With the cybersecurity market expected to hit $199.98 billion by 2025, cybersecurity is rapidly growing to become a field in demand. By 2029, cybersecurity jobs are expected to grow more than seven times the average job growth in the U.S., making it one of the fastest-growing jobs in the United States. So, if you have ever wondered how you can learn cybersecurity and become a cybersecurity expert, then you might want to take some time and read this post. In this post, we will tell you all you know and expect while pursuing your dream.
In this article we will look at the following topics:
- Questions to ask yourself before embarking on a journey to learn cybersecurity.
- How do I get started?
- Is a college degree necessary?
- What are some strategies to help with my study plan?
- How do I know which cybersecurity career path is best suited for me?
- What are some limitations to learning cybersecurity on your own?
- What are some helpful cybersecurity prerequisites for beginners?
- What are some key technologies and skills to learn?
Questions To Ask Yourself Before Embarking On A Journey To Learn Cybersecurity.
1) Am I Passionate About Cybersecurity?
With the average cybersecurity expert earning about $116,000 per year, there is no doubt that cybersecurity is one of the most lucrative jobs out there. However, the reward comes with its price. Cybersecurity is one of the most lucrative jobs out there; however, it comes with its fair share of stress. It is, therefore, vital that you are passionate about this field. Being passionate about cybersecurity will enable you to handle stress better. Because cyberattacks happen daily, and the way hackers attack companies keep evolving daily as well, it is your duty as a cybersecurity expert to be able to stay ahead of the game and help mitigate or prevent such attacks from compromising your company’s data.
2) Are You Willing to Learn?
The truth is cybersecurity requires dedication to learn. It is broad and deep and involves a lot of computing and technology. I am not telling you this to scare you but to make you aware that if you are looking to explore the world of cybersecurity, then you should be willing and devoted to research and study. Cybersecurity consists of 8 main fields. These include:
- Reverse engineering
- Cyber operations
- Audit and Compliance
- System administration
- Data security
Each of these skills has a subset of skills and concepts under them. Also, each subset is further broken down into smaller concepts as well. For example, under digital security, you will be required to learn OPSEC (Operational Security), Passwords, Crypto, Privacy, etc. And each of these topics has subtopics under them.
In addition, all the eight main topics in cybersecurity are all interrelated, so if you are looking to be an expert in one field, you might have to learn and master some skill stacks. For example, suppose you want to be a penetration tester. In that case, you will have to master networking, command line, digital security, and cyber operations because these are the basic skills required to understand penetration testing. The same applies to all concentrated cybersecurity areas.
Information regarding these topics is frequently updated, and as a result, you will have to keep yourself informed on the latest update. This is what makes cybersecurity a broad and deep field.
You can never learn everything; however, we will give you some tips on choosing the right field in subsequent subtopics.
3) Can You Work in A Group?
The field of cybersecurity is broad, and an individual can’t learn everything. As a result, most cybersecurity experts work in groups. In almost every organization, most projects are assigned to teams. So, you must know to be a team player to achieve an objective because if you try to do tasks alone, the chances of you getting wilted out of the field are high. Remember, working alone doesn’t outperform a team.
Working in a team is essential because everyone brings something to the table. The field of cybersecurity is ever-changing; therefore, you might not have all the knowledge to tackle a project, which is why you need a team to complement you.
How Do I Get Started?
There are two types of people who are looking to get started with learning and eventually pursue a career in cybersecurity. The first are people with no IT experience on knowledge but want to learn cybersecurity & pursue a cybersecurity career. The second set of people are those that have some sort of IT job experience; however, they are looking to change their career path.
Regardless of the situation you find yourself in, the tips we will share should help you get started with cybersecurity.
1) Understand the Basics.
Even though we have listed the various certificates above, you must get yourself familiar with the basics. When talking about basics, three key areas I want you to focus on are
2) Computer Networking.
Everything about cybersecurity is about networking. Networking tells us how data is transmitted from one device to another. So, if you do not have a fair understanding of computer networking, it will be more challenging for you to understand how cybersecurity works.
Start reading some networking book, or you can buy the CompTIA network+ book, and then read through it. You do not need a networking certification, all you need is understanding the concepts, and you’re good. You can also start learning about networking online. You can either utilize YouTube or Google. But I will prefer you purchase a course on Coursera, Udemy, and similar sites.
3) Gain a basic understanding of programming.
I will recommend you learn some programming. Even though you do not have to be an expert programmer, you need to know some programming. Programming is a core skill in cybersecurity, so before you even go out there to purchase any certification, you want to make sure you have some programming knowledge.
Ensure that you have the basics of Python, Java, C++, and C, and you should be good. You do not need to be proficient in any of these languages, you need to understand the basic concepts, and you’re good to go. Make sure that you understand how to approach problems as a programmer.
4) Gain some hands-on experience on the Linux Operating System.
It is essential to understand Linux and how the operating system works. Ensure that you understand how the Linux operating system works and how you can navigate your way through it. Under Linux, make sure that you know how Kali Linux works. Kali Linux is open-source software that has tons of tools and utilities that helps cybersecurity professionals.
Kali Linux is free to install and use, and it can help you perform various tasks such as penetration tests, reverse engineering, etc. Ensure that you install Kali Linux and then just get yourself familiar with it. You do not necessarily have to install Linux on your computer. You can do it on a virtual machine, as shown below.
5) Get Your Certifications.
After you are done practicing the basic skills, the next step is to get some cybersecurity certifications. We have a list of entry-level certifications you can choose from. It would be best to get as many certifications as possible to compensate for the lack of a bachelor’s degree, because the more, the better.
6) Gain Experience.
Once you get your certification, we do not recommend you go straight and apply for jobs. We recommend you start by securing some internship opportunities to help you gain some experience. Gaining experience through internships will help you boost your resume and make you stand out. Just a simple Google search should help you find tons of companies. Internships offer you real-world experience, which you won’t get from either certifications or college.
As daunting as it might sound, we recommend you get at least a year’s experience before applying for any cybersecurity job.
7) Create A Resume And Start Applying.
Once you feel like you have gained enough experience, the next step would be to update your resume and start applying for jobs. An excellent place to start is where you had your internship at. Before applying for any position, ensure that you check out the certifications they need, and make sure you add them to your resume.
Is A College Degree Necessary?
Getting a degree is helpful when it comes to cybersecurity; however, it isn’t a requirement. If you do not have a college degree, there is no need to panic. You have the option of getting various certifications, which will get you started with a cybersecurity career.
Below are some certifications we recommend as alternatives to going to college for a cybersecurity degree. Also, even if you have a degree, we highly recommend you get these certifications as well.
1) Get A CompTIA Security + Certification:
Getting a CompTIA Security+ certification is a must-have for every entry-level cybersecurity professional. The CompTIA Security+ is an entry-level certification that teaches you all the core fundamentals of cybersecurity to help you solve any complex security issue. It extensively covers the following topics:
- Architecture and Design.
- Attack, Threats, and Vulnerabilities.
- Incidence response.
- Intrusion detection.
- Governance, risk, and compliance.
- Vulnerability scanning.
The CompTIA Security+ is the number one core global cybersecurity certification globally, which is why it is a must-have. There are no prerequisites to taking this course. However, it is recommended that you participate in the CompTIA Network+ certification before you undertake the CompTIA Security+. Networking is an essential part of cybersecurity, and if you have a solid foundation in that, then passing the CompTIA Security+ will be easy.
The CompTIA A+ certification will help get you started with some basic IT knowledge for those of you who have no IT or computer background. You can sign up on CompTIA’s website to get started today.
2) C| EH (Certified Ethical Hacker)
Another certification to have under your belt to help boost your resume and stand out among most entry-level cybersecurity students. The C|EH certificate is issued by the EC Council, which is a reputable and well-respected American organization that offers training and certifications in cybersecurity.
The EC Council offers many cybersecurity certifications, however, the most common one among many cybersecurity experts is the C| EH. This certification makes you a certified ethical hacker. A certified ethical hacker is a professional trained to identify weaknesses in a company’s system by performing vulnerability assessment and penetration tests.
The C|EH certification teaches you how to be a lawful hacker, enabling you to help companies improve their security system.
3) e-Learn Security eJPT Certification
eLearn Security is relatively new to the certification field; however, their eJPT certification is gradually becoming a reputable certification in the cybersecurity world. The eJPT stands for eLearn security Junior Penetration Tester, and this certification is a 100% practical ethical hacking course. The practicality of this course is what makes it quite different from other certifications like the C| EH. Not only is the course practical, but also, the exam is practical as well, and by the time you are done with this course, you should be exposed to some real-life cybersecurity problems.
With this certification, there are no prerequisites. However, eLearn Security recommends that you have some basic knowledge of Kali Linux, Metasploit, and some understanding of web applications. These aren’t prerequisites; however, they help you gain a firm grasp of the course. If you do not know about these topics, do not worry, you can start learning these topics online, and it shouldn’t take you that much time.
4) ISC Squared SSCP
ISC is another reputable organization that offers certifications in cybersecurity. They provide a CISSP (Certified Information Systems Security Professional) certification. CISSP is an industry-leading certification program for those looking for a higher-level certification in cybersecurity. The CISSP is known as the gold standard in the cybersecurity world. I highly recommend it for those who are already working in the IT field but are looking to switch to cybersecurity. It is required that you have at least five years’ experience before you take this course. However, suppose you do not have a five-year experience. In that case, you can take the SSCP (the System Security Certified Practitioner) certification, which requires that you have at least 1-year working experience in one of the 7 SSCP CBK domains.
What Are Some Strategies To Help With My Study Plan?
Studying cybersecurity can be challenging; however, with the right strategy, you will excel. In this section, we will share three tips that will help you excel in any cybersecurity class.
1) Set the Main Goal.
The first step is to define your main goal. This means that you want to know what you are looking to achieve under each certification and how long it will take. The purpose of the main goal is to ensure that you have an overview of what you want to accomplish and that you devise a strategy on how to achieve that goal.
2) Gather Your Resources.
After deciding on your main goal, the next step is to start searching for learning resources. When it comes to resources, you can either go in for free ones or paid ones if you have the means. Free resources are a great option, but they will need you to do extra work to locate, compile and organize all the lessons. Paid resources do a lot of this leg work for you, allowing you to focus your time and energy on the core concepts.
3) Create A Study Plan.
After you have gathered the resource (including those provided by the certification program), the following process will be to create a schedule on how you plan to study. We recommend you read at least 3 or 4 hours a day. You can achieve this by setting up two hours in the morning and two hours at night. This would help you maintain a good reading habit, which will also help you at work.
You also want to refer to how long the certification training will take before the exams to help you devise your study plan. For example, for CompTIA Security+ certification, most people take their exams between 30 days to 45 days. So, you need to ensure that your study plan is in line with the exam schedule.
Also, ensure that your study plan ends a week before the exams. This is because we want you to use the one week remaining to take mock quizzes. There are tons of platforms out there that offer mock examinations, and with this, you want to look out for areas where you got the answers wrong and then revise them before the exams.
In addition to the mock exams, ensure that the score you get is 90% or above. Because with the CompTIA security+, the pass mark is 83%, and since the mock exams are often easier than the actual exam, you want to ensure that you attain higher scores during your mock exams.
How Do I Know Which Cybersecurity Career Path is Best Suited for me?
The best way to know which cybersecurity career path is best suited for you is through research. Ensure that you research as much as possible and only then choose a field that best fits your interest and capabilities. We recommend you try out this short quiz put together by the University of San Deigo, which suggests to you a career path based on the answers you choose.
You can find the quiz here
One suggestion to help chose a field is to research the most in-demand cybersecurity jobs that companies are looking for.
There are tons of cybersecurity career paths out; however, we have put together a top 6 list of cybersecurity roles that are pretty easy for beginners like you to pursue and get a job at.
1) Security Analyst.
Salary Range: $60,000 to $160,000
Being a security analyst is one of the most common entry-level positions in cybersecurity. As a security analyst, you are expected to improve and maintain the security posture of the company by protecting the company’s IT infrastructure. You should be able to analyze, evaluate and detect weaknesses in the company’s infrastructure and suggest ways to prevent its infrastructure from being breached.
For larger or more prominent companies, you might be tasked to protect the company’s software, hardware, or network individually. For smaller companies, you will be required to assess and safeguard all three infrastructures.
2) Security Auditor.
Salary Range: $61,000 to $112,000
Your role as a security auditor will be to audit the company’s security by probing for the effectiveness of the company’s security policies, controls, and systems. As a security auditor, you will be assigned to perform both internal and external audits. This means that you can be an auditor for your company or audit the security of other companies.
Your role as an auditor will be all about assessments and analyzing security systems. As an auditor, the companies require that you provide documentation for each audit you do. You will also be expected to provide suggestions on how the company can improve its security and security policies, if necessary, by providing them with the best practices in the industry.
3) Security Specialist.
Salary Range: $91,000 to $130,000
A security specialist and a security analyst tend to be used interchangeably. However, with a security specialist, your role is to design and implement security measures companies can put in place when designing their infrastructure. For example, if a company is developing software, you will be tasked to design a security system to prevent the software from been breached. You will also be required to monitor the company’s infrastructure for any attacks and threats.
4) Incident Responder.
Salary Range: $85,000 to $166,550
As an incident handler, you must monitor and rapidly avert any security threat within a company. You will be required to test, perform assessments, monitor a company’s security system to find evidence of threats, and immediately respond to these threats. You should be able to gather evidence for the forensic team for further research. You may be assigned to perform other duties such as intrusion detection and penetration testing.
If you can thrive under pressure when it matters the most, then being an incident responder might be an excellent option for you.
5) Penetration Tester/ Ethical Hacker.
Salary Range: S70,000 to $169,000
This is the most popular cybersecurity role out there, and this is the job most young aspiring cybersecurity experts aspire to do. Generally, your role as a penetration tester is to break into a company’s security system with their consent. This means you are trying to find and exploit the vulnerabilities within the security system.
If you successfully break into a company’s infrastructure, you will be required to report on the weaknesses you identified and provide suggestions on how to patch the vulnerabilities that allowed you to break in.
6) Vulnerability Assessor.
Salary Range: $25,000 to $162,500
As a vulnerability assessor, you are expected to know how to scan for vulnerabilities. The main difference between a vulnerability assessor and a pen tester is that a vulnerability assessor only identifies vulnerabilities. Whereas a pen tester identifies and exploits these vulnerabilities. As a vulnerability tester, you are also required to manage various vulnerability scanners within your organization.
What Are Some Limitations to Learning Cybersecurity on Your Own?
When it comes to learning cybersecurity on your own, there are two main limitations. The first being you will be required to do everything by yourself. You wouldn’t; have the opportunity to work in groups with people to exchange information and ideas that you would if you were pursuing a college degree. This can be overcome by joining online training programs, which are often much cheaper than a college degree and provide a reasonably similar support structure.
Finally, the challenge of learning cybersecurity on your own is that you need to be accountable to yourself. Unlike a college program where there is some level of supervision and accountability, learning independently will require you to have the discipline to check yourself and ensure that you are sticking to your plan.
What Are Some Helpful Cybersecurity Prerequisites for Beginners?
If you are looking to start learning cybersecurity, below are some good to have prerequisites:
- Get familiar with virtual machines
- Get familiar with the command line, Windows OS and Linux OS.
- Get a basic understanding of Computer Networking
- Get a basic understanding of some programming language.
What Are Some Key Technologies and Skills to Learn in 2021?
The field of cybersecurity keeps evolving so, and you must keep yourself updated with the necessary skills. Below are our top 5 skills for 2021 and 2022.
1) Intrusion Detection.
These are a set of skills that help you identify suspicious intrusions into your company’s network. You should be able to use an alarm filtering system to detect any suspicious traffic on the company’s network.
2) IoT Systems.
Most homes and offices have started integrating IoTs into their network system. Most of these IoT systems are protected by weak and default passwords, making them easy for hackers to get past these passwords and breach into the home’s network. In 2021, and 2022, there is going to be a huge increase in the demand for IoT devices.
So, you want to ensure that you know IoT security to help homeowners and offices safeguard their IoT systems.
3) Thinking Like a Black Hat.
It is essential that as a white hat, you can put yourself in the minds of black hats. You want to ensure that you think like black hats(hackers) to help you predict how hackers might exploit a network. Thinking like a black hat makes it easy for you to devise great security plans and countermeasures to beat the black hats at their own game.
4) Risk Management and Mitigation.
Another crucial skill to learn is risk management and mitigation. This means you need to be able to assess, identify, and avert threats on a network. You want to ensure that you can draw a risk management plan to help identify the risk. Your management plan should help companies perform a risk analysis to categorize the risks and then assign the appropriate response plan based on the level of the risk.
5) Countering AI-Based Attacks.
In 2021, you need to be able to get yourself involved with AI. This is because most hackers are now using AI to penetrate the security system of companies. So, without any knowledge of AI, you wouldn’t be able to counter such attacks.
Starting a career in cybersecurity has never been easier, and with the right certifications and mindset, you should be able to land your dream cybersecurity job in no time.