How to Start a Career in Cyber Security

There have been several high-profile security breaches in recent years, including the NHS and more recently Marriott Hotels, bringing the demand for cyber security professionals to its peak.

Like much of the IT sector, employers are struggling to fill these cyber security skills gaps – some predict that there could be around 100,000 unfilled cyber security jobs in the UK by 2022.

So, there is demand for cyber security professionals, but what’s the best pathway to a career in cyber security?

Growing demand for Cyber Security specialists

The Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport estimate that approximately 653,000 businesses have a basic skills gap, with 408,000 having a more serious advanced skills gap across IT security.

The need for skilled software developers and IT security specialists has increased even further this year, as companies have shifted to increasingly online delivery in the wake of Covid-19. In fact, security is now one of the most searched career paths for those looking at a career in IT. But to meet the demand for IT security professionals, the total number of candidates would need to increase by 145%.

While the career is enticing on the surface, the technical proficiencies and experience required have proved a formidable barrier to those looking to enter. For those that do start a cyber security career, average salaries hover around £62,500, meaning the reward is well worth the effort to build your foundation.

In addition to attractive salary prospects, a career in IT security also offers job security rivalling other many other industries – with a growing focus on all things online, companies are increasingly prioritising security for their users and employees.

Additionally, you’ll find a wealth of different career paths to specialise in. You could transition into Cryptography, Forensic Computer Analysis or even Penetration Testing – which sees an average salary of £90,000

But before you become specialise in an cyber security pathway, you’ll need entry-level IT skills and experience.

Starting a Career in Cyber Security

Like the rest of the IT industry, employers recruiting for cybersecurity professionals are looking for a mix of practical experience, and technical understanding. Despite fears of a recession, in the past, the IT industry has proven its resistance to economic downturn. So if you’re passionate, it’s still a good time to get started in IT. 

The foundation for any career in cyber security is strong IT Networking fundamentals, experience working within IT & Networking, coupled with some more focused security qualifications. Apprenticeships offer a government funded pathway to start your IT career. A Level 3 Information Communications Technician apprenticeship can give you an overview of an IT career, and will help you to build the essential hands-on experience needed to specialise.

You can also choose to undertake a Level 3 IT Technician Skills Bootcamp, designed to help you develop the digital skills in demand with top employers. These government funded Bootcamps are part of the governments Plan for Jobs, and will give you all the technical skills needed to start your first IT role. Once in the industry, you can progress to a Cyber specialisation, with the right experience.

Level 4 Network Engineer Apprenticeships offer similar hands on experience but with a more advanced look into Network Systems and Architecture, Cloud Services, Virtualisation and Network Security. The Level 4 pathway can act as the natural progression of the Level 3 ICT, but either can provide a springboard into the industry.

From these starting points you can develop your career as you gain more confidence and experience, before further upskilling with security-specific certifications.

CompTIA’s Security+ is a well-regarded certification in the sector, offering an introduction to the fundamentals of cyber security, and is offered with some Networking & IT Support training programmes. This will allow you to build your foundation in networking or technical support, and upskill with the additional certification when you’re ready.

Typically industry entrants will work in 1st Line Support or a similar role for 2-3 years before making the transition into a cyber security role, but this can vary depending on the individual. But like any career change – it all starts with that first step.