How Long Does It Take to Get Into Cyber Security?

Before you start on your cyber security journey, you’re certainly going to ask how long it will take to get into cyber security.  How long will it take to become a cyber security professional. A lot of that answer depends on your particular background, but there are a few general guidelines that we can follow and a few things we can do to speed up the process.

So, how long does it take to get into cyber security?  Starting with a limited background, most people can get into an entry level cyber security position within two to four years if they focus on acquiring education, experience, certifications and a security clearance.

You’ll notice that I listed four things that need to be acquired:  education, experience, certifications and a clearance. The first three are critical to your success in cyber security and in getting into the field quickly.  The security clearance is not mandatory for all jobs but is for many and is certainly nice to have.

You’ll also notice that our typical timeline is two to four years.  Let’s take a look at how you can accelerate your timeline to get into cyber security in as short of time as possible.

Strategy #1:  Take Classes in Cyber Security

Never in the history of the human race have there been so many learning options available to so many people for so little cost and effort.  This applies to cyber security too. There are hundreds of good college degree and technical school options, including many that are online or self paced.  

If you’re pursuing a career in cyber security, you should be enrolled in some sort of class or training nearly all of the time.  There are too many things to learn and too many learning options out there not to participate in an educational program.

Strategy #2:  Don’t Focus Only on Your Classes

If you followed strategy #1, you’re off to a good start.  But don’t make the mistake that so many people make, which is to assume that your enrollment in a college or a training class is enough.

An incorrect assumption that seems to be prevalent in our higher education system and society in general is that many of us believe that a college degree alone will earn us our place in a career.  Or that graduating from a technical school will fully prepare us. Many people complete coursework for four years without any thought of preparing in any other way, then walk across the stage at graduation and assume at that moment they went from not ready to join the workforce to ready to join the workforce.

Many college advisors and guidance counselors now realize that it takes more than just the classroom to get people prepared, and they are advising that.  But it seems that as a society we’ve been somewhat trained to believe that a classroom education is the golden ticket. Consider what a college advisor told me recently:

“Students won’t sign up for anything extra to better themselves” and “We can’t get the students to do any extracurricular activities.”

Don’t fall into the trap of assuming that only taking classes is going to get you into cyber security.  You’re going to need to do more than that, and do all of those things at the same time.  Here is our roadmap to a cyber security career.

Download the Cyber Security Career Roadmap here.

Strategy #3:  Read in Cyber Security Daily

One of the best strategies practiced by the most successful people in every field is to read an hour or more a day.  For much of his career, Warren Buffett has read 500 pages or more a day. Mark Cuban typically reads for three hours or more a day.  

Reading an hour a day or more in your field will move you into the top 10% within three years.  In cyber security, there is so much to learn and so many new attacks that are occurring weekly, that the only way to become knowledgeable and stay up to speed is to read daily.

Make the habit of reading something in cyber security every day, regardless whether you are taking a class at the time or not.

Strategy #4:  Get a Technical Job ASAP

If you’re working a part time job somewhere or not working at all, you should begin to look for a part time position related to technology immediately.  The market demand for technology professionals at all levels is so great right now that many employers will hire part time instead of full time, or provide flexible schedules when they otherwise wouldn’t, or will take on someone that has less experience than they typically need.

Many people starting out that have completed a few courses assume that they aren’t ready yet.  They assume that they don’t know enough yet to make the change from a non-technical job to a technical one.  This is not true.

Given the fact that opportunities are everywhere and that employers are more flexible than ever, you need to take advantage of the opportunity to supplement your education with hands on experience.  

If you’re working full-time and use your salary to support yourself or your family, keep in mind that part time options are available, including options in technology where you can work remotely from home.  Look into these opportunities and think outside the box.

It’s important to supplement your coursework with experience as soon as possible to accelerate your timeline.

Strategy #5:  Earn a Certification Every Six Months

Many of your classes will be related to specific certifications that are prominent in the cyber security field.  And at some point in the year, probably during the summer or the winter, you won’t be in classes. Use this time outside of your class schedule to study for an pursue certifications.

Certifications provide another credential beyond the classes you are taking and they matter to a lot of employers.  Perhaps most importantly, they show additional effort and drive, and they differentiate you from every other person enrolled in a cyber security learning program who isn’t earning certifications.

Work to earn one new certification every six months.

Strategy #6:  Attend Cyber Security Networking Events

There are several professional networking events and conferences available every month in every region of the county.  Most do not require a membership and cost little to nothing to attend. Check into your local chambers of commerce, technology councils and groups, and professional associations. Search for cyber security events in your city in Google.  Build up a calendar and go to several of these events.

Attending cyber security events helps you more than you know.  Mostly, it allows you to meet people who are further along in their cyber security career than you.  Most of these people will be more than willing to help you along.

It is through these people that you’re most likely to hear about job opportunities, get resume help, land an interview, find an internship, acquire a mentor, and get someone to sponsor you for a security clearance.  Remember, it’s not just what you know, but who you know.

Conclusion

There are a lot of strategies identified above to get you moving toward a career in cyber security.  It may seem overwhelming. Don’t let it be. Take it step by step and enjoy the journey. Keep in mind that each thing you do moves you one step closer to your goal of a career in cyber security.  While you certainly don’t have to do these things, these strategies have been shown to be the most effective at accelerating your timeline to getting a career.

Related Questions

Can I learn cyber security for free?  There are many free resources available online and through local library systems that can provide a great deal of cyber security information.  At some point in any learning path, investing in additional knowledge will probably become necessary.

How long does it take to learn cyber security?  With regular study, most people will need to spend two years or more to fully understand and be able to apply basic cyber security concepts.  This amount of time also depends on the background of the person and how in depth they want to learn cyber security.

Matt Day

Matt Day

Matt Day is a cybersecurity professional with over twenty years of experience in the IT, cybersecurity and technology training fields. He holds CompTIA A+, Network+, Security+, CySA+, and Cisco CCNA certifications, and is the author of the book CCENT Troubleshooting Guide.