Cybersecurity is one of the most in-demand and lucrative fields in the world of technology. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual wage for cybersecurity analysts was $103,590 in 2020, and the projected growth rate for this occupation was 31% from 2019 to 2029, much faster than the average for all occupations.
But how can you get into this exciting and rewarding career if you have no experience or formal education in cybersecurity? Is it too late to switch careers if you are in your 30s, 40s, or 50s? Can you learn cybersecurity in 6 months or less? Is it hard to get a job in cybersecurity without a degree or certifications?
In this article, we will answer these questions and more, and provide you with some practical tips and resources to help you start your journey into the world of cybersecurity. Whether you are a complete beginner or have some background in IT or programming, you will find some useful information and guidance to help you achieve your career goals.
What is Cybersecurity and Why is it Important?
Cybersecurity is the practice of protecting computer systems, networks, devices, data, and users from unauthorized access, malicious attacks, or damage. Cybersecurity encompasses a wide range of domains, such as network security, application security, cloud security, endpoint security, identity and access management, cryptography, digital forensics, incident response, penetration testing, threat intelligence, and more.
Cybersecurity is important because it affects every aspect of our modern society. From personal devices and online accounts to critical infrastructure and national security, everything depends on the security and integrity of digital systems and information. Cyberattacks can cause serious harm to individuals, organizations, and governments, such as financial losses, identity theft, data breaches, reputational damage, legal liabilities, physical damage, or even loss of life.
The demand for cybersecurity professionals is driven by the increasing frequency and sophistication of cyberattacks, as well as the growing adoption of new technologies such as cloud computing, artificial intelligence, internet of things, blockchain, etc. These technologies offer many benefits and opportunities for innovation and efficiency, but also introduce new risks and challenges for cybersecurity.
According to a report by Cybersecurity Ventures, there will be 3.5 million unfilled cybersecurity jobs globally by 2021. This means that there is a huge gap between the supply and demand of skilled cybersecurity workers. This also means that there are many opportunities for anyone who wants to pursue a career in cybersecurity.
How to Start a Career in Cybersecurity with No Experience
If you are interested in starting a career in cybersecurity with no experience or formal education in the field, here are some steps that you can take to prepare yourself and increase your chances of landing a job:
1- Build a foundation with an introductory course. The first step is to learn the basics of cybersecurity concepts, principles, tools, and best practices. You can do this by taking an online course or a bootcamp that covers the fundamentals of cybersecurity. For example, you can enroll in the IBM Cybersecurity Analyst Professional Certificate on Coursera. This course will teach you how to perform basic security analysis tasks using various tools and techniques. You will also learn how to identify common types of cyberattacks and vulnerabilities, how to comply with industry standards and regulations, how to communicate effectively with stakeholders and clients, and how to prepare for a career in cybersecurity.
2- Evaluate your passion for technology. Cybersecurity is a field that requires constant learning and curiosity. You need to have a passion for technology and a willingness to explore new topics and challenges. You also need to have a problem-solving mindset and an analytical approach. If you enjoy tinkering with technology and finding solutions to complex problems, you will find cybersecurity an engaging and rewarding career.
3- Learn a little every day. Cybersecurity is a vast and dynamic field that changes rapidly. You need to keep yourself updated with the latest trends, threats, tools, and techniques in the industry. You can do this by reading blogs, newsletters, podcasts, books, and reports on cybersecurity topics. You can also join online communities, forums, and social media platforms where you can interact with other cybersecurity enthusiasts and professionals.
4- Find your niche and ideal career path. Cybersecurity is not a one-size-fits-all field. There are many different domains, roles, and specializations within cybersecurity that require different skills, knowledge, and experience levels. You need to find out what interests you the most and what suits your strengths and goals. Some of the common career paths in cybersecurity include:
- Security analyst: A security analyst monitors and analyzes the security posture and events of an organization or client. They use various tools and techniques to detect and respond to cyber incidents, as well as provide recommendations and reports on how to improve security.
- Security engineer: A security engineer designs and implements security solutions and systems for an organization or client. They use their technical skills and knowledge to build and maintain security infrastructure, such as firewalls, antivirus, encryption, authentication, etc.
- Security consultant: A security consultant provides expert advice and guidance on security matters to an organization or client. They conduct security assessments, audits, penetration tests, and risk analysis to identify and mitigate security vulnerabilities and threats. They also help develop and implement security policies, standards, and best practices.
- Security manager: A security manager oversees and manages the security operations and strategy of an organization or client. They are responsible for planning, coordinating, and executing security initiatives and projects. They also lead and supervise security teams and staff.
- Security researcher: A security researcher conducts in-depth research and analysis on various aspects of cybersecurity, such as new technologies, threats, vulnerabilities, attacks, defenses, etc. They use their creativity and curiosity to discover and explore new findings and insights that can advance the field of cybersecurity.
5- Pursue relevant certifications. Certifications are a great way to validate your skills and knowledge in cybersecurity. They can also help you stand out from the crowd and impress potential employers. There are many certifications available for different levels and domains of cybersecurity. Some of the popular ones include:
- CompTIA Security+: This is a foundational certification that covers the core concepts and skills of cybersecurity. It is ideal for beginners who want to demonstrate their understanding of security basics, such as threats, vulnerabilities, attacks, defenses, compliance, etc.
- Certified Ethical Hacker (CEH): This is an intermediate certification that covers the skills and techniques of ethical hacking and penetration testing. It is ideal for aspiring or current security professionals who want to demonstrate their ability to assess and exploit the security of systems and networks using various tools and methods.
- Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP): This is an advanced certification that covers the skills and knowledge of information security management and leadership. It is ideal for experienced security professionals who want to demonstrate their expertise in designing, implementing, and maintaining a secure information system.
6- Gain some practical experience. Experience is one of the most important factors that employers look for when hiring cybersecurity professionals. However, it can be challenging to get experience without a job, and vice versa. To overcome this dilemma, you can try some of the following ways to gain some practical experience in cybersecurity:
- Volunteer for a non-profit organization or a small business that needs help with their cybersecurity needs. You can offer your skills and services for free or at a low cost, and gain valuable experience and references in return.
- Participate in online platforms and competitions that allow you to practice your cybersecurity skills and challenge yourself. For example, you can join Hack The Box, a platform that provides various levels of hacking challenges and scenarios that you can try to solve. You can also join Capture The Flag (CTF) competitions, where you can compete with other hackers to find and exploit vulnerabilities in simulated systems and networks.
- Create your own projects and portfolio that showcase your cybersecurity skills and achievements. You can use your own devices or virtual machines to set up your own lab environment, where you can experiment with different tools and techniques. You can also document your projects and share them online through blogs, videos, podcasts, etc.
7- Find a mentor or a network. Cybersecurity is a field that requires collaboration and communication with other people. You can benefit from finding a mentor or a network of peers who can guide you, support you, and inspire you in your cybersecurity journey. You can find mentors or networks through various channels, such as:
- Online platforms and communities, such as Reddit, Discord, LinkedIn, Twitter, etc., where you can connect with other cybersecurity enthusiasts and professionals, ask questions, share ideas, learn from others, etc.
- Local events and meetups, such as conferences, workshops, hackathons, etc., where you can meet face-to-face with other cybersecurity enthusiasts and professionals, network, exchange contacts, learn new skills, etc.
- Professional organizations and associations, such as (ISC)2, ISACA, SANS Institute, etc., where you can join as a member and access various resources, opportunities, events, certifications, etc., related to cybersecurity.
8- Keep learning and improving. Cybersecurity is a field that never stops evolving and changing. You need to keep learning and improving your skills and knowledge to stay relevant and competitive in the industry. You can do this by:
- Following the latest news and trends in cybersecurity, such as new technologies, threats, vulnerabilities, attacks, defenses, regulations, etc., through various sources, such as blogs, newsletters, podcasts, books, reports, etc.
- Taking advanced courses or bootcamps that cover more specialized or in-depth topics in cybersecurity, such as cloud security, artificial intelligence security, internet of things security, blockchain security, etc.
- Pursuing higher education or degrees in cybersecurity or related fields if you want to deepen your academic
- knowledge and understanding of cybersecurity or related fields. You can also pursue research or academic careers in cybersecurity if you are interested in advancing the field through scientific inquiry and innovation.
- Seeking feedback and mentorship from other cybersecurity professionals or experts who can help you improve your skills and knowledge, as well as provide you with career advice and guidance.
- Applying for jobs or internships in cybersecurity that match your skills and interests, and preparing well for the interviews and assessments. You can also create your own resume and portfolio that highlight your achievements and projects in cybersecurity.
Where should a beginner start in cyber security?
A beginner should start by learning the basics of cybersecurity concepts, principles, tools, and best practices. They can do this by taking an online course or a bootcamp that covers the fundamentals of cybersecurity. They should also evaluate their passion for technology and learn a little every day about the latest trends, threats, tools, and techniques in the industry.
Is 30 too old to get into cyber security?
No, 30 is not too old to get into cybersecurity. Cybersecurity is a field that welcomes people from diverse backgrounds, ages, and experiences. As long as you have the interest, motivation, and willingness to learn and improve, you can start a career in cybersecurity at any age. You may need to invest more time and effort to catch up with the current skills and knowledge in the industry, but you can also leverage your previous experience and transferable skills to your advantage.
Can I learn cyber security in 6 months?
Yes, you can learn cybersecurity in 6 months or less. However, this does not mean that you will become an expert or a professional in cybersecurity in 6 months. Cybersecurity is a vast and complex field that requires continuous learning and improvement. You can learn the basics of cybersecurity in 6 months or less by taking an online course or a bootcamp that covers the fundamentals of cybersecurity. You can also gain some practical experience by volunteering, participating in online platforms and competitions, or creating your own projects and portfolio. However, you will need to keep learning and improving your skills and knowledge to advance your career in cybersecurity.
Is it hard to get a job in cybersecurity without a degree or certifications?
No, it is not hard to get a job in cybersecurity without a degree or certifications. However, it may be more challenging or competitive than getting a job with a degree or certifications. A degree or certifications can help you validate your skills and knowledge in cybersecurity, as well as impress potential employers. However, they are not the only factors that matter for getting a job in cybersecurity. Employers also look for other factors, such as your experience, projects, portfolio, skills, attitude, personality, etc. You can demonstrate these factors by creating your own resume and portfolio that showcase your achievements and projects in cybersecurity, as well as preparing well for the interviews and assessments.