The Skills You Need to Land a Job
in Cybersecurity

See also: Problem Solving

In light of the widely reported cybersecurity skills gap, more and more people are starting to think about IT security as a viable career option. And, why not?

With the world becoming ever more technological, and huge scale cyber-attacks becoming commonly seen splashed across the headlines, learning to work as a cybersecurity professional is arguably more important than ever.

Cybersecurity professionals can command high salaries and operate in an ever changing, dynamic industry with constant opportunities for learning and career evolution.

So, if you’re interested in working in cybersecurity, either now or at some point in the future, we thought we’d compile a handy guide highlighting the key skills you’ll need to know – from the very basics of malware software and entry-level certifications like security plus training to the complex world of dark web monitoring.

Interested in cybersecurity?

Before we get into the nitty-gritty of what you need to get a job in cybersecurity, the very first thing you will need is a strong passion for information technology and the wider world of technology. Without that, you won’t get very far.

The majority of cybersecurity specialists come to the field from the perspective of already having a background in IT more broadly. You don’t need to have a PhD in Computer Science, but an understanding and interest in computers is vital.

While you obviously can’t be expected to understand everything right out of the gates, it’s important to love what you do and remain motivated to learn both now and in the future. Therefore, if you already know your MacBooks from your VPNs and love tinkering with code in your spare time, you’ll know you’re on the right track.

Right, now that’s out of the way, let’s get started. Here are the key skills you’ll need to land a job in cybersecurity:

1. Social skills

While cybersecurity professionals may have a bit of a reputation in the past for acting as lone wolves, hiding away in the shadows, in today’s day and age that has all changed.

Nowadays, many cybersecurity experts work in-house or as part of a team within specific companies. Therefore, to ensure processes run smoothly, it’s vital for you to have good social skills, allowing you to communicate, relate to, and connect with other people.

This is also imperative from a mental health point of view. Unfortunately, mental health conditions like depression, burnout and even suicide are becoming more common among cybersecurity professionals.

As such, this highlights just how important it is to establish a strong set of social skills, enabling you to build friendships and navigate your way through working life with a better degree of satisfaction.

2. Software skills

Put simply, working in cybersecurity will involve dealing with a wide variety of software.

This could cover from penetration testing software through to anti-virus software, or security event and information management (SEIM) tools. So, when looking for a role in cybersecurity, you will need to build up a decent understanding of the principles behind these types of software.

Similarly, depending on the type of role you are looking for, gaining a knowledge of coding and the various forms of cyber-attacks could help you in a few ways.

Not only will you be able to understand how to identify issues like malware, data breaches, ransomware and phishing, but you will also develop the skills to conduct a risk analysis – a plan of attack - to mitigate, respond to and ultimately combat the threat.

3. Problem-solving skills

Cybersecurity professionals are the ultimate problem solvers. Whether it be finding bugs in systems, decoding cyphers or preventing cyber-attacks before they even happen, if you enjoy the thrill of developing creative solutions to a whole host of technical challenges, hone this and you will thrive in a cybersecurity position.

Likewise, because of needing to be such good problem solvers, cybersecurity professionals also need to have meticulous attention to detail, often having to scan through pages and pages of code and complicated software to identify potential vulnerabilities and escalate any critical risks.

Therefore, try to gain skills where you can improve your ability to solve problems and harness your attention to detail. Books, brain logic puzzles, exercising more often and learning a new instrument or language are a few good places to start.

4. Analytical skills

There can be no doubt that to have a successful career in cybersecurity, you need skills in analysis. So much of modern cybersecurity is based around taking data from a range of sources, conducting analysis and learning from it.

Cybersecurity professionals are typically called on to use software that is able to mine a huge amount of data. And while of course the software is able to do a lot of the analytical work - it is a big part of the job to be able to process that information and make it actionable.

For example, a lot of information about emerging cyber threats actually comes from social media platforms and forums.

How to learn

As with most technical roles, you will need to gain expertise in cybersecurity in order to land a job within the field.

Undertaking a formal bachelor’s degree in a relevant topic is one of the easiest ways to do exactly that, with the best disciplines typically including:

  • Computer Science
  • Computer Programming
  • Database Management
  • Computer Hardware Engineering
  • Network Administration
  • Cloud Computing
  • Information Technology Management
  • Information Security & Assurance
  • Computer Forensics
  • Machine Learning

What’s more, after attaining a degree in a relevant subject, many cybersecurity professionals decide to enhance their skills even further by obtaining qualifications in specific cybersecurity roles. Amongst many others, these typically include:

  • CEH – Certified Ethical Hacker
  • CHFI – Computer Hacking Forensic Investigator
  • CISSP – Certified Information Systems Security Professional
  • CCSP – Cloud Security Certification
  • CRISC – Certified in Risk and Information Systems Control Certification
  • CySA+ – Cybersecurity Analyst+

A little more research…

To find out more about what a job in cybersecurity would entail, as well as the key skills you will need to have to be successful, there are a wide variety of blogs, books and courses – like Coursera, Udacity, edX, and Udemy – available online to really affirm your understanding of the field.

About the Author

Dakota Murphey is a writer based in Brighton, specialising in management training, HR and effective talent acquisition. Having authored pieces for numerous online and print magazines, Dakota has undertaken independent studies to discover how managerial styles and practices can positively impact business productivity.