How to Become a Cybersecurity Specialist

Cybersecurity specialists, also known as security specialists, are the professionals who are responsible for maintaining network security. They help to protect an organization’s network from threats, risks and vulnerabilities. The cybersecurity specialist can be the most important person in an organization, as they protect all of its information, sensitive or not.

Cybersecurity specialist can also be a broader term for any cybersecurity position within an organization. Especially within smaller, non-IT related companies with smaller teams dedicated to cybersecurity, the title “cybersecurity specialist” may designate a person who is a jack-of-all-trades when it comes to cybersecurity. Make sure that you understand the job description and what would be expected of you before applying to any cybersecurity specialist position (or any position, for that matter). Other job titles for cybersecurity specialist include, but are not limited to, network security specialist, computer security specialist, information security specialist, and information technology security specialist.

Jobs for cybersecurity specialists are available within both the public sector and private sector. Just about every company has a need for cybersecurity professionals, which means that cybersecurity specialists should easily be able to find employment. If you would like to learn more about becoming a cybersecurity specialist, keep reading.

Education and Experience Required to Become a Cybersecurity Specialist

Because the title “cybersecurity specialist” can be a vague one, the education level depends upon the employer and the position being offered. For most cybersecurity specialist positions, you will need a minimum of an associate’s degree or certificate. Check out our Cybersecurity Associate Degree guide (insert link) to find a school within your state offering an associate degree or certificate.

Most cybersecurity jobs, however, require a bachelor’s degree as the standard level of education. Your major should be in cybersecurity, computer science, information technology, engineering or a related field. Check out our Cybersecurity Bachelor’s Degree guide to find applicable degrees, such as:

  • Bachelor of Science in Cybersecurity & Policy – University of the Potomac, online
  • Bachelor of Arts in Computer Science, Minor in Cybersecurity – University of New Hampshire
  • Bachelor of Science in Cybersecurity – Oregon Institute of Technology
  • Bachelor of Science in Computer Science – Information Assurance & Security Concentration – California State University, Sacramento
  • Bachelor of Science in Cybersecurity Engineering – Iowa State University

Industry certifications can also help you to get a leg up on the competition when you are applying for a cybersecurity specialist job. Some recommended certifications for cybersecurity specialists include:

  • CCNA Cyber Ops certification- Associate or Professional levels (Cisco Certified Network Associate)
  • Cisco Cybersecurity Specialist
  • CompTIA Security+
  • CompTIA Network +
  • CompTIA PenTest+
  • Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP)
  • EC-Council Network Security Administrator (ENSA)

Continuing education is highly important for cybersecurity specialists. As the cyber environment is ever changing, cybersecurity specialists must stay on top of new developments and technology. Many certifications require continuing education for maintenance of those credentials.

Job Description & Skills Required for a Cybersecurity Specialist

Cybersecurity specialists are constantly testing security systems, both in computer hardware and software.  In this way, they can be sure that an organization’s systems are protected from cyberattacks. As the job description for a cybersecurity specialist may be broad, the duties are many, and may include:

  • Thoroughly understand information that must be protected
  • Training other employees in cybersecurity practices and policies
  • Designing and testing firewalls and other security measures to protect networks
  • Writing security policies and training manuals for others within an organization
  • Continuous monitoring of security systems and networks for risks and vulnerabilities
  • Tracking and documenting network risks and vulnerabilities in reports
  • Analyzing the structure of a network
  • Perform vulnerability and penetration tests
  • Installing, administering and troubleshooting security solutions
  • Administration of information security department of an organization
  • Work as part of a larger cybersecurity team
  • Work with other departments in the organization to ensure understanding of cybersecurity

Skills that cybersecurity specialists should possess include:

  • Excellent communication skills, both orally and in writing
  • Knowledgeable in security information and event management
  • Familiarity with many computer programming languages like C, C++, Java and PHP
  • Experience with a wide range of security tools and computer operating systems, including, but not limited to, UNIX, Windows and Linux
  • Confidence in ethical hacking, coding and threat modeling
  • Thorough understanding of Packet Shaper, Proxy Server and Load Balancer
  • Thorough understanding of TCP/IP protocols
  • Good problem-solving skills
  • Excellent leadership and management skills
  • Good analytical and critical thinking skills
  • Ability to multi-task in a fast-paced environment
  • Ability to handle crises well
  • Ability to thrive in an ever-changing environment
  • Ability to teach and instruct others
  • Adaptability to a variety of situations
  • Dependability
  • Integrity and honesty
  • Self-motivated
  • Being a good team player, comfortable working as part of a team
  • Creativity
  • Patience

Cybersecurity Specialist Salary & Job Outlook

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) does not list an average annual wage for cybersecurity specialists, grouping them under the broader category of information security analysts instead., however, does list an average salary for information security specialists at $76,336. According to their statistics, the best-paying cities in which cybersecurity specialists work are:

  • Phoenix, AZ- where cybersecurity specialist salaries are 50 percent higher than average
  • Washington, DC – cybersecurity specialist salaries are 19 percent higher than average
  • Seattle, WA- where cybersecurity specialist salaries are 13 percent higher than average
  • New York, NY- where cybersecurity specialist salaries are 11 percent higher than average
  • Columbus, OH- where cybersecurity specialist salaries are 9 percent higher than average

The BLS says that jobs for cybersecurity specialists are expected to rise by 31 percent, faster than the average projected growth for all other occupations, from 2019 to 2029. Top industries in which cybersecurity specialists find jobs include (but are not limited to):

  • Technology companies
  • Government agencies
  • Banking and the financial industry
  • The retail industry
  • The media industry

If you want to work in the field of cybersecurity, a goal of becoming a cybersecurity specialist is a great goal to have!