Is breaking into the cyber security field your dream? Then make it a reality…

Cyber security is a desirable industry to get into – fast-growing, well paid, and with a market skills gap which means there are plenty of jobs. If you're on the cusp of starting your career or looking for a career change, this article will explain how to get a job in cyber security, build on technical skills, and advise on where a cyber security career path could take you.

What is cyber security?

Also known as information technology (IT) security or electronic information security, cyber security is the practice of protecting computers, mobile devices, programmes, systems, networks, and data from digital attacks which could access, alter, or even destroy sensitive information. 

Common types of cyber security across the business and mobile computing space include:

  • Network security – securing networks from intruders like attackers and malware

  • Information security – projecting the confidentiality, integrity, and availability of data

  • End-user behaviour – teaching people about security best practice

  • Disaster recovery / business continuity – how an organisation responds to a cyber security threat or incident

  • Operational security – the processes and decisions for protecting and handling data

  • Application security – securing software and devices from threats

Why is cyber security important?

We live in a world that's pretty much tech-based, with most roles involving some sort of work on a computer. Cyber security is important because it protects the organisation's assets from theft and damage. Common cyber crimes include stealing bank details / data, advertising false products, spying on devices, infecting files with malicious code, performing tasks on devices without permission, and locking down users' files until a ransom is paid.

An organisation will employ experts, familiar with various types of cyber security, to secure and defend itself against data breaches. 

The cyber security skills shortage

A recent report revealed that unfulfilled cyber security jobs grew by 350%, from 1 million positions in 2013 to 3.5 million worldwide in 2021. While the skills gap is levelling off, this research suggests that there'll be the same number of openings in 2025.

Closer to home, according to a government report in 2023, “50% of UK businesses have a basic cyber security skills gap, while 33% have an advanced cyber security skills gap.” Additionally, cyber security job postings grew by 30% from the previous year to 160,035, with 37% of the vacancies reported as being hard-to-fill. 

Cyber security job salaries

For cyber security jobs, salary is all-important – and the good news is that, like most jobs in technology, cyber security jobs pay handsomely. According to Talent, the national average salary for a cyber security position is £54,834, based on 10,000 salaries. For entry-level cyber security jobs, salaries start at between £20,000 and £37,000.

Here's how much you could earn:

  • Head of Cyber Security Operations – £100,000

  • Senior Manager, Cyber Security – £90,000

  • Web Developer jQuery – £80,000

  • Cyber Security Lead – £70,000

  • Security Consultant – £57,554

  • Security Analyst – £45,000

  • Network Engineer – £45,000

  • Security Engineer – £40,000

  • Systems Analyst – £40,000

  • Consultant – £39,762

  • Systems Administrator – £37,010

  • Cyber Security Apprentice – £28,000

How to start a career in cyber security

As there are a variety of positions in the cyber security field, each role requires something different, meaning educational requirements and qualifications vary. Typically, entry-level positions don't require a degree, but more advanced roles may, or even a Master's. 

If you have no experience

“How do I start in cyber security with no experience?”

It can be done, as long as you understand you'll probably be starting at the bottom of the ladder. That said, it's never too late to get into cyber security as it's a thriving, well-paid industry with many opportunities.

Here are some of the most common technical skills required:

  • Penetration testing – checking a system for vulnerabilities by simulating a cyber attack

  • Cloud security – protecting applications, data, and resources in the cloud

  • Digital forensics – following digital clues to uncover crimes and crime attempts

  • Coding – understanding the coding languages and programs, such as Java and Python

  • Network security control – understanding wired and wireless networks, and how to secure them

  • Operating systems – familiarity with MacOS, Windows, Linux, and their command-line interfaces

  • Incident response – devising and following incident response plans to minimise damage and loss during cyber attacks

Research each technical area of cyber security to see which is of most interest to you, and aligns with your career vision. Then invest some time in enhancing your skills in those areas. If you're serious about how to get a job in cyber security, and you don't have technical experience, a degree could be the best option, though it's not essential. 

A smaller step could be taking an online course, or subscribing to webinars to get a flavour of the industry. These forms of learning are often less time-intensive, but will still be a valuable addition to your CV if you decide to pursue a career in cyber security.

Top tip: Check out entry-level cyber security jobs which require no experience, such as a Cyber Security Trainee, where your employer will financially support accredited training and exams, before you progress to a Cyber Security Analyst position.

If you already work in a technical field

Many skills from other technical jobs are transferable into the cyber security space, and serve as a solid starting point if you're looking to pursue a career in this industry. If you have experience in security intelligence, risk / financial analysis, and software engineering, you're well positioned to transition into this field.

While many people working in cyber security have a degree in a related field, such as IT, computer science, or network engineering, academic credentials aren't essential, with experience being more beneficial.

Top technical skills for targeting a career in cyber security include:

  • Risk assessment and management

  • Authentication

  • Linux

  • Information systems

  • Digital forensics

  • Coding and programming languages

  • Data management

  • Identity and access management

  • Mobile device management

  • Information systems

  • Network management

  • Database management

  • IT procedures

  • Security operations

  • Information assurance

What a career path in cyber security could look like

There are many opportunities for anyone starting their career in cyber security. Here's a range of positions, so you can see how you could progress through the field:

Entry-level cyber security jobs

  • Cyber Security Specialist

  • Cyber Crime Analyst

  • Incident & Intrusion Analyst

Mid-level cyber security jobs

  • Cyber Security Analyst

  • Cyber Security Consultant

  • Penetration & Vulnerability Tester

Advanced-level cyber security jobs

  • Cyber Security Manager

  • Cyber Security Engineer

  • Cyber Security Architect

Required qualifications and certificates

The most common technical qualification is the Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP) accreditation, according to the UK cyber security labour market.

Other top certifications include:

  • Certified Information Systems Auditor (CISA)

  • Certified Information Privacy Professional (CIPP)

  • Certified Information Security Manager (CISM)

  • Global Information Assurance Certification (GIAC)

  • CompTIA Security+ Certification

If you're an entry-level candidate wondering how to get a job in cyber security, the CompTIA Security+ Certification is your best bet.

Top tip: Research each one to determine if it will unlock access to the job you're seeking, as each certificate provides the know-how for certain roles.

How to acquire cyber security skills

If you're looking into how to get a job in cyber security, there are a couple of core ways to develop relevant professional skills. Apply yourself well, and you might find you can develop a solid and relevant skill set in just six months.

Enrol on a course

Investing in a certified course is a guaranteed way to boost cyber security qualifications and experience. Most certified courses come with a hefty fee, such as a cyber security degree. However, there are plenty that are free or discounted. 

Top tip: When weighing up how much time and money to invest, consider what qualification level you need to achieve your next career move. You may find that a short programme spanning a few weeks does the trick.

Self-study training programmes 

Self-taught programmes can help you learn or develop skills in cyber security. This may include free online resources, self-paced online lessons, or how-to books and blogs.

Soft skills required for cyber security jobs

Soft skills are just as valuable for prospective employers in cyber security as they are in any job. The most important soft skills in cyber security are:

  • Problem-solving – troubleshooting is a core part of a cyber security expert's arsenal as they uncover issues and find solutions

  • Work ethic – being independent, attentive, organised, reliable, and results-oriented are all strong qualities of a good employee

  • Communication and interpersonal intelligence – this industry is not just about tech, there are human factors involved too, so you need to be able to interact and communicate well

  • Adaptability – the cyber security landscape changes regularly, so you need to be prepared, keeping your finger on the pulse in response to rapid developments

  • Curiosity – this industry requires talent that isn't afraid to ask questions to meet the evolving challenges that cyber security presents

  • Business acumen – cyber security threats can affect an entire business, not just its data, so you'll need to know how cyber attacks make a business vulnerable and the risks at play

Now that you've grasped how to get a job in cyber security, get a head start by submitting your CV for a free review to make that winning first impression.

This article was originally written by Laura Slingo and has been updated by Elizabeth Openshaw.

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