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How to start learning cybersecurity

With the powerhouse known as Australia’s cybersecurity sector – raking in billions in annual revenue and gaining a strong international reputation – it’s no wonder the industry has become an attractive field for IT employment.

As cybercrime rates continue to rise (costing the economy over one billion in damages), security talents are in high demand to ensure data privacy and protection. In fact, the sector has spurred over a million global job opportunities, with thousands available in Australia; most offering the potential for high earnings and career growth.

Should your passions lie in the field of technology and digital security, we’ve outlined your steps to start learning cybersecurity – helping you pursue a rewarding, dynamic career in the industry.

What jobs in cyber security do you want to pursue?

Being the large, blooming field that it is, cyber security offers aspiring experts with a variety of roles and specialisations. Your first step in studying the field is to decide on an area you’d like to pursue.

Common trades in the industry include the following:

  • Penetration tester: Those curious on the technicalities of hacking and cybercrime may find their interests lie with penetration testing. This role involves being an “ethical hacker” for companies; exposing vulnerabilities in their security framework as they execute common strategies used by malicious hackers. According to Payscale, Australian penetration testers earn a median salary of $93,000 per year.
  • Security engineer: These professionals have a high-level knowledge of security prevention and intrusion detection, and are responsible for developing security plans, policies, and responding to incidents as they occur. Payscale reports that security engineers earn a median annual salary of $94,000 in Australia.
  • Cryptographer: Those interested in encryption/decryption processes may be best suited for a role in cryptography. This position involves the analysing, deciphering, and development of encryption algorithms – ensuring the privacy of individua and corporate data. Salary Expert statistics show that the average base salary for Australian cryptographers is $157,164 per year.

Of course, your starting field of education will depend on your existing IT expertise. Those coming from a technical IT background may dive straight into the more specialised roles of cybersecurity; while those completely new to the field may build foundational skills in more generic areas – such as network administration, vulnerability analysis, and cyber policy analysis.

Pursue formal education or online courses

Once you’ve decided on your career course, the next stage is weighing out your qualification options.

While degrees aren’t a staple among cybersecurity job listings (a quick search on SEEK shows that plenty, instead, desire industry-recognised certifications) a formal associate’s, bachelor’s, or master’s degree will still prove valuable on a resume – demonstrating your thorough education in the field.

Formal university degrees also provide the experience of an organised learning environment (with classes and seminars taught face-to-face by established, industry professionals), provision of modern hardware and software, access to clubs, and the ability to network with like-minded individuals and field experts.

An alternative pathway is to pursue an online course. Online education is a rapidly expanding industry in Australia, with a whopping 80% of students now engaged in some form of online learning. Government support has birthed hundreds of online cybersecurity courses to choose from, provided well-renowned training providers, including the Australian Institute of ICT (AIICT).

Those who pursue online learning will find greater flexibility in their study, as most courses provide freedom of when and where you choose to work; and is a far more accessible form of education, with plenty delivered 100% online. For a field as hands-on and practical as cybersecurity, an online course also offers the opportunity of pursuing work experience or internships on the side – building you both academic and real-world knowledge for a greater chance at employment.

Attend workshops/internships

Along with a formal cybersecurity education, it’s important to learn from other (aspiring or veteran) professionals through practical workshops and internships. These opportunities offer a more pragmatic learning experience, allowing you to actively meet with industry experts, along with providing insight into the day-to-day aspects of a cybersecurity career.

Acquiring actual field experience can improve your chances of finding employment, as it shows your familiarity handling real-world security tasks, performance in a fast-paced ICT environment, and collaborative skills with diverse groups of people.

Additionally, an internship (or workshop) allows you to apply your academic knowledge to actual work settings, helping you put your concepts to practice. Doing so not only puts your academic training to the test, but helps you manoeuvre your skills to fit different contexts (i.e. security protocols in a corporate environment vs. security practices for personal tech use). Making mistakes are an integral part of these training experiences, equipping you to better manage similar challenges down your career track.

Along with workshops and internships, conferences are another valuable opportunity for expanding your expertise and professional network. Not only will you learn, in person, from the best in the field – you’ll also get a chance to mingle with well-established individuals and starting professionals like yourself.

These events allow you to share and gain tips from potential contacts; and who knows, you may just bump into someone with an ideal career opportunity.

The latest and greatest Australian conferences in cybersecurity can be found on Infosec Conferences’ directory, giving you first glimpse of the newest, upcoming events.

Read up on publications

Finally, feeding your knowledge with self-motivated research is critical to staying on top of industry trends and career opportunities. The world of a cybersecurity (and the ICT field, in general), is a vast one, with continuous development and innovation. In-demand skills today may be replaced or rendered obsolete in the coming years, or vice versa; certain skills areas today may prove to be more lucrative sectors in time.

As such, keep your expertise fresh by regularly reading up on publications – whether physical or digital – in the cybersecurity industry. Plenty of websites offer a curated list of the best magazines, blogs, and websites on cybercrime and security strategies, these including the Australian Cybersecurity Magazine, the Australian Cyber Security Centre’s archive of resources, and the cybersecurity news website, Dark Reading.

You may also benefit from joining an association, particularly the Australian Computer Society (ACS) (the largest in the nation’s ICT community). As of now, their institution is exclusive to those who’ve satisfied their minimum qualification requirements, or who are currently engaged in ICT training or practice. Those who are eligible for membership are provided access to a wide range of digital learning resources on Australia’s ICT sector – these including the latest news, trends, and developments of all related fields, including cybersecurity.

Additionally, you’ll also gain access to leadership presentations and updates on the latest networking events.

Membership into a renowned association such as ACS can prove advantageous when seeking employment, as those involved are often required to maintain high standards of professional excellence.

Get your head start in cybersecurity through online training

Practical, interactive skills training is a highly crucial step in honing your security expertise.

As mentioned, plenty of aspiring professionals opt for online courses in the field – helping them brush up on their skills while tending to other work and personal commitments. Being a digital trade, plenty of cybersecurity courses are also offered 100% online.

The Australian Institute of ICT (AIICT) offers such opportunity, providing a Certified Cybersecurity Professional program that helps equip students with foundational skills in networking, IT, and best security practices. Best of all, the course is delivered fully online, with a generous range of resources featuring video content, demonstration labs, and content quizzes.

Develop your skills in the lucrative field of cybersecurity, and enquire with us on a course today.