Starting again: Transitioning to a career in information security

Published on: 19 Jan 2022

The last couple of years have had a big impact on the way we think about work, and for a lot of people, a change in careers is an attractive option. The pandemic has forced many of us to reassess our lives and ask if we're really satisfied with where we are.

For instance, research by Aviva in 2021 found three-fifths of UK workers (60 per cent) intend to make changes to their careers as a result of the pandemic, with almost one in ten looking for a new path entirely. And if you are one of those seeking a change of direction in life, one area that offers great prospects is cyber security. 

This is a fast-growing, exciting field that thrives on having a workforce from diverse backgrounds who bring their own perspectives and experiences to the table. As such, it's a perfect opportunity for anyone looking to make a move to a sector with a promising future.

But it's not just people searching for a new start as a result of the pandemic who should consider information security for their next career move. If you're looking to transition back into civilian life after leaving the armed forces or the police, for example, this sector also offers great potential. 

Many cyber security roles require high levels of security clearance and trustworthiness, for example, and the personal and professional skills that a life in uniform offers will often be very attractive to potential employers. And the great thing is that, contrary to popular belief, you don't necessarily need a technical background in order to get started in the world of information security.

Why switch to an information security career?

There are lots of reasons to consider a career in cyber security. One significant factor for many people will be the opportunity to increase their earnings. Salaries in the sector can be very generous, with the average cyber pro in Europe earning around €62,000 (£54,000) a year. However, it doesn't end there. 

Because there remains a global shortage of talent in the cyber security sector - with some estimates suggesting there are as many as four million unfilled roles worldwide - employers have to compete to make themselves more attractive to potential workers. This means more benefits and perks, such as remote and flexible working, and more opportunities for career development, as companies may be keen to fund the further education of employees.

Aside from the remuneration on offer, many cyber security pros report high levels of satisfaction with their work. Training provider (ISC)2, for example, found in its 2021 Cybersecurity Workforce Study that 77 per cent of cyber pros said they were 'very' or extremely' satisfied with this job, up from just 66 per cent in 2019. Respondents said the level of challenges on offer and the dynamism of the sector were among the factors that contributed to this.

Overcoming the myths

A common misconception is that even if you haven't worked directly in cyber security before, a background in other areas of IT will still be essential. But this is increasingly being proven false, especially in younger generations. 

(ISC)2's research found only 38 per cent of new cyber pros aged under 40 got their start in other IT fields. Instead, nearly a fifth of security workers (17 per cent) transitioned directly from unrelated career fields, while 15 per cent gained access through formal cybersecurity education and 15 per cent explored cyber security concepts independently. 

It also noted women were more likely than men to take alternate entry routes into the profession, with only 38 per cent of female participants starting their careers in IT compared to 50 per cent of male participants, which may suggest the sector is broadening its appeal and overcoming old stereotypes.

Indeed, the idea that to be successful in cyber security you need to be young, male and techy is one of the biggest myths surrounding the sector. According to QA, 90 per cent of the industry’s employees are over 30 years old, so if you are looking for a career change later in life, you're far from alone. And while it is still a fairly male-dominated arena, many organisations are pushing to become more diverse, which makes it a great option for female pros and those from minority backgrounds.

There's also the notion that the work will be fairly narrow and limited to a desk job. But again, this is not the case. There are a wide range of different career paths within the sector, and no two are alike. Cyber security is something that affects the entire business, not just the IT department, so there'll be plenty of chances to interact with people and broaden your horizons. You'll also find opportunities at companies of all sizes and across every industry.

What's more, the field is constantly evolving and adapting to new circumstances, so there'll always be something new to learn.

Good roles for new professionals

So if you think a career in information security is right for you, what roles should you be looking for? There's no fixed path into the sector, and while some entry-level positions will require you to obtain a relevant qualification first, there are plenty more that will allow you to learn on the job.

When you're looking for specific positions, you may find there are a few familiar options for those new to the sector that come up frequently. Some of these include:

  • Security analyst
  • Incident responder
  • Security architect
  • Forensic analyst
  • Security engineer
  • Penetration tester

Which one will be best suited for you may depend on a number of factors, including any existing transferable skills you may have, what cyber security training courses or certifications you opt for and, of course, which you'll find most personally stimulating.

Cyber security is a deep and wide-ranging field, so you’re sure to find something that fits into your interests and expertise. To get started, browse our range of open positions today, or upload your CV to let recruiters find you.