Many people that are interested in getting into cyber security ask me about how to land their first job in the field. Since getting your first job in cyber security can be a challenge, I wanted to provide an overview of the best entry-level cyber security jobs in the market, and the most effective approach to getting them.
So, what are the best entry-level cyber security jobs? The best entry-level cyber security jobs often don’t have the words ‘cyber’ or ‘security’ in the title. They are typically classified as general information technology, help desk, or computer technician jobs by an employer, but they do include some form of security within the actual job description or job tasks.
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With that said, you may be wondering why these types of jobs would be considered entry-level for cyber security, and more importantly, what they are and how you can get one. Let’s take a look at that now.
Why You Should Start with a General IT Job
In today’s cyber security market there are many jobs available. However, many of these jobs require a security clearance and multiple years of experience, typically four years or more. Some jobs will also require a polygraph test. This is a big hurdle for the beginner to clear, which leads us to our rationale for starting with a general IT position.
There are many reasons why you should really consider starting with a general IT position at the beginning of your cyber security career path. These jobs will get you valuable experience, training, and expertise in the field. They can also provide a steppingstone to career advancement, if the company you get the job with typically hires from within. And once you prove yourself in your job, most employers are willing to add additional security related tasks to your job responsibilities, which can be your gateway into a dedicated cyber security job.
Examples of Entry-Level Cyber Security Jobs
Let’s look at a few examples:
Example #1: IT Support Technician. The first example of a desired entry level cyber security job is ‘IT Support Technician’. This position requires you to use a ticketing system to respond to internal support requests. It requires you to have experience with computers, installing programs on computers, a focus on solving problems in a fast-paced environment, and being able to effectively communicate with people. Most of these positions are posted at $13 – $18 per hour, with the higher range going to those positions with offsite travel requirements.
Example #2: IT Helpdesk Tier 1. Another example of an entry-level technical job that will lead to cyber security is ‘IT Helpdesk Tier 1’. This position also requires the use of a ticketing system to provide support to internal users and uses communication skills, particularly used over the phone. The IT Helpdesk Tier 1 position is also looking for someone with a background in computers, and perhaps more importantly, great customer service. Most of these positions are posted at $12 – $15 per hour.
Example #3: Junior Network Technician. A network technician at the entry or junior level will assist with adding users to the network, administering accounts and access, and perform basic networking maintenance tasks, such as rebooting servers, verifying connectivity, or assisting employees. This position may also include some responsibility for wiring, or troubleshooting existing wiring. Security aspects of the network will be a very minor part of the position, especially for those just starting. Most of these positions are posted at $15 – $22 per hour, or higher if a certification is requested or required.
In all three of these examples, the job titles are very technical and require the applicant to have a basic understanding of technology and networking. All of the positions probably rely on a ticketing system to monitor issues and require the use of strong communication skills particularly, over the phone support, but could also include emails and reports. In fact, most cyber security-related positions require a great deal of soft skills. (We’ve reviewed dozens of job postings and listed the most important job skills that employers ask for here.) Now that we’ve gone over a few examples of entry level cyber security jobs, let’s talk about the best ways to get a job like these.
Getting the General IT Job
We’ve covered strategies on how to build experience in cyber security, how to write an entry level cyber security resume, and how to prepare for a cyber security interview. But at some point, you’ll need to apply and go through the application process, which I’ll explain now.
Some of the best places to go when searching for entry-level cyber security jobs are job posting sites such as Ziprecruiter, Indeed, Careerbuilder, or Glassdoor. These sites will give you a wealth of information on what jobs are available, which employers are hiring, what their expectations are, and a general feel for how strong the market is. You should also use this information to tailor your resume, using the actual language that the company has in their posting in your own resume, as long as it’s accurate and true.
A good tip for searching for jobs on these sites is to make sure that you’re searching for jobs near where you live, no farther than 30-50 miles, unless you are willing to relocate to an area near the job location. After finding a job that sounds similar to the ones above or has common themes in job requirements and responsibilities, your next step is to apply to the job.
Most jobs on these sites have a streamlined application process, but that ultimately depends on the company that posted the job. Some companies only put the job listing on those sites and instead redirect you to their company website for the application process. When applying for these positions, it is best to have a resume that highlights your background in technology in any form that it may exist. It is also important that you list any relevant schooling or education you’ve received in any technological respect.
Be aware that some applications will have you take an online assessment to gauge how you will react to certain situations that can occur in the workplace. It is imperative that you answer each question to the best of your ability and as honestly as you can.
After finishing the application, send an email to any listed point of contact for the job, or to the company’s head of human resources. Let them know that you applied for the job, that you are very interested in the job, and that you are setting specific blocks of time where you are available for them to call you regarding any questions they may have for you regarding your application. That level of interest and attention can in many cases lead to a phone interview with the company you have applied to, or even a face to face interview. And if you do land an interview, be sure to follow up with a thank you note to those that interviewed you! This can often help put you over the top and land the job.
After You Apply for the Job
Now that you have applied for the job, keep looking for more jobs with similar titles and responsibilities. As you know, applying to a job does not guarantee an interview. Things to note however, is that if you have not heard from a company within 3 or 4 days it is appropriate to reach out to the company through email or over the phone and ask about both the position you applied for and about the status of your application to see if it has been viewed or not. If you are granted an interview, be sure to review our list of cyber security questions that employers are most likely to ask (we even provide the answers.)
How to Increase Your Odds of Landing an Entry-Level Cyber Security Job
The best way to increase your chances of landing an entry-level cyber security job is by making yourself more marketable. You can do that by increasing your education, which for most people will be going to a community college or four-year university and either taking a few classes to refine or add to your skill set, or pursuing a degree. Both of those options can be expensive and are very time consuming, however, they can also give you the knowledge and experience you need to get an edge in the industry. (And if you don’t think a degree in cyber security is important for your career, you should read this article.)
Internships Can Increase Your Cyber Security Job Prospects
Pursuing an internship can lead to many possibilities. An internship provides real-world experience in the field, it can be paid, and it can give you an opportunity to network with other professionals who are already working in the field. Depending on your level of work and the overall satisfaction the employer gets from the internship, you can be offered a paid position at the company that hosted the internship.
Internships are also a great opportunity for people who are already in college for a cyber security degree. They can provide flexible positions and hours, depending on the company hosting the internship, for people who already have a busy schedule.
Another possibility of increasing your chances is by gaining volunteer experience.
Volunteering Can Increase Your Cyber Security Job Prospects
Gaining volunteer experience in cyber security can be very interesting and can also be challenging but is a great way to start building experience, which is why we irecommend related volunteer experience for everyone starting out. (We outline how to land a volunteer gig here, and why you need to add it to your resume.) Consider getting volunteer experience paired with becoming a member of a local technology group or also becoming a member of a nationally recognized technology group. By getting yourself involved in the community, you are able to build a network of people that you have worked with and a network of people who have seen examples of your technical skills being applied to the real world. This can also lead to you getting references for jobs you will apply to in the future and could possibly lead to learning about job opportunities or openings that you would have missed otherwise.
Examples of volunteer work can be providing support for a local non-profit organization, offering to assist a local technology group by installing machines for an event, and planning or setting up a network for a locally sponsored function or community event. Now that we have covered ways to get around the entry-level jobs, I will explain why most cyber security jobs are out of reach.
Why Most Cyber Security Jobs are Out of Reach to Beginners
Most cyber security jobs require many years of experience and may include a security clearance, or a polygraph test. Many cyber security jobs are sponsored by the government, and require people to have a clearance level and already have as much education that would be needed to perform the duties of the job. Another noteworthy point is that most of these jobs entail working on secure company or government networks, and as a best practice, companies will not let people that do not have the experience or the background work on their networks.
Many of the higher end cyber security jobs also require a college degree, starting at a bachelor’s degree in cyber security and often going up from there. The reasoning for this is that these jobs require a certain amount of commitment, dedication, knowledge, and experience. Each of those aspects can be met by going through a college program. Keep in mind though that even after completing the college program, there can be difficulty in finding a job in the field. This is why I recommended getting involved in your local community, interning, or volunteering in some format related to cyber security above.
Don’t Forget About Tuition Reimbursement
Another thing to consider is that many companies offer a form of tuition reimbursement. That can provide you with a way to continue to gain knowledge and experience in the cyber security field while also getting knowledge and experience in computers, networking, support, and repair while you are on the job.
The best entry-level jobs for most people are going to be general information technology, help desk support, and technician jobs. They can get you initial experience in the field, help you to build a network of professionals who can attest to your level of skill and work, and it can also give you an opportunity, depending on the company the job is with, for career advancement.
How do I know if cyber security is for me? We tell you how you can find out here.
How can I get started learning cyber security? We’ve got that one covered too. Check it out here.