For 83 percent of all companies, it’s only a matter of time before they face a data breach due to a cyberattack, according to a 2022 report by IBM. While plenty of cybersecurity opportunities are in Silicon Valley, reports like IBM’s suggest that the need to protect digital assets from cyber threats is universal to nearly every industry that uses technology. Cybersecurity isn’t a profession limited to a specific industry, but rather spans various sectors, including government, finance and health care.
With the ever-increasing threat landscape and the constant evolution of cyber threats, the aspiring cybersecurity professional has many career paths and opportunities to choose from, such as:
- Protecting national security data
- Securing an e-commerce network
- Managing security policies for a health care organization
- Safeguarding a financial institution
Landing the ideal position requires a solid educational background and experience, particularly for those interested in a leadership role. Those interested in pursuing one of the many cybersecurity career paths should consider the benefits of an advanced degree, such as a Master of Science in Information Security Management, to update and upgrade their skills and gain knowledge of the latest industry trends.
The Need for Skilled Cybersecurity Professionals
There was a 38 percent global increase in cyberattacks in 2022 over the previous year, with some industries particularly hit hard, such as health care, which saw an increase of up to 74 percent, according to Check Point Research.
Cyberattacks not only are on the rise but also come with a hefty price tag. IBM reports that the average cost of a data breach for organizations in the U.S. was $9.44 million in 2022, over twice as high as the global average.
IBM also reports that the average time it took to contain a breach and return to regular operation was around 277 days; this can further increase expenses due to damage control and a loss of customer trust, even if nothing of value was damaged or stolen in the breach.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects a job growth rate of 35 percent for cybersecurity analysts between 2021 and 2031. This projection is significantly higher than that of the national average, which sits at 5 percent for the same time frame. The BLS links the high demand to the increasing number of cyber threats and their costs.
How to Start a Career in Cybersecurity
The typical first step to a career in cybersecurity is to earn a bachelor’s degree in cybersecurity or computer science. This entry-level education provides a solid foundation in the technical knowledge used by cybersecurity specialists, but it can also enhance problem-solving and analytical skills.
Those interested in pursuing a leadership role can benefit from an advanced degree, such as a Master of Science (MS) in Information Security Management. Advanced degrees can prepare students with a high-level view of cybersecurity strategies and the confidence to plan security policy and direct a cybersecurity team.
Work experience is crucial in landing a high-level cybersecurity job. For those with limited experience who are just beginning their cybersecurity career path, internships or entry-level positions are good places to start, as these opportunities can help them not only gather real-world experience but also build a network of industry contacts that may prove helpful in finding the right employers.
Developing essential skills is the goal at each step of a cybersecurity career. Technical skills are the backbone of the cybersecurity profession, as most jobs involve working directly with networks and programs and knowing how to make them function. Technical skills can include the following:
- Network security
- Incident response
Soft skills are also important in this line of work, especially for cybersecurity specialists interested in executive or leadership roles. Soft skills include the following:
- Critical thinking
Obtaining relevant certifications can also showcase expertise and commitment to the field. Certifications such as CompTIA Security+ or Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP) help potential employers see objective proof of proficiency in key cybersecurity concepts. Additionally, continuous learning and participation in cybersecurity research to stay on top of the latest trends and advancements are keys to success in this ever-evolving industry.
Career Paths in Cybersecurity: Industries and Opportunities
Regardless of the industry they work in, cybersecurity specialists use their talents to protect the organization, its customers and its employees from the consequences of a cyberattack. Here are a few of the top industries for cybersecurity opportunities and career paths that professionals can pursue.
E-commerce companies like Amazon are successful because they make it possible for customers to purchase online without traveling to a physical location or dealing with a salesperson. However, this convenience has increased cyberattacks because many unsuspecting customers use e-commerce systems to input sensitive financial information, which hackers can then steal to use in fraudulent and financial schemes and in identity theft.
Cybersecurity professionals in this industry focus on securing online payment systems, preventing data breaches and ensuring the integrity of customer data. They collaborate with web developers and network administrators to implement security measures for online transactions.
The finance industry regularly deals with confidential data, making it an ideal target for cybercriminals looking to access banking information or customer transactions. For example, cybersecurity specialists are necessary to prevent the misuse and breach of online banking websites and apps in which a customer’s banking information can be quickly scanned, causing devastating financial loss and damaging public relations.
A cybersecurity professional in the finance industry may work as a security architect or a network security engineer before moving on to become a chief information security officer (CISO) or a VP of security, an executive position responsible for security operations, cyber risk and cyber intelligence, and security architecture. The finance industry is also the largest employer of database administrators, so an obvious career path to explore for those with an interest in finance is how to become a database administrator.
Cybersecurity is critical in safeguarding patient records, medical devices and health care infrastructure in the health care sector. Cybersecurity professionals in health care focus on protecting patient privacy, securing electronic health records (EHRs), and defending against ransomware attacks that can disrupt essential medical services by forcing facilities to shut down access to critical medical records. They may work as information systems analysts, systems administrators or even incident responders, whose job is to diagnose attacks as quickly as possible and restore systems to normal operation.
Cybersecurity specialists also collaborate with medical professionals and information technology teams to ensure new adoptions of technologies like telehealth, which remotely connects patients and providers over the internet and features comprehensive security strategies to protect patient’s health care data, as hackers can use personal health records to steal identities for fraud and impersonation.
Working in government security offers unique challenges and opportunities for cybersecurity professionals. They protect critical government systems and infrastructure from cyber threats from both foreign and native hacker groups, alongside espionage from other governments. Government cybersecurity specialists often collaborate with intelligence agencies and law enforcement to ensure the integrity and resilience of government systems.
The range of government jobs includes software developers, systems engineers, cyber defense forensics analysts and ethical hackers, according to Fortune. These professionals may work for various government agencies and departments, contributing to national security efforts by monitoring networks, conducting vulnerability assessments and responding to cybersecurity incidents.
Discover Your Opportunity in Cybersecurity
Cybersecurity is critical for any company that uses digital systems to store sensitive data that hackers and other cybercriminals can access, providing cybersecurity career paths within numerous industries. These positions will often require a leader who is not only knowledgeable about the latest cybersecurity trends but also skilled in directing a team and developing policies to safeguard networks and data.
Those looking to advance their cybersecurity knowledge and pursue a cybersecurity career, particularly in leadership, should consider the benefits of an advanced degree, such as the Augusta University Online’s MS in Information Security Management. With a curriculum covering security policy, risk management and legal concerns, this program will help prepare you for a position in any industry’s cybersecurity department. Find out how you can follow the path to your career goals with AU Online.
AT&T, “5 Industries That Need Advanced Cybersecurity Measures”
Check Point Research, Check Point Research Reports a 38 Percent Increase in 2022 Global Cyberattacks
CompTIA, CompTIA Security+
Fortune, “How to Land a Cybersecurity Job With the Federal Government”
IBM, Cost of a Data Breach 2022
Indeed, Working in Cybersecurity: Definition, Careers and Skills
ISC2, CISSP — The World’s Premier Cybersecurity Certification
McKinsey & Co., “New Survey Reveals $2 Trillion Market Opportunity for Cybersecurity Technology and Service Providers”
U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Information Security Analysts