Cyber Security: Graduate Area of Work
As companies and organisations become more reliant on IT and technology for their transactions and communications, cyber security has also grown to become a key concern. This is especially due to global reports that found an increase in the number of cyber attacks in 2016, as compared to previous years.
For this reason, cyber security specialists – people who work to protect computers, data, networks and programmes from attacks or damage through the development of a range of technologies, processes, and operations – are now in great demand.
Job opportunities in this sector typically fall under one of the following three roles:
- Consulting: This involves providing risk assessments for clients, followed by advising and counselling clients on the various strategies to help them keep their business safe from attacks.
- Engineering: The builders of the community – security engineers or architects are responsible for planning and building IT systems to withstand cyber threats.
- Operation: The “guards” of the system – operational security experts monitor the systems for signs of threats.
Cyber security specialists are typically hired by specialist organisations that render their services to other businesses. However, some organisations, such as banks and online-based companies, do invest in their own cyber security teams.
Depending on your role’s area of work, you will be exposed to very different work styles. In consulting and engineering roles, work is usually project or client-based, where you’ll be assigned to one or two major clients for 12 to 24 months at one time. Work is done in teams which are usually quite large and you will also be guided by mentors as you gain more experience on the job.
Those working in the operational security side, on the other hand, can anticipate a steeper learning curve, particularly if they show a talent for investigative work. They may work at a security operations centre (SOC), where they run constant surveillance over the systems for their clients.
Alternatively operational staff may also work in digital forensics, where they investigate infected machines or systems; or penetration testing, where they run simulated attacks on clients’ systems to check for vulnerabilities. Cyber security specialists working in this area may also find their work to be more client-facing than the other two areas.
To progress in your career, it is a good idea to invest in professional certifications or courses that are related to cyber security.
Technical degrees are preferred in this sector, including IT, computer science or STEM subjects (i.e. science, technology, engineering, and mathematics). However, it is also possible for those from other degree disciplines to join this sector after obtaining professional certifications.
Employers are also on the constant lookout for graduates with attention to detail and quick-thinking, problem-solving skills to solve complex puzzles. It is also necessary for you to understand the confidentiality of the situation faced by your clients.
Pros and cons
Life as a cyber security specialist is almost never dull – not only do you get the chance to work with a variety of clients, ranging from government bodies to commercial businesses, you will also be dealing with new problems or threats all the time.
That said, keeping one step ahead of cyber criminals can be difficult and you may be expected to dedicate extra working hours during emergencies.