Alexander Oni

Let’s say you currently work in IT but want to branch out into the world of technology. Perhaps you’re interested in cyber security. What steps should you take to reach your goal? Which classes or certifications do you need to pursue a career in cyber security? 

You have many opportunities in cyber security, from entry-level technician jobs to those involving advanced-level cyber security engineering. While it can be intimidating at first, you’ll soon acquire the knowledge and skills to set you on the right path. If your ambitions are to advance into cyber security, how should you go about it? 

Start & Grow Your Successful Career in Cyber Security

Last Updated August 2022

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Learn from a 10 year cyber security veteran on how to forge a successful career in the cyber security industry | By Alexander Oni

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Here are the basic steps to having a career in cyber security.

Establish a foundation of cyber security knowledge 

People of all backgrounds can get involved with cyber security. Whether your career is in science, humanities, business, or elsewhere, you can pursue a cyber security job. Before diving in, complete these steps first. 

Most people go about getting their credentials in three different ways:

Post-graduates from colleges and universities

People who graduated from their college or university with a computer science degree or similar program are more than likely looking for work unless they’re pursuing higher education. Post-graduates with associate or bachelor’s degrees probably have some experience, whether through internships or programs offered by their college. These prospective employees are great to hire because they are fresh out of college with the most up-to-date knowledge in the industry. Their experience working hands-on in the field is minimal, giving them the opportunity to establish a solid professional foundation. This can help the employee refine their interests and skill sets even more. 


 Those who have IT experience or a tech background but are not formally educated in cyber security can do cross-training. This means the individual has interests in cyber security and often does some security work in their job but doesn’t have the certifications to back it up. They’ll likely get certificates along the way in addition to getting more job experience. Once they obtain the certificates needed in their specified concentration, they can apply to more cyber security positions in their field. 

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No background

Some people have no experience in cyber security or even IT—and this is okay! Many people from various backgrounds have interests in cyber security and technology and have little or no experience. Also, keep in mind that cyber security isn’t just for those interested in technology. Individuals can apply their expertise in many sectors in the cyber security world.

Many people educated in writing, law, management, risk assessment, or even teaching can use their experience and education in a cyber security setting. 

Most people interested in this profession can do things independently to enhance their knowledge, such as listening to podcasts, watching YouTube videos, staying up to date with technology blogs, and completing hands-on projects or IT training courses. The initiative it takes to learn this information yourself means you probably have a strong interest in the field and should pursue cyber security certifications. 

What is the best entry-level certification?

When you’re searching for entry-level cyber security certifications, what should you choose? It’s best to find one that doesn’t dive too deep into cyber security and requires basic knowledge in the field.  

The CompTIA Security+ is reputed to be the gold standard of entry-level cyber security certifications and is the one I would highly recommend.

Getting this certification will help you branch off into the world of security careers. It can give you basic knowledge of standard technology you’ll use in and outside your job. While many employers require you to have this certification, it’s also good to obtain this before diving deeper into the world of cyber security. Consider getting your CompTIA Security+ certification before going further. 

Another entry-level certification available is the Microsoft Technology Associate (MTA) Security Fundamentals. This certification is aimed at high school and early college students and focuses on the core security principles and the basics of network, software, and operating system security.  I would only recommend you go for this certification if the particular job you want to apply for requires it.

Cyber security specializations 

As you learn more about cyber security, you’ll discover the different specializations within the field. 

Once you gain more knowledge and experience, your interest will become more refined and targeted. Cyber security might be your primary career goal, but you’ll be doing much more in the beginning besides handling cyberattacks. Once you build your skill set, you’ll be ready to choose your specialization. 

Evaluate your goals and abilities when deciding in which area of cyber security you want to work. Perhaps you’re a great people person and want to handle the business side of things. On the other hand, maybe you want to work alone without much distraction from others. 

Look at your experience with previous jobs. Did you enjoy working with others, or did you prefer being alone? Does being a leader or a follower suit you best? Try to find the overall patterns of your work and communication styles. If you find it too challenging to self-analyze, try to find a coworker or past employee to provide input. Refining your specialization will be easier once you figure out in which work environment you work best. 

Some specializations include:

Further training and specialization 

Now that you’ve decided what to specialize in, it’s time for more training and certifications! This is where your knowledge will pay off. 

For example, if you want to be a security policy and management professional, you’ll need to get the CISSP certificate. It was mainly used in a business setting and was one of the highest paying IT certifications to have in 2014. Or, if you’re interested in being a penetration tester, an OSCP certification would be right for you. 

Here are other popular certifications for your cyber security job:

Depending on the cyber security profession you’re after, different certifications are required. Do your research and obtain the correct certifications for your desired career path. 

Now you’re ready to apply!

The last thing to do once you’ve received your certifications and developed the necessary skills is to apply. Create a resume that reflects your hard work, lists your specialization, and works toward finding a cyber security job!