What does it take to become a cyber security specialist?

Cyber Security Specialists are in huge demand right now and the demand is only growing. But what does it take to become an expert within the industry and is it a difficult area to get into? Moreover, are there many contracting opportunities and what sort of experience is key to progressing within this area?

We spoke to IT Recruitment Consultant, Daniel Gavin, to find out the answers to all these questions and more.


What are the different types of Cyber Security Specialist?

Cyber security is a varying and complex area within IT, and like many areas within technology, it is always evolving. This means having up to date knowledge and qualifications, is just as important as having a good amount of experience behind you.

Most of the entry level type positions we see are Security Analyst type roles, and there would be different levels within this area. Higher up, you tend to find Cyber Security Specialists and Consultants, after that Cyber Security Architects right up to CIOs and CTOs who will have a good number of years’ experience behind them.

Because cyber security is so far reaching, you’ll find professionals who specialise in different areas too such as network security or cloud security and there is a huge amount of progression available the longer you spend within your chosen sphere.


Why are cyber security specialists in such high demand?

The threat landscape is always evolving and so the need for experienced security specialists is always there. However, there are a few things that have accelerated the demand that we’re seeing right not. The HSE incident really sparked a lot of urgency in businesses across Ireland. It highlighted a lot of weaknesses that companies had in their systems and within their environments.

Moreover, securing a hybrid working model is a lot more complex to do, so businesses need specialists to ensure they can enable this safely.

And finally, compliance is a huge driver – many organisations need to comply with ISO 27001 and NIST and to do that, they need to demonstrate that they are continually improving. So, they need the right people to manage and improve their security posture.


How do cyber security specialists get into cyber security?

Cyber security provides a very interesting career path, and a lot of people get excited about it.

For entry level positions, a degree in computing or even engineering would often give you a way in – we see a lot of people pivoting to cyber security and doing their master’s in cyber security. After that, programming is a key part of cyber security so anyone with a background in development would be highly desirable.

Ethical hacking comes up a lot too so anyone with expertise in this area and also, cloud is huge so anyone with experience in cloud computing or cloud security is in a strong position to put themselves at the top of the pile.

Other key skills include:

  • Database Management
  • Computer Hardware Engineering
  • Network Administration
  • Information Technology Management
  • Information Security and Assurance


What technology experience is key right now for cyber security specialists?

For cyber security, we’re talking about a huge range of technologies and it really depends what environment they’re in and what it is they’re securing so it’s hard to narrow it down.

Some companies have their own in-house technologies too so it is really about adapting to the security environment they’re in.

As I mentioned, cloud is hugely relevant so experience with Azure in particular is perfect. Then of course network security technologies and web and application security technologies as well as Microsoft Defender and Wireshark.

Some job descriptions might be more specific and ask for experience with key tools such as IBM QRadar SIEM tool, Splunk, XSOAR and ArcSight too.


What do you look for in Cyber Security Specialists?

Experience across multiple contracts is really valuable as it really expands a candidate’s skillset. However, you have to remember cyber security specialists are dealing with a lot of sensitive data right from the get-go so businesses don’t always want a contractor going into these types of positions, they need someone they can trust.

This is where we come in. We heavily vet any contractors that we work with and have a pool of trusted contractors that we can always recommend for repeat business.

It’s important to have that relationship built up and we’re always working on this in the background so that when the time comes, businesses know they can trust the candidates we put forward.


Are the salaries competitive?

There’s a huge range and companies can often underestimate what they need to offer. It’s hugely competitive and because it is a growing area, the salaries are really starting to grow too.

If you have the experience and you perform well, then you’re in prime position to get a top paying role.


Anything else you would like to add?

The amount of project work graduates need to do nowadays means they’re actually very ready when they come out of university. Even if they have less experience, they have a lot of knowledge under their belts. It’s different to other areas of IT, so graduates can actually be very ready to go into an entry level security role early on and it’s definitely something businesses should be aware of.


Find out more

If you are a Cyber Security Specialist looking for your next role, then the IT Recruitment Specialists here at itContracting are the best people to speak to. Whether you’re seeking permanent or contracting positions, we can help, just get in touch!

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