Many people studying information security want to know about cybersecurity career advancement. Find out how you can rise through the cybersecurity ranks and where a degree in the field could take you.
Advancing through a cybersecurity career can seem like a daunting task, but like any other career, there are steps you can take to make your way up the ranks.
While learning new skills and taking on new challenges is necessary — it can also be incredibly rewarding with a long-term payoff. When you invest in your career, cybersecurity can take you a long way.
So where should you start?
Cybersecurity career advancement can take a number of different paths. Traditionally, cybersecurity workers begin in any number of entry-level jobs then work their way up.
Cybersecurity Career Advancement: Getting Started
Whether you take a job in operations, network security, architecture, engineering or development, there is probably a job for you. Many of these jobs require only a Bachelor’s degree.
One common entry-level position in an information security team is a systems analyst, who supports the work of others within the team, or even a penetration tester, who looks for exploits in a security system to make sure it’s as strong as possible.
Work on understanding processes and developing your technical skills, support skills and an analytical approach to problem-solving.
Good communication skills are an asset in any role. It’s never too early to start working on how you can communicate complex security concepts to those who don’t work in the field.
Being able to break down complex information into easy-to-understand language is essential – board members and executives don’t have the time to hear long-winded explanations. They need the facts, and they need them now.
A checklist for getting started:
- Research entry-level analyst roles
- Seek out basic training in security protocols and procedures
- Practice explaining complex security details to “outsiders”
Working Up to the Middle
As you work in your entry-level job, you’ll be gaining the skills necessary to move up to a more advanced role, which is where you may have more control over your specialization.
Information security analysts, for instance, will need to spend a lot of time thinking about how to implement security strategies across an entire organization.
For many, this will require an advanced degree, such as a Master’s in Cybersecurity, as ongoing learning is key to being successful in this type of role.
Jobs you could expect to strive for in this area could include a security manager, who oversees a team managing security operations, or a network security engineer, who maintains networks within a security framework.
Some people specializing in computer systems even have a Master’s of Business Administration (MBA) that focuses on cybersecurity, as they handle information that relates to an entire organization.
Network administrators work on a company’s need for sharing information within a closed system and how that information can be protected, so maintaining system integrity and operations is vital.
A checklist for working your way up:
- Investigate training and advanced education programs — seek out a Master’s program.
- Identify your desired area of specialization.
- Understand how security helps support overall business goals.
Making Your Way to the Top
For many, their ultimate cybersecurity career advancement goal is the C-suite, perhaps a role as a chief information officer (CIO), chief security officer (CSO) or chief information security officer (CISO).
These types of roles require years of experience. Additionally, to become a CIO you’ll need to become more familiar with how an organization works and the company’s strategic needs.
For that, you’ll need to develop your business and strategic skills, which can be done by studying both an advanced degree and by learning from those in your organization who already inhabit these roles.
For instance, a systems engineer doesn’t need to know how marketing and sales fit within an IT system, but a CIO needs to understand all of the company’s moving parts.
Some other roles could include a forensics expert, or a cryptographer assisting either law enforcement or a business in the private sector.
A checklist for making your way to the top:
- A comprehensive understanding of all business departments, and the role they play in meeting organizational goals and shareholder expectations.
- Networking and interacting with senior executives and board members.
- Developing and nurturing advanced soft skills that will allow you to communicate complex cybersecurity strategies to all levels of your business.
There is no clear path to becoming a CIO or CISO but a strong, in-depth education in cybersecurity and how it impacts every level of a business will set you on the right track.
Want to learn more about how your cybersecurity career advancement? Take a look at our Education section to learn more.