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6 steps to becoming a cybersecurity expert

Cybercrime has risen at alarming rates over the years, costing the average Australian business around $276,000 per incident.

With companies growing increasingly reliant on the digital space, hackers are finding new, sophisticated ways of breaching confidential data across industries.

The government has luckily stepped forth on this issue, with a plan to invest more than $230 million in the years from 2017. They’ve since addressed the importance of cybersecurity and the efforts to create more opportunities in the sector.

According to experts, if there was ever a time to specialise in cybersecurity – it would be now.

The industry is set to almost triple in size, with revenues predicted to reach $6 billion by 2026.

Those passionate in the area will find plenty of pathways to the sector; though if you’re unsure of where to start, we recommend these 6 steps to launching your cybersecurity career.

Step 1: Do your research

Your first step is to decide on the type of security role you’d like to pursue.

There are those more focused on the business, regulatory aspects of the industry – while others concentrate on technical skills and system administration. Your ultimate career pathway will depend on your interests and natural skills base.

Typical cybersecurity jobs in Australia include security consultants, computer forensics analysts, penetration testers, and security systems administrators.

Once you have a vague idea on your desired role, do you research on commonly required skills for the position, and character traits of those usually employed.

You may also want to pick up on additional statistics or facts on the industry (i.e. salary potential, projected growth, gender split) to help truly decide if this is the field for you.

According to Job Outlook, the ICT security sector is currently a large one, set to experience steady growth in the coming years to 2023. In this timeframe, job-seekers can expect around 26,000 job openings, both from new roles created and worker turnover.

Step 2: Pursue a qualification

Once you’ve gathered all the necessary information, you’ll then want to pursue an educational pathway.

Job Outlook states that most Australians working in the ICT security industry hold no formal qualifications; as long technical competency is demonstrated to employers. However, vendor and industry certifications are highly regarded, and can improve your chances in the job market.

Of all those employed in the field, 25.7% hold a certificate, diploma, or advanced diploma qualification.

Reports show a growing need for cybersecurity workers in Australia (up to an additional 17,600 by 2026) – with the government planning to increase the quality of university courses in the sector.

For those swamped with full-time work or family commitments, online programs in the field are fortunately on the rise; providing the opportunity of studying on a flexible basis. The Australian Institute of ICT (AIICT), for example, offers their cybersecurity course 100% online – allowing students (employed or otherwise) to train according to their personal needs and schedule.

Step 3: Invest in self-teaching and personal projects

On top of the certification or qualification you’re striving towards, it’s also important to take the time to teach yourself.

A lack of certification shouldn’t hold you back from pursuing projects or further learning on the side. Explore the plethora of online videos and forums available in your profession, gaining new knowledge from industry veterans across the globe – on top of the skills trained in your current course(s).

Software development platforms such as GitHub allow aspiring security experts to contribute to open source projects. This is an effective way of testing your current skillsets, connecting with fellow professionals around the world, and beefing your resume up with personal ventures to impress potential employers.

On top of technical skills, however, it’s also important to invest in your soft skills. Reach out to other students in your course, or communicate with other aspiring experts online; brushing up on your social and marketing skills can help prepare you for the job-hunting process, as well as the workplace.

Step 4: Pursue an internship

Once you attained your first qualification – it’s now time to prep for the workforce.

If you’re one of the lucky ones, you may just snag full-time employment straight out of your training. For many others, pursuing an internship is common to gain further industry experience.

An internship is the perfect opportunity to put your classroom skills to practical use. It also benefits entry-level experts in two ways: while you aren’t expected to have the seasoned knowledge of long-time industry professional, at the same time, you’re immersed with the professional responsibilities and conduct required of a formal workplace.

You’ll thus learn of the corporate standards and demands in a typical cybersecurity setting; training you for your days as a full-time professional.

An internship also offers the opportunity of collaborating with other aspiring experts, helping you grasp “workplace dynamics” and enhance your communication skills.

Lastly, you’ll get to make common rookie mistakes and learn from them – helping you avoid the same pitfalls come your first official job.

Step 5: Snag your first job

When hunting down your first, professional role – don’t expect the grandest opportunities off-the-bat.

Rather than scouting for prestige, six-figure earnings and exciting tasks glorified by hacker-themed movies; it’s far more important to focus on all you can learn from your first job experience, these including the new skills and knowledge you’ll gain from working with field professionals.

You’ll also gain an in-depth understanding of what employers value in a today’s security experts. According to Telstra’s Lead Discovery Analyst, Skye Wu: “An aptitude for learning and critical thinking are the main skills needed… technological skills can be taught, but essential skills like problem solving and critical thinking are much harder to develop.”

It’s thus important to develop a growth-centred, open mindset – welcoming new views, methods, and unfamiliar discoveries to enhance your current knowledge base and progress you along your career journey.

This brings us to…

Step 6: Never stop learning – network, attend events, learn from the best

Though getting a job may seem like the end goal, it’s crucial to remain curious and inquisitive.

Surround yourself with new insights and expertise, whether it’s through YouTube videos or browsing through your favourite tech websites. Sign up for new courses if it suits, or attend conferences to network with other like-minded professionals.

InfoSec Conferences list all the available cybersecurity events taking place in Australia, updated each year. You’ll pick up a new thing or two from fellow experts, or at the very least, expand your business circle.

If you’d like, it can also help to share your knowledge with others. This can be done through blogging, social media posts, even public speaking – whatever helps you start a discussion, and receive feedback or constructive criticism from others.

These exchanges can help you further improve and grow in your profession. Don’t settle for stagnation; as stated by Akshay ‘Ax’ Sharma in Medium article on a cybersecurity career: “It’s okay for others to call you an expert once they think you are there, but settling for the mere title means jeopardizing your own learning.”

Kickstart your career in cybersecurity!

For those seeking a rewarding career in this growing industry – AIICT offers a Certified Cybersecurity Professional course that offers certifications in CompTIA A+, CompTIA Network+, and CompTIASecurity+. Additionally, students will learn to sharpen their soft skills (i.e. building professional relationships, critical thinking, team collaboration), preparing them for success in a professional workplace environment. Best of all, it’s 100% online, helping you train according to your personal needs and commitments. Enquire today to kickstart a fulfilling career in the world of cybersecurity.