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How to Get Into Cyber Security

Are you thinking about exploring how to get into cyber security? In today’s internet-of-things economy, it’s become more important than ever to safeguard networks and data systems where massive amounts of sensitive data are stored or processed. The area of computer science dedicated to protecting our digitally interconnected world has come to be known as cyber security, and it affects anyone who uses a computer or mobile device. 

In this article, we will discuss several important things you need to know about this rapidly expanding field, including career options, programming languages you may need to learn and other technical and soft skills that may be useful in this field.

What is Cyber Security?

Cyber security is a discipline within the information technology field that involves safeguarding data, networks and computer systems from cyberattacks that can result in data breaches or other incursions by malicious hackers or scam artists. The answer to the question what is cyber security has considerable depth and breadth, encompassing everything from installing antivirus software on your home computer and watching out for suspicious emails to protecting data systems containing consumers’ private financial or health information.

If you’re wondering how to get into cyber security, you may have already heard about the projected growth in employment for this occupation. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) predicts strong job growth in cyber security during the next decade based on the following:

  • Cyberattacks have grown in frequency

  • As businesses enhance cyber security measures, professionals like information security analysts will be needed to develop and maintain the technologies that safeguard information systems.

  • A shift to remote work and the rise in e-commerce have increased the need for enhanced cyber security.

  • Strong growth in digital health services and telehealth will increase data security risk for health providers like hospitals and healthcare systems.

In fact, the BLS projects employment of information security analysts to grow 35% through 2031, a rate that is much faster than the average for all occupations, with about 19,500 job openings each year, on average, during this period.1 This growth is projected on a national level and local growth will vary by location. This projection is not specific to DeVry University graduates and may include earners at all stages of their careers.

Cyber Security Career Options

As private-sector businesses in financial services, e-commerce, healthcare and other sectors as well as public-sector organizations like government and law enforcement agencies continue to assess their information security risks and enhance cyber security measures, career opportunities are expanding. With education and industry-recognized certifications, you may prepare to pursue a number of roles. A sampling of potential cyber security jobs  includes:

  • Cyber security analyst: Numerous responsibilities comprise this broad cyber security role, which involves analyzing reports and identifying unusual network conditions. The role may also involve controlling network access, maintaining firewalls or penetration testing. This position could be held at the entry level or higher experience levels.

  • Network security architect: With advanced knowledge of security tools and techniques related to firewalls, penetration testing and incident response, network security architects use both defensive and offensive measures to safeguard systems, and play an important role in reinforcing enterprise architecture. They design and implement cyber security policies and procedures while managing budgets and working within operational parameters.

  • Penetration tester: Also known as “white hat hackers” or ethical hackers, the cyber security pros mimic the actions of malicious hackers to uncover vulnerabilities in networks, applications and devices. Collaborating with other cyber security professionals, they suggest solutions to eliminate vulnerabilities before they can be exploited by cybercriminals.

  • Cyber security engineer: This experienced cyber defender builds information security systems and engineers and enforces security plans, standards, protocols and best practices. Cyber security engineers also create and install firewalls and build emergency plans for swift and efficient recovery following a security event.

  • Security software developer: This cyber security technician combines programming knowledge with cyber security analysis skills to create software that helps an organization protect its systems from cyberattacks and data breaches. Well versed in emerging information security trends and the characteristics of the threat landscape, security software developers work with designers, engineers and testers to fortify systems against potential attacks and act swiftly to address cyber threats.

What Programming Languages Do I Need to Know to Pursue a Role in Cyber Security?

Programming is one of the essential technical skills you should acquire if you plan to pursue a cyber security career. Here are some commonly used programming languages that can help you perform a range of cyber security-related activities:

  • Python: There are many reasons to learn Python, thanks to its ability to be used for a variety of tasks like system administration, web development, penetration testing and network programming. Cyber security professionals who want to stay up to date on the latest software trends will appreciate how frequently Python is updated.

  • C/C++: Giving developers more control over the behavior of their programs, C/C++ is widely used in the development of cyber security applications because it is a fast language that enables a lot of code to be written quickly. It is also a very “portable” language, meaning programs developed in C/C++ can be deployed easily on a number platforms.

  • SQL: Commonly used to query data from databases, SQL (Structured Query Language) can be used in cyber security to create security-related reports and alerts. Examples of these include identifying which users have access to certain types of data and alerting system administrators when users attempt to access data they are not authorized to view.

How to Get Into Cyber Security

If you’re trying to figure out how to get started in cyber security, remember that pursuing a career in this fast-growing field requires a step-by-step approach that includes 4 basic elements: Education, certifications, experience and skills.

Earn a Degree or Certificate

The first step you may want to consider along this career path is to pursue education with an emphasis on information security. This could be in the form of an associate or bachelor’s degree in computer and information technology or another related field, or an undergraduate certificate program with an emphasis on cyber security.

At DeVry, we provide a skill-focused curriculum to prepare aspiring cyber security professionals like you for your future. Our online Undergraduate Certificate in Cyber Security can help you develop the skills necessary to defend information, infrastructure and organizations against cyberattacks and prepare you to pursue industry-recognized certifications.

If you’re interested in pursuing a higher-level degree, our Associate in Cybersecurity and Networking, as well as Bachelor's Degree Specializations in Cyber Security and Cyber Security Programming can help immerse you in cyberattack simulations and expose you to the skills and knowledge needed to design and implement security systems procedures and protocols.

Pursue Certifications

Industry-recognized cyber security certifications are intended to verify your skills and keep them up to date. Earning certifications in addition to your educational certificate or degree may help you stand out against other job candidates while pursuing career opportunities in cyber security. They may also help you comply with employer-specific requirements. A partial list of cyber security certifications includes:

  • CompTIA Network+: This important certification applies to IT professionals who want to certify their knowledge and proficiency in technologies related to cloud computing and the internet-of-things environment.

  • CompTIA Security+: This cyber security-related certification is intended to demonstrate your ability to secure network devices, services and traffic.

  • CompTIA Cloud+: Aligned with the trend toward cloud migration, this performance-based certification validates the technical skills needed to secure mission-critical applications and data storage, deploy and automate secure cloud environments and troubleshoot cloud computing systems.

  • CEH (Certified Ethical Hacker): The CEH Certification offered by the EC-Council verifies your ability to conduct penetration testing, which also called ethical hacking, to exploit vulnerabilities in computer networks.

  • CompTIA CASP+: Covering both security architecture and engineering, CASP+ is a hands-on, performance-based certification for advanced cyber security practitioners. It qualifies technical leaders to assess cyber-readiness, and implement solutions to fortify an organization against the next attack.

Build Technical Skills

Risk assessment, troubleshooting, penetration testing and other responsibilities associated with cyber security require a medley of fundamental and specialized technical skills that include the following:

  • Programming: An important core competency for cyber defenders, knowledge of programming languages like the ones we described earlier in this article will help you develop and test applications related to cyber security.

  • Risk identification and management: An ongoing responsibility of any cyber security professional is measuring and analyzing risk, and understanding how combatting risks fits into their organization’s overall risk management strategy.

  • Data management and analysis: As organizations accumulate and process increasing amounts of information, cyber security professionals are expected to know how to create systems to collect, organize and analyze data, and protect it from security breaches.

  • Cloud implementation and management: Data storage and sharing is increasingly happening in a cloud environment. Cyber security personnel should understand cloud systems and processes, and how internal and external cloud systems could become targets for cybercriminals.

  • Attack surface management: This technical area focuses on the analysis of an organization’s vulnerabilities from the hacker’s perspective. By detecting and repairing weaknesses in their networks, organizations can minimize their attack surface, making them a smaller target for hackers.

  • Access management: An important element of cyber security is managing who has access to what data across an organization’s network. Identity verification, monitoring and security alerts to prevent unauthorized access of the organization’s data are all crucial components of access management and fundamental to a strong cyber security strategy.

Develop Soft Skills

While technical skills are required for any role in cyber security, a variety of soft skills, also called workplace skills, are also desirable. If you’re planning to pursue a cyber security career, work on developing these skills:

  • Problem-solving: Troubleshooting requires approaching problems systematically. In a cyber security environment where real or simulated problems are a constant, problem-solving or troubleshooting skills are a must-have skill set.

  • Communication: Regardless of your role, strong verbal and written communication skills are important. Strong communications skills can help you to engage more effectively with your colleagues and various stakeholder groups. This might include translating technical topics into messages that non-technical audiences can understand. It may also involve the promotion of healthy security practices to diverse, community-wide audiences.

  • Collaboration and teamwork: Listening, patience, open-mindedness and other collaboration traits contribute to a better, more productive environment and enable you to seek out other people’s expertise to find solutions.

  • Attention to detail: When working under pressure, cyber security professionals need to be detail-oriented to find and repair small system vulnerabilities or use digital forensic tactics to investigate data breaches.

Gain Experience

Many entry-level jobs in cyber security require some prior experience. So how do you get started? Indeed notes that relevant experience can be gained by working in specific cyber security-related roles:

  • Networking: This role focuses on maintaining hardware, software and networks, and also may involve troubleshooting and performing operations related to the protection of data.

  • Software development: Responsible for the development and testing of new software or equipment, software developers perform tasks that are related to cyber security.

  • Systems engineering: Roles in systems engineering involve maintaining and upgrading software systems, as well as designing and developing systems and software.

  • Financial and risk analysis: Companies use risk analyses to determine potential cyber threats and project the costs associated with risk mitigation. This process may involve the development of data-tracking software.

  • Security intelligence: In this cyber security-related role, analysts identify potential threats to a company’s data and the software and intelligence related to that data, and propose solutions to resolve these conditions.

Take the First Step Toward a Career in Cyber Security

At DeVry, our certificate and degree programs in information technology, networking and cyber security are designed with your success – and your timeline – in mind. Our 100% online Undergraduate Certificate in Cyber Security can help you develop fundamental skills to combat cybercrime and prepare to pursue industry-relevant cyber security certifications in as little as 1 year and 4 months,2 or even more quickly with qualifying transfer credits.

Classes start soon, so you can balance your commitment to education with work, family and other elements of your busy life.


2Not including breaks. Assumes year-round, full-time enrollment.

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