How to get into cyber security

In this blog I’ll give you some of my hints and tips on how to get into cyber…

In this blog I’ll give you some of my hints and tips on how to get into cyber security and the different education choices you have. I have studied and worked in the cyber security industry for over 10 years now and I get asked a lot about how others can “break in”. The industry is booming and it’s no wonder people want to be a part of it. As a field it is exciting, constantly evolving and struggling with a skills gap. Because the current demand is outweighing the supply of cyber skills, there are now new ways to train as a cyber security expert.  

It’s important before you spend time, and potentially money upskilling, that you work out why you want to pursue a career in cyber security. Over the years I’ve spoken to lots of people who like the idea of working in the field but there are many areas in which you can specialise. Skills Development Scotland have a good overview of the different cyber security careers so check it out here. I went down the traditional route of studying at uni for four years before taking on cyber security roles in industry. My career motivation has always been to help people and the idea of helping keep people’s information and money safe from hackers and fraudsters appealed to me.

Cyber Security Skills Initiatives

University degree

This was the route I took, and one of the more traditional. More and more universities are offering degrees in cyber security at both undergraduate and postgraduate level. By studying a degree you’ll learn about a variety of technologies and how to secure them, as well as gain transferable skills such as presentation skills, report writing, research and time management. They tend to be 3-4 years in length, so are a significant commitment which may be difficult if you looking to reskill from another profession. However, if you’re just at the start of your career, this may a great option for you.

While studying a degree, it is really important to get some work experience through placements or internships. This helps put your skills to the test in industry, try out different roles and start building your professional network.

how to get into cyber security - chelseajarvie.com

Graduate Level Apprenticeship

I’m a big fan of Graduate Level Apprenticeships and the route I think I would have chosen if it was available at the time. This is where an employer will pay you a full-time wage but allow you to do your degree at uni a day a week for four years. Two of the uni’s in Scotland that offer these are Edinburgh Napier University and Glasgow Caledonian University. To get the chance of doing a Graduate Level Apprenticeship you need to apply to an employer who is offering it, and these opportunities are always posted on Apprenticeship.scot.

Self-Study or Employment

If you want to do your own upskilling, then there are some great free courses and resources to give you a head start. Cyber security employers like people who are passionate about the field and keen to learn. To be great at cyber security you have to keep your skills and knowledge up to date, the threats are continually changing. Here are a couple of good free courses:

  • Future Learn’s introduction to cyber security is a great beginners course.
  • Coding is a really useful skill to have when pursuing a career in cyber security so it’s worth trying to learn Java which you can do for free through Code Academy.

Also keep an eye on the job boards as some employers may be looking to give someone a chance and recruit into entry level cyber security roles. If you have done some self-study and research on the cyber security field, you’ll be in a much better position to show a potential employer that you are passionate about moving into the field.  

how to get into cyber security - chelseajarvie.com

National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC)

The NCSC is the Uk Government’s cyber division and they offer some funding and opportunities which you may find useful so keep an eye on their website. One of their skills programmes is called Cyber First and you can read more about it here.

If your employed, ask your employer about reskilling

Some employers like to reskill current staff and give them the opportunity to move into cyber security so ask and find out. I’ve hired keen and enthusiastic staff who didn’t have cyber security skills, and I retrained them. If you don’t ask you don’t get so ask and find out, you never know what opportunity might arise!

Network

LinkedIn and Twitter

I’d strongly recommend setting up a professional profile on LinkedIn. If you’ve not heard of it, it’s essentially like Facebook for the professional world but your profile is your CV. Lots of employers hire people through LinkedIn and I’ve had lots of opportunities from people on LinkedIn so it’s worth setting up a profile.  You can view my profile here for an idea of how to fill it out.  Twitter is also a great platform to network and get involved with people in the cyber security community.  It’s also handy for keeping on top of new developments in the field.

how to get into cyber security - chelseajarvie.com

Networking Events and Conferences

Sign up to different networking events and conference so you get to know people. I can’t stress how important your network is for helping you find different opportunities. The network I built up from when I was at uni has helped me enormously over the years, providing me with help and guidance and also letting me know about opportunities or roles.  There are lots of different meetups which you can usually find out about through Twitter and LinkedIn, but here are a few Scottish ones you can look into:

EventTypeDateLocation
Cyber Scotland ConnectMeetupMonthlyEdinburgh
Girl Geek ScotlandMeetupMonthlyEdinburgh
ISACAMeetupMonthlyEdinburgh
Holyrood Cyber SecurityConferenceAnnually in FebruaryEdinburgh
Securi-TayConferenceAnnually in FebruaryDundee
G3CConferenceAnnually in OctoberGlasgow
Le Tour Du HackConferenceAnnually in MarchEdinburgh
Scot-SecureConferenceAnnually in FebruaryEdinburgh
BSides ScotlandConferenceAnnually in AprilEdinburgh/Glasgow


Do your research, decide on which skills route and start to build your network. Don’t be put off or disheartened if it takes a while to get the right opportunity, just keep pursuing this path and I’m sure eventually you’ll get an opportunity. Watch my video on dealing with career rejection.

If you want to read more about my journey into cyber security then check it out here.

Feel free to connect with me on LinkedIn and Twitter to start growing your cyber security network.

All the very best of luck 🙂

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Chelsea Jarvie is a cyber security consultant, public speaker and STEM ambassador. This article is her journey into cyber security including the ups and downs.

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