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Each year, our personal lives and digital personas become increasingly intertwined. The internet has become how we shop, bank, plan vacations, and search for job and education opportunities. While the digital transformation has brought much ease and convenience to our lives, it has also increased our exposure to criminal players looking to take advantage of the wealth of information now available to anyone with enough motivation and an internet connection.

The Canadian Centre for Cyber Security reported a 151% increase in cyber-related incidents in the first half of 2021 over the previous year. It also estimated that there were about 235 ransomware incidents against Canadian victims from January 1 to November 16, 2021, with each successful data breach costing an average of CAD 6.35M.

As companies continue to rely on data collection and analysis to execute business goals and drive objectives, they are also taking steps to ensure that stakeholders are protected from cyber attacks. These measures include data and network protection software and hardware and employing cyber security professionals with the skills to monitor and respond to attacks on global information systems. This cat-and-mouse game with cyber criminals has created a perfect opportunity for anyone wanting to enter the cyber security space.

According to a report by Deloitte, the latest estimates put the global talent shortage of cyber security professionals at about 1.8 million positions, with Canada's demand for cyber talent projected to increase by 7% each year. It has never been a more perfect time to switch to a career in cyber security.

How To Break Into The Cyber Security Industry

Cyber Security is a broad field with a range of skills and proficiencies needed to fill the various functions within the profession. Because it's also a field that has only become a viable career option in recent years, many cyber security jobs don't require you to have a bachelor's degree to get in. Emphasis is placed on having the soft skills and the technical capabilities needed to carry out the functions of the role. That being said, there are three main routes to becoming a cyber security professional.

  • Self-study: As a disciplined learner and someone capable of putting time into learning new technologies, there are many resources online, often free, that you could use to grow your knowledge to a point where you could sit for the basic cyber security certifications. While this is the least costly option, it involves an intense focus and commitment. Unfortunately, it is easy to get overwhelmed by the number of available resources. You might also miss out on developing many soft skills employers are looking for, which come from a structured and collaborative learning environment.
    Pros: Cheapest option.
    Cons: Can be overwhelming. No accredited education diploma or certificate. Have to pass certifications on your own. No soft skills training.
  • College Degree: A computer science degree will always be a good foundation for any tech career. However, this route often requires a significant time and financial commitment. Because of the broad nature of a comp sci degree, you might require some additional self-study or have to attend a Bootcamp to get the specialization needed to break into the field. This is a good option for young people planning on going to college anyway, but people who already have careers might not have the time to go back to college.
    Pros: Broad curriculum will provide a strong foundation for any tech career.
    Cons: Too time and resources-consuming. Might also need extra study or a Bootcamp to specialize.
  • Bootcamp: This is perhaps the quickest path to getting into the field, both as a young person just starting out their working life and for mid-career professionals looking to make a switch. A Cyber Security Bootcamp at Lighthouse Labs will take you from novice to job and career ready in as little as 30 weeks. The comprehensive curriculum in a condensed learning period means the pace and workload might be challenging to some people. Still, this option is the most time-efficient with a specialized curriculum and a diploma/certificate at the end of your study.
    Pros: Quickest option, specialized diploma, industry-aligned curriculum, network and community building, soft-skills enhancement.
    Cons: Intense pace, more expensive than self-study.

Possible Career Pathways in Cyber Security

Every industry across the economy collects, stores and analyzes information digitally. This data has to be protected from unauthorized access making the work of a cyber security professional crucial across all industries. This need allows for a broad range of roles within the sector and multiple pathways along which young cyber security professionals can advance their careers.

Entry Level: Entry-level cyber security roles will involve observing and learning the systems within the organization as you carry out tasks like monitoring systems, checking for breaches, documenting observations and reporting these to higher-ups. You will need basic education, perhaps a college degree, a Bootcamp diploma, or a certificate. You will also need one or more entry certifications such as CompTIA Security+, Systems Security Certified Practitioner (SSCP), Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP), and Google Professional Cloud Security Engineer. You can expect to assume such roles as IT Technician, Security Analyst and Business Systems Analyst.

Mid-Level: After a few years of learning the systems and getting a few certifications, the mid-level career stage is where you get to decide the direction of your career. You could choose to specialize in Data and information security, Network security, Security engineering, penetration testing, or Ethical Hacking. Besides the experience gained in the early stages of your career and depending on the route you choose, you should have gotten certifications such as Certified Information Systems Auditor(CISA), Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP) AND Certified Information Security Manager(CISM). Some roles in this stage include Cyber Security Consultant and Penetration and Vulnerability Tester.

Senior: At the senior level, your role as a cyber security professional will become one of oversight, planning and management. You can expect to assume roles such as the Chief Information Security Officer(CISO) and the Chief Information Officer. In these roles, you will be tasked with setting the standards and protocols of your organization's security efforts, defining responses to incidents, and mapping out the overall future cyber security strategy for your organization. To succeed at this level you might be expected to have certifications as GIAC Strategic Planning, Policy & Leadership (GSPPL) and GIAC Security Leadership (GSLC).

Soft Skills Needed to Work As a Cyber Security Professional

As an entry-level cyber professional, you will investigate, thwart and report findings on any data, information and network security breaches across the organization. Some of the soft skills and proficiencies required to be effective in these functions include:

  • Problem solving: As a cyber security professional, you must demonstrate top-notch problem-solving skills. A significant part of your role will involve troubleshooting problems and investigating anomalies in the organization's data, network and security systems.
  • Learning Capacity: You will also have to demonstrate the ability to learn quickly and easily pick up complex topics and situations. This will aid you in the period of rapid learning as a young professional and in keeping track of the constantly evolving threat from bad-faith actors.
  • Communication skills: As a complement to your learning capacity skills, you must also have excellent communication skills, as often your role will involve explaining complex topics, situations and problems to stakeholders, many of whom might not be tech-savvy.
  • Presentation skills: As a cyber security professional, you will often be expected to present your investigations and solutions to various stakeholders. You will need to be comfortable presenting high-stake issues to stakeholders.
  • Management skills: The job of a cyber security professional involves a lot of research, design and reporting. You will often have multiple projects/tasks simultaneously and have to be on top of your game in managing your time and resources and how these are allocated between priorities.

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Once you’ve acquired the training and the soft skills needed to succeed as a cyber security professional, you will be ready to begin your career in one of the fastest growing and well-paying industries today. Here are some of the jobs you can expect to land at the entry-level stage:

Security Analyst

Similar to: Cyber Security Analyst, Systems Security Analyst
Entry-Level Salary: $71,282.
Functions: As a security analyst, you will be at your organization's frontlines of cyber defence. Security analysts are tasked with monitoring, preventing and stopping attacks on private data. You can expect to spend your days designing and implementing firewalls and other digital security software systems to protect data and network systems across the organization.

Read our feature on Cyber Security Analyst Salaries in 2022.

Implementation Specialist

Entry-Level Salary: $57,000
Functions: An implementation specialist is one of the roles in cybersecurity that requires social interactions and the relevant soft skills necessary for learning and communicating technical information effectively. As an Implementation Specialist, you will be responsible for helping clients understand the use and functionalities of software they may have purchased from your organization or a third party and how to use these systems optimally while preserving network and data integrity.

Technical Support Specialist

Similar to: IT Support Technician, Systems Technologist
Entry-Level Salary: $41,925
Functions: While this is a more generalist role, many cyber security professionals begin their careers in this role. The IT Support Technician is the backbone for all technical issues within an organization, tasked with deploying and maintaining phone, computer and network systems and all associated peripherals within the enterprise. Daily tasks involve installing new hardware, troubleshooting network issues, and repairing or replacing damaged or defective equipment. Training other employees in the safe and effective use of these systems will also be part of an IT support Technician's functions. You will ensure that all technology security protocols are correctly set up and maintained across the organization.

Security Researcher

Entry-Level Salary: $101,834
Functions: The security researcher is perhaps one of the most essential roles in the cyber security field. Other cyber security professionals can monitor for and detect vulnerabilities in their systems and networks because the Security researcher has discovered and documented the nature of the exposure and outlined the means of mitigation and control. Security Researchers study system vulnerabilities to understand how they are used to exploit systems. They design security protocols, run data models to test their efficacy, and study the evolution of unique malware strains, recommending strategies to defend against future threats. Because the role requires a pre-existing familiarity with security systems, it is often a more advanced position. However, the soaring demand for cyber professionals has pushed many companies to recruit newbies directly into the role, although you will have to demonstrate some real bug hunting creds.

Business Systems Analyst

Similar to: Systems Analyst, Information Systems Business Analyst
Entry-Level Salary: $71,078
Functions: While this is a cyber security adjacent role, many newly-minted cyber security professionals take this route to launch their careers in the field. A business systems analyst is tasked with efficiency - gathering and analyzing data on the organizations' technological systems, searching out inefficiencies and recommending ways to improve the operation of these systems.

Read our feature on Cyber Security Jobs and Salaries in Canada.

Frequently Asked Questions

Question: Is it hard to get a cyber security job?
Answer: The digital transformation is here to stay, and the cyber security profession is still in the early stages of its growth. As the world undergoes a digital transformation, there will be more and more companies needing professionals to help defend their digital assets and network infrastructure from bad-faith players looking to exploit weaknesses in organizations' security protocols. According to Deloitte, there is currently a global shortage of about 1.8 million cyber security professionals. There will always be jobs for people with the technical and soft skills needed to succeed in the field.

Question: Which cyber security jobs can you do remotely?
Answer: As with most tech careers, a cyber professional's work is done digitally. As long as your computers are set up with the organization's security protocols and depending on your organization's remote-work policies, most entry-level cyber security positions can be done remotely.

Question: Are there any jobs in cyber security that do not require coding?
Answer: Yes. At the entry level and depending on which path you decide to take in your career, there are opportunities within the field that do not require deep coding knowledge. Early career jobs like implementation specialists that need you to implement the designed security protocols and communicate these to end-users do not require a lot of coding. Cyber security adjacent jobs that many cyber security professionals take to get into the industry, like technical support specialist and business systems analyst, also do not require a lot of coding.

Question: Can I do cyber security without experience?
Answer: Yes. Because Cyber Security is still a relatively new field, many employers do not expect you to have a ton of experience at the entry-level. You might have gained technical proficiencies at college or Bootcamp, but most of your knowledge and experience will come from learning on the job. You can boost your profile to potential employers by participating in bug bounties, designing protocols in your personal portfolio and mastering the soft skills required to succeed in the field.

Ready to join one of the fastest growing sectors in the tech industry? Download the Cyber Security Bootcamp curriculum here, or click the button below to begin your journey to an exciting new career in cyber security!