Best Qualifications for a Cyber Security Career in 2020

There has never been a better time to start a career in cyber security. Organisations’ reliance on technical solutions has only increased with the global switch to remote working, creating a huge demand for qualified personnel.

But it can be tricky knowing where to begin. Cyber security is a complex, multidisciplinary field, with varied opportunities depending on your skills and interests.

In this blog, we explain the best cyber security qualifications to help you get started.


Start with the basics and learn your trade

Those in the early stage of their careers should get as much practical experience as possible and look to achieve industry-standard qualifications.

A good place to start is the Certified GDPR Foundation Training Course or the Certified ISO 27001 ISMS Foundation Training Course.

Data protection and data privacy are at the core of cyber security, so it’s worth gaining a solid understanding of these issues.

The GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation) contains a detailed list of requirements that are designed to better protect the personal data of EU residents and give them more control over the ways their personal data is used.

No matter what area of cyber security you move into, you will almost certainly run into GDPR compliance at some point – whether that’s because you handle EU residents’ personal data or because you design or use systems intended to uphold its requirements.

ISO 27001, meanwhile, is the international standard for information security. Its best-practice approach enables organisations to address their security needs through an ISMS (information security management system).

This centralised approach can help organisations achieve GDPR compliance and streamline their data protection processes as a whole.

Many organisations across the globe either certify to ISO 27001 or use the framework to inform their information security practices, so anyone interested in work that involves handling sensitive information must be to be familiar with the Standard.


Do you need the technical stuff?

To advance in any cyber security field, you’ll need some technical expertise – but you don’t necessarily need a comprehensive understanding of programming or hacking.

You can become an IT specialist or manager if you’re familiar hardware, software, networks and applications – as well as the security threats associated with them.

For those who are interested in technical work, there are plenty of options. The easiest one to get into is ethical hacking.

This involves identifying and exploiting vulnerabilities in an organisation’s systems using the same techniques as a criminal hacker – except you don’t perform malicious actions.

Rather, an organisation hires ethical hackers to find out where its weaknesses are and how they could be exploited. Armed with this knowledge, the organisation can apply the necessary controls to mitigate the risk.

The demand for ethical hackers has skyrocketed in the past few years, as businesses realise the need for practical assessments of their systems.

If this sounds like the sort of career you’re interested in, you can develop the skills you need on our Certified Ethical Hacker (CEH) Training Course.


If you’d prefer to work in the risk management and legal aspects of cyber security, a CISMP (Certificate in Information Security Management Principles) qualification would be more suitable.

CISMP is widely regarded as the ‘qualification of choice’ for IT professionals and is recognised across the UK as an essential first rung on the ladder to a successful career.

The framework is ideal for those getting started in the industry and for professionals who require a deeper understanding of the subject to develop their overall business skills.

It’s particularly valuable to those working in the public sector, as it is part of the CESG Certified Professional (CCP) scheme, which is the government’s approved standard of competence for cyber security.


Don’t leave management qualifications until later

Most cyber security careers eventually lead towards a management position, which means that you might be leading a group of specialists in an area in which you’re not an expert.

That is normal for most industries; what’s important is that you know enough about the work they do to manage them appropriately.

As such, anyone interested in becoming a manager should consider gaining appropriate qualifications as soon as possible.

If your background is in ISO 27001, you should take the lead implementer training course, whereas if you want to develop your GDPR skills, you should take the practitioner training course or learn how to become a DPO (data protection officer).

Those with several years’ experience in cyber security may also consider becoming a CISM (Certified Information Security Manager) or CISSP (Certified Information Security Systems Professional).

Get started with our free guide

You can find out more about getting started in the industry with our Cyber Security Careers Guide.

We look a wide variety of cyber security professions and explain the skills and experience you need to get started.

You’ll also discover which training courses can help you advance in each career and how IT Governance can help.

Our training courses offer a structured learning path from Foundation to Advanced level, helping IT, privacy and security practitioners develop the skills needed to deliver best practice and compliance in organisations of all sizes.

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