What Cybersecurity Pathway is Right for Me?

Choosing the right cybersecurity pathway

Cybersecurity professionals have one main task: protect their organizations from any possible data breach or cyber-attack. As an aspiring cybersecurity professional, you need to be aware that different people in different roles should perform this task, which means different backgroundstraining, and interests.

So before you make up your mind and decide on one training or another to begin your cybersecurity journey, please consider the typical career paths and decide which one fits best your interests and skills. Then you can begin the right training for a successful career.

Common Cybersecurity Career Pathways 

To better understand the many job options in the field, we decided to group them into 3 main categories according to their main function: defend, test, and respond. It is important to note that not every small organization has a separate person in charge of each one of these roles, but the ideal cybersecurity structure has a structure of defined roles. Depending on your area of interest, you will need additional training in specific areas.  Further, though there are consistent foundational certifications that we believe are important, each cyber track will require other certifications to move forward in your career.

Defend 

Professionals in this area of expertise are expected to design, implement, operate, and maintain security controls and make sure there are enough defenses in place to keep their organization safe. On a day to day basis, they must try to predict any possible attack and put up enough barriers to prevent them. At the same time, they must monitor any suspicious activity and detect if any cyber-criminal could pass through the network defenses they created 

Security Architects are the most common role found responsible for the defense of an organization’s assets. As a professional in this area, you will be required to: 

  1. Plan, research, and design durable security architectures for different projects.
  2. Develop requirements for networks, firewalls, routers, and any other network device.
  3. Perform vulnerability testing and security assessments.
  4. Implement security standards and the latest best practices. 

To become a successful Security Architect, you should consider taking accredited security certifications to accelerate your career path and develop the necessary skills for the role.  

  • Entry-level will be asked to have CompTIA Security+.
  • Entry/Intermediate level will usually need Certified Ethical Hacker (CEH).
  • Advanced roles will need EC-Council Certified Security Analyst (ECSA).
  • Experts should get Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP). 

According to Cyberseek.org, the annual salary for an experienced Cybersecurity Architect is $131,000, and currently, there are over 6,000 job openings in the United States.  

Test 

One of the most interesting cybersecurity roles is being responsible for testing the security protocols for an organization. People who work in this area must act like a hacker to test controls and find weaknesses in their organizational systems, networks, and applications. They usually simulate real-life cyber-attacks to identify those weak spots before an attacker does

Penetration Testers or Ethical Hackers are the most common roles in this area. When working in these jobs, you will be expected to:

  1. Perform penetration tests on all network systems for an organization.
  2. Find security weaknesses.
  3. Research, document, and discuss with the management team their findings.
  4. Design new ways to test for security holes.

To succeed as a Penetration Tester, you will need to take different certifications and courses specializing in ethical hacking practices, operating systems, software, and network protocols.  

  • Entry-level will be asked to have CompTIA Security+.
  • Entry/Intermediate level should have Certified Ethical Hacker (CEH).
  • Advanced roles will need EC-Council Certified Security Analyst (ECSA) and CompTIA Advanced Security Practitioner (CASP).
  • Experts should get Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP).

Currently, there are over 13,600 job openings for this role in the United States. When achieving an advanced position, you can expect to earn an estimated $104,000.

Respond 

We’ve now gone over the people who are in charge of creating and implementing security controls and those who are there to test them. But what about when these controls and protocols fail? Who is there to act quickly to fix the breach? Cybersecurity responders.

These individuals are on the front lines when all security systems fail to prevent attackers from coming in. They are responsible for creating and implementing disaster recovery plans to get systems and software back on track.

One of the most common roles at this level of responsibility is the Incident Responder. If you are considering applying for this type of job, you should have a strong skill set to:

  1. Determine and evaluate cyber threats.
  2. Avoid escalation of serious security threats.
  3. Provide reports to the security team of your organization.
  4. Minimize the impact of a security breach on the organization’s network or systems.
  5. Analyze the organization’s network to make sure it is clear of potential threats.

To become a successful Responder, you should consider taking the following certifications:

  • Entry-level will be asked to have CompTIA Security+.
  • Entry/Intermediate level should have Certified Ethical Hacker (CEH).
  • Advanced roles will need Certified Information Security Manager (CISM).
  • Experts should get Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP) 

At this moment, there are over 7,400 job openings for this role in the United States. If you are considering this specific career path, you can expect an average annual salary of $85,000.

Choosing the right cybersecurity pathway depends on you, your skills, interests, and capabilities. Keep in mind that the more training and experience you get, the easier it will be to advance further into your career and adapt to your employer’s always-changing needs.