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If you have a good combination of analytical ability and creativity, getting into cybersecurity could be one of the best career decisions you will ever make. It’s one of those rare fields that has a real meritocracy, with your ability to advance depending on your talent, skill and willingness to apply yourself. There are lots of different roles to choose from, and because the sector is rapidly expanding, new ones keep developing. High demand means that there’s no shortage of opportunity. Salaries are good and many positions offer flexible working hours. Although there are also roles in which you will have to be on call for emergencies, these tend to be well compensated. The sector is constantly in flux as new technologies change the game, so it’s full of interesting challenges and will really keep you on your toes.
A growth area
According to Global Data, the cybersecurity market was worth $220.6bn in 2021, and its value is expected to increase to $334.6bn in 2026. With more and more key aspects of the economy, the military, education, and even health infrastructure moving online, this growth will take a long time to start slowing down. Furthermore, as our planet warms, populations migrate and meteorological science becomes increasingly important to public safety, there will be further factors promoting expansion of the sector. In other words, if you get into cybersecurity now, you will not only have lots of interesting roles to choose from in the immediate term, but it is also likely that that situation will persist for the rest of your life.
What this means is that you can always expect to be paid well, you should have no difficulty finding a new job if you want to move to a different state or country, and you need never feel trapped in your job. Although most people tend to build up specialist knowledge in one specific area over time, it remains possible to make lateral career moves, giving you the chance to transfer your more basic skills to something fresh and exciting if you start to feel frustrated where you are. The chances are that in a decade’s time, there will be career options available in this sector that we can’t even imagine today.
The focus of corporate espionage
Cyber espionage is now by far the most common way for companies to try to steal secrets from their rivals or sabotage their activities. This means that it’s vital for every company to have cybersecurity in place, but this is more complex than it might sound, because every business has different requirements and faces different compatibility issues with the other software it needs to run. The matter is also complicated by users who don’t know what they’re doing and may undermine the whole scheme through simple errors such as using their children’s names as their passwords. Cybersecurity experts therefore have multiple roles to play in order to ensure that adequate security provisions are built into each workplace system and properly maintained.
Today, most medium-sized or large companies – and even some small ones – have needs that are sufficiently complex that they require help from experts to ensure that their security systems are properly installed. They may also need assistance to manage updates, and emergency intervention when attacks get through or their security systems are otherwise compromised. Many acknowledge a need for training to bring employees up to speed on the basics. They may also need assistance to manage interactions between security systems and specialist software, and, additionally, they may have hardware-related vulnerabilities.
The new face of international conflict
With physical conflict proportionately more and more expensive, nation states are increasingly allocating resources to cyber warfare – attack, defense and espionage. Governments are continually on the lookout for bright graduates with the necessary commitment and discretion to fill these roles. You could find yourself assigned to protect vital infrastructure from potentially disabling attacks, or to hack into the communications of hostile nations in order to anticipate threats. You might also find yourself responsible for using cybersecurity tools to combat propaganda or trace the origins of viruses or hostile agents. You might be responsible for protecting the integrity of elections by identifying and tracking misinformation or making sure that social media is not distorted to mislead voters.
At this level, cybersecurity work is a true arms race, with each side in any given conflict trying to get the better of the other. Sometimes it overlaps with traditional military action, given how much military hardware now relies on artificial intelligence and is therefore vulnerable to hacking. Getting involved in this sector will make you see the world in a whole new way and could put you in a position to render an invaluable service to your country.
Essential to commerce
Ever since the 1990s, people have gradually been making the transition to shopping online. The experience of lockdown early in the COVID-19 pandemic sealed the deal as it saw people shift en masse to online sources for groceries, which had been the last major hold-out. This situation also saw the older demographic, which had been hesitant to use the internet, strongly motivated to take the plunge. This led to people much more likely than others to continue to have difficulties shopping in person discovering that there was an alternative. To keep up, delivery services massively expanded their networks of operation, streamlining and improving the quality of their services. This expansion led in turn to rapidly expanding demand for cybersecurity products and services.
Cybersecurity is essential to e-commerce at every level. Individual citizens need to be confident that their bank accounts won’t be emptied and that their identities won’t be stolen when they shop online. Banks need to know that their own systems are secure. Sellers need secure platforms that don’t inhibit their ability to interact with customers, and third-party platforms such as eBay and Amazon need to be able to resist constant attempts to bypass their security systems. Every one of these areas creates opportunities for cybersecurity specialists to go to work.
A poorly understood area
While everybody on the internet now needs some level of cybersecurity, and businesses and government organizations need it most of all, if you ask the average person what it actually involves, they will have no idea. In other words, it’s a service that is desperately needed and that makes people dependent on an elite core of experts – of whom you could be one. This is the reason why strong communication skills are a vital part of many cybersecurity roles, as you will need to be able to explain the importance of following certain rules and procedures to people who can’t necessarily grasp the concepts behind them.
Some cybersecurity experts take this part of the job a step further, supplying training to public and private sector employees. Others need to be able to communicate with individual clients in order to persuade them to invest in the security they really need, or explain to them why certain actions they are engaged in may compromise their security. This is a process that might test your patience, but it’s worth remembering that it’s also a key factor in why you are able to get paid for such work. Furthermore, many of your clients will be legitimate experts in other areas – they simply won’t have devoted the time to learn what you have, and overall, this works in your favor.
Constantly challenging work
Working in cybersecurity never gets stale because the industry is going through a constant process of escalation. Whatever you are doing, there are always other people trying to undo it and presenting you with new puzzles in the process. As a result, it’s a mentally stimulating area to work in, which tends to increase job satisfaction. There have even been studies suggesting that doing this kind of work makes you less vulnerable to cognitive decline as you get older.
Many people working in the sector find that nothing is as enjoyable as successfully outwitting hackers whose skills they have learned to respect. Furthermore, with each innovative new challenge come fresh ideas for how to improve the design of security systems, which you may be able to make use of or pass along to somebody who can do interesting things with them even if you’re not working at the design end of the business yourself. If you are, then they will spur you on in pursuit of imaginative solutions.
An opportunity to get creative
In order to get the edge and make sure that they stay ahead of the hackers, the products you work with will have to go through a process of constant change and innovation – the less predictable, the better. This is why the most successful cybersecurity designers are celebrated for their ability to think outside the box. They also need to anticipate the approaches that hackers may take, and this also requires imagination.
In a world that tends to separate people early on into creative and analytical thinkers, cybersecurity offers a haven to those who are good at both and can use their combined talents to achieve what others cannot. It will constantly push you to give of your best, and making breakthroughs such as this feels highly rewarding – as well as, very often, attracting material rewards. Those who really stand out from the crowd are headhunted and offered high salaries and great benefits packages as organizations compete to get them on board.
Many specialties to choose from
Studying for an online cyber security master’s opens up a world of different options. You could work in design, installation, sales, troubleshooting or analysis. You could choose to work nine to five in an office environment, visit other people’s workplaces to tackle their security issues, or spend your days crawling around under mainframes where you’re engaged directly with hardware. You could take up a role in the corporate world, work for the government or in the charity sector, or, with a bit of experience under your belt, become a consultant and pick your own hours.
Even without getting to the top of your profession, you’ll have a wealth of choice, and you may want to spend the early stages of your career trying out different roles as you determine what you find most satisfying. This can result in a broad knowledge base that becomes increasingly valuable as you climb the ranks within any given specialism, enabling you to see the big picture and understand the needs of all the different specialists you interact with.
No two days are the same
With new challenges continually emerging, cybersecurity guarantees interesting work. Regardless of the role you choose, you’ll find yourself dealing with new issues all the time. Not only does the technology keep changing, but also customers keep encountering new difficulties that they need help to deal with, and every different job you do will give you new ideas. This makes it much easier to remain interested in your work over time, and also helps to keep up your energy levels.
Because the roots of cybersecurity lie in data analysis and understanding certain patterns of human behavior, every day gives you an opportunity to enrich your understanding and observe new patterns in your working environment. As a result, you’ll build up expertise without even trying. In a field this rich, the real challenge lies in determining the direction you want to follow and how you want to make use of your continually developing skills.
Great working conditions
In the early days of cybersecurity, the industry was known for having an extremely relaxed work culture, comprising as it did mostly of small startups with groups of friends who spent all their time at their computers. It has since professionalized, and these days it’s less common for you to be able to wear whatever you want and enjoy beer and pizza at work. However, the legacy of that culture remains. You will find that most employers and clients are much more interested in what you can achieve than in your ability to fit a particular corporate image.
As there are many different types of cybersecurity roles available, you shouldn’t have much difficulty finding a position that fits around your other priorities in life. If you acquire new responsibilities or develop a chronic illness or disability, it’s relatively easy to arrange for adjustments to the way that you work, even if that means transferring to a new role. If you want to keep on working when you’re older, then you’ll be able to do so for as long as your mind stays sharp.
A supportive community
Jobs in cybersecurity can cut you off a bit from the uneducated. You may find it difficult to go home and discuss what you’ve been doing at the dinner table without people just looking lost. Partly due to this, however, a strong community has grown up among people who work in these and similar tech roles, with groups meeting locally and plenty of social opportunities online. While you will obviously need to be cautious about some aspects of what you do – you never know when you might be talking to somebody who wants to undermine it – there’s still plenty of opportunity to let off steam about clueless clients or to share your excitement about new developments in the industry.
This community means that networking within the field is easy, even if you’re not by nature a very outgoing person. You’ll find that you’re constantly hearing about emerging opportunities and interesting new projects. If you encounter difficulties at work, then as long as you can talk about them without breaching security, you’ll find people who are ready to help. You’ll never be isolated and you’ll never have to worry that nobody appreciates the work you do.
A field where you can keep on learning
The field of cybersecurity changes fast, so if you’re going to remain employable – never mind progress in your chosen area – you’ll need to be either working of learning all the time. It’s common for workers in this field to take courses that they can fit around their work, and often employers contribute financially towards this continued training. Ongoing study also enables you to keep your mind flexible, which helps you to do your job. You’ll also find that simply spending social time with others in the sector helps you stay up to speed.
This ongoing learning process contributes to job satisfaction for most people and adds variety to your day-to-day experience. It provides another opportunity for you to exchange ideas with people who are passionate about what they do, as well as giving you the chance to hear from experts. Because cybersecurity is such a broad field, there will always be other people with fascinating things to teach you, even if you work your way to the very top.
For all these reasons and more, cybersecurity is a field that provides constant stimulation and great life opportunities. If you have what it takes, then you’ll never regret pursuing a career in cybersecurity.