever-changing landscape that is cybersecurity, I’m here to spread the word about the millions (at least 3.5 million, to be specific) of open career opportunities in cybersecurity, how you can find one and what I love about working in this profession.
Cybersecurity Career Paths
There’s a clear correlation between our collective move towards a digital world and the significant increase in cybercrime. Generally speaking, the more systems and networks that are connected, and the more devices that are connected via the Internet of Things (IoT), the more opportunities cyber criminals have to wreak havoc. As cybersecurity professionals, it’s our job to combat those with bad intentions to protect ourselves, our families, our customers and our companies.
Cybersecurity as a discipline has evolved a lot in recent years. Fortunately, more companies and public sector organizations are recognizing the importance of protecting their valuable digital assets and systems. This has led to a boom in cybersecurity job openings around the world.
Cybersecurity professionals can find a variety of different roles and career paths to pursue. You don’t have to be a wizard behind a keyboard to break into a cybersecurity career. In fact, you may find a career path that draws from skills from several different backgrounds. Some of the more common areas of study and career paths include:
- Security Engineering and Architecture
- Digital Forensics and Incident Response
- Cybersecurity Governance, Risk Management and Compliance
- Penetration Testing and Ethical Hacking
- Network and Infrastructure Security
- Security Management
- Computer Security
- Cybersecurity Training and Awareness
In addition, you can find many professionals who’ve made a career in cybersecurity working in a variety of roles outside software development or as an analyst in a security operations center (SOC). These include jobs like human resources, sales, marketing, compliance and product management at hardware, software and service providers. You can also find cybersecurity jobs in specialized divisions of nearly every big platform provider (think AWS and Instagram) and most mid-size and large companies, in industries ranging from agriculture to waste management.
Public safety and law enforcement have an urgent need for cybersecurity professionals, too. Take a moment to think about all of the information that a typical police department processes and stores, for example. Data like driver’s licenses, Social Security numbers, home addresses, credit card numbers, arrest records, classified investigations and live radio traffic flow in and out of a typical police department every second. This data provides a huge opportunity for cyber criminals to strike. It’s crucial security experts are there to stop them from exploiting that data.
Getting Started in Cybersecurity
Breaking into a cybersecurity career can be daunting — I know this personally — but with motivation and desire, that goal is most certainly obtainable. Researching cybersecurity careers and job listings is a great starting point. There is a glut of information online that can help you get a sense of what jobs might interest you and whether or not this is the direction you want to take, and plenty of prominent cybersecurity experts who frequently offer career advice on social media.
Once you’ve decided that cybersecurity is where you want to be, the next step is to earn credentials. You may already have self-taught skills that can be applied to a cybersecurity career, too. Other options include the higher education route (associates, bachelor’s degree and master’s) and professional certifications, as well as plenty of free online courses you can take if you’re not quite ready to commit to a formal program.
A few common and reputable entry level cybersecurity certifications include:
- CompTIA Security+ and Network+
- (ISC)2 Systems Security Certified Practitioner
- Offensive Security Certified Professional
- Cisco Certified Network Associate – Security
Certifications are a great way to show off your cybersecurity skills and demonstrate to potential future employers that you have what it takes to tackle an entry-level security role. In fact, even the most experienced security practitioners are encouraged to continue their education and get relevant certifications to stay up to date on the latest security trends and technologies. A good example of this is the Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP) certification.
Regardless of what certifications you have, you’ll find that many prospective employers want some real-world experience. Look for opportunities to get this wherever you can, whether that’s taking on additional responsibilities outside the scope of your current role, getting an internship with a reputable company while you’re in school, volunteering for nonprofits on the weekends or finding local meet-ups (virtual or physical) through organizations like B-Sides, or attending regional cybersecurity conferences where you can practice your technical skills and meet fellow enthusiasts.
If you’re trying to break into a cybersecurity role, but “security” isn’t in your current job description, consider starting a formal or informal cybersecurity club. This is an excellent way to increase awareness of cybersecurity within your organization, and can lead to training and leadership opportunities down the road. After all, cybersecurity isn’t just the responsibility of an IT department. Taking the initiative to start a cybersecurity program in your organization can lead to a potential career in the field.
At Motorola Solutions, for example, we have an internal program called Cybersecurity Champions that has more than 700 employee members now. The Cybersecurity Champions program is open to our engineering, managed services and field services teams. New Cybersecurity Champions go through an 8-week onboarding process where they learn to drive cybersecurity activities for their respective teams and advocate for security awareness and training.
Top Reasons to Become a Cybersecurity Professional
We covered the “how” — but what about the “why”?
Cybersecurity is a field that will continue to be relevant for years to come. Cyber attacks are increasing in both frequency and complexity, and every day there’s yet another news article about a big data breach. As cyber criminals become more sophisticated, the critical skills gap in the cybersecurity field becomes even more transparent.
In fact, the ISACA “State of Cybersecurity 2020: Part 1: Global Update on Workforce Efforts and Resources” study names the cybersecurity skills gap as one of the top challenges in the field. With global demand for qualified cybersecurity professionals on the rise, now is a great time to break into the field.
Here are some reasons I love being in this field:
- Meaningful Work — Every day I come to work, I know I have a direct impact on the fight against cybercrime. At Motorola Solutions, we are in the business of protecting those who protect us day in and day out. Our products and services are oftentimes used as a lifeline. Doing my part to help ensure our communication networks and software suites are protected against cyber attacks is a humbling and rewarding opportunity.
- Job Security — If you work for a company conducting business on planet Earth in the year 2021, there’s a strong chance you’re using computers and systems with an internet connection. Given the ever-growing threat of cyber attacks in our interconnected world, the need for cybersecurity professionals has never been greater. With job openings in virtually every industry, there’s an opportunity to work for a variety of organizations in your career, or to focus on a specific area, such as cybersecurity for financial services or public safety.
- Compensation — A career in cybersecurity can be lucrative. According to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median pay for Information Security Analysts in the United States is $103,590 per year, while experienced Chief Information Security Officers (CISOs) can earn upwards of $250,000 or more.
Whether you’re a student exploring career options or a career-changer with a passion for cybersecurity, like myself, there are plenty of opportunities out there. If you’re set on breaking into a cybersecurity career, I suggest finding an industry you’re interested in and starting there to see what kinds of jobs are open. No doubt you’ll find more than you might expect.
If working with the best and brightest minds on a meaningful mission that impacts thousands of lives sounds exciting, I’d encourage you to check out all the cybersecurity jobs we have open at Motorola Solutions. Our customers are folks who protect and serve communities across the globe. They count on us to provide top-of-the-line communications solutions and expert level cybersecurity services. We are always looking for skilled cybersecurity professionals to join our ranks and I hope this blog inspires some of you to join us.