How To Get Into Cybersecurity: A Beginner’s Guide

How To Get Into Cybersecurity: A Beginner’s Guide

Cybersecurity is in-demand. Companies today rely on software, private and public clouds, and online platforms for vital information storage and work-related communications. At the same time, they’re adapting to remote work environments and continuing advancements in cyberspace.

This increasing reliance on networks and information technologies to drive business, coupled with the move to remote work, has increased the need to safeguard data through robust cybersecurity measures.

Entry-level positions in cybersecurity earn an average of $73,454 a year and include roles like associate cybersecurity analyst, associate network security analyst, and cybersecurity risk analyst. On average, freelance cybersecurity technicians earn $34.24 per hour and work in roles like risk assessment manager, chief information security officer, certified information systems security professional, security manager, and information security analyst.

Start learning

The great news is that there’s no one fixed path to follow if you want to pursue a career in cybersecurity. Whether you choose the subject as your undergrad major or are starting after already having years of experience as a professional in a completely different field, you can learn the subject and get a job in this space.

Here are some ways to build your cybersecurity career path.

Get a formal education

If you’re considering college for a bachelor’s degree, you can pursue several great cybersecurity courses to build an understanding of the field. Find the best cybersecurity programs by researching various schools, reading reviews, and talking to professionals already working in the space.

Enroll in a training program

If a formal bachelor’s or master’s degree in cybersecurity isn’t for you, consider taking one or more of the best cybersecurity short courses to equip yourself with the knowledge and skills needed to succeed in this space. Before enrolling for a short course, review its contents to confirm that they cover subjects that interest you and will give you enough exposure to gain confidence in the profession. This research may be extensive, as you will need to consider factors like course duration, your budget, and the level of pre-existing knowledge required for the course.

Some great cybersecurity training courses are:

Teach yourself the subject

Leverage the internet to find tutorials and information about cybersecurity and use it to upskill yourself. Some of the best ethical hackers never formally attended a bachelor’s course or pursued professional certifications. Their skills are self-learned.

If, like them, you’re passionate about cybersecurity, you can read up on industry matters, expand your technical knowledge, and tinker with cybersecurity tools to give yourself the proficiency you need. This is a great option for professionals who want to dip their toes into cybersecurity before they commit to more formal programs.

If you want to opt for a certificate course in cybersecurity to help you build your credentials and skills, there are a number of great options. You can even take multiple certificate courses to learn about different aspects of cybersecurity, like network security, information security, or infrastructure security. Some examples of good cybersecurity certification courses are CISSP, Security+, CEH, and CISM.

Choose multiple options

When there are so many ways to upskill yourself, why limit yourself to just one path? Find combinations that make the most sense for you and effectively bridge your existing skill gap. Once you find the right mix of theory lessons, industry insights, and practical assignments, you can carve a unique path to success in this profession.

Whichever educational path you choose, one roadblock you’ll find as you interview for jobs is a work experience requirement. This can prove to be a Catch-22.You have to work before you can acquire work experience, but many of the best jobs require previous work experience before they’ll hire you.

While having a degree or certificate in cybersecurity helps, another route is to start your career taking freelance jobs. On Upwork’s Talent Marketplace, cybersecurity professionals of every stripe can find work appropriate to their experience.

Whether you’re just starting out and need smaller jobs to prove your merits, or have decades of experience and are looking for more clients,  Upwork can help.

Important cybersecurity skills

As you look to gain credentials to crack it in the cybersecurity space, you’ll probably want to focus on some of the more important skills needed to succeed in this career.

Top cybersecurity skills include:

  • Networking and system administration. As a cybersecurity professional, a big part of your job will be configuring and maintaining computers. You’ll need to be well-versed in computer features and settings and proficient in system administration. In addition, you’ll need network managing skills to understand the technical aspects of data transmission. Build these skills with certification courses like CompTIA Security+.
  • Familiarity with operating systems. A good sense of how operating systems like Windows, macOS, or Linux work and a flair for computer science are essential for cybersecurity experts to implement tests like malware analysis, computer forensics, and penetration testing.
  • Enhancing network security. Network security control is a crucial skill for cybersecurity professionals to understand how firewalls filter unauthorized traffic to a business’s network. In addition, you need a working knowledge of Virtual Private Networks (VPNs), IT security policies, and Intrusion Detection Syndrome and Intrusion Prevention Syndrome (IDS/IPS ) systems to be a successful cybersecurity professional.

It will also help to become proficient with:

  • Programming languages like C, C++, Python, JavaScript, PHP, and SQL
  • Cloud security and application development security
  • Blockchain security
  • Internet of Things (IoT) security
  • Artificial intelligence

Top cybersecurity industries

Once you expand your knowledge about the subject and develop the required skill set for a cybersecurity job, it’s time to scout the job market for cybersecurity roles.

Here are some key sectors to find work as a cybersecurity professional.

Banking and finance

As a cybersecurity professional for banking and finance companies, your primary responsibility is safeguarding clients’ data and assets. As the volume of online transactions increases, cybersecurity measures must ensure the safety of financial data and accounts.

Banks often use the multi-factor authentication system, a common verification method that makes it very difficult for an intruder to log in to a customer’s bank account. Banks hold a lot of sensitive data and require additional layers of security to mitigate any cyber risks.


The Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) actively recruits cybersecurity professionals. The government tends to pay a bit less than private companies, so these organizations offer entry-level cybersecurity jobs and perks for cybersecurity engineers.

As a cybersecurity specialist working with the government, your job is to prevent any data breaches on personally identifiable information, protected health information, and other data on government systems. National security data is highly sensitive, and advanced cybersecurity measures are required to safeguard it.

Health care

Cybersecurity measures in the health care setting include safeguarding patient data and critical software that, if attacked, could put patient lives at risk.

The recent 63-fold increase in the utilization of telehealth services means that health care organizations need to up their cybersecurity standards to prevent the theft of patients’ health-related data. This is crucial because a breach in the cybersecurity of health care systems leaves room for crimes like identity theft and blackmail.

Business and e-commerce

E-commerce businesses are hot targets for cybercriminals, and crimes like phishing and theft of customers’ financial information are increasingly common in this sector.

Businesses hire experienced cybersecurity professionals to safeguard their online sites or stores by deploying firewalls, securing payment gateways, and installing anti-malware software, among other measures.


Just about any business or organization that uses software, online payment portals, or internet devices is vulnerable to cyber threats.

Cyber risks to high-tech organizations include intellectual property theft, social interruption fraud, privacy breaches, and system shutdowns leading to disruption in business. Cyber professionals help tech-run businesses implement network security, information security, and infrastructure security measures to reduce the risk of cybercrime.

Upwork is your gateway to the cybersecurity field

If you’re looking to build a career in cybersecurity and currently have no real-world experience, join Upwork’s Talent Marketplace to gain hands-on experience with cybersecurity projects.

On Upwork, you can create your profile for free, explore new ways to learn your subject, and find your next paying opportunity. Create your profile and find freelance cybersecurity gigs today.

Upwork is not affiliated with and does not sponsor or endorse any of the tools or services discussed in this article. These tools and services are provided only as potential options, and each reader and company should take the time needed to adequately analyze and determine the tools or services that would best fit their specific needs and situation.

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How To Get Into Cybersecurity: A Beginner’s Guide
The Upwork Team

Upwork is the world’s work marketplace that connects businesses with independent talent from across the globe. We serve everyone from one-person startups to large, Fortune 100 enterprises with a powerful, trust-driven platform that enables companies and talent to work together in new ways that unlock their potential.

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