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New high-profile cyber-attacks seem to appear on a regular basis in the news, so it’s no surprise that cybersecurity specialists are becoming such a valuable and in-demand job for businesses of all sizes.

A career in cybersecurity can be demanding, but it can also be immensely rewarding. A cybersecurity professional’s roles vary, but the job can be reduced to one function: preventing a company’s data from being compromised by an attack.

We spoke with cybersecurityexperts to learn what motivated them to pursue a career in data security.

It’s not always easy to choose the right cybersecurity careers route. While some people decide they want to work in the industry right after college, many others work in IT or software engineering before pursuing a more advanced profession.

Based on your level of experience, here are some common careers:

Systems consultant, systems administrator, web developer, IT technician, network engineer, and security specialist are examples of entry-level positions.

Security technician, security analyst, incident responder, IT inspector, cybersecurity consultant, penetration tester are examples of mid-level positions.

Cybersecurity advisor, cybersecurity architect, cybersecurity developer, and chief information security officer are examples of advanced-level positions. If you’re looking to get a head start in the cybersecurity industry, level up your skills, or step into a new job, take a look at the graphic below to see which positions better match your interests. Then think about the route that will get you there

Thousands of people graduate from colleges and universities each year with cybersecurity or computer science degrees, only to find that their hands-on, fundamental skills are unappreciated by employers. Here are some thoughts on how those pursuing a career in these fields might better stand out from the crowd, based on a recent survey that highlighted some of the larger skills gaps.

Every week, at least one email arrives at KrebsOnSecurity from someone looking for advice on how to break into the cybersecurity sector. In certain cases, aspirants inquire about which certifications they can pursue or which specialization in computer security offers the best prospects.

I’m rarely asked which practical skills they should pursue to improve their chances of landing a potential job. And, though I always make it clear that I don’t have any computer-related certifications or degrees, I regularly meet with cybersecurity C-level executives and recruiters, and I frequently inquire about their experiences of today’s cybersecurity work candidates.

Many candidates clearly lack hands-on experience with the more realistic issues of running, managing, and defending the information systems that drive their companies, according to these C-level executive responses.

Granted, the majority of people who have recently earned a degree lack practical knowledge. However, a very peculiar feature of cybersecurity is that through self-directed research and old-fashioned trial-and-error, one can achieve a reasonable degree of mastery of hands-on skills and foundational information.

Here are the top four reasons to pursue a career in cybersecurity, as well as one reason not to.

1. Practically limitless expansion

With its ever-expanding reach, cybersecurity offers limitless opportunities for advancement, both professionally and educationally.

We teach protection as a separate discipline, but it is intertwined with all other IT skills. A successful cybersecurity professional tries to learn all he or she can about how technology and organizations operate.

A great cybersecurity professional understands that there is always more to discover.

That’s a huge opportunity to remain challenged and committed.

As security teams first began, they were made up of “jack-of-all-trades” individuals. Specialties in forensics, application protection, and incident management have yet to emerge in the discipline.

Due to the current workload, security teams have been forced to scale up and out quickly. Professionals who are able to take on new challenges will have the opportunity to do so.

If you want to work your way up to Chief Information Security Officer (CISO) status or work with cutting-edge technology, the only thing stopping you is your curiosity.

That’s an enticing prospect in and of itself, and a compelling justification to pursue a career in cybersecurity.

2. A wide range of options

The variety of technologies and circumstances that security professionals must deal with are tied to all of the opportunities for development. It has a cybersecurity dimension if it uses ones and zeros (and some functions also apply to physical security!).

Security professionals have the opportunity to work closely with teams on technology and systems that they could never have imagined. The range is nearly limitless, ranging from robots to vehicles to websites serving millions of users.

That’s a fascinating career opportunity. You won’t use the term “bored” too much.

This diversity has an interesting side effect: cybersecurity practitioners come from a wide range of backgrounds due to the large skill set needed to better understand modern security challenges. In reality, the more diverse your experience, the better a security professional you will be!

There is no one-size-fits-all approach to being a cybersecurity expert.

3. Problem-solving abilities

When you consider the evolution of technology and its diversity, you can begin to see the various types of puzzles that cybersecurity practitioners can solve.

We depend on certain tried-and-true concepts in cybersecurity, but strategies will change on a daily basis. In addition, there is still a new puzzle to solve.

Each new wave of technology introduces new dangers. It is the responsibility of security professionals to locate, comprehend, and then assist in the mitigation of these risks. When defending a website hosted in the cloud versus a pacemaker implanted in an elderly patient, the situation changes dramatically.

Each scenario presents a new puzzle to solve and a new opportunity to rise to the occasion.

4. The job has a major effect

Last but not least, defending a pacemaker in an elderly patient is a true scenario. A huge recall of pacemakers was recently issued due to a security problem. The Equifax data breach affected 145 million people in the United States.

Cybersecurity is crucial. It has ramifications that go beyond the digital realm into the physical realm.

That’s both a frightening and thrilling possibility, emphasizing its significance.

Cybersecurity might be the discipline for you if you want to work on IT issues that have a real-world effect.

Make no mistake about it. Cybersecurity is an exciting career because of its variety, growth opportunities, puzzles, and influence. However, if you’re hoping for a career that resembles the portrayal of security professionals in Hollywood, you’ll be disappointed.

The vast majority of cybersecurity jobs don’t require you to fly around the world avoiding bullets, get scan results in milliseconds, or be able to spot malicious code by its red color (sarcasm>thanks, CSI: Cyber/sarcasm>).

Of course, this isn’t to say that these jobs aren’t fulfilling. Yes, they are. They may or may not be glamorous.

Start learning and keep learning.

Low to no unemployment and good pay are two main logistical advantages for a successful career in cybersecurity.

Plus, if you take this path, there will still be space for improvement. You’ll be constantly learning new skills and attempting to grasp new technology. You’ll be confronted with new obstacles on a regular basis, as well as new people, circumstances, and opportunities.

You’ll never get bored because there are always new puzzles to solve, and you’ll be proud of your work because it will have a positive effect on both the digital and physical worlds.

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