Cyberattacks are rising at an alarming rate globally, with damages projected to hit $6 trillion annually by 2021. With hackers getting more sophisticated, companies are facing immense pressure to ramp up cyber defenses and fill talent gaps. This creates massive opportunities for cybersecurity professionals to safeguard our increasingly digital world. In this comprehensive guide, we‘ll explore the diverse and rewarding cybersecurity career paths available, skills required to excel, certifications that boost credibility, online courses to kickstart learning, and expert tips to meet your cybersecurity goals!
The Growing Need for Cybersecurity Experts
Before diving into cybersecurity careers, let‘s understand why this field has become so critical. Some eye-opening statistics:
Cybercrime costs are predicted to grow by 15% per year over the next 5 years, reaching $10.5 trillion annually by 2025, according to a report by Cybersecurity Ventures. This cyber pandemic could be more financially damaging than natural disasters.
Over 80% of firms surveyed by ISACA expect a cybersecurity skills shortage in 2022, with the lack of skilled personnel being a leading cause.
Cyberattacks on healthcare organizations grew by 55% in 2020 over the previous year according to Bitglass. The shift towards connected medical devices and online patient portals has expanded the attack surface.
91% of cyberattacks start with a phishing email, as per a Verizon report. Social engineering continues to be hackers’ favorite vector.
Cyberattack trends over the years
As these stats reveal, cyberrisk is no longer limited to technology firms but impacts every organization across sectors. The need for security leaders who can evaluate systems, detect threats, respond to incidents and minimize business impact has never been greater.
This creates tremendous opportunities for security analysts, ethical hackers, engineers, architects, risk managers, forensics investigators and chief-level executives like CISOs to build rewarding careers securing the digital assets of companies and customers.
“Cybersecurity expertise is a critical need today. With security automation and AI, exciting new career avenues are opening up.” – Rohan Vaidya, Cybersecurity Research Director at Gartner
Next, let‘s explore some of the most in-demand and lucrative cybersecurity jobs today:
The Top Cybersecurity Jobs
1. Cybersecurity Analyst
Cybersecurity analysts are foot soldiers in an organization’s cyberdefense. They utilize tools to monitor networks, endpoints, servers, databases and applications for security events and respond to prevent attacks from causing damage.
A day in the life of a cybersecurity analyst involves:
Reviewing security alerts from firewalls, IDS/IPS, endpoint detection tools and investigating suspicious activity
Performing vulnerability scans and risk assessments to identify security gaps in systems
Installing and updating antivirus software, encryption programs, firewalls to harden infrastructure
Educating employees on security best practices through training and awareness programs
Reporting on security trends, risk levels and advising management on required security controls and policies
Cybersecurity analysts need strong analytical thinking, communication skills and staying updated on the threat landscape. Many start as analysts before specializing in domains like incident response, forensics or ethical hacking. According to PayScale, information security analyst salaries range from $67,000 for entry level roles to $113,000 for senior positions.
2. Security Engineer
Security engineers are responsible for designing, developing and implementing an organization‘s cyber defenses. They architect and build security into IT systems, networks and infrastructure.
Daily activities of a security engineer include:
Performing technical assessments to understand vulnerabilities in existing IT infrastructure
Designing secure network architectures, VPNs, firewall configurations to enable safe communications
Developing security policies, playbooks and procedures aligned to best practices
Implementing security solutions like IDS/IPS, SIEM, anti-malware tools, DLP systems
Hardening operating systems, databases, applications by removing unnecessary ports/services/privileges
Conducting POCs and providing technical guidance to integrate security into IT ecosystems
Strong programming, systems design and security solution expertise is required for this role. According to Glassdoor, security engineer salaries range from $85,000 for entry-level roles to $170,000 for senior architects with average salaries being $125,000.
3. Penetration Tester/Ethical Hacker
Penetration testers, also known as ethical hackers, simulate cyberattacks to detect vulnerabilities in applications, networks and systems before malicious hackers exploit them. Their core mission is to break-in legally and strengthen security.
Daily work involves activities like:
Receiving authorization to conduct penetration tests on IT infrastructure, web apps, wireless networks etc.
Performing reconnaissance using open source intelligence (OSINT) to gather details on target environments
Launching simulated attacks using techniques like social engineering, phishing, password cracking to breach systems
Identifying vulnerabilities like unpatched systems, default passwords, insecure connections, improper access controls etc.
Providing actionable remediation guidance based on vulnerabilities uncovered during tests
Expertise in programming, networking and hacking tools along with creativity and out-of-the-box thinking is required for this exciting role. According to Glassdoor, skilled penetration testers can earn between $110,000 to $158,000 on average.
4. Cybersecurity Consultant
Cybersecurity consultants assess, audit and advise organizations on enhancing their security posture based on best practices and compliance requirements. They identify and fix gaps in people, processes and technology.
Some key responsibilities include:
Reviewing security policies, technologies, controls and performing gap assessments
Conducting risk analysis by identifying threats, estimating potential business impact
Performing security audits, developing action plans and evacuation strategies
Making recommendations on tools, staff training, awareness programs to manage risks
Providing guidance to achieve compliance with regulations like HIPAA, SOX, PCI DSS etc.
To excel as a cybersecurity consultant, you need strong risk management knowledge, communication skills and keeping up-to-date with regulations. According to Glassdoor, cybersecurity consultants earn an average of $82,000 at entry level and up to $201,000 in senior roles.
And there are many more exciting cybersecurity roles available like security directors, managers, architects, forensics investigators, malware analysts, CISOs and chief security officers leading cyberstrategy for organizations. Salaries and growth opportunities are excellent given the high demand.
“Cybersecurity jobs involve creativity along with analytical skills to keep outthinking the adversaries. The thrill of the challenge attracts top talent.” – Tony Velleca, CISO at a leading financial services firm
Next, let’s look at the must-have skills to launch your cybersecurity career.
Key Skills to Excel in Cybersecurity
While cybersecurity roles vary in day-to-day activities, most require a common foundation of technical skills:
Network security: In-depth know-how of networking protocols, network access controls, firewall configurations, IDS/IPS and VPNs for securing communications
Endpoint security: Expertise in hardening laptops, servers and mobile devices using antivirus, encryption, sandboxing, firewalls etc.
Application security: Experience with secure coding practices, static/dynamic analysis, web app firewalls and input validation for securing apps
Cloud security: Understanding of shared responsibility model, cloud access controls, workload protection, encryption and compliance
Risk management: Ability to perform risk, gap and compliance assessments and prioritize remediation efforts
Incident response: Detect threats early, contain impacts and have forensic skills to learn from incidents. Develop incident response playbooks.
OS internals: Mastering operating systems like Windows, Linux at kernel level to better identify anomalies and suspicious activities
Beyond technical skills, excelling in cybersecurity also requires business acumen, communication and interpersonal skills especially in leadership roles. Knowing one’s adversary and staying updated on threat intelligence is also key.
“It’s critical to have an attacker’s mindset to truly secure systems. Curiosity and passion for learning are hallmarks of top cyber pros.” – Max Bergstrom, Security Architect at Fortune 100 retailer
Now that we‘ve covered the key jobs and skillsets, let‘s look at industry certifications that validate expertise…
Top Cybersecurity Certifications
Cybersecurity certifications prove your skill level in specific domains and are invaluable for career advancement. Some of the most respected cybersecurity certifications include:
CISSP: Considered the gold standard in cybersecurity, CISSP covers topics from security architecture to software development security. Offered by ISC2, it requires 5 years work experience and passing an exam. Average salary: $116,000 – $152,000
CISM: Ideal for IT and security leadership roles, covering risk management, security program management and governance. Offered by ISACA, CISM certified experts earn $122,000 – $149,000 per year.
CEH: Certified Ethical Hacker focuses on latest hacking techniques and tools. Offered by EC Council, and involves simulated hacking tests. Salaries range from $81,000 – $119,000.
CCSP: Ideal for cloud security architects and engineers, CCSP covers cloud security architecture, compliance etc. Average salaries exceed $113,000 per year.
Security+: Offered by CompTIA, it covers network attacks, risk mitigation, access management and considered an entry-level cybersecurity certification. Salaries range from $68,000 – $90,000.
CISA: Certified Information Systems Auditor credential validates ability to assess vulnerabilities, report compliance, institute controls. Average salary: $97,000 – $122,000.
There are many other valuable cybersecurity certifications like OSCP, GSEC, GCIH etc. aligned with specific job roles. The right certs validate your expertise and boost career growth.
“When evaluating cybersecurity candidates, certifications provide assurance they have cleared benchmark knowledge assessments.” – Leela Rivas, Head of Cybersecurity Talent Acquisition at Fortune 500 bank
Now let’s explore the online training platforms that can prepare you for high-paying cybersecurity jobs.
Top Online Cybersecurity Courses
Taking online cybersecurity courses helps you build technical skills and prepare for industry certifications cost-effectively at your own pace. Some noteworthy platforms include:
Coursera offers specialized cybersecurity courses and certification prep programs in collaboration with leading universities like Stanford, University of Maryland, Google, IBM and more.
Key Focus Areas: Network security, cloud security, ethical hacking, cryptography, IoT security
Ideal For: Beginners, intermediate and advanced learners
Credentials: Specializations, Professional Certificates
Cost: Free to $49/month for Guided Projects
Cybrary provides free and paid cybersecurity training aligned with industry certifications and roles. Get hands-on through virtual labs.
Key Focus Areas: Incident response, pen testing, forensics, governance, risk management
Ideal For: Career switchers and cybersecurity enthusiasts
Credentials: CompTIA, ISACA and ISC2 certifications
Cost: Free and $249 – $499/year for premium
Udemy has thousands of online cybersecurity courses for all skill levels taught by industry experts. Learn at your own schedule.
Key Focus Areas: Certification prep, ethical hacking, network security, digital forensics
Ideal For: Beginners, intermediates and professionals
Credentials: Completion certificates
Cost: $12.99 – $94.99 per course
SANS cybersecurity training is globally trusted and intensive with hands-on labs.
Key Focus Areas: Offensive and defensive security, critical infrastructure protection, cyberthreat intelligence
Ideal For: Working professionals pursuing advanced skills
Credentials: GIAC certifications
Cost: $5,610 – $7,610 per course
The right combination of fundamental, domain-specific and hands-on training will boost cybersecurity competency. Whether starting out or upskilling, online courses provide structured and cost-effective learning.
“Good cybersecurity learning resources let you experiment and fail safely to experience adversaries’ perspective firsthand.” – Aparna Annavajhala, Cybersecurity Architect and Online Instructor
To round up, let‘s look at expert tips to launch a successful cybersecurity career.
Tips from Cybersecurity Leaders
For those looking to break into cybersecurity, here are some top tips from CISOs, cybersecurity architects and hiring managers:
🔑 Gain broad exposure first: Start with CompTIA Security+ and basic certs to build overall knowledge before specializing. Work rotational cyber analyst roles.
🔑 Develop business acumen: Understand risks, regulations and communicate in business context. Learn frameworks like ISO27001, NIST.
🔑 Work on soft skills: Writing, presenting, relationship building. Cybersecurity is a team sport.
🔑 Embrace lifelong learning:subscribed to blogs, join forums, listen to podcasts and stay updated. Things change quickly.
🔑 Consider cyber internships: Get hands-on experience, learn corporate environments and build mentor relationships.
🔑 Build a home lab: Experiment safely with tools, attacks, vulnerabilities using virtual machines.
🔑 Participate in bug bounties/CTFs: Real-world experience and performance metrics to highlight skills.
🔑 Get recognized certifications: Validates breadth of knowledge to employers.
🔑 Consider cyber adjacencies: Audit, compliance, forensics jobs build foundational skills.
The cybersecurity domain offers phenomenal opportunities from analysts to CISOs to help organizations, governments and citizens stay protected. With relevant skills, smart learning strategies and persistence, you can build an exciting and meaningful career in cybersecurity. Remember to enjoy the thrill of mastering this continuously evolving trade.
“Whether just starting out or an experienced professional, embracing cybersecurity as a passion and lifelong pursuit rather than just a job enables success.” – Malika Seth, Cybersecurity Professor and Author