How to Become a Cyber Warrior – Cybersecurity Career Guide

Every day we hear that another company, organization, or government agency has had a data breach. Big names like Facebook, Nike, LinkedIn, and even the Department of Homeland Security have become data breach victims. According to the University of San Diego, “the annual cost of cyber crime around the globe will soon reach $6 trillion annually.”

Cyber-attacks destroy companies, wreck lives, and threaten our national defense. The attacks continue to increase in both quantity and ferocity. Rick Kam, founder of IDExperts, says “these attacks come from an unseen enemy that continuously changes their tactics.” The hackers use everything from brute force attacks to fraud to break into databases, steal personal identities, and invade personal computers, everyday – worldwide.

That’s why Cybersecurity has become one of the “in-demand” careers for 2020 and beyond. According to the U.S. Department of Commerce, the rising demand for cybersecurity professionals (Cyber Warriors) exceeds nearly every other career field. In fact, there are approximately 350,000 cybersecurity jobs currently unfilled in the U.S. Other sources indicate that there will be at least 3.5 million unfilled cybersecurity jobs worldwide by 2021.

There are thousands of unfilled cybersecurity jobs within the U.S. government alone – visit CyberCareers.Gov, Department of Homeland Security, and USAJobs.Gov to learn more.

If you have an active Security Clearance it is like having your golden ticket for many government agencies and private sector companies, especially government contractors. The need is so great, that many companies are willing to hire vets with an active clearance and train them to fit the company’s specific job requirements.

Cybersecurity Jobs

As a Cyber Warrior your job could entail developing software, launching white hat attacks to check vulnerability, analyzing and responding to cyber attacks, helping customers deal with a data breach, or helping to remove the viruses that invade people’s personal computers.

Cyber Warriors can choose to focus on any of the many different areas within the Cybersecurity field. One of the largest areas of specialization is Protection and Defense. This category of cybersecurity includes specialties like; Cyber Defense Analysis, Cyber Defense Infrastructure Support, Incident Response (Customer Service and Damage Control), and Vulnerability Assessment (White Hat Hacking), just to name a few.

Other areas of cybersecurity expertise include; Cyber Administration, Investigation and Forensics, Cyber Analysis, Cyber Operations and Oversight and Governance.

Cybersecurity Salary

According to the University of San Diego, those who work in the cybersecurity industry can expect to earn a significantly high salary. For instance, top-level chief information security officers can command as much as $420,000 annually. Most people starting out can expect to make a median salary between $75,000 and $100,000 a year depending on the position. For example an Information Security Crime Investigator/Forensics Expert starts around the $75,000 level, which increases with experience and certifications.

Cybersecurity Job Requirements

So, what education and/or training is required to get started? According to the Department of Labor, Information Security Analysts usually need a bachelor’s degree in computer science, information assurance, programming, or a related field. However, many firms hire entry level cybersecurity “customer service specialists” with AS degrees and provide the training needed to earn the proper certifications – such as DB2, COBOL, and/or SQL.

According to USAJobs, the minimum requirement for candidates for government Cybersecurity/IT analyst jobs is 3 years general experience in administrative or technical work. This requirement can be covered your military experience  and your veteran status can count for 5 or 10 points in the federal hiring process.

According to the Andrew Plato, CEO of Anitian (a Cybersecurity company), veterans already have what it takes to get started in cybersecurity. Plato explains that vets have the key attributes needed to be successful in cybersecurity – “a warrior ethos and an intrinsic desire to serve and protect; the technical skills and knowledge can be trained.”

No matter where you start, at some point you will need to have specialized Cybersecurity credentials like, CISSP – Certified Information Systems Security Professional, CAP – Certified Authorization Professional, or SSCP – Systems Security Certified Practitioner, if you want to be competitive for the best jobs and 6 figure salaries. The National Initiative for Cybersecurity Education (NICE) is a great resource for certification and education opportunities for veterans.

NEW – The VET TEC (Veteran Employment Through Technology Education Courses) is a cool new pilot program from the Department of Veterans Affairs. VET TEC course can help you start our build on your career as a Cyber Warrior.

Cybersecurity Work Environment

One of the best parts of the job is that cybersecurity specialists can work from anywhere. It really depends on the employer or type of cybersecurity role you have, but many Cyber Warriors have the option to work from home these days.

Next Steps

So, if you think a high paying career fighting an “unseen enemy” on virtual battlefield sounds cool, then you should investigate a career in cybersecurity. The opportunities are virtually limitless. You can start by finding the cybersecurity specialty that most interests you. Then find a school that offers the degree and certifications needed to get you on the path to a career as a Cyber Warrior.