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How to Transition to an Entry-Level Cybersecurity Job

Written by: University of Tulsa   •  Jan 22, 2024
A Cybersecurity Professional Sitting at a Desk Looking at a Laptop in an Office.

How to Transition to an Entry-Level Cybersecurity Job

In today’s job market, employees want the security of knowing their careers are safe and the future of their industry is poised for growth and success. With the rise of automation and the many applications of artificial intelligence (AI), it’s possible that some careers will become less reliant, or even non-reliant, on humans.

The impact is evident already in manufacturing, retail, and customer service. A significant portion of these types of jobs are now being performed using automated production lines, self-checkout stations, and AI customer service chatbots. Further, self-driving cars and semi-trucks are primed to replace delivery drivers and long-haul truckers.

Career-minded individuals who want a secure livelihood must consider which industries emphasize human involvement and show promise in terms of long-term job growth. Information technology (IT) and cybersecurity just so happen to be areas that are growing at a breakneck pace. There are several entry-level cybersecurity jobs from which to choose. The challenge is the lack of qualified candidates who possess the necessary skills, education, and training to competently perform in these roles.

After exploring cybersecurity and some examples of entry-level roles, we’ll break down the steps to successfully transition to this industry. Aspiring cybersecurity professionals should weigh their education options, such as earning a Master of Science in Cybersecurity degree. 

What Is Cybersecurity?

Businesses and organizations everywhere use digital technology. They depend on it to communicate, take payments, manage customer data, store proprietary information, and much more. Information technology has afforded countless advantages in terms of speed, efficiency, and customer satisfaction. However, using technology is not without risk.

To ensure organizations are protected from hackers and malicious actors, a robust cybersecurity system must be in place. The Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) broadly defines cybersecurity as any act that is designed to protect data, devices, networks, and other technology from criminal use and unauthorized access.

Breaches in cybersecurity can compromise an organization and its customers in numerous ways, including:

  • Network and hardware outages, resulting in company downtime and loss of productivity
  • Significant financial losses, legal penalties, and expenses to investigate and resolve cybersecurity issues
  • The loss and/or corruption of a company’s data and intellectual property
  • Loss of customers and damage to reputation
  • Loss of competitive advantage
  • Online vandalism to website and landing pages

The largest concern for business leaders involves the fact that cybersecurity breaches are notoriously expensive to clean up. According to a 2023 report from digital data specialists Statista, the average cost of a single data breach in the U.S. is approximately $9.4 million per incident, a figure that has increased year-over-year since 2013. This is why many organizations are investing in cybersecurity as a preventive measure. It also explains why the cybersecurity job outlook is overwhelmingly positive. 

Examples of Entry-Level Cybersecurity Jobs

Cybersecurity is an umbrella term used to describe a specific area of the IT industry. There are numerous positions within cybersecurity, with roles such as Chief Information Security Officer and Network Security Architect ranking at the top of the hierarchy. These senior-level roles generally oversee teams of IT professionals, including those in entry-level cybersecurity positions. 

Common entry-level roles include the following. 

Cybersecurity Analyst

Cybersecurity analysts monitor an organization’s network and systems to ensure sensitive data is protected. They regularly perform audits and other tests to identify potential threats and weaknesses in cybersecurity. Further, they ensure cybersecurity measures remain up to date by installing firewalls and encrypting the network at all levels. 

IT Specialist

An IT specialist is responsible for overseeing the network and technology of an organization. They test systems, keep hardware and software up to date, and troubleshoot IT issues to deliver the fastest, most efficient network possible to the company’s workforce. Additionally, they perform tasks that reduce their organization’s risk to cybersecurity threats and keep them compliant with state and federal cybersecurity regulations. 

Cybersecurity Engineer

Cybersecurity engineers are responsible for several IT tasks that protect their organization and its data. Most notably, they create and develop cybersecurity architecture that ensures only authorized users can gain access to confidential data. Further, they audit the IT network and its systems to identify potential security risks. Some cybersecurity engineers develop advanced systems that monitor and automatically respond to threats from malicious actors and hackers. 

Digital Analyst

A company’s data is one of its most valuable assets. Digital analysts are responsible for evaluating their organization’s data and digital records for accuracy. They use specialized analytical tools that allow them to identify changes in data and the sources of data. Experienced digital analysts may also be tasked with identifying weaknesses in the organization’s data practices that elevate risk or are inefficient. 

Steps to Qualify for Entry-Level Cybersecurity Jobs

Education and experience are the major requirements for anyone attempting to land an entry-level cybersecurity job. Additionally, cybersecurity certification benefits cannot be overstated, as they quickly and effectively demonstrate to employers which skills and competencies the candidate possesses. Refer to the following steps when determining how to start a career in cybersecurity. 

Step #1: Earn a Cybersecurity Degree

A formal education in cybersecurity is the best way to develop the technical skills and knowledge to perform in entry-level and mid-level roles. Ideally, students should attend a nationally accredited university that has been recognized by relevant agencies and organizations in cybersecurity.

It’s also worth noting that the degree type plays a factor in personal marketability with employers. An associate’s or bachelor’s degree may qualify a candidate for select cybersecurity roles, but a master’s degree can give job seekers a competitive advantage that’s worth the additional time and effort.   

Step #2: Gain Experience/Pursue an Internship

On-the-job experience is beneficial to have on a resume. It shows employers the candidate has worked in a professional environment and accrued some hands-on experience. Some organizations may require one or two years of experience in their job postings, even for entry-level positions. Internships are also great for those who are in the middle of pursuing their degrees. Many internships in cybersecurity can be performed on a part-time basis, giving students the flexibility to work and pursue their degrees. 

Step #3: Earn Certification

One of the most difficult aspects of cybersecurity recruitment is knowing which candidates possess the required skills and competencies for the role. Education and experience cover this to an extent, but certification goes a long way with certain employers.

Professional cybersecurity certifications effectively illustrate a candidate’s area of expertise. Some employers only consider candidates who possess a certain credential, because it confirms they’ve successfully passed an exam that tests their skills and knowledge.

Those evaluating entry-level cybersecurity jobs will find numerous certifications associated with these roles. For example, candidates interested in becoming a penetration tester should explore the Certified Penetration Tester (CPT) credential.

The National Initiative for Cybersecurity Careers and Studies (NICCS) is an excellent resource for continuing education and credentialing. Their website has an entire section devoted to cybersecurity certifications that features approximately 30 industry-recognized professional credentials.  

Step #4: Update Your Resume and Begin Applying

The combination of formal education, on-the-job experience, and relevant certification can qualify candidates for numerous entry-level cybersecurity jobs. Additionally, candidates should include skills and competencies on their resume that align with the job they’re applying for.

Aspiring cybersecurity professionals can find job opportunities in several places, including:

  • Professional job search and networking sites like LinkedIn, Glassdoor, and Indeed
  • The careers section on company websites
  • Professional networking events and job fairs
  • Online forums that are dedicated to IT and cybersecurity
  • Personal referrals from current IT professionals

Gain the Education to Start a Career in Cybersecurity

While opportunities in some industries are shrinking due to the impact of automation and artificial intelligence, the field of cybersecurity is thriving with no signs of slowing down. As more companies transition their operations to digital platforms and technologies, the need for reliable and robust cybersecurity measures will continue to grow.

Businesses and organizations of all sizes and types know the potential consequences of a cybersecurity breach, financial and otherwise. As a cybersecurity professional, you can do your part in securing the data and business continuity of an organization by mitigating malware, viruses, and other cybersecurity threats. By proactively addressing these and other issues, cybersecurity professionals protect their companies from lost revenue, unplanned outages, and damaged customer relationships.

Those interested in pursuing entry-level cybersecurity jobs would do well to invest in their education and personal development. Cybersecurity professionals must possess the technical skills and IT proficiencies to make an impact in their role. The Online Master’s in Cyber Security program offered at the University of Tulsa can help you develop this expertise. 

Explore the program further to see how an M.S. in Cyber Security can support your career transition to the IT field.  

Recommended Readings

8 Myths About Cybersecurity Careers

What Cybersecurity Professionals Really Need to Know About Programming

Why You Should Study Cybersecurity in 2022

Sources

Astra, “160 Cybersecurity Statistics 2023 [Updated]”

Cybersecurity & Infrastructure Security Agency, “What is Cybersecurity?”

Fortune Education, “The 3 Cybersecurity Hiring Trends Experts Predict for 2023”

Indeed, “25 Cybersecurity Buzzwords To Use on Your Resume”

Indeed, “Guide to Entry-Level Cybersecurity Job Requirements”

Indeed, “How To Find Entry-Level Cybersecurity Jobs in 5 Steps”

National Initiative for Cybersecurity Careers and Studies, Cybersecurity Certifications

Statista, Average Cost of a Data Breach in the United States from 2006 to 2023

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Information Security Analysts

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