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Today, most people have a general idea of what cybersecurity is. The definition is pretty self-explanatory in the name and requires tech-savvy professionals working to keep businesses (and their data) safe from online threats.
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But let’s go beyond the basic definition for a second. Do you really know the most important tasks that cybersecurity professionals perform every day? Could you mention some specific entry-level cybersecurity jobs?
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If you’re thinking about building a career in cybersecurity and want to know where your career path can take you, it might help to get educated. In this article, we will shed light on the industry, its job prospects, and what positions are open for talented entry-level candidates.
Cybersecurity is a broad term that refers to all the processes, technologies and people that collectively protect organizations from digital attacks. Among other responsibilities, cybersecurity professionals install and manage sophisticated security software, scan for vulnerabilities in an organization’s digital systems, and create protocols to protect businesses, consumers, and information from malicious actors.
Successful cybersecurity teams continually strive to protect networks, proprietary applications, and systems from online threats by building multiple layers of protection across networks, computers, and sensitive data. As attackers become increasingly innovative, it is up to these information security professionals to prevent malicious players from accessing, changing or destroying sensitive data.
Since so much of our daily interactions take place online, the work done by cybersecurity professionals is crucial, especially given the threat that hackers pose to businesses today. Even a single digital breach can lead to massive financial losses if hackers decide to steal or reveal corporate information, customer data, banking information or critical business intelligence.
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According to RiskBased Security’s most recent year-end data breach QuickView report, 7,098 known breaches exposed 15.1 billion records in 2019. The number of exposed records increased an incredible 284% from 2018 and a still-significant 91% from 2017.
Not surprisingly, the increased risk of digital vulnerability has led to a parallel expansion of the cybersecurity industry. The global cybersecurity market was valued at USD 161.07 billion in 2019 and is expected to exceed USD 363.05 billion by 2025.
This rapid expansion has led to an unprecedented increase in the demand for talented cybersecurity professionals. Currently, the need for talent far exceeds the available supply of qualified candidates.
A 2019 report from (ISC)2 noted that the cybersecurity workforce gap is nearly 500,000 in the United States alone. This talent pool would need to grow by 62 percent to meet the current demand for corporate America, an unsustainable task.
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For starters, 65 percent of organizations surveyed in the (ISC) 2 report say they have a severe shortage of cybersecurity personnel. Representatives of these companies claim that the lack of experienced personnel is even more worrying than the insufficiency of available resources. More than half of cybersecurity professionals say their organization is at “moderate or extreme risk” due to persistent staff shortages.
While the talent shortage is a clear and pressing problem for companies, on the other hand, the intense need also creates a fantastic career opportunity for aspiring cybersecurity professionals.
Recent reports from TechRepublic indicate that major companies such as Apple, General Motors, Capital One, and Cisco have begun hiring cybersecurity professionals en masse. The same reporter speculates that industries most at risk of cyberattacks (healthcare, education, government, for example) will also see an increase in cybersecurity jobs in the coming years.
Below, we dive into ten of the best entry-level cybersecurity gigs on the market. Each role has been selected for its unique combination of job responsibilities, enhanced career prospects and opportunities for future growth.
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Security analysts play a critical role in protecting business intelligence from malicious actors seeking to modify, view, or destroy data. The analyst works to identify and correct flaws in existing security systems, often working with multiple departments to develop new processes.
Analysts work directly with collected data to detect suspicious activity in databases, servers, networks or other proprietary software. Once a breach occurs, analysts direct efforts to mitigate the damage and prevent future attacks.
Security analysis is considered an entry-level cybersecurity job, often requiring a degree in computer science or a related field. Most companies are looking for analysts with one to five years of work experience in systems administration.
Analysts are often promoted to managers, who take on a more senior role helping to lead a team of subordinate analysts in day-to-day security tasks. Most management positions require at least five years of specific experience in security analysis.
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These professionals are responsible for protecting company data, ensuring the digital security of end users, helping senior management safely onboard new employees, and interacting with leadership to form guidelines on company policy and “network usage.”
As an intermediary role, most security specialist positions require five to seven years of relevant experience. Industries that typically employ security specialists include aerospace, defense contracting, energy and utilities, financial services, government, and higher education. Security specialists also often work in industries such as technology and finance.
Day-to-day responsibilities of the role may include assessing systems at risk, testing automation and analyzing systems to identify threats and react to potential breaches.
This is a high pressure role that requires great attention to detail and the ability to communicate productively between different departments. Incident managers must create comprehensive reports for management and communicate with those without technical training.
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Most incident response roles require two to three years of information security or cyber forensics experience. Network or systems administrator positions often feed into this position.
Cryptographers have one of the most interesting cybersecurity jobs on this list. They use specialized algorithms and encryption to encrypt sensitive data to develop security systems. These professionals protect data from being copied, modified, destroyed or intercepted by unauthorized agents.
Cryptographers often have a background in statistics, as their role requires them to develop mathematical models capable of analyzing emerging security threats. Cryptography positions also require a thorough theoretical understanding of how cryptographic theories can apply real-world solutions to computer systems.
Most roles require a bachelor’s degree in mathematics, computer science, or computer engineering. Alternatively, the position may require five or more years of relevant experience in systems administration, auditing or data encryption.
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Cryptographers work in industries ranging from government and technology to finance and healthcare. Any industry that requires protecting sensitive customer and company data can serve cryptographers.
As the name suggests, security architects help build enterprise-level information systems that meet robust security requirements. Key responsibilities include security planning and testing, as well as the design and implementation of new security protocols.
Architects must have a broad understanding of the software and systems a company uses to keep confidential data secure. These professionals must have a deep understanding of network security, hardware configuration, network protocols, and specific procedures established in your company.
As an intermediate role, security architects typically have five to ten years of relevant experience, with at least three years explicitly dedicated to security. Security architects often rise to management roles in network security because they already have an overview of systems.
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Audit: It’s a term that doesn’t make most people happy. But for cybersecurity professionals, this field can offer tremendous growth opportunities. Security auditors perform the vital task of verifying security procedures, preserving system security, and compiling reports.
This position requires constant attention to detail. Auditors strive to identify potential vulnerabilities and failures within internal systems before they become a problem. The role requires regular penetration testing, documentation and communication between departments.
Security auditors are usually promoted from a company’s cybersecurity department and have three to five years of experience in systems security or administration. Entry-level positions also exist for new computer science graduates in the non-profit and government industries.
Forensic experts are tasked with recovering data, analyzing network traces, and collecting evidence from various computer systems. When devices are physically or digitally damaged, forensic experts help investigate the responsible party(ies).
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Forensic specialists may also be required to recover information, reconstruct damaged hardware, and ensure that all work is completed in accordance with federal law.
Although forensic experts most often work in the criminal investigation industry, many work in private industries such as healthcare, defense contracting, and technology. Entry-level positions require at least one to three years of relevant forensic experience, while senior-level positions require five or more.
Forensic experts may advance to supervisory roles overseeing regional laboratories or managing quality assurance guidelines. Some of these professionals move on to university teaching roles after receiving an advanced degree.
A penetration tester, or pentester, is responsible for identifying existing security problems in a company’s information infrastructure. Pen testers are also known as “ethical hackers” or security consultants. This also makes this one of the most popular cybersecurity jobs.
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Pen testers must perform wireless assessments of Wi-Fi systems, physical assessments of the underlying hardware, social engineering and phishing tests.
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