How to Get into Cyber Security

With the world more connected than ever, many people interested in the complex world of cyber security may be just starting to explore how to get into cyber security as a career, or how they can reroute their current careers into the profession. Luckily, there are several different ways that you can work towards a career in cyber security.

DeVry University offers an Undergraduate Certificate in Cyber Security and a variety of other technology-focused degree programs to help you start building your career. In this article, you'll learn some key elements of what you need to know about this rapidly expanding profession as we explore the following topics:

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What is Cyber Security?

Cyber security is a discipline of technology that involves securing data, networks, computer systems and information from hackers and other bad actors within a digital space.

Just about everybody might need to practice some form of cyber security. For example, if you've ever protected your data with passwords or anti-virus software, you've engaged in cyber security.

Of course, professional-level cyber security is far more complex than just installing anti-virus software on a home computer. People who work in this field engage in a variety of practices that help keep data safe, which include everything from establishing and setting up best practices for a company, to simulating a hacking attempt in order to discover a system’s weak points.

What Background Do I Need to Get Into Cyber Security?

People who pursue a job in cyber security often have a background in IT or another technology discipline, such as network setups, programming and data maintenance.

However, you don't need to have years of experience as an IT professional to start working towards a career in cyber security. Some colleges and universities, such as DeVry University, offer an Undergraduate Certificate in Cyber Security or bachelor's degrees within a related field.

No matter your background, getting a degree or certificate in cyber security may help you stand out to employers. These credentials can demonstrate that you have taken time to develop the skills needed to keep their data and customers safe from the threat of digital attackers.

What Qualifications Could Help Me Pursue a Career in Cyber Security?

In addition to a certificate or degree, the following industry certifications may also help you stand out while pursuing a career in cyber security:

  • CompTIA A+: This certification recognizes a holder's ability to perform troubleshooting, hardware, operating systems and network-related tasks.

  • CompTIA Cloud+: This certification confirms an individual's ability to troubleshoot, set up and manage cloud computing systems securely.

  • CompTIA LINUX+: This certification confirms a person's ability to use the Linux operating system to manage networks and devices.

  • CompTIA NETWORK+: This certification verifies knowledge of emerging technologies.

  • CompTIA PenTest+: A particularly valuable certification for cyber security professionals, this test verifies an individual's offensive capabilities. In a cyber security setting, it demonstrates that the holder is capable of simulating network attacks to test the strength of the network’s security.

  • CompTIA Security+: This certification confirms that an individual has the capability to perform basic cyber security functions.

  • EC Council Certified Ethical Hacker: This certification indicates that the holder is capable of performing hacking tasks that can be used to test the security of a network.

  • EC Council Certified Network Defender: This certification verifies that the holder is able to create strong, secure networks and programs. It's highly recommended that cyber security professionals pursue this credential.

By combining one or more of these industry certifications with an undergraduate certificate or degree, you may be able to distinguish yourself from other candidates when seeking a job.

How Long Does It Take to Prepare for a Cyber Security Position?

Because there are so many different paths and specialties within the cyber security field, there’s no specific amount of time it would take to earn a degree. But in general, most positions within this industry usually require at least a bachelor's degree. Most bachelor's degree programs take roughly four years to complete. At DeVry, our Bachelor's Degree Specialization in Cyber Security Programming can be completed in as few as 2 years and 8 months1.

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

Programming language requirements may vary depending on the job you wish to pursue and the company in question. That said, there are a few languages that are recommended regardless of where you want to work:

  • PHP: This is the primary programming language for creating websites. It's a favorite language of hackers and can be used to initiate denial of service (DDoS) attacks on servers.
  • JavaScript: As it is the core language of the internet, an understanding of JavaScript, or “Java”, is vital to any cyber security profession. Understanding this language can help you protect your own website while remaining aware of what malicious script looks like when encountered.

  • Python and SQL: Depending on the area of cyber security that most interests you, you may also explore Python and SQL. Python is renowned for its flexibility, while SQL directly relates to managing stored data. Understanding all of these languages can help you stand out when the time comes to begin your career search.

What Kind of Careers are in the Cyber Security Sector?

As our world becomes ever more reliant upon web services and digital assets, cyber security becomes more and more essential. Thanks to the expansion of technology across nearly every industry, there are a variety of different specialties and disciplines that offer distinct career paths within the cyber security sector2.

  • Forensics Expert: Computer forensics experts are called in in the hopes of tracing the attack back to the source. These professionals analyze cyberattacks in order to collect evidence and identify the perpetrator of the attack.

  • Cyber Security Specialist: These professionals work alongside IT professionals to develop and test systems. Their primary duties involve looking for weaknesses within existing security, creating best practices for employees and building secure networks.

  • Information Security Analyst: An information security analyst protects networks and data through the application of defensive software. They mostly focus on keeping sensitive data safe, though they may also work on general system security. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, this profession is expected to grow, on a national level, rapidly between 2019 and 20292.

  • Software Developer: While not directly in the realm of cyber security, software developers need to know how to protect the systems they create and the data they collect. Many of the skills you can learn in a cyber security bachelor's degree program are applicable to software development.

  • Computer Programmer: Coders and programmers typically need to know how to keep their software programs protected and safe to use. It’s one reason why it’s helpful for a computer programmer to have some background in cyber security as well.

Take the First Step Toward an Education in Cyber Security

At DeVry, we have a long history of helping people build the skills they need as they work towards their chosen careers. We've developed our Bachelor's Degree Specialization in Cyber Security Programming to stack3 with our Undergraduate Certificate in Cyber Security to help get you on your way as soon as possible.

1 Not including breaks. Assumes year-round, full-time enrollment.
2 Growth projected on a national level. Local growth will vary by location.
3At the time of application to the next credential level, an evaluation of qualifying transfer credit will occur and the most beneficial outcome will be applied.