How to Start a Career in Cybersecurity Without Experience

woman in server room pointing at screen

Cybersecurity, the practice of protecting systems, networks, and programs from digital threats, is a field that’s growing exponentially. Even if you’re starting with little experience, there are ways to break into this industry and build a rewarding career. This guide will walk you through the steps to start a career in cybersecurity, even if you’re starting from scratch.

Entry-Level Jobs in Cybersecurity

Several entry-level positions can serve as stepping stones into the cybersecurity field. These include roles such as Security Analyst, Junior Penetration Tester, and IT Auditor. Each position provides a unique opportunity to learn and grow within the industry. For more information on what jobs you can get with a BS in Cybersecurity, check out our blog post. 

Getting into Cybersecurity is Easier from a Feeder Role

Many cybersecurity professionals start their careers in related fields, often referred to as “feeder roles.” These roles provide valuable experience and skills that can be directly applied to a career in cybersecurity. Feeder roles come from a variety of fields and can include positions such as:

  • Software Development: Software developers have a strong understanding of coding and system design, which can be crucial in understanding vulnerabilities and developing secure software.
  • Systems Engineering: Systems engineers often have a deep understanding of system architectures and networks, which is vital in securing them.
  • Networking: Professionals in networking understand how data moves through an organization, which is crucial to securing that data.
  • Financial and Risk Analysis: These professionals are adept at identifying and mitigating risks, a skill directly applicable to identifying and mitigating security risks.
  • Security Intelligence: Those in security intelligence roles are skilled in identifying and analyzing threats, a crucial aspect of cybersecurity.

By starting in these roles, professionals can gain practical experience and a foundational understanding of key concepts that will be beneficial when transitioning into a cybersecurity role. For a visual representation of potential career pathways in cybersecurity, check out this Career Pathway Visualizer.

Advancing to Mid-Senior Level Careers

Mid- to senior-level cybersecurity positions represent a significant step up the career ladder from entry-level roles. These roles often involve overseeing and strategizing security measures for an organization rather than simply executing routine tasks. In mid- to senior-level positions, professionals are expected to possess technical expertise and a deep understanding of business operations and risk management. Skills such as advanced threat analysis, security architecture design, and incident response planning become crucial. 

Leadership skills make mid to senior-level cybersecurity experts stand out from beginners. If you want to move up the ladder, keep learning, get the right certifications, find a mentor, and actively look for chances to lead and make a strategic impact in your organization’s cybersecurity work. This way, you’ll bridge the gap between entry-level and higher-level roles in the ever-changing world of cybersecurity.

Steps to Finding a Cybersecurity Job without Much Job Experience

Embarking on a cybersecurity career involves a strategic approach. It’s not just about acquiring the necessary skills and qualifications, but also about understanding the job market, networking, and positioning yourself as a valuable candidate. In this section, we will break down the step-by-step process to help you navigate your way toward landing a job in the cybersecurity industry.

  • Education: Start by gaining a solid understanding of computer systems and networks. This step could be through a degree in computer science, information technology, or a related field. However, a degree isn’t always necessary. Many successful cybersecurity professionals have started their journey with online courses and certifications.
  • Certifications: Certifications like CompTIA Security+, Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP), and Certified Ethical Hacker (CEH) can provide a solid foundation and demonstrate your commitment to learning.
  • Hands-on Experience: Practical experience is invaluable in cybersecurity. Consider volunteering, internships, or entry-level positions that allow you to apply what you’ve learned in a real-world setting.
  • Resume and Cover Letter: Tailor your resume and cover letter to highlight relevant skills, experiences, and certifications. Be sure to emphasize any projects or experiences demonstrating your ability to identify and mitigate security risks.
  • Job Search: Use job search platforms, company websites, and networking events to find job opportunities. Apply for positions that align with your skills and career goals.
  • Interview Preparation: Before an interview, research the company and role. Be prepared to discuss your skills, experiences, and how you can contribute to the company’s cybersecurity efforts.
  • Continuous Learning: The field of cybersecurity is constantly evolving. Stay up-to-date with the latest trends and technologies to remain competitive in the job market.

Remember, starting a career in cybersecurity requires persistence and dedication. It may take time to gain the necessary skills and experience, but with determination, you can secure a rewarding job in this growing field. For more detailed steps, check out this post.

man in server/network room working on server rack

Essential Skills for Beginning a Role in Cybersecurity

There are several essential skills that are highly valued in the field of cybersecurity. Here are some of the most important ones to start with:

  • Technical Knowledge: A strong understanding of computer systems, networks, and how they operate is crucial. This includes knowledge of different operating systems, network protocols, and system architecture.
  • Programming Skills: While not always required, knowledge of programming languages such as Python, Java, or C++ can be beneficial. These skills can help in understanding scripts and code and identifying potential vulnerabilities.
  • Understanding of Cyber Threats and Security Principles: It’s essential to understand different types of cyber threats, how they work, and how they can be prevented. This includes knowledge of malware, phishing, and other types of attacks, as well as principles of encryption, firewalls, and other security measures.
  • Problem-Solving Skills: Cybersecurity professionals often need to think like hackers to anticipate and prevent potential threats. This requires strong problem-solving skills and the ability to think critically and strategically.
  • Attention to Detail: Small details can make a big difference in cybersecurity. Being able to pay close attention to detail can help identify potential threats or vulnerabilities.
  • Communication Skills: Cybersecurity professionals often need to explain complex information to colleagues or clients who may not have a technical background. Strong communication skills are therefore essential.
  • Ethical Knowledge: Understanding the ethical and legal aspects of cybersecurity is important. This understanding includes knowledge of privacy laws, data protection, and ethical hacking practices.
  • Continuous Learning: The field of cybersecurity is constantly evolving, with new threats and technologies always emerging. A commitment to continuous learning is, therefore, crucial.

These skills can be developed through a combination of formal education, self-study, certifications, and practical experience.

Importance of Cybersecurity certifications

In the cybersecurity field, certifications play a crucial role. They not only validate your skills and knowledge but also make you more attractive to potential employers. Let’s delve into some of the most recognized certifications in the industry.

CompTIA Security+

CompTIA Security+ is a recognized certification that validates the standard skills necessary to perform core security functions. It covers essential principles for network security and risk management, making it an excellent starting point for your cybersecurity career.

Certified Ethical Hacker (CEH)

The Certified Ethical Hacker (CEH) certification is offered by EC-Council. It validates your knowledge of how to think and act like a hacker in order to find and fix vulnerabilities within an organization’s network. It’s a valuable certification for those looking to move into roles like penetration tester or security analyst.

Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP)

The Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP) is an advanced-level certification for IT professionals looking to gain cutting-edge expertise in cybersecurity. Offered by (ISC)², it covers a wide range of topics, including risk management, asset security, security architecture, and more. It’s ideal for those aiming for senior and managerial roles in cybersecurity.

Certified Information Security Manager (CISM)

The Certified Information Systems Auditor (CISA) certification is a globally recognized standard for appraising an IT auditor’s knowledge, expertise, and skill in assessing vulnerabilities and instituting IT controls in an enterprise environment. Offered by ISACA, it’s designed for audit managers, IT auditors, and consultants. The certification emphasizes the importance of information systems control and monitoring, ensuring that a professional is well-equipped to understand and manage the complex dynamics of IT governance within an organization. 

Certified Information Security Manager (CISM)

The Certified Information Security Manager (CISM) certification is a globally recognized credential that focuses on the management and governance of information security. Offered by ISACA, the CISM certification is designed for management professionals who oversee and govern an organization’s information security program. Unlike certifications that focus solely on technical skills, CISM emphasizes the management and governance of information security, aligning with organizational goals and objectives. It covers areas such as information risk management, governance, incident response, and program development. 

Make Yourself More Valuable with a Cybersecurity Specialization 

While a broad understanding of cybersecurity is essential when beginning a career, specializing in a specific area can significantly increase your marketability and potential for career advancement. Specializations allow you to develop a deep understanding of a specific aspect of cybersecurity, making you an expert in that area and a valuable asset to employers.

Here are a few areas of specialization you might consider:

  • Network Security: This specialization focuses on protecting an organization’s network from threats. It involves securing both hardware and software functions, detecting network vulnerabilities, and monitoring for and responding to cyber threats.
  • Cloud Security: With many organizations moving their operations to the cloud, specialists in cloud security are in high demand. This area involves protecting data stored in cloud environments and understanding the unique security challenges posed by cloud computing.
  • Incident Response: This specialization involves responding to cybersecurity incidents or breaches. The goal is to manage the situation to limit damage and reduce recovery time and costs. Incident response specialists need to be able to think quickly and strategically, and they often work under high pressure.
  • Ethical Hacking or Penetration Testing: Ethical hackers, or penetration testers, are paid to find security vulnerabilities in systems, networks, and applications much like a malicious hacker would, but instead, they document the vulnerabilities and provide advice on how to fix them. This highly specialized field requires a deep understanding of hacking techniques and the ability to think like a hacker.
  • Cybersecurity Audit: This involves reviewing and assessing the adequacy of an organization’s cybersecurity policies, procedures, and controls. Auditors need a strong understanding of cybersecurity principles and knowledge of relevant laws and regulations.
  • Forensics: Cybersecurity forensics specialists work on the aftermath of a cyber attack or breach, investigating what happened, what was compromised, who was responsible, and how similar incidents can be prevented in the future.

By choosing a specialization, you can focus your learning and career development efforts in a specific direction, making you an expert in that area. Specializing can lead to more advanced job opportunities and higher earning potential. However, choosing a specialization that aligns with your interests and career goals is important.

man in dark room lit up by computer screen looking to his left

More Tips for Starting a Career in Cybersecurity

Not to be confused with Computer Science, starting a career in cybersecurity involves more than just gaining the necessary skills and certifications. Here are some additional tips:

  • Stay Informed: The cybersecurity landscape is constantly evolving. Stay updated with the latest trends, news, and technologies in the field. Follow industry blogs, podcasts, and forums, and consider subscribing to relevant newsletters.
  • Join Professional Organizations: Professional organizations offer numerous benefits, including networking opportunities, resources for learning, and information about the latest industry trends. Examples include the Information Systems Security Association (ISSA) and the International Information System Security Certification Consortium, (ISC)².
  • Contribute to Open Source Projects: Contributing to open source projects can help you gain practical experience, learn from others, and demonstrate your skills to potential employers.
  • Build a Home Lab: A home lab allows you to experiment and learn in a safe environment. You can practice setting up secure networks, testing for vulnerabilities, and using various cybersecurity tools.
  • Earn Certifications: Certifications can validate your skills and make you more attractive to employers. Consider certifications that align with your career goals, such as CompTIA Security+ for beginners or CISSP for advanced professionals.
  • Professional Networking: Networking is crucial in any field, and cybersecurity is no exception. Attend industry events, join online communities, and connect with professionals in the field. Networking can lead to job opportunities and provide valuable advice and mentorship.
  • Leverage Transferable Skills: If you’re transitioning from another field, identify skills that are transferable to cybersecurity. For example, problem-solving skills, analytical thinking, and attention to detail are valuable in both software development and cybersecurity.
  • Be Persistent: Breaking into a new field can be challenging and may take time. Don’t get discouraged if you face obstacles along the way. Keep learning, stay motivated, and be persistent in your efforts.

Kickstart your Career in Cybersecurity with National University

Starting a career in cybersecurity may seem daunting, but with the right approach, it’s entirely achievable. By gaining the necessary skills and certifications, leveraging transferable skills from other fields, and staying current with industry trends, you can build a rewarding career in this rapidly growing field. Remember, everyone starts somewhere, and with dedication and persistence, you can break into the exciting world of cybersecurity.

A Bachelor of Science in Cybersecurity from National University can ground you in foundational technologies around networking and operating systems, and allow you to dive further into areas of concentration such as Computer Network Defense, Digital Forensics, and Information Technology Management. 

For those who have already been working in cybersecurity or a related field, National University offers a Master of Science in Cybersecurity and Doctor of Philosophy in Cybersecurity (PhD-CY). Masters candidates are offered a demanding curriculum that equips them with the skills to create, implement, and maintain cybersecurity measures, safeguarding information for both organizations and individuals. They have the option to select one of two specializations: Ethical Hacking and Penetration Testing, or Enterprise Cybersecurity Management.

National University’s PhD-CY program is designed to prepare candidates for high-ranking cybersecurity positions. It gives them the skills to oversee network vulnerabilities and delve into governance, frameworks, and standards to counter cyber threats. Candidates have the option to select from one of four specializations: General and Technology; Global Strategy and Operations; Governance, Risk, and Compliance; or Secure Cloud Computing.

Regardless of where you’re at on your career and learning journey, National University is committed to supporting you at every step. Contact us to learn more today.

Learn More About Our University and Scholarships

Join our email list!

Recent Resources

Your passion. Our Programs.

Choose an Area of Study

Your passion. Our Programs.

Select a degree level

View Programs