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How to become qualified for cyber security jobs

Filed under: Features — Jonathan on September 24, 2013

As the onward march of technology continues apace, there are precious few signs of cybercrime, in all its forms, abating. Indeed, a recent report by the UK’s FSB (Federation of Small Businesses) stated that the cost to its members of cybercrime is something in the order of £785m per year. Viral infections remain the most common problem, whilst hacking and security breaches are also prevalent. On a larger scale, enterprises are increasingly preoccupied with industrial espionage, while governments are ever vigilant against the prospect of cyber-terrorism.

There is plenty of mileage, therefore, in considering a career move into cyber security. Indeed, a U.S. State Department expert recently characterised cyber security as a recession-proof profession, expanding rather than contracting.

For those considering a cyber-security career, there are a number of qualifications which should help them on the road towards a rewarding role in the profession:
Taking the academic route

First and foremost; do consider the academic route, which remains a safe bet. For students starting out on working life, qualifications specific to IT security provide a good start. Examples include the Foundation Degree in Security and Risk Management at Leicester University and, at the other end of the scale, there’s the MSc in Information Security and Risk at City University. Meanwhile, a more general university or college background in Computer Science could also prove to be a way in to a relevant role later down the line.

A professional approach

Professional certifications, combined with previous experience, can either enhance or substitute for formal academic qualifications, however. When it comes to certifications, there’s an embarrassment of riches. GIAC (Global Information Assurance Certification) certificates are awarded following the successful completion of specific training courses offered by the SANS Institute (A U.S. company specialising in security training). For instance, a GIAC certificate can be obtained in subjects such as Security Administration, Forensics, and PEN testing (penetration testing).

While specific certifications can be invaluable for specific career paths, one of the most highly regarded certifications is the more general CISSP (Certified Information Systems Security Professional) certificate. This is a heavyweight course covering areas as diverse as access control, cryptography, and physical networking. The course ends with a six-hour exam and, before students can even sign up for programme, they need to be formally endorsed by a security professional recognised by the ISC2. Students also need at least six years’ experience in the security industry, and also should be willing to renew their qualification once every two years – usually through CPE (Continuing Professional Education) Credits.

These, then, are some of the key qualifications to consider. However, to potential cyber security employers, a track record of experience in information security specifically, or business IT in general, is also of great importance.

Be a people person

Finally, people skills – the ability to get on with a wide range of individuals from different walks of life – are vital in a cyber-security role, as the job is so much about building trusting relationships so people will work well together if a security breach occurs. Having a cyber-security manager on hand who can build and nurture such relationships is crucial.

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