Getting Started in Cybersecurity
3 very common tracks to break into cyber are: Getting Certifications, Learning by Doing, & Pursuing Higher Education
Back in 2021, I set my sights on moving into a security role. After countless informational interviews with experts in the industry and attending cyber career panels, one common theme I learned was:
There is no one clear path to get into cybersecurity.
Some people come from a tech background, some come from a completely different and unrelated field. The great part is that everyone brings a completely unique perspective and way of thinking into the industry (which is a huge strength and advantage).
So, How Do I Get Into Cyber?
The world of cybersecurity is a surprisingly vast one and while there’s no one clear pathway to get into cyber, the 3 common tracks people take to break into the field:
Cyber certifications can set you apart as they are respected and recognized across the industry. A certification tends to be a more affordable and less time consuming option than a degree which means it’s a faster route into a job.
While there are many entry level certifications, there are also certs that can also be tailored to your specific career goals. For example, if you’re interested in Cloud there are entry level certifications like the:
- AWS Certified Cloud Practitioner
- CompTIA Cloud Essentials+
- AWS Certified Solutions Architect — Associate
- Microsoft Certified: Azure Fundamentals
- Google Associate Cloud Engineer
One resource that I highly recommend for looking into certifications is Paul Jerimy’s Security Certification Roadmap! It outlines many industry- recognized certifications by focus areas and whether the cert is more suitable for someone who’s a beginner, intermediate or expert.
Learning by Doing (aka Real-World Practice)
Learning by doing is a quick way to get practical, hands-on experience with real-world tools and scenarios. There are many different ways to get real-world practice, here are a few examples:
- Participating in Capture the Flag competitions, like the WiCyS Target Cyber Challenge or National Cyber League
- Self-paced education like coding bootcamps or using sites that give hands-on practice like TryHackMe and HackTheBox
- Participating in a cybersecurity internship or co-op
- Finding a mentor or shadowing someone who works in cyber
The huge benefit with taking this track is that there are countless free resources online to use to your advantage and that results in a level of flexibility in your learning schedule. However, you need to have self-discipline and motivation to complete your self-paced learnings.
With this track, there’s limited guidance from instructors/ mentors, as well as running into a potential issues of the quality of these online programs (so make sure to choose a reputable source).
Going to college or university to get a degree in the field is really helpful in building a solid, well-rounded cyber foundation.
- Degrees provides a broader understanding of cyber concepts, theories and practices
- They are great opportunities for networking with peers, professors, and industry professionals
- Higher education focuses more on theoretical and conceptual topics rather than practical, but this is advantageous especially for those considering management or research roles
However, pursuing higher education tends to be more time-consuming and expensive than the previously mentioned options.
Whether you pursue one of the three tracks above, a mix of the three, or something that I didn’t capture on the list, getting into cybersecurity is an exciting move. There’s so much to learn and explore that you won’t get bored! Regardless of where you’re at in your cyber journey, I wish you the best of luck!