Cyber Matrix

What Does It Take To Be A Cyber Security Expert?

If you’re reading this, we can assume you’re curious about a career in cyber security. 

Cyber security is an in-demand and continually improving industry, making it a solid field to work in. You also get the satisfaction of seeing behind the curtain and understanding the networks that power our digital-centric world.

At the time of writing this, there are 2,024 jobs on Indeed that mention cyber security. So, with some determination, whether you want to work remotely or at a high-tech SOC lab, you can find the perfect role for you.

But how do you get into cyber security? Read on to learn how we recommend you get into cyber security in 2022 and beyond:

What is a cyber security expert?

Firstly, let’s establish what being a cyber security expert is. 

There is no set job role as a ‘cyber security expert’. You can be a generalist and fulfil roles such as security officer or department lead. But, most people opt for specialist roles and gain a deep understanding of one area.

There are a few routine tasks in most cyber security roles. These include: 

  • Creating and implementing solutions to protect a business
  • Auditing and testing existing solutions
  • Looking at the latest security standards
  • Conducting routine updates and checks
  • Developing training and guidelines for staff

It’s worth beginning your training in cyber security with an open mind to all specialisms. That way you can learn what you don’t enjoy as well as the aspects you do.

How to train to be a cyber security expert

To begin your training in the cyber security industry, we recommend you focus on three areas:

Hard skills – Such as programming languages and how networks function

Soft skills – Such as quality communication skills, persuasion, and critical thinking

Hands-on experience – Such as industry events and apprenticeships

Hard skills for your new career in cyber security

Here are the specific skills that can be learnt by taking cyber security courses and demonstrated in a measured way to employers:

1. Maths

You won’t need complex mathematics skills, but some maths literacy is essential when calculating system capabilities and developing algorithms.

2. Programming and scripting languages

You’ll need to learn languages like Javascript, Python, and SQL to create scripts that can perform complex tasks for you.

3. Cloud computing

More organisations are moving to cloud-based infrastructures, and understanding how they operate will make you a valuable team member.

4. Operating systems

You’ll need to learn about the different operating systems and their uses. There’s plenty more than macOS and Microsoft.

5. DevOps

You’ll need to learn how IT and software development works together in DevOps to shorten delivery cycles.

6. Common security threats

You’ll need to learn about the most common security threats, such as malware and phishing.

7. Data Protection laws and regulations

You’ll need to understand data processing and storage under the UK General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).

8. Governance and documentation

Finally, you’ll need to understand the importance of governance and documentation in cyber security and some best practices on how, when, and what to document.

As you begin to work for a company, you can work towards specific certifications such as CREST, CHECK, TIGERSCHEME, GDPR accreditations, CISSP, and CISM.

Soft skills for your new career in cyber security

1. Organisation and timekeeping skills 

Cyber security has a lot of knock-on effects. Forget to submit a ticket, and someone else won’t complete their work in time for go-live. Forget to update software, and you’re at risk of a hack. You’ll need good organisation skills to manage various critical deadlines.

2. Teamwork 

You’ll be working with colleagues of other specialisms in and outside cyber security. Working well with others is essential to access resources managed by others and complete your tasks.

3. Resilience 

In cyber security, when there’s a breach or something goes wrong, you are the emergency services. You’ll need resilience to show up during the good and bad times.

4. Persuasion skills

Sometimes organisations are so focused on the everyday that they can’t think about the bigger picture. Presenting a good case for your ideas is valuable to make significant changes where you work.

5. Critical thinking

Sometimes you’ll face challenges with no textbook answer. Critical thinking skills will help you apply the best solution using your available resources.

6. Passion and interest in technology

You’ll need a strong interest in computing and security. Hacker movies are a false representation of the field, so make sure you genuinely like computing before jumping into this career.

Experience for your career in Cyber Security

For all the courses and practice environments in the world, nothing replaces the skills and contextual understanding that hands-on experience will give you. To gain experience:

Keep up with industry news

Read up-to-date industry websites such as the NCSC and UK Cyber Security Council. Research and attend free security conferences online or in major cities near you to learn about the emerging trends and threats security teams are tackling. These are likely to be different to what you learnt in a course. 

Get an apprenticeship or entry-level job

TikTok influencers promise high salaries within months when you work in cyber security. Unfortunately, this isn’t true in most of the world. To get your foot in the door, search for an apprenticeship or entry-level job with a track record for quality training and development.

Building your cyber security career

Career advice from Cyber Security Experts

We asked our team what they wish they knew when they were starting out. Here’s what they said:

“My advice to anyone looking to build a career in the cyber industry would be; be inquisitive”

– Mike Robinson, Managing Director 

‘’A big part of cyber security is investigation. Experts can teach you the terminology, the one thing we can’t teach you is to be investigative”
– Ben Stead, Head of SOC 

There are many routes in, if you are looking for a career in cyber. With career development progression allowing you to reach a mature role in less than 5 years, it’s a very attractive sector. If you do some research, and a little self-development, you’ll be surprised what’s achievable!”

– Sarah Rolls, HR Director

What are the career paths in cyber security?

Once you’ve fallen down the rabbit hole of cyber security and decided it’s the right field for you, it’s time to think about your career path.

Due to the pace of innovation in technology, specialisms and roles often look different in different companies. But the UK Cyber Security Council acknowledge 16 specialisms:

  1. Digital Forensics
  2. Cyber Threat Intelligence
  3. Cyber Security Generalist
  4. Cyber Security Management
  5. Incident Response
  6. Network Monitoring & Intrusion Detection
  7. Vulnerability Management
  8. Security Testing
  9. Cryptography & Communications Security
  10. Secure Operations
  11. Identity & Access Management
  12. Secure System Architecture & Design
  13. Cyber Security Audit & Assurance
  14. Data Protection & Privacy
  15. Secure System Development
  16. Cyber Security Governance & Risk Management

Learn the general skills we mentioned before, then spend time researching each of these specialisms to see what skills you should focus on to progress your career.

Interested in a career in cyber security? We’re always looking for talented individuals who want to enter the field. Explore our cyber careers page or email us three reasons you’re interested in a career in cyber security –