Cybersecurity Careers 101: Here’s Your Guide
If you want to break into tech, change careers, and go to work every day knowing that you are making a difference, then cybersecurity can open up the right opportunities for you.
In this career guide, you’ll find answers to the following questions:
- What will you do as a cybersecurity professional?
- How much demand is there for cybersecurity professionals?
- How can you get started in cybersecurity with no experience?
- Which cybersecurity certifications should you get?
- What are the main industries for cybersecurity jobs in Kansas?
- What type of roles are considered entry-level in cybersecurity?
- What do typical entry-level cybersecurity salaries look like?
What will you do as a cybersecurity professional?
The mission at the core of your cybersecurity job will be to prevent cyberattacks. Depending on the specific role you’ll choose, you might focus on one of the following areas:
- Application Security: applications are the programs and software you use every day, such as Zoom, Microsoft Office, Quickbooks, and the like. To render applications secure, you’ll need to update, test, and patch them regularly.
- Information Security: sensitive information and proprietary data are magnets for hackers. You will be tasked with protecting the integrity, confidentiality, and availability of an organization’s data.
- Operational Security: your job will be to track data as it moves across the network and in-and-out of your firewall. As an operational security specialist, you will reduce the likelihood of data getting stolen, compromised, or held for ransom.
- Network Security: your main goal will be to prevent unauthorized access to your company’s network. Technical controls and identity management are key in network security.
By protecting all the different aspects of an organization’s digital systems, cybersecurity professionals are able to prevent headline-grabbing cyberattacks like the recent ones perpetrated against the Colonial Pipeline, JBS Foods, and SolarWinds.
How much demand is there for cybersecurity professionals?
Some analysts estimate a 0% unemployment rate for the whole cybersecurity sector, while the Bureau of Labor Statistics projects a 33% growth rate between 2020-2030 for Information Security Analysts jobs.
There are currently 460,000 job openings in cybersecurity nationwide and over 4,000 roles waiting to be filled in the state of Kansas and the Kansas City metro area, so there’s never been a better time to become a cybersecurity professional!
The demand for cybersecurity professionals has been skyrocketing because of a few different factors. On one side, the Covid-19 pandemic has accelerated the rate of adoption of new technologies, the boom of the e-commerce sector, and a sudden shift to working remotely.
This last trend has caused the most headaches for cybersecurity teams, and it’s easy to see why. Within the confines of an office building, there are physical, technical, and administrative controls that contribute to keeping the network secure. Once every single employee started working from home, however, new challenges arose in keeping data and systems safe while still allowing for remote access.
Another trend contributing to the increase in cybersecurity job demand is the popularity of ransomware as a service (RaaS). By purchasing pre-packaged ransomware “kits,” RaaS enables even inexperienced hackers to carry out powerful attacks.
Working in cybersecurity you will be the line of defense between our digital world and malicious actors trying to compromise the privacy and integrity of our data.
If you want to start learning the basics of cybersecurity, this is a beginner’s overview of key cybersecurity terms and concepts to help you become familiar with industry jargon.
How can you get started in cybersecurity with no experience?
Taking the first step is often the hardest, but you have to start somewhere! Whether you are working in a job that doesn’t satisfy you or looking to change careers and enter the technology sector, rest assured that becoming a cybersecurity professional is absolutely doable.
It’s important to keep in mind that most employers look for cybersecurity talent with practical skills and experience and don’t normally require higher education degrees as much as other industries. So whether you are new to cybersecurity, or pivoting from an IT role, you should focus on acquiring the hands-on skills that will get you hired.
The Kansas State University Cybersecurity Bootcamp can help you hack into cybersecurity whether or not you have a tech background.
The way it works is really simple:
- It’s a 10-month, part-time program
- Classes are 100% live & online during weeknights and weekends
- Instructors are cybersecurity experts active in the field
- Our state-of-the-art virtual platform lets you practice with cyber labs and threat simulations that mimick real-world scenarios
- There are no prerequisites to apply
Our bootcamp is an opportunity for you to learn foundational skills, gain practical experience, and create a network of professionals in the cybersecurity industry—everything you need to launch a successful new career.
Which cybersecurity certifications should you get?
Upon completion of the K-State Cybersecurity Bootcamp, you will receive a certificate from Kansas State University, ranked among the 2021 best colleges by the Princeton Review.
However, depending on which cybersecurity jobs you want to apply to, there are other certifications that you might want to consider. If you are new to cybersecurity and have no previous work experience in the field, industry certifications can help boost your profile among future employers.
While all certification exams offer unique study guides and manuals, it is vital to first have an in-depth knowledge of cybersecurity as a whole. The K-State Cybersecurity Bootcamp can give you exactly that. While our curriculum is not designed as a certification-prep program, the skills that you will learn apply to many cybersecurity industry certification exams.
CompTIA is a non-profit trade association that issues professional certifications for the cybersecurity and information technology industries. The three important certifications you might consider pursuing from CompTIA are:
- The CompTIA Network+ certification exam covers configuration, management, and troubleshooting of different network devices. It also tests familiarity and skills with new technologies, including cloud, mobile, virtualization, and communication tech.
- The CompTIA Security+ certification covers a range of essential entry-level cybersecurity topics including networks, systems, penetration testing, and security administration.
- The CompTIA CySA+ certification tests your skills in intrusion detection, security analytics and cyberattack response, and data analysis for different threats, vulnerabilities, and risks.
Other important industry certifications that you might want to sit for, depending on what role you want to pursue, include:
- The AWS Certified Cloud Practitioner certification tests your skills with Amazon Web Services Cloud infrastructure, security, and compliance issues.
- The Linux LPI Essentials certification exam assesses your knowledge of the Linux operating system. The exam also covers your management capabilities of users and groups, and skills in Linux command line, networking configuration, administration, and permissions.
- The Cisco Certified CyberOps Associate certification covers the concepts and principles of security operations and the skills and knowledge necessary to work successfully in a Security Operations Center (SOC).
Keep in mind that you do not, by all means, need all the certifications above. We generally recommend that learners seek one or two certifications, according to their individual career goals.
What are the main industries for cybersecurity jobs in Kansas?
Cybersecurity jobs are in high demand in the Sunflower State because, no matter the industry, every single organization operates through technology.
Dillons Supermarket, Sprint, Koch Industries, and YRC Worldwide are some of the biggest employers in the region, and everything they do creates data and moves it around their networks: from digital communications and cloud storage to remote security and fleet tracking.
Kansas produces nearly 20% of all wheat grown in the United States. While the agritech sector is booming across the entire Midwest, new technology could expose critical information, creating novel threats to our food supply chain.
The integration of interconnected sensors has made manufacturing operations much more efficient. However, hackers could leverage IoT devices’ less-than-stellar security capabilities to infiltrate the network and shut down operations or hold proprietary data for ransom.
Logistics and Distribution
The Center of the Country houses a connected network of over 7,000 companies related to logistics and distribution. Targeted cyberattacks can not only disrupt operations but could create serious consequences for the supply chain of thousands of goods.
Kansas and the KC metro area are home to thousands of tech companies and startups across a wide array of industries: energy and natural resources, healthcare and bioscience, entertainment and telecommunications, aerospace and defense, and many more.
The bottom line: every company, in every industry, everywhere in the world, needs skilled cybersecurity professionals. Why not train to fill that need and start a thriving career in cybersecurity?
What type of jobs are considered entry-level in cybersecurity?
Traditionally, entry-level roles don’t require you to have any previous work experience, but in cybersecurity employers often look for proof that you already have many of the practical skills you’ll need on the job.
To narrow down which aspect of cybersecurity you want to specialize in, it might be helpful to first understand that IT security departments are often comprised of Blue Team (defensive cybersecurity) and Red Team (offensive cybersecurity) positions.
This is because while one part of the team works to build a secure architecture and establish appropriate security protocols, the other part of the team is tasked with testing the strength and integrity of those defenses.
So let’s look at some of the most common and sought-after positions for entry-level cybersecurity jobs.
If you specialize in defensive cybersecurity, you will spend your days building, maintaining, and monitoring IT security systems that prove resilient against cyberattacks. Entry-level roles in defensive cybersecurity include:
- Security Operations Center (SOC) Analysts monitor a company’s security systems for intrusions and malicious activity.
- Network Security Administrators build an organization’s security infrastructure and policies, and they monitor company-wide systems for suspicious activity.
- Network Operations Center (NOC) Technicians maintain network infrastructure, monitor network performance, and resolve any network issues.
- Information Security Researchers analyze different types of malware, sometimes reverse-engineer them, and develop appropriate security responses.
- Digital Forensics Examiners recover, analyze, and compile data evidence from digital media and computers related to security incidents.
If you specialize in offensive cybersecurity, your job will consist of testing how secure an organization’s defenses are by simulating real cyberattacks. Entry-level roles in offensive cybersecurity include:
- Offensive Cybersecurity Analysts evaluate the security of a company’s digital infrastructure and applications by running vulnerability assessments.
- Ethical Hackers carry out cyberattacks just like a black-hat hacker would, uncover weaknesses, and help make security systems more resilient.
- Red Team Operators stay updated on new types of cyberattacks and collaborate on penetration testing exercises.
- Penetration Testers try to break into an organization’s secure network to uncover any weaknesses and report them.
- Vulnerability Assessment Analysts scan applications and networks to find vulnerabilities and advise organizations on security improvements.
What do typical entry-level cybersecurity salaries look like?
Job descriptions and salaries can vary quite a bit in the cybersecurity world. In general, however, the high demand for cybersecurity professionals results in higher-than-average salaries, including for entry-level positions
You can use many different online tools to check your earning potential. Here are the ones we recommend:
- The Bureau of Labor Statistics is “the principal fact-finding agency for the U.S. government in the broad field of labor economics and statistics.” According to their website, the median annual wage for information security analysts was $103,590 in May 2020.
- ZipRecruiter can also be helpful, especially if you are looking for generic salary ranges by roles. The site uses an algorithm to generate an estimated pay range for each job listing. At the time this guide was written, ZipRecruiter shows the national average income for cybersecurity jobs is $120,317.
- Salary.com, on the other hand, uses a mix of compensation consultants reviews and “applicable market pay data” to figure out the true market for each job. The website shows that the average salary for entry-level cybersecurity analysts salary in Kansas City, KS is $69,773 as of August 27, 2021, but the salary range typically falls between $63,593 and $76,473.
While researching the salary ranges associated with common entry-level cybersecurity roles, keep in mind that the eventual salary you are offered will depend on a number of factors, including your level of experience, any certifications you might have, and your overall education.
Take the first step
Every journey starts with just one step, and now is the right time for you to have the courage to invest in your future.
Throughout this guide, you’ve learned what people in cybersecurity jobs do on a daily basis, what the most common entry-level positions are, what certifications you might want to pursue, and what your entry-level salary might look like.
The Kansas State University Cybersecurity Bootcamp can help you build the foundational skills you need to thrive in cybersecurity.
Designed to fit the schedule of busy professionals, our bootcamp classes are 100% live & online, with two sessions on weeknights and one on Saturdays—for a total of 400 hours of in-depth cybersecurity instruction that you can complete in just 10 months.
If you are on the fence about committing to the full program, you have the opportunity to test-drive it by signing up for our Introductory Course. In this 30-hour stand-alone course, you’ll get a taste of our online learning environment, the quality of cybersecurity education we provide, and the practical skills you’ll be able to hone.
We also offer career services and networking opportunities. While we cannot guarantee job or internship placement, our team will work with you from day one, so that by the time you are ready to join the workforce, your resume, online profiles, and portfolio are in perfect shape to get your foot in the door with our industry partners.