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How to get an IT security job

Filed under: Features — Jonathan on June 26, 2013

As people are becoming more and more dependent on technology, so information security is an increasingly high priority. IT security threats are always lurking in the background, to catch out individuals and organisations the second they drop their guard. Consequently, there is a growing demand for IT security professionals to act as first line of defence against cybercrime.

IT security roles, from corporate risk management to penetration testing, can indeed prove stimulating, challenging and well-remunerated. Such roles represent attractive opportunities for those seeking something different in the IT industry. Here, then, are some tips on how to get an IT security job.

Read all about it

First, read up as much as possible, both on the subject generally and in the particular area in which you would like to specialise. Information security is so topical, and so fundamental to the sustainability of the internet, that there’s no shortage of news and background information. From blogs and internet magazines to detailed Wikipedia entries, there’s an inexhaustible range from which to learn. Furthermore, future recruiters really appreciate wide background knowledge of a complex subject.

Certification is all but mandatory

Next, do try to get some professional certification. A good starting point is the CompTIA Security+ certification. It signals competence in areas such as network security, cryptography and access control. This will help candidates get on the first rung of the ladder. Later down the line, it’s worth considering more advanced certification, such as the CISSP (Certified Information Systems Security Professional). This is a tougher, more demanding qualification, providing in-depth coverage of a wide range of information security topics.

However, industry certificates are very much worth all the hard work, especially bearing in mind that certain certificates are listed as requirements (not optional) for a significant number of advertised posts. This is not to say that academic qualifications do not play a role; they most certainly do, but they are more effective in tandem with one or more professional certifications.

Don’t be afraid of the indirect career path

Next, indirect routes into IT security roles should be considered. Many highly paid IT security consultants started their careers in traditional IT helpdesk roles. Once on a general IT helpdesk, it is possible to branch into more specific roles, such as server admin or network support. Such roles can provide an excellent grounding for IT security jobs, and demonstrate a natural career path on a CV.

Do try this at home

Finally, there’s nothing like some hands-on experience in a safe environment. One way of getting this is to set up a home-made security lab at home, making use of some computers which have been put out to grass, a router, some cables and other bits and pieces and pieces of hardware. With the aid of open-source software and some advice, it’s perfectly possible to simulate all kinds of security crises and then set about fixing them – all without risk of damaging your own or your employer’s integrity.

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