Interested in cybersecurity jobs? You’ll need these skills

A shield at the top of a ladder graph indicating the pathways to cybersecurity jobs..

It’s no secret that cybersecurity jobs are in high demand. The median salary for cybersecurity analysts is about 100,000 USD a year, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. What’s more, jobs in this sector are projected to grow by 33% from 2020 to 2030, compared with the median job growth of 8% for all other occupations.

There was a global gap of over 3 million cybersecurity positions in 2019, meaning far more jobs than people qualified to fulfill them, and this chasm is expected to widen in the future. Part of the problem is that formal cybersecurity training didn’t exist until very recently, and some of the more experienced cybersecurity professionals have basically learned on the job.

[Want more tips and advice? Sign up for the ExpressVPN newsletter.]

Cybersecurity job skills

The SANS Institute, a cybersecurity research and training firm in the U.S. surveyed 500 professionals in 284 firms across the country to find out which skills were most sought-after among cybersecurity job candidates. These are the skills ranked in order of importance:

  1. Networking
  2. Linux
  3. Windows
  4. Common exploitation techniques
  5. Computer architectures and virtualization
  6. Data and cryptography
  7. Programming

Aside from technical skills, Champlain College says that a desire to learn is crucial due to constantly evolving technologies and emerging threats. Good communication skills are essential to explain findings and concerns and convey technical information to individuals with varying levels of technical comprehension.

Cybersecurity courses for beginners

If you’re a complete novice, with no prior training or experience in computer science or engineering, then certifications are a valuable way of getting your feet wet and understanding whether the field is suitable for you.

The Computing Technology Industry Association (CompTIA), an industry body that aims to train IT professionals, is a good place to start. Its foundational certificate will help you build up your knowledge in systems administration, after which you can take the IT fundamentals test as well as the Security+ training to understand the principles of network security and risk mitigation.

Microsoft offers a range of certification courses too. Options range from fundamentals to specialist and, depending on what you’re looking for, will help you gain the requisite knowledge needed to work on desktop, server, and cloud computing environments.

More advanced cybersecurity degrees and courses

If you already have a background in computer science, such as an undergraduate degree, you might want to consider taking courses in fields such as computational science, cryptography, artificial intelligence, systems integration technology, machine learning, hardware security, and risk management.

A postgraduate degree, such as a master’s in cybersecurity, might also be something to consider. However, that does entail a significant investment of both time and money.

If you would rather go down the certificate route, then networking giant Cisco has a couple of options for you. The company offers the Cisco Certified Networking Associate (CCNA) for specific specializations in routing and switching, security, and other areas. There are no formal prerequisites, but at least one year’s experience implementing and administering Cisco solutions is recommended.

Another certificate available for skilled professionals is the Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP). Normally, cybersecurity professionals interested in acquiring this certification must have a minimum of five years’ work experience, but the requirement can be waived if you have a four-year undergraduate degree in computer science.

While studying for the CISSP, expect to learn things like asset security, security engineering, access management, security assessment and testing, security operations, and more.

Bug bounties and ethical hacking

If formal certification isn’t what you’re looking for, try participating in bug bounties. These are a great way to prove your effectiveness in uncovering vulnerabilities and testing existing defenses. Bug bounties help you earn cred as an ethical hacker and assist in shoring up the security of end users, too.

White-hat hackers can benefit from earning the Certified Ethical Hacker (CEH) designation. It’s the most recognized certification in this area, offered by the EC-Council and the Infosec Institute.

More cybersecurity degrees, courses, and training programs

Once you’ve honed your cybersecurity skills, head to ExpressVPN’s jobs page to apply for a role!

I like to think about the impact that the internet has on humanity. In my free time, I'm wolfing down pasta.