Cybersecurity Careers: The Complete Guide
Cybersecurity is a skyrocketing field, and if you are thinking of switching careers or starting anew in the IT security sector, you’ve come to the right place. We’ve put together this guide to answer any and all questions you might have on thriving in a new career in cybersecurity.
Here’s a summary of the topics in this guide:
- What cybersecurity professionals do
- How to get your cybersecurity career started
- What are common skills needed in cybersecurity
- Main industry sectors for cybersecurity jobs in Los Angeles
- Examples of entry-level cybersecurity jobs
- Common entry-level cybersecurity salaries
If you are still deciding whether cybersecurity is the right field for you, consider the job opportunities that this career can hold for your future. Some analysts have gone so far as to estimate a 0% unemployment rate for the whole sector and the Bureau of Labor Statistics is projecting a 33% growth rate between 2020-2030 for Information Security Analysts jobs.
With over 460,000 job openings in cybersecurity nationwide and nearly 18,000 roles available in the Los Angeles-Long Beach-Anaheim, CA metro area, there’s never been a better time to become a cybersecurity professional!
What Cybersecurity Professionals Do
Let’s start with the basics. Cybersecurity is the organizational function tasked with protecting a company’s digital assets from cyberattacks.
Cybersecurity professionals are responsible for setting up the security infrastructure of an organization, defining its security policies, monitoring its network for intrusions, and generally preventing hackers from stealing or compromising data.
If that seems a bit abstract, think about the Colonial Pipeline ransomware attack—hackers infiltrated their network and compromised the company’s data, threatening its destruction if a ransom wasn’t paid. The attack caused days of fuel shortages and panic, and cost the company $5 million just to pay the ransom demand.
As a cybersecurity professional, it will be your job to prevent those types of attacks.
The Covid-19 pandemic has also played a major role in increasing the demand for cybersecurity professionals. On one side, because of social distancing restrictions, the majority of corporate and office jobs became remote, forcing companies to allow connections from outside of their firewalls. On the other, ransomware as a service (RaaS) enables even inexperienced hackers to carry out powerful attacks.
As a cybersecurity professional, you will be on the frontlines of this conflict, defending the privacy and integrity of our digital data against malicious actors.
If you are in the process of learning more about the basics of cybersecurity, you might want to start with this brief introduction to essential cybersecurity terms so you can become more familiar with the industry jargon.
How to Get Your Cybersecurity Career Started
There are a variety of paths you can take that will get you ready to pursue a career in this sector, and it all depends on one question: what’s your starting point?
Are you a young professional working in a job that doesn’t satisfy you?
Are you looking to change careers?
Want to enter the cybersecurity sector without a degree?
Are you working in an IT-related field and want to specialize in cybersecurity?
They are all good places to start!
Whether or not you have a tech background, you can study and practice crucial cybersecurity skills by training at the CSULB Cybersecurity Professional Certificate Program.
This 10-month, part-time program will take you from novice to cybersecurity professional with 100% live and online classes taught by experts working in the field.
You will train on our state-of-the-art virtual platform that includes cyber labs and threat simulations that mimick real-world scenarios.
Whether you come from a tech background or from an unrelated field, there are no prerequisites to join the CSULB Cybersecurity Professional Certificate Program. You can use this opportunity to learn foundational skills, gain practical experience, and create a network of professionals in the cybersecurity industry.
Common Skills Needed in Cybersecurity
Most of us develop crucial skills throughout our academic and professional lives, but it’s not until we need to write them on a resume that we actually think about them as competencies.
Have you ever worked on a team or group project? Congratulations, you know how to collaborate with others. Have you ever been responsible for spearheading an initiative at school or at a previous job? Then you probably have leadership and project management skills.
As you transition into the cybersecurity industry, many of the skills you already have will be 100% transferable to your new role, while more technical competencies must need to be built and practiced.
Some of the most important soft skills you will need for cybersecurity include communication, creativity, research, and attention to detail.
- Communication Skills. Setting up and maintaining security systems often requires teams of cyber professionals who specialize in various areas: networks, applications, endpoints, cloud, and so on. Being able to communicate clearly with your colleagues is a crucial factor in your overall success. Not to mention, as your career progresses, you might be promoted into client-facing roles where you’ll need to be able to translate complex technical issues into language that’s easy to understand.
- Creativity. The techniques used by hackers to infiltrate secure networks are in constant evolution. To keep up with innovative cyberattacks and new exploit strategies, you’ll need to create or adapt cybersecurity tools to solve unique problems. Being able to think outside the box and be creative are key skills that can help you stand out and become very successful in your cybersecurity career.
- Research Skills. It’s a big world out there, full of hackers who spend their whole day running reconnaissance on different targets. As a cybersecurity professional, you will need your research skills to be on point so you can explore new types of threats as well as your own security measures to find vulnerabilities and ways to patch them before they can be exploited.
- Attention to Detail. The saying “the devil is in the details” has never before applied to a job function so well. Setting up and monitoring cybersecurity systems involves a myriad of touchpoints, specific settings, and triple-checking the details of what you, or others on your team, have created. Accuracy and precision will go a long way when monitoring systems and your detail-oriented nature will enable you to identify possible threats.
As you progress in your cybersecurity journey, you will also become fluent in a number of technical skills specific to the field. While some, like a fundamental understanding of computer science, are essential to all cyber roles, some will be specific to the aspect of cybersecurity you want to specialize in. Working knowledge of programming languages like Python and Java, for example, is a common requirement across cybersecurity job descriptions. However, you would only find “penetration testing” as a needed skill for offensive cybersecurity roles.
Local Industry Sectors for Cybersecurity Jobs
If California was an independent country, it would boast the fifth-largest economy in the world. Once you let that fact sink in for a second, it’s easy to connect such a thriving economy to the over 55,000 open cybersecurity roles in the state.
The math is really very simple: every organization, in every sector, is in need of skilled cybersecurity professionals. Every office uses computer networks, manufacturing facilities rely on automation and smart devices, retail stores use online payment systems and digital inventories, agricultural operations rely on IoT sensors and drones for surveying vast cultivated areas.
California is an enormous state, so for this guide’s purposes, we’ll take a look at the major local industries of the Los Angeles-Long Beach-Anaheim, CA metro area.
Television, motion pictures, interactive games, and music labels all play a big part in making entertainment the biggest economic sector of the LA metropolitan area. Celebrities employ security professionals to prevent data leaks of private information to protect their brand and public image. Studios have also made content security a priority, as the theft or destruction of copyrighted digital content would greatly impact profits or prevent shows to launch altogether.
The Port of Los Angeles and the Port of Long Beach are two of the busiest seaports nationwide, with warehouse facilities that receive, store, and ship billions of dollars of cargo each year. As new technologies are integrated with shipping infrastructure to improve and digitize the supply chain, cybersecurity threats jeopardize the organization and logistics of all international trade operations.
Travel & Tourism
Between its sunny beaches, dazzling cities, and pristine parks, it is no surprise that a lot of people love to travel to California. As the state and LA metro area reopen after the COVID-19 pandemic, hospitality and hotel companies are investing in security measures. From online bookings and mobile check-ins to on-demand transportation and smart en-suite devices, the travel & tourism sector has embraced new tech that stores and generates a lot of sensitive data and needs to be protected from theft and ransomware attacks.
While Silicon Valley is still #1 in the state for the concentration of tech companies, the Greater LA metro area trails not far behind. With AdTech, Gaming, and Life Sciences leading the pack, Los Angeles boasts a startup ecosystem worth $120 billion. As essential as appropriate cybersecurity is to every industry sector, no tech company would be able to conduct business without safeguarding the intellectual property that is its bread and butter.
So whatever sector you have experience in or would like to transition to, the Los Angeles-Long Beach-Anaheim, CA metro area is thriving with private and public organizations that need talented cybersecurity professionals.
Also, keep in mind that while the ones listed above are the main industry sectors for the greater LA area, the state of California offers even more opportunities across agriculture, professional services, real estate, healthcare, construction, and so many more industries.
Examples of Entry-Level Cybersecurity Jobs
You might have heard that cybersecurity roles are generally divided between blue team and red team positions. While that’s true, every cybersecurity department needs both defensive (blue) and offensive (red) cybersecurity professionals to function at their best.
As an entry-level candidate, it’s up to you to decide which aspects of cybersecurity you might want to explore and grow into.
Defensive cybersecurity professionals build, maintain, and monitor IT security systems that prove resilient against cyberattacks.
Entry-level roles in defensive cybersecurity include:
- Network Security Administrators create an organization’s security infrastructure and policies, and they monitor company-wide systems for suspicious activity.
- Security Operations Center (SOC) Analysts monitor an organization’s security systems for malicious activity.
- Information Security Researchers analyze different types of malware, sometimes reverse-engineer them, and create appropriate security responses.
- Network Operations Center (NOC) Technicians maintain network infrastructure, monitor network performance, and resolve any network issues.
- Digital Forensics Examiners recover, analyze, and compile data evidence from digital media and computers related to security incidents.
Offensive cybersecurity professionals test how secure an organization’s defenses are by simulating a real cyberattack.
Entry-level roles in offensive cybersecurity include:
- Penetration Testers try to break into an organization’s secure network to uncover any vulnerabilities and report them.
- Offensive Cybersecurity Analysts evaluate the security of a company’s digital infrastructure and applications by running vulnerability assessments.
- Red Team Operators stay updated on new types of cyberattacks and collaborate on penetration testing exercises.
- Ethical Hackers carry out attacks just like black hat hackers would, document any weaknesses, and help make security systems more resilient.
- Vulnerability Assessment Analysts scan applications and networks to find vulnerabilities and advise organizations on security improvements.
If you are particularly interested in becoming an ethical hacker, you can find more specific career guidance here.
Common Entry-Level Cybersecurity Salaries
Depending on which aspect of cybersecurity you decide to specialize in, job descriptions and salaries can vary quite a bit. The good news is that, because the demand for cyber professionals is so high, even entry-level positions can result in higher salaries when compared to other functions.
There are many different online resources that you can use to figure out what your earning potential in cybersecurity is. For example, if you look at the data on the Bureau of Labor Statistics website, the median annual wage for information security analysts was $103,590 in May 2020.
You can also go on job boards websites and have fun selecting different geographies and experience levels to get a frame of reference of how much you should be making in your first cybersecurity job.
At the time this guide was written, ZipRecruiter shows the national average income for cybersecurity jobs is $120,317.
A different resource, Salary.com, shows that the average salary for entry-level cybersecurity analysts in Los Angeles, CA is $80,383 as of August 27, 2021, but the salary range typically falls between $73,263 and $88,102.
You can also double-check sites like Glassdoor and SalaryExpert as you start negotiating your employment contract.
Always keep in mind that salary ranges are just averages. Your compensation as an entry-level cybersecurity professional will depend on a lot of other factors, such as certifications and education, years of work experience, and any other important skills you might have.
Now that you have a better understanding of what careers in cybersecurity look like and how much they pay, it’s time to get started.
Ready to invest in your future? Then we can help you build the foundational skills you need to thrive in cybersecurity.
The CSULB Cybersecurity Professional Certificate Program offers 100% live & online classes designed to fit with your busy schedule, with two sessions on weeknights and one on Saturdays.
The whole program is a total of 400 hours of in-depth cybersecurity instruction, taught by professionals working in the field.
In our proprietary virtual learning ecosystem, you will have access to simulations and cyber labs that mimic real-world cybersecurity scenarios, allowing you to build practical, job-ready skills.
You can also test-drive the program by signing up for our Introductory Course. In this 30-hour stand-alone course, you’ll get a taste of our online learning environment, the quality of cybersecurity education we provide, and the practical skills you’ll be able to hone.
We are committed to helping you start your cybersecurity career, so we also offer career services and networking opportunities. While we cannot guarantee job or internship placement, our team will work with you from day one, so that by the time you are ready to join the workforce, your resume, online profiles, and portfolio are in perfect shape to get your foot in the door with our industry partners.
Sounds too good to be true? Don’t take our word for it. Listen to the learners who have gone through the program directly.
To learn more, you can download our course catalog and explore our syllabus.