How to Pursue a Cyber Security Career Without an IT Background

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By William Phillips, PhD, DeVry University Dean of the Colleges of Engineering & Information Sciences and Media Arts & Technology

May 16, 2022
5 min read

Let’s be clear: there is no shortage of opportunity in the cyber security field.

In fact, according to the 2021 (ISC)² Cybersecurity Workforce Study, the Cybersecurity Workforce Gap remains substantial. They estimate a need for over 377,000 cybersecurity professionals in the United States, and more than 2.7 million globally. In addition, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) predicts a 33% growth in employment on a national level for information security analysts1.

Put it all together and cyber security represents a high-growth field – but that doesn’t mean you have to be an IT pro to pursue these jobs. If you’re a detail-oriented, tech-savvy individual, a cyber security career might be the perfect fit for you.

Wondering if you’ve got what it takes? Read on to learn more about some of the essential skills you should have to pursue a career in this exciting and in-demand field.

5 Characteristics of Cyber Security Professionals

After a decade of working in the technology field, I’ve seen first-hand what it takes to build a successful cyber security career – and the skills and qualities needed are not exclusive to those with a background in IT. There are plenty of skills embodied by HR professionals, accountants, teachers – you name it – that are highly beneficial in the cyber security field.

Let’s explore five characteristics that I believe make someone a great candidate for a career in cyber security.

An Affinity for Technology

By “affinity,” I don’t mean you need to be a coding expert. Rather, I mean you can’t be afraid of technology. Someone pursuing a cyber security career should be curious and want to know how the technology we use every day works. If you can’t seem to master your smartphone, for example, this may not be the career for you. But if you are fascinated by technology and its application to keeping ourselves and the organizations we work for safe, you could be a good candidate.

A Deeply Inquisitive Mind

Are you the type of person who can think like a detective, or get into the mind of a criminal? Do you have a keen eye for suspicious activity? Skepticism is a desirable quality in cyber security, as is a willingness to dig into your suspicions.

A Tenacious Attention to Detail

Are you a highly detailed person who is tenacious about ensuring you’ve checked all the boxes on a project? Are you passionate about making sure you get it right the first time without any loose ends? Cyber security professionals must be detail oriented, as the stakes are too high for them not to be.

A Never-give-up Attitude

Cyber security is all about persistence. Hackers and cyber criminals are constantly evolving their tactics and won’t quit trying to find ways to do harm. Cyber security professionals must be as diligent and creative as their attackers. Your goal is to make information systems as bulletproof as possible and stay one step ahead of the bad guys.

A Commitment to Life-long Learning

If you have a natural curiosity to explore and learning new things is part of your DNA, cyber security could be the field you’ve been looking for. Technology advances at a break-neck speed, so an aptitude for continuing education is critical. Learning by trial and error should invigorate someone interested in cyber security. I like to compare it to chess. You must constantly look several moves ahead in order to win. To do that, you need to be up to speed with the latest developments in cyber security tools and techniques.

Cyber Security Tech Skills

As mentioned above, having the right soft skills are beneficial, but developing your hard skills are equally critical. My recommendation is to think about the job you want, then do some research to determine what kind of cyber security degree you might need in order to meet the requirements. Some cyber security jobs require a bachelor’s or master’s degree, but others can be pursued with an undergraduate certificate - which can often be earned in less time.

You’ll also want to explore the tech skills that are taught in each program you are considering. Depending on the cyber security career you are interested in, some hard skills you may need to develop are:

  • Data privacy and security
  • Programming
  • Networking, routing and switching
  • Network security
  • Ethical hacking
  • OS architecture and design
  • Systems administration

Tips for Changing Careers

If the cyber security field interests you but you don’t quite have a tech background, don’t fret. Changing careers is more common than you may think, and you just might be surprised at how many transitional skills you already have.

To get started, I suggest networking with other professionals in the cyber security field. This may be a colleague from your organization’s IT department, someone you met via LinkedIn or a friend or family member. Ask questions about their background, skills and job responsibilities. The more you learn, the more you’ll start to develop an idea of what you want in your own career.

I’d also encourage you to reach out to the schools you are interested in. Chatting with an admissions representative can be a great place to ask questions about the field and learn more about degree programs and potential career paths. They can also explain the various tools, resources and support you can take advantage of. At DeVry, for example, we offer Career Services to all students and alumni, which helps you with things like resume development, interview prep and job leads.

While switching careers might seem like a big change, taking the first step toward a job that invigorates you is both rewarding and exciting. You can take pride in knowing that you’re creating a future that you’re passionate about.

Grow Your Cyber Security Skills at DeVry

Our goal is to help you get on track toward the future you want. If a cyber security career sounds like the right fit for you, take the next step and learn more about our cyber security degree and certificate programs which can be completed 100% online and include resources such as online tutoring and personalized career services support. Classes start every 8 weeks.

1Growth projected on a national level. Local growth will vary by location. https://www.bls.gov/ooh/computer-and-information-technology/information-security-analysts.htm

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