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When my friend started to apply for jobs in the tech industry, she assumed she needed to learn to code. It seemed plausible, since one of the main objectives of information security is to secure devices and tech giants run on secret code. So, the individuals securing those computers must be coding experts, right?

"Not exactly", I told her. But if you watch TV shows or NETFLIX movies such as “THE HACKER” about cybersecurity, it is easy to believe this myth. Depictions of the cybersecurity expert as an unsociable person who lives in their dark basement, spending their days working late into the night typing frantically on the keyboard with lines of code racing on the screen makes their work look action-packed and significant. You see them distantly connect to a device continents away to stop an active attack. After watching such a frantic scene, it’d be fair to assume that if you can’t make lines of code pop across the screen, you can’t stop a hacking effort. While the people who fit this pigeonhole do exist, their skillset is a niche within a much broader industry. The truth is that many information security roles do not require coding familiarity.

That’s just one myth of several that need to be ousted so that we can bring in more people into an industry that truly needs new talent. Below, I break down a few other illusions and delve into what’s really crucial for building a cyber career.

Myth 1: Cybersecurity specialists live in their basements

Not true, mostly because theirs is one of the most highly compensated and reliable jobs in the world. The salaries from Indeed trends the median income for an array of information security-related roles as ranging from $92,600 - $135,800 per year which puts it in the top 20 highest paid professions. I see you yawning there. You’re possibly pondering, “Yeah, those trained experts command such a high salary because they’re top hackers who devoted every moment of their adolescent years teaching themselves to code.” That leads us to Illusion No. 2.

Myth 2: You need to be a coding expert to get an information security job

Many people I’ve met in this profession have not been asked to write a single line of code or connect to a remote device to stop an attack. Rather, cyber security professionals often possess a combination of knowledge across the following areas: security tools, project management, regulatory structures, process development, and product knowledge.

One of the tests for a potential candidate interested in the field but naive in circumnavigating the industry is to realize that the title “security engineer” is only one role within a network of cybersecurity teams and roles. Here is a list of cybersecurity teams that likely do not require prior coding experience:

  • Security architecture
  • Vulnerability and patch management
  • Cyber threat intelligence
  • Security Operations Center (SOC)
  • Incident response
  • Security operations
  • Compliance
  • Network defense
  • Network defense
  • Security audit
  • Cybersecurity project management

Here are some teams that may require coding capabilities:

  • Penetration testing
  • Cyber threat hunting
  • Information security engineering

Below are some helpful and approachable means and measures that you can leverage to discover more about the field, prepare yourself with suitable resume for your first application, and show you an attitude that will leave you more confident and more employable:

Myth 3: All of the cybersecurity jobs are at technology companies

One of the amazing aspects of a career in cybersecurity is that it means your skillset is applicable across industries. Many cybersecurity jobs are desk jobs, but beyond that the routine aspects of a cybersecurity job are mainly up to you and your interests. Always wanted to work in entertainment, healthcare, education, government, or finance? If the industry employs technology, there are cybersecurity positions to be filled.

We have students who graduated last year from WTU now working at:

  • AMD as Principal Cloud Security Architect
  • ATOS IT Solutions as Security Operations Analyst
  • Costco as Information Analyst

as well as at Blueprint Technologies, Design Laboratory, Kawasaki, and Panasonic Avionics.

According to CyberSeek, there are over 500,000 job openings in Cybersecurity. There are currently over 10,000 Cybersecurity jobs posted her in WA state.

Myth #4: You’ll be at a disadvantage during a job interview if you don’t have a “traditional” background in technology.

Due to the scarcity of cybersecurity professionals, many people make their way to the field from diverse backgrounds. My former students’ credentials include a mechanical engineer, a filmmaker, a former intelligence community officer, biotechnologist, a nurse a computer scientist, a journalist, and an accountant, all of whom are now security professionals. When you get to a job interview, do not sell yourself short. Explain why you are interested in the field and don’t assume the person sitting across the table from you started with a background different from your own.

Due to the scarcity of cybersecurity professionals, many people make their way to the field from diverse backgrounds. My former students’ credentials include a mechanical engineer, a filmmaker, a former intelligence community officer, biotechnologist, a nurse a computer scientist, a journalist, and an accountant, all of whom are now security professionals. When you get to a job interview, do not sell yourself short. Explain why you are interested in the field and don’t assume the person sitting across the table from you started with a background different from your own.

Also if you have come reading this far, I would definitely want you to check WTU’s Bachelor of Science in Information Security program that integrates traditional core technology coursework and curriculum with a depth of understanding of the investigator and the investigation process concerning cyber-related offenses against individuals and entities. This degree is for those interested in career paths that are explicitly focused on investigating attacks and assessing the misuse of data and information systems which can ultimately involve careers in cyber investigations, risk analysis, audit compliance, corporate investigations and oversight, and related fields.