I’m often asked about how to start a career in cybersecurity. One of the fascinating aspects of cybersecurity is that not everyone that is in this field does the same thing and they generally have followed a different road to get to where they are. Over a decade ago an organization may have had only one person with an IT infrastructure background in charge of all things related to cybersecurity, but now there are so many facets to cybersecurity that many cybersecurity professionals choose a specific area to specialize in. Many cybersecurity professionals specialize in malware analysis, log analysis, vulnerability management, infrastructure protection or offensive security. For students in our A.S. Cybersecurity degree program, Palomar College prepares students to be general cybersecurity professionals with skills in the broader cybersecurity spectrum so that they can integrate their specific aspirations and personal skillset to a specific cybersecurity career of their choice. For more information on specific job types and descriptions in the cybersecurity field, check out CyberDegrees.com page on job types https://www.cyberdegrees.org/jobs/
One aspect of cybersecurity that is undeniable is the huge demand for cybersecurity professionals – there is a zero-percent unemployment rate. Various research and media outlets place a shortage of cybersecurity professionals between 1 and 3 million globally over the next 5 years. A good resources for following the cybersecurity shortage is Cyberseek [https://cyberseek.org/heatmap.html], a project supported by the National Initiative for Cybersecurity Education (NICE), a program of the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) in the U.S. Department of Commerce. For the San Diego area, we have been consistently running at over 4,000 open positions at any given time.
For a student that has no IT work experience wanting to get into the cybersecurity profession, there is a lot of work to prepare yourself for the field. You need to understand the interoperability of systems and how data flows on a computer network. Palomar College’s Cybersecurity program guides you through this understanding of not only operating systems and computer networks, but also how IT systems are managed and interoperate with each other. From there, we delve into basic cybersecurity concepts such as vulnerability assessments and cyber attack vectors. Students will also learn Python programming and Linux fundamentals. During the second year, students will explore the realities of defending systems and networks from cyber attacks and then learn how to perform cyber attacks for enhanced applied learning.
Certifications that Compliment
In addition to an A.S. Cybersecurity degree from Palomar College, students can compliment the degree with various industry certifications that will enhance their resume. At a bare minimum, I recommend students earn the CompTIA Security+ certification to show fluency in basic cybersecurity skills. Other certification aspirations are dependent on the student’s interest and area of expertise. Some other certifications to consider are:
- CEH – Certified Ethical Hacker (Offensive Security)
- CISSP – Certified Information Systems Security Professional (General and IAT Level III)
- CISA – Certified Information Systems Auditor (Auditing role)
- GCIH – GIAC Certified Incident Handler (Incident Response Analysis)
- CySA+ – CompTIA Cybersecurity Analyst (Threat and Vulnerability Analysis)
Upon graduating with an A.S. Cybersecurity degree at Palomar College you have a few different options. You could choose to go directly in to the workforce as a Cybersecurity Analyst, Information Security Analyst or Information Systems Security Analyst. Without a Bachelor’s degree you will be limited to primarily private-industry employers due to the fact that government jobs (federal, state, local) generally require a Bachelor’s degree as a minimum requirement. Finally, consider networking with the various staffing agencies that are in the area. These staffing agencies have numerous employer contacts for both permanent and temporary assignments, which can provide you experiences in a variety of areas.
A few local companies that you will find cybersecurity positions at include:
- Proficio www.proficio.com (Carlsbad, CA)
- Teradata www.teradata.com (Rancho Bernardo/San Diego, CA)
- General Atomics www.ga.com (San Diego, CA)
- Illumina www.illumina.com (San Diego, CA)
- Perspecta www.perspecta.com (San Diego, CA)
- FireEye www.fireeye.com (San Diego, CA)
- Intuit www.intuit.com (San Diego, CA)
- TEKSystems www.teksystems.com (Staffing Agency)
- Kforce www.kforce.com (Staffing Agency)
General Google Search for Cybersecurity Analyst, click here.
Continuing Your Education
The other option is to continue your education at a four-year college or university. If you want to work for a government agency or defense contractor you will need to continue your education in Computer Science, Cybersecurity or Engineering. There are a few options available and if you want to stay local, California State University San Marcos will be offering a B.S. Cybersecurity degree soon.