How to get into cyber security

Sep 2, 2015

From online bullying to identity fraud, our increasing online activity is opening new opportunities for graduates

With people doing more and more online, from shopping to making virtual friends, cyber security has become a huge area in the fight to keep us safe online.

This means new career opportunities for graduates but how do you get into cyber security and what sort of skills do you need?

With the publication of the UK’s cyber security strategy in December 2014 lots of help now exists for graduates considering cyber security as a career option. The government is keen to help graduates develop the skills needed to be successful in this area as it’s critical to the UK’s economic growth. The report birthed a number of initiatives designed to support efforts to drive up employment rates among computer science graduates.

Getting into cyber security

Contrary to what you may believe you don’t have to be a computing graduate to work in cyber security but can have a degree in a related field such as business systems or digital design.

You will however need to have some understanding of online security before entering the workforce. Employers also look for practical experience in business communication and technical skills.

Aptitudes for a cyber career

What about the aptitude needed to pursue a career in the field? An inquiring mind is desirable. This is usually manifested in the habit of asking questions. Not content with what things look like on the surface, you always want to know why things are the way they are.

Analytical and numeracy skills are also key. You need to be good at interpreting data and translating it into meaningful information your colleagues can use.

There is plenty you can do to strengthen your skills and knowledge in cyber security. This will help enhance your career opportunities in business and the wider cyber security profession.

You can join a mentoring scheme where existing cyber security professionals mentor recent graduates interested in a cyber career.

You can also develop skills in tailored “cyber camps” for recent graduates. They combine intensive exercises to strengthen your technical, communication and business skills.

There are opportunities to develop your skills by doing a higher education course as a number of universities now offer postgraduate Master’s degrees in General Cyber Security.  The government has also funded two Centres of Doctoral Training to provide an expanded pool of top-end skills at PhD level. These centres will deliver 66 additional PhDs from 2017.

Other innovative initiatives to raise cyber skills and awareness and broaden the pool of available talent include a new Massive Open Online Course in cyber security. Run by the Open University, the course runs for an eight-week period, four times a year. As well as raising awareness amongst a mass audience the course aims to encourage those with an interest to take the subject further. A total of 24,127 people enrolled for the first iteration in September 2014.

Finally, the Cyber Security Challenge runs cyber security competitions with the aim of encouraging a broader set of people to test their skills and consider a career in the field. The finalists compete in an ultimate set of tests co-designed by GCHQ, NCA, BT, Lockheed Martin, Juniper and Airbus.

Cyber security is a career of the future because as more companies move their activities online demand for employees will only grow.

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