As one of the fastest growing and most dynamic segments of the world economy, information technology has been attracting a wide range of talented professionals. Despite growing demand for qualified pros, working in IT comes with certain requirements and prerequisites that make it a tough industry to break into, especially if your background isn’t tech-related. Cyber security is a highly specialized and competitive field within IT, and employers usually require candidates to have several years of experience working in technology. Here’s an overview of the general requirements for IT jobs and the skills needed to make the transition to cyber security.


Basic Requirements for Work in IT and Cyber Security

Typical job requirements for IT positions can be divided into baseline and specialized skills. As a baseline, employers look for good communications and organizational skills. The nature of IT work naturally involves a lot of troubleshooting and problem solving, so prospective candidates should be very comfortable in managing unexpected situations (like responding to a cyber attack).  Project management skills and a concrete knowledge of business processes are also in demand. Specialized, or hard skills, include knowing the ins and outs of different operating systems, search query language (SQL), coding, and having an advanced knowledge of networks and how they function. Most positions require a bachelor’s in computer science, software engineering or other relevant technical subjects. Even technical support jobs usually require a two-year associate’s degree. Masters degree or even PhD requirements are not uncommon among technology companies, especially in corporate cyber security, for which most employers demand at least 8 years of IT experience.


Leveraging Tech Skills

Generally speaking, working in cyber security requires very strong knowledge of IT. After all, it’s hard to secure and protect something you don’t fully understand. Fundamentals like operating systems, hardware functionality, networking and applications should be second nature. Since experience level is a large barrier to entry for many companies that deal with cyber security, candidates should be open to working in a general IT position before moving into cyber. In case you don’t have any IT background or experience, your research and studies should be geared towards understanding the requirements for landing an entry-level IT position. Once you start working in IT, it becomes easier to gradually branch out into security. Specializing in a particular area of the IT world will help you get familiar with common problems and security flaws that come up. If you work as a network engineer for example, going into network security later on would make for a smoother transition. The process of becoming a cyber security specialist will involve figuring out how to solve the different issues you encounter on a daily basis. If you intend on making your career shift into cyber security, it’s a good idea to establish yourself as a specialist within a particular tech field. If you work as a network engineer for example, going into network security would make for a smoother transition.


Working in Cyber Security without IT Experience

Going into cyber security without an IT track record is a lot tougher, as even entry-level cyber security positions typically require at least some IT experience. If your academic background isn’t technical, you need to get up to speed through a combination of certification-focused courses and self-teaching. If you have a natural aptitude for computing technology but little to no experience, there are many useful resources like SecurityTube with a wealth of information to get you on your way. Coding bootcamps are becoming increasingly popular as a fast-track to well-paying careers in programming and software development.

Hacking tools like Metasploit and SANS CyberAces allow users to test the security of web apps and networks while gaining an understanding of specific vulnerabilities and hot to patch them. Platforms like Google Gruyere were specifically made with serious vulnerabilities, allowing cyber security beginners to gauge their penetration testing skills. Practice through virtual (and often free) programs can help cyber security candidates prepare for the CEH (Certified Ethical Hacker) and other valuable cyber security certificates. Though companies often provide at least some training for employees in terms of product overview, management tools and sales techniques, coming into the interview or onboarding process knowing more than you’re required to will only increase your chances of landing the job or getting off on the right foot.

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