Cyber security continues to be one of the fastest growing fields today due to the rise of digital technologies and the growing threats of cybercrime.
As more organizations digitize their systems to enable remote working and store sensitive data online, they require skilled professionals to help protect digital assets and information from malicious attacks. With the ever-evolving threat landscape, there is no shortage of exciting and meaningful career opportunities in cyber security.
In this article, we’ll take a comprehensive look at the diverse range of jobs available within this important industry. We’ll define key cyber security roles and analyze common responsibilities, requirements, and potential career paths.
Through real-world examples and analyses of use cases, you’ll gain a deeper understanding of the work involved across different specializations within cyber security. By the end, you’ll have a better sense of the options that may interest you and fit your skills and interests.
Let’s get started!
What is Cyber Security? Defining Key Terms
Before exploring specific jobs, it’s helpful to define some core cyber security concepts and terminology. Understanding these foundational ideas will provide important context for the roles discussed.
Information security refers broadly to protecting data, devices, systems, and networks from cyber threats or other unauthorized access. The goal is to ensure confidentiality, integrity, and availability of digital assets.
Cyber security focuses specifically on protecting networks, computers, programs, and data from damage or unauthorized access due to cyberattacks. These include but are not limited to hacking, malware, phishing scams, and ransomware attacks.
Vulnerability assessment involves identifying and evaluating weaknesses and flaws (known as vulnerabilities) in an organization’s digital infrastructure, systems, policies, and procedures. This helps determine potential risks and opportunities for attackers to compromise security.
Penetration testing simulates real cyberattacks to test an organization’s security defenses. Also known as ethical hacking, it’s conducted with an organization’s explicit permission to uncover vulnerabilities that may not be found through regular testing and monitoring alone.
Incident response involves preparing for, detecting, analyzing, and responding to cybersecurity incidents like data breaches. Effective response minimizes damage, helps learn from incidents, and improves overall security posture.
With these foundational concepts in mind, let’s explore some of the most common and in-demand cyber security jobs today. This will give you a sense of the variety of roles and specializations within this growing field.
Popular Cyber Security Jobs and Requirements
Cyber Security Analyst
As one of the most prevalent cyber security jobs, analysts play a key monitoring and defensive role. They analyze threats, vulnerabilities, and business risks to proactively prevent and respond to cyberattacks. Daily responsibilities typically include:
- Monitoring networks, systems, firewalls and logs for anomalies or suspicious activity
- Analyzing threats from Dark Web, open sources and intelligence reports
- Investigating and responding to security incidents
- Conducting vulnerability scans and penetration tests
- Providing security guidance and recommendations to stakeholders
- Participating in security awareness training and education programs
Cyber security analyst roles require a bachelor’s degree in cyber security, computer science or related fields. Certifications like CompTIA Security+ or CISSP further strengthen applications. Analysts should be detail-oriented, with skills in technical debugging, critical thinking, and communicating complex security issues clearly.
Engineers design, develop, implement and maintain security solutions across multiple platforms. Their technical expertise and hands-on problem solving skills help strengthen defenses from both internal and external threats. Responsibilities include:
- Implementing firewalls, intrusion detection/prevention systems and other controls
- Hardening operating systems, applications and network configurations
- Automating security processes through scripting or configuration tools
- Maintaining security frameworks like DevSecOps and managing vulnerabilities
- Administering identity and access management solutions
- Testing solutions through penetration testing and auditing configurations
Security engineers require at least a bachelor’s degree in cyber security, computer science or IT coupled with 2-5 years of related work experience. Programming skills, cybersecurity certifications, and hands-on experience with security tools are often required for engineering roles.
Consultants partner with organizations to assess security posture, identify gaps, and recommend tailored solutions or process improvements. They apply their technical expertise and industry experience to help ensure client security maturity. Common responsibilities include:
- Auditing security policies, procedures and controls through document reviews and interviews
- Conducting vulnerability scanning, penetration testing and red team exercises
- Evaluating technical security architecture for improvements
- Developing security roadmaps aligned with business goals
- Educating stakeholders on strategies, new tools and managing risk
- Creating security documentation including reports, frameworks and guidelines
Consulting requires 5+ years of cybersecurity work experience along with technical certifications. A relevant degree, well-rounded skillset from previous roles, and strong client-facing/communication abilities are also crucial. Consultants thrive on problem-solving skills and enjoy advising clients across different industries.
As the frontline defenders during cyberattacks, incident responders work to contain damages, identify root causes, and help prevent future incidents. Day-to-day tasks typically involve:
- Monitoring security infrastructure like security event information management systems (SIEMs)
- Analyzing incidents, malware, and other threats to determine scope and impacts
- Performing forensic investigations to gather evidence and analyze attack vectors
- Enacting containment procedures like isolating compromised systems
- Managing communication and coordination with internal/external stakeholders
- Documenting lessons learned to bolster security preparedness
Most incident response roles need 5+ years of direct security experience combined with strong technical debugging skills. Responders remain up-to-date on the latest threats and response best practices. Effective communication and critical thinking are paramount when responding quickly and effectively under pressure.
Chief Information Security Officer (CISO)
As the senior-most cybersecurity position, the CISO oversees all aspects of defining and enforcing an organization’s security strategy. Key responsibilities include:
- Developing and implementing security programs aligned with business goals
- Advising the C-suite and board of directors on emerging risks and regulations
- Overseeing security policies, standards, architecture and compliance efforts
- Managing security awareness training and response preparedness programs
- Directing vulnerability scanning and auditing security controls
- Budgeting and procurement of security tools and solutions
- Hiring and mentoring security team members
While technical skills are valued, a CISO requires 10+ years of progressively responsible management experience. Extensive industry knowledge and working relationships with external security stakeholders are a must. Strong communication, leadership and strategic planning abilities are paramount for this pivotal C-suite role.
Emerging Specializations and Career Growth Paths
While common roles were discussed above, cyber security is evolving rapidly with new specializations continuously emerging. Let’s explore a few examples:
Security Operations Center (SOC) Analyst
Rather than monitoring individual systems, SOC analysts leverage centralized security tools like SIEM, firewalls and endpoints to safeguard entire networks around the clock. Experience in networking, operating systems and threat hunting is beneficial. SOC provides a broad view into an organization’s security defenses.
Red Team / Purple Team Member
Ethical hackers on red/purple teams work both offensively on red team exercises and defensively on purple teams. Instead of only assessing vulnerabilities, they develop expertise implementing layered security controls as well. Strong programming and hacking skills are vital for these highly technical roles.
Digital Forensics Examiner
Forensic examiners retrieve and investigate digital evidence from compromised systems, often assisting law enforcement with cybercrime cases. They must maintain strict chain of custody procedures and document findings methodically for legal proceedings. Staying abreast of current tools and techniques is essential.
Taking a strategic role, architects design and improve technical security architecture including frameworks, standards and technology roadmaps. They leverage deep security expertise to balance protections with usability and compliance. Communication skills are important when collaborating across teams.
Security Awareness Trainer
Trainers develop and deliver ongoing security awareness training programs to educate end users within organizations. From developing content to facilitating engaging presentations, they champion a security-conscious culture. Experience training diverse audiences and public speaking abilities are valued.
With additional education and certifications, cyber security professionals can also progress into management roles overseeing growing teams. Technical experts may transition into security consulting to advise a broader range of clients. Many CISOs first spent years gaining hands-on experience across diverse specializations. The possibilities for growth are vast in this dynamic field.
Getting Started in Cyber Security
If you’re interested in pursuing a career in cyber security but don’t have a technical background, don’t worry—there are pathways. Many professionals start with general IT roles and gain related certificates to build their skills over time. Here are some recommendations:
- Earn relevant security certifications like CompTIA Security+ to demonstrate fundamentals and credibility
- Pursue a bachelor’s degree in cyber security, computer science or information technology if you don’t already have one
- Enroll in dedicated certificate programs for in-demand skills like Ethical Hacking, Digital Forensics or Cloud Security
- Seek entry-level jobs or internships in help desk, networking or systems administration to get hands-on experience
- Leverage online courses from security training providers to continuously upgrade skills
- Participate in cyber security competitions and Capture The Flag (CTF) events to build skills in a hands-on manner
- Contribute to open source security projects to enhance your technical resume and collaborate with others
- Attend local meetups and conferences to grow your professional network and stay up-to-date on trends
- Consider starting your own blog or GitHub profile to demonstrate security knowledge and interest to potential employers
- Apply for graduate cyber security programs if you’ve already earned a bachelor’s degree in a related field
- Look for career-starter certificates in specialized tools from vendors like Cisco, Splunk, EC-Council that are widely used in the industry
- Pursue internships at managed security service providers (MSSPs) to gain exposure to different clients and incidents
- Participate in HackTheBox, a platform with virtual machines to practice offensive security legally in a lab environment
- Provide security consulting on a contract basis initially to bootstrap experience before seeking full-time roles
- Specialize in urgent skills like cloud security, IoT/embedded device assessments or forensics to stand out
- Actively network at local Infosec meetups, on LinkedIn and through mentors already in the field for job leads
- Consider starting as a security analyst or engineer and laterally move into other roles as experience grows over time
In conclusion, cyber security offers diverse and engaging career options across technical, operational, strategic and consulting roles. With determination and continuous learning, you can succeed in this vital and fast-paced industry, even without a traditional computer science degree.
Developing in-demand skills through hands-on practicing and relevant work experience or internships will help launch your cyber security journey.