Cybercrime has grown to astronomical heights and shows no signs of slowing. As it keeps growing, cybersecurity is becoming an increasingly in-demand and well-paying career choice.
The number of unfilled cybersecurity jobs skyrocketed from 1 million to 3.5 million between 2013 and 2021. That gives you plenty of options if you pursue a career in the field. Even if you don’t want to make a job out of it, cybersecurity can be a fulfilling hobby. If you’re interested in getting more serious about these interests, here’s what you can do.
Gain the Necessary Education
The first step to taking a cybersecurity interest further is learning about it. Many entry-level positions require at least an associate’s degree, often in a relevant field. However, some businesses are starting to drop that requirement in favor of experience or certifications as the demand for security workers rises.
Many security learning and certification programs are available online, which is often more affordable and flexible than traditional schooling. While you don’t need a degree to pursue cybersecurity as a hobby, it’s a good idea to get some education. Taking a few courses or getting a certification can help you gain valuable skills.
Build Relevant Soft Skills
While technical skills and experience are important, excelling in cybersecurity also requires soft skills like critical thinking, discipline, adaptability and communication. You can cultivate these by taking on personal projects that require them.
Consider starting some coding or programming work in your free time to get used to the kinds of thinking you’ll need to apply. Alternatively, you could run a security or IT blog, take new courses or work on puzzles and challenges that force you to think critically.
Networking is another important step in starting a career or serious hobby in cybersecurity. Making connections in the security community can help you learn new skills and could make it easier to land a job. Research suggests that companies fill as many as 80% of jobs through networking.
You can start by finding online security groups and forums. Join these communities and engage with others’ posts to learn more, gain experience and meet new people. No matter what your goals are, these connections will help you excel in cybersecurity.
Get Experience as a White-Hat Hacker
Many cybersecurity professionals will tell you that experience is often more important than formal training. Thankfully, you can get this without even having a security job. The best way to build a portfolio in cybersecurity is through white-hat hacking, where you look for bugs and other security flaws independently.
Finding vulnerabilities and offering solutions gives you real-world experience and tangible proof of your skills. Some companies even offer rewards for people who can find and fix bugs. Keep in mind, though, that there are some tax implications to consider if you want to report this activity as a job.
Enter Cybersecurity Competitions
Cybersecurity competitions are another great place to gain and show off your skills. Hackathons and capture-the-flag (CTF) events allow enthusiasts and professionals alike an opportunity to put their security knowledge to the test before an audience. Some competitions serve as hiring platforms, connecting participants with potential employers.
If you don’t want to get a job out of it, you can use these contests to test and hone your skills or just have fun. They’re also a great opportunity to meet others in the security community.
Take Your Cybersecurity Interests Further
Whether you want to make security a more serious hobby or turn it into a career, these five steps can help. You can then enjoy the cybersecurity field to its fullest extent, whatever that looks like for you.
Remember that ongoing learning and experience are crucial for both hobbyists and job-seekers. Cybersecurity is always evolving, so you’ll need to stay on top of developing trends. If you can stay current, you can be the best security pro you can be.