Starting a Career in Cybersecurity? This is the Guide for You
Cybersecurity is one of the fastest-growing fields in the nation, and for those looking to pivot into the tech industry, it’s a great career path to pursue. If you want to start a career in cybersecurity but are not sure how to begin, this guide can help.
Here are some questions we’ll answer throughout this guide:
- What do cybersecurity professionals do?
- What skills will I need as a cybersecurity professional?
- How can I get my cybersecurity career started?
- What industries are hiring cybersecurity professionals in Michigan?
- What are some entry-level cybersecurity jobs?
- How much do entry-level cybersecurity jobs pay?
If you are trying to determine whether cybersecurity is the right career for you, consider this. The field has a zero percent unemployment rate (yes, you heard that right!).
As new technologies continue to emerge and transform how we live and work, organizations need highly-trained cybersecurity professionals to protect their data, networks, and computer systems from malicious attacks.
With over 460,000 cybersecurity job openings across the nation and more than 7,000 roles available in Michigan, there has never been a better time to pursue this booming career path.
What Do Cybersecurity Professionals Do?
Before we get into what cybersecurity professionals do, let’s discuss what cybersecurity is as a business function—a critical one at that. Cybersecurity is the practice of protecting computer systems and networks from digital attacks.
Cyberattacks aren’t new. In fact, the first recorded cyberattacks date back to 1971, but over the years, they’ve gained more and more steam, becoming increasingly dangerous and complex. During the COVID-19 pandemic, cybercrime reached historical highs as companies shifted their in-office workforce to remote work.
Before the pandemic, cybercriminals mainly focused their efforts on individuals and small businesses, however, amidst a time of widespread fear and uncertainty, they began to heavily target major corporations, government entities, and critical health infrastructure. This pushed the already exploding need for cybersecurity professionals to an all-time high.
This is where you come in. As a trained cybersecurity professional, it will be your job to protect important consumer and organizational data by preventing, managing, and stopping malicious cyberattacks in their tracks.
Sounds exciting, doesn’t it? That’s because it is!
If you are new to cybersecurity, we encourage you to get familiarized with popular industry jargon by checking out our brief introduction to some of the most important cybersecurity terms.
What Skills Will I Need as a Cybersecurity Professional?
It’s important to remember that the cyber field isn’t exclusive to “techy” people. Whether you come from a technical background or are completely new to the field, there are tons of non-technical skills that can help you throughout your cybersecurity career.
Here are a few soft skills that it’s important for cybersecurity professionals to have:
- Communication: Communication skills are important in nearly all professions but are absolutely essential in cybersecurity. Being able to present critical information clearly and concisely to teammates and cross-functional departments is vital. Cybersecurity is a technical field and you will need to express yourself to a variety of audiences across different levels of cyber knowledge.
- Problem-Solving: Problem-solving means you can define a problem, determine the cause, and develop effective solutions in a timely manner. While this comes naturally to some, it can be easily developed by applying your curiosity in various situations. Asking questions, listening to how things work, and reflecting on your decisions will make you an asset to any organization’s cybersecurity team.
- Collaboration: Tackling cybersecurity issues isn’t a one-person job. Collaborating with teammates and other stakeholders will be an essential part of your role. While problem-solving autonomously and posing solutions is a must in some scenarios, it’s also important to seek other people’s expertise to find the most effective solution. Keeping an open mind and cultivating relationships with those around you will help you in your role.
- Adaptability: In any tech role, adaptability is important. Technologies are constantly changing and evolving, so it’s important to stay up-to-date and role with the punches. With an ever-turning wheel of new technologies and digital opportunities comes an increased risk for cyber threats. Keeping up with the latest vulnerabilities and threats is going to help you in your day-to-day as a cybersecurity professional, as well as throughout your career.
As you’re training to become a cybersecurity professional and even as you continue to progress throughout your career, you’ll gain a variety of technical skills specific to your career path. Skills like threat intelligence, incident handling, auditing, risk management, and penetration testing are what organizations need to safeguard their systems and digital assets.
What Industries Are Hiring Cybersecurity Professionals in Michigan?
As we’ve mentioned throughout this career guide, cybersecurity professionals are in extremely high demand. Every organization, in every industry, everywhere in the world, needs skilled cybersecurity professionals.
At a time when cybersecurity is of vital interest to governments and organizations around the world, Michigan is taking a leading role in developing cybersecurity solutions to protect security infrastructure statewide, nationally, and even globally.
Let’s take a look at some of Michigan’s core industries in need of cybersecurity professionals.
It’s no secret—Michigan’s automotive history is rich. The state is considered the American hub for the auto industry, with Detroit coined as the “Motor City”. Today, it has the most extensive network of autonomous vehicles and mobility testing infrastructure. It also was the first state to pass self-driving regulations for the testing and development of self-driving vehicles, making its automotive sector an obvious target for cybercriminals. For connected vehicles, cybersecurity is absolutely critical. If a vehicle’s computer systems aren’t properly protected, hackers can steal data, or worse, they can run commands, putting the hacker in control of critical features like steering, brake, or engine functions.
In Michigan, manufacturing is a $99 billion industry and the biggest economic sector in the state. Michigan manufacturers have a lot of intellectual property and valuable data, making them a prime target for cybercriminals. Much of the industry is also switching to a more connected approach, known as Industry 4.0, which provides greater efficiency, but also opens the door to increased cyber risk. If critical machinery is hacked and starts to malfunction, an entire supply chain could be disrupted, costing manufacturers and their clients billions of dollars, and a major strike to their credibility.
Michigan’s tech industry is booming and accounts for $37.1 billion, or 7.6% of the state’s economy. It’s also a popular target for cybercriminals because of the rich rewards a data breach can bring. Hackers know that these private and public tech companies have tons of intellectual property and are on the leading edge of the latest and greatest innovations, so they’re doing everything they can to access their systems. Cybersecurity is a critical business function for all industries, but especially in high-tech, where a breach could damage and impact nationwide systems.
While these are some of the main industry sectors in Michigan, there are plentiful opportunities across a wide range of industries including agriculture, engineering design and development, professional and corporate services, medical device technology, tourism, and more.
What Are Some Entry-Level Cybersecurity Jobs?
Cybersecurity roles often fall into two categories: defensive and offensive cybersecurity. Organizations need both types of cybersecurity professionals to effectively identify potential cyber threats and prevent them from occurring.
On a defensive cybersecurity team, you’ll be responsible for building, maintaining, and monitoring IT security systems that are resilient against cyberattacks.
Some entry-level defensive cybersecurity roles include:
- Network Security Administrator: Helps to secure computer systems and networks by developing an organization’s security infrastructure and continually analyzing organization-wide systems for suspicious activity.
- Security Operations Center (SOC) Analyst: Monitors an organization’s IT systems and infrastructure for suspicious activity and patches vulnerabilities.
- Information Security Researcher: Analyzes various types of malware, or intrusive software developed by hackers, and develops security responses.
- Network Operations Center (NOC) Technician: Oversees intricate network components, maintains network infrastructure, and troubleshoots network issues.
- Digital Forensics Examiner: Recovers, collects, and analyzes data in computer-based crimes to aid in investigations.
On an offensive cybersecurity team, you’ll utilize “ethical hacking” methods to simulate real cyberattacks to understand the actions a cybercriminal may take when trying to crack your organization’s system.
Some entry-level offensive cybersecurity roles include:
- Penetration Tester: Performs authorized tests on IT systems to expose vulnerabilities that could be exploited by cybercriminals.
- Offensive Cybersecurity Analyst: Runs vulnerability assessments to test the security of an organization’s digital infrastructure, reporting breaches and weaknesses.
- Red Team Operator: Remains current on all industry trends and new types of cyberattacks and runs penetration testing exercises.
- Ethical Hacker: Deploy advanced penetration tests on an organization’s systems to spot any breaches in its security setup.
- Vulnerability Assessment Analyst: Scans and detects weaknesses in applications and networks to advise organizations on how to strengthen the security of their systems.
If you’re interested in learning more about the different types of cybersecurity roles, we have a whole guide dedicated specifically to this topic. Check it out here!
How Much Do Entry-Level Cybersecurity Jobs Pay?
When it comes to cybersecurity salaries and what you’ll be making at the start of your career, there isn’t a cut-and-dry answer. There are a variety of cybersecurity positions that you can specialize in and each of those positions has its own salary range. Not to mention, your salary can vary depending on the size and sector of your organization.
However, there is data out there that can give you a better picture of what the cybersecurity salary range looks like. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual wage for information security analysts was $103,590 in May 2020.
You can also browse through job board websites and filter down the results to the specific positions and geographic areas.
ZipRecruiter’s state-by-state breakdown tool shows that the average cybersecurity salary in Michigan is currently $102,431. If you have a zip code or city in mind, you can even filter the search down further.
As you start applying for positions and negotiating your salary with your future employer, you can also review median wages on sites like GlassDoor and Monster. Though, it’s important to note that these salary averages are just that—averages.
As an entry-level cybersecurity professional, your compensation doesn’t just depend on the area in which you work. Your education and training, certifications, previous experience, and more should also be factored into your wage.
Pursue a Cybersecurity Career
Now that you’ve read our cybersecurity career guide, we hope you’ve learned a lot about the field and its opportunities. If cybersecurity sounds like a career path you’re interested in pursuing, we can help!
With the University of Michigan Cybersecurity Professional Bootcamp, you can gain hands-on cybersecurity skills 100% live and online, with two sessions on weeknights and one on Saturdays.
Taught by industry experts and engineered for learners of all skill levels, the program’s modernized curriculum will help you build a robust, job-ready cybersecurity skillset. You will have access to immersive lectures, portfolio-building exercises, virtual labs, and experiential simulations that teach critical skills such as how to implement security measures, respond to cyberattacks, protect business and consumer data, and more.
With our curriculum, you’ll also learn skills applicable to a wide range of cybersecurity certifications such as CompTIA NEtwork+, AWS Certified Cloud Practitioner, and LPI Linux Essentials.
We are committed to helping you achieve your goals and launch a successful career, so we offer career services that you can utilize for up to six months after completing the program. These services include resume-building assistance, interview training, LinkedIn profile optimization, job placement assistance, and more.
Don’t just take our word for it. See what learners who have gone through the program themselves are saying!
Ready to take the first step towards pursuing a rewarding career in cybersecurity? Download our course catalog to learn more about the University of Michigan Cybersecurity Professional Bootcamp and how it can benefit you.