Gain the knowledge, skills and certifications required to combat the rising number of sophisticated cyber threats in the UK by undertaking relevant cyber security training

What is cyber security?

The main aim of cyber security is to provide protection to the devices and services used by individuals and organisations against the risk of cyber attacks.

These are a deliberate attempt by criminals to access and compromise (steal or damage) the information held on these computer systems (including what can be accessed online).

This threat to the data stored on the computers, laptops, smartphones and tablets we all use can be reduced by adopting industry-approved technologies, controls and practices.

The government has warned that just under a third (32%) of businesses had experienced some form of cyber attack or breach of data security during the past year. Its Cyber Security Breaches Survey 2023 demanded greater cyber awareness and urged organisations to tighten their defences.

While the (ISC)² Cybersecurity Workforce Study 2023 showed that the UK's cyber security workforce grew by 8.3% over the past year and now stands at 367,300, it also revealed that 73,439 cyber security jobs still needed to be filled in 2023 - an increase of nearly a third (29.3%) on the previous year. This shows that the workforce gap is widening, mainly due to a shortage of qualified professionals.

As salaries across the sector are rising (£25,000-£35,000 for entry-level roles), there's never been a better time to choose cyber security as a career path - whether you're technical or not.

How to get into cyber security

Because of the relatively young age of cyber security as a profession, career paths are not always clear. However, IT support provider Probrand's marketing director Matt Royle reveals that 'creative, technical and business brains are desperately needed across the digital industry'.

Graduates typically have two primary routes into cyber security. 'You can either start in a junior role to build hands-on experience, or develop your technical skills through education', explains Matt. 'At Probrand, we look for individuals who use their initiative as well as an entrepreneurial spirit, leaving them hungry for success - whether you're a student, recent graduate or a working professional.'

By embarking on a junior role after graduation, you'll get the opportunity to build your cyber expertise. This will be great for your professional development - you'll get to see how a real business works and where you fit into it.

Cyber security courses

That's not to say undertaking a cyber security Masters degree would have a negative impact on your career journey, as Matt describes how employers expect a balance between practical skills and qualifications.

A Masters would give you greater awareness of the cyber security landscape. This would be ideal if you're unsure what you'd like to specialise in, or if you're interested in developing a broader depth of knowledge.

Here are just a few of the institutions offering the MSc Cyber Security:

  • University of Bristol
  • Coventry University
  • King's College London
  • Manchester Metropolitan University (MMU)
  • University of Plymouth.

Search for Masters degrees in cyber security.

It's worth noting that a computer science degree isn't essential for a job in cyber security. Non-technical professionals often have a range of transferable skills that are also required for cyber security, especially in the realms of management and training.

Take a look at the list of certified undergraduate and Masters degree programmes at the National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC), part of the Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ).

Read more about cyber security qualifications at IT courses.

Cyber security apprenticeships

Another great option for graduates aiming to break into the industry is to consider a cyber security apprenticeship - an ideal mix of on and off-the-job learning, resulting in a qualification and masses of industry experience.

'Since apprenticeships were launched, we've seen a steady increase in businesses adopting the model to bridge the skills gap and nurture and train young people,' says Matt. 'This system has worked well across the board, but especially in the technology sector where it's well documented that a lack of skills is hampering innovation.'

While on a cyber security apprenticeship you'll receive training and certification from industry leading vendors, like Microsoft and (ISC)2. Training is provided through government-approved training providers.

You're eligible to apply for a cyber security apprenticeship if you don't already hold a qualification in a technical field at a higher level, such as a computer science degree.

For details on the types of cyber security apprenticeship roles available, visit the Institute for Apprenticeships & Technical Education. There's also CyberFirst, a government education programme for 11 to 19-year-olds run by the NCSC.

Alternatively, find out general information about IT apprenticeships or search for cyber security apprenticeships.

Cyber security careers

Graduates can enter junior-level roles after university, while existing IT professionals can consider applying for entry-level cyber security jobs after taking up IT support, networking or telecoms positions.

Cyber security is broad and provides opportunities for professionals with varying backgrounds, but there are some common career paths:

  • Network security - for IT to work, data must flow smoothly and securely. Networking and security are tightly bound together in modern IT ecosystems. Discover more about the role of a network engineer.
  • Security management - security managers oversee the security strategies across an entire business, including risk management, data privacy and firewalls. By understanding the client and identifying where their vulnerabilities are, whether that's human or technology, you'll help build, update and deploy the client's IT security strategy to ensure business-critical data is protected.
  • Penetration tester - their aim is to find vulnerabilities in a client's security system before an attacker can exploit them.

Search for cyber security graduate jobs.

Cyber security certifications

Certifications are great tools for career progression and don't just build technical skills. These qualifications also teach you the value of your own expertise and build communication skills - crucial if you consider moving from a technical to a managerial role.

There are a number of well-regarded certifications you should be aiming for as a cyber-security professional:

  • Certified Ethical Hacker (CEH) - the CEH is a popular entry-level cyber security certification that introduces you to the hacking tools and techniques used by real cyber criminals. By familiarising yourself with how hackers think, you'll be better at fixing vulnerabilities and flaws you might otherwise miss.
  • Certified Information Security Manager (CISM) - there's growing recognition for the CISM, offered by ISACA. As the name suggests, the qualification is designed for security managers. It's an expert-level certification that proves skills in risk management and enterprise security systems.
  • Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP) - the CISSP is among the most sought-after certifications in security. Achieving the CISSP certification is a career highlight and is aimed at the top-tier of cyber security professionals.

To even sit the exam, you'll need five years of cyber security work experience. Graduates that begin their career directly after university will be able to achieve this certification sooner.

When progressing your cyber security career, consider additional background qualifications that could broaden your skillset:

The value of people skills

Developing people skills and the ability to communicate are key within cyber security. Even if you're the smartest person in the room, you're at a disadvantage if you can't explain the importance of the flaw you've just uncovered.

Knowledge of the commercial aspects of the job and of the wider picture outside of IT is also advantageous. These skills can be taught through certifications, like the CISM, which also teaches the language of business.

Find out more

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