How to Build a Successful Career in Cybersecurity

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Just 20 years ago, a career in cybersecurity was limited to a very narrow demographic of job seekers. Today, with data breaches, malicious software attacks, and hacking on the rise, every major company and government department relies on a trained team to help prevent loss from cybercrimes. With the average annual pay for a cybersecurity analyst at $95,700, it’s also a lucrative avenue for anyone hoping to ensure financial security.

To make an informed choice about your future, you need to discern which program will best help you build a career in cybersecurity and increase your marketability in the growing job market. Here are some factors to consider.

Choose a Holistic Cybersecurity Program

Most technical training is divided into two types of learning: practical (hands-on, step-by-step, and how-tos) and theoretical (the why and how of the science). Both learning methods are needed to become proficient at your job, and the right cybersecurity program will approach both with equal merit.

By following this holistic approach, graduates will have the skills to anticipate cyberthreats, proactively build solutions, and know what to do when criminals threaten systems. As technology changes, a cybersecurity professional with adaptive, hands-on experience will have the skills to evolve with it.

Know the Cybersecurity Job Market

Cybersecurity is a vast field, with specializations—such as security engineer or network engineer—that range from entry-level to those requiring an advanced degree. Within cybersecurity, however, there is not always enough talent to meet the market demand of those top positions that require a post-secondary education. Gaining an understanding of the various types of jobs, and what training is required of each, and how in-demand each is can put you in the best position to study the courses needed for your chosen job.

Recent labor market data reveals that cybersecurity positions grew 73 percent from 2007–2012; jobs are expected to grow an additional 28 percent from 2016-2026, more than tripling the average rate of job growth across all industries.

Follow Your Passion

Cybersecurity offers professionals a wide variety of opportunities to pursue individual interests within the tech world. Someone with a love for the law could focus their career on ethical norms and legal requirements for cybersecurity, including privacy, disclosure, and the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), which protects digital creators from infringement and acts of piracy.

Designers can translate their creative skills into more secure network environments. The field is in need of those who can teach, write, code and test—all within the day-to-day-applications we use all the time—with an eye for the most secure methods possible.

Cybersecurity offers an array of opportunities to use your unique talents in a way that is fulfilling to you.

Embrace Advanced Learning

There are many reasons to continue your education past a bachelor’s degree. Perhaps the most striking, however, is the salary potential. Did you know that advanced degree holders earn a salary 35 percent higher than those with a bachelor’s degree?

Cybersecurity careers are no exception to this trend, and a student who chooses to continue their education with a master’s can expect a more challenging, rewarding, and specialized career experience. Today’s master’s programs are also quite flexible and can be completed either full-time or part-time, in just two to three years.

What’s more exciting is that master’s degrees are not only offered through classroom courses—100 percent of the top degrees can also be earned entirely online, or through a hybrid combination of both classroom and online courses. Your new career in cybersecurity can be learned in whatever format works best for your life.

Plug Into a Network

It can be daunting for a new graduate to be thrust into the job market, but, with the right network, it doesn’t have to be lonely or discouraging. Many students of cybersecurity programs connect with their teachers, fellow students, and managers from internships and then maintain these relationships throughout their placement phase. By taking full advantage of the professionals you’ll encounter during your education, looking for the perfect job doesn’t have to be a lonely endeavor. Getting to know like-minded cybersecurity enthusiasts both inside and outside the classroom can bring value for a lifetime.

Starting a career in cybersecurity isn’t just a commitment to bettering yourself through more education and a higher possible starting salary; it’s also a commitment to bettering our world by thwarting bad players’ efforts to compromise the technology we enjoy every day. Whether your skills are used to stop debit card fraud, ransomware, or high-level government hacking, the impact you can make as a cybersecurity professional will have a lasting impact on everyone.

Ready for an exciting cybersecurity career? Explore Northeastern’s cybersecurity graduate certificate or Master of Science in Cybersecurity program to find out how to get started.