In recent years, the demand for general protection against cyber threats has paved the way for cybersecurity professionals to secure stable and financially beneficial positions in the workforce. By 2021, it is projected that a whopping 3.5 million professionals will be needed to supplement the current shortage of IT-related personnel.
There is no doubt that a job in the cybersecurity realm is a well-calculated decision, especially given that the industry has a 0% unemployment rate. Such a high demand yields a plethora of opportunities for those looking to expand their horizons.
With that said, there are a number of steps needed before you take the yellow brick road to the cybersecurity industry. Whether you are interested in becoming better acquainted with a new branch or considering a career change, you have a number of options. Just a few necessary certifications are your ticket in! Step one is enrolling in a cybersecurity certification training program.
There are a number of facets to cybersecurity, especially as a field that is perpetually evolving. Students looking to get into cybersecurity, therefore, have so many different specialization options, including forensics, incident response, risk management, ethical hacking, analysis, and penetration testing. Within each of these branches are even more niches that provide potential for growth in the field. For this reason, proper experience and accreditation is of utmost importance.
So, where does one begin?
Accelerated Cybersecurity Training Programs
Cybersecurity is unlike most fields in that it does not require a bachelor’s degree. There are ways of breaking into the job market by simply taking the intricately designed and curated coursework specific only to the projects and tasks one will be faced with.
There is a reason more and more professionals and students are switching to this field. Between the high demand for jobs, and their ability to easily take the first steps, having little to no experience in the field, cybersecurity is evidently booming. These individuals are opting for accelerated tracks because a four-year degree program is no longer a necessity. From there, they begin their programs, attending and taking part in training courses that allow them to take the leap and get certified quickly.
So now you’re probably wondering where to start. Should you simply research any and all institutions that offer courses in cybersecurity? Would holding a certificate even be enough to ensure interviews and job placement?
There are a number of institutions that may offer the accreditation that you need and can even promise the quickest methods of receiving the training.
But if you’re wondering if there are other benefits and program assets you should be considering, you’re on the right track! You should never settle when it comes to taking the steps to excel in your career. So, how does one choose a specific program that seems right? How do you choose one that is catered to you?
If you’re looking for a guide, we have you covered. We’ve organized a list of factors that will allow you to determine which are most important to you while evaluating the options and making your final decision.
How Much Experience Is Needed?
There is a myriad of tech professionals, even some whose experience in the field is limited, who are able to make a smooth transition into cybersecurity. When looking into the specific programs, consider focusing on the prerequisites. Ask yourself, is this something I am confident enough to start with? Have I already covered my bases, and will I be able to move forward from this starting point?
The amount of computer experience needed to begin varies according to the niche you are interested in specializing in. So, although most programs do not require you to have an abundance of experience and aptitude, this is something you can easily measure when reviewing the program’s introductory courses.
If you are someone who has always been, to some degree, interested in computer systems and networks or if you’ve used technology as a means of satisfying your curiosity for how things work, then you would be surprised how easy it is to kickstart your cybersecurity career.
Whether you hold extensive knowledge of computing systems or you’ve never worked in IT, you have options. If you do have background experience, take into consideration the more accelerated programs that offer a more advanced curriculum from the get-go.
Network security, for example, is a cybersecurity niche that you can look into if you already possess knowledge of computer networks. Similarly, if software development is something you have tackled, you should consider application security.
For every niche, there is an ideal route you should take. If the path to cybersecurity is calling you, why not take a peek at the options?
When Tensions Are High
For some people, suspense is the best element of a movie. Those same people will probably be the first to claim that they only “work well under pressure.” This makes sense. There is a certain satisfaction that comes from seeing a project through to the end with a definite time crunch. It gets the blood pumping the same way thriller movies do.
If you are considering cybersecurity as a career, it is important to note that the ability to maintain composure and efficiency under pressure is a vital trait. Cybersecurity professionals who are light on their feet and able to channel their creative energies into coming up with solutions when it seems like all is going wrong are the ones who thrive the most in the field.
If you are said person–in other words, the type who can handle and thrive under pressure–then incident response can potentially be your niche. Working with Security Operations Centers (SOC), where time is of the essence, could bring out your strengths and prove you to be a great asset to your team.
Going back to the idea of thrillers and high speed chases, you may want to consider applying yourself to risk management if you are a cautious and reserved worker, but still love the action and thrill of time-sensitive matters involving risk prevention.
The Mystery Machine
On the other hand, if mystery movies and cracking codes is your guilty pleasure and, as a result, you have a knack for figuring out how and why certain things happen, then forensic investigations can be your ideal cybersecurity niche.
If you enjoy the investigation aspect of mysteries, however, and you consider yourself someone who is creative and can think outside of the box, then look no further than ethical hacking. Similarly, penetration testing could also work for you because, through authorized simulated cyberattacks on a computer system, you could find your passion for channeling creative energies. On the one hand, if you choose to get into ethical hacking, note that this line of work is usually a one-man show, whereas pen testers usually work in teams.
Because Communication Matters
There is a common misconception that everybody involved in tech is introverted and would rather stray from being a part of matters involving communication. However, being tech-oriented and enjoying time spent around people in the workspace are not independent of each other.
Imagine the value you would provide if you considered working as a SysAdmin on a cybersecurity team. In doing so, you would be the middleman between the high-tech InfoSec and the general office staff.
On another note, if you’re the type to think in a broad sense, to step back and take a look at the bigger picture of how systems operate, then cybersecurity engineering or design could be the best choice for you.
By this point, you may be convinced that cybersecurity is right for you. You’ve been looking for the right signs, waiting for that burst of confidence to take the leap, and are ready to move forward now. But you may still have doubts.
What if you make the wrong turn? What if halfway through the program you come to realize that you’ve taken an interest in another specific niche? What if you feel suddenly confident that you’d make a much better ethical hacker than a forensic investigator?
Luckily, no reputable cybersecurity training program will simply throw you directly into the specific courses specializing in your chosen niche. To begin, you will first be guided through introductory courses. Your work and progress will be evaluated, your skills will be assessed, and you will have the ability to discuss and consider any and all career aspirations throughout the initial steps of the program.
Your professors and mentors will want you to feel comfortable and will want to watch you succeed. There is, of course, flexibility to move around and switch directions. But there is no reason to feel apprehensive that you will make the “wrong choice.” It’s simply one step at a time.
Reputable training programs will also direct the necessary attention to each student’s learning style, in order to ensure success. Having one-on-one time with mentors and advisors allows for instructors to determine what the students need to aim for relative to their strengths and weaknesses.
As you begin your extensive research into individual programs, you should look into specific course materials so that you can ease your mind and find comfort in analyzing where you stand before fully committing. Never underestimate the importance of introductory courses in paving the way for you to continue in an uphill slope from there.
Consider also that once the program begins, you will be given a wide range of networking opportunities with students in similar positions. Interacting with classmates in and out of the classroom can prove to be beneficial for you. Not only does it provide perspective, but students with more experience in the field can serve as a guiding force.
You could feel more confident now that you want to delve into the world of cybersecurity, but one last question could still be haunting you: what if you take the leap and eventually crack under the pressure? What if you get past a certain point in the training, and you begin to feel unsure as to whether it is the right career path for you after all?
Administrators and advisors in cybersecurity training programs offered at American University take their students’ personal success seriously. Students are guided throughout the process to ensure they are staying on track in the most effective and efficient way possible.
Everybody’s career trajectory is different. That’s okay! Remember that no decision is binding; however, before committing to any program, always make sure to do your research and to read up on others’ experiences so as to be confident that you are making the right choice. In no time you will feel right at home!
At the end of the day, cybersecurity has a variety of options, all or none of which could potentially be suited for you. That is the reality. But there is nothing stopping you from finding out for yourself. Take the calculated risk and start researching today!
If you are interested in learning more about the American University Cybersecurity Professional Certificate Program, schedule a free consultation with our Admissions team and ask about our Introductory Course.