Cyber Security Consultant: A Complete Overview and Career Path

If there’s one thing upon which we can agree regarding the cybersecurity industry, it’s that the field has spawned a dizzying array of occupations. There are cybersecurity architects, cybersecurity administrators, cybersecurity analysts, cybersecurity engineers, and even Chief Information Security Officers.

But how about cybersecurity consultants? Most everyone knows what a consultant does. They’re the experts who don’t work for any single company, but instead hire themselves out to different customers, provide contracted services, and then move on to the next client.

So, naturally, the cybersecurity field also has consultants. This article provides an overview of the cybersecurity consultant job description, how to become a cybersecurity consultant, and why it’s a smart career choice. 

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What Is a Cybersecurity Consultant, and What Do They Do?

A cybersecurity consultant doesn’t work for one company exclusively, but rather is hired by a client to test the organization’s cybersecurity measures, and then design and implement a better defense. These consultants are sometimes known by different names, such as:

  • Information security consultant
  • Computer security consultant
  • Database security consultant
  • Network security consultant

Whichever title they choose, they use their vast knowledge and years of experience to advise, guide, instruct, and help implement better security measures for their clients.

The Cybersecurity Consultant’s Roles and Responsibilities

The above definition sheds a little more light on the occupation, but we need to dive into the specifics. What does a cybersecurity consultant do? Here is a list of their responsibilities, although bear in mind, not every client will want or need them all.

  • Figure out the best way to defend devices, networks, software, data, and complete information systems against possible intrusion and cyber-attacks
  • Interview staff and department heads to ascertain specific security concerns and issues
  • Perform vulnerability testing much like a white hat hacker does, including risk analyses and security assessments
  • Research current security standards and systems and the latest authentication protocols
  • Draw up cost estimates for any needed defense upgrades and identify potential integration issues for IT project managers
  • Plan, research, and design an all-encompassing, capable security architecture for any IT project
  • Deliver all test findings via technical reports and white papers
  • Provide professional supervision for, and guidance to, the in-house security team
  • Define, implement, and maintain a fitting corporate security policy for the client’s organization
  • React and respond immediately to any security-related incidents, and then provide a thorough post-event analysis
  • Follow up with the client by updating and upgrading their security systems as needed

How Do You Become a Cybersecurity Consultant?

A cybersecurity consultant has a lot of expectations to meet. The only way such a professional can accomplish all of these tasks is to have the right skills and training. So, how does one go about becoming a cybersecurity consultant?

First, let’s take a look at the requisites.

1. Education

Higher education has no dedicated cybersecurity training curriculum. Instead, would-be cybersecurity consultants would do well earning a bachelor’s degree in computer science, information technology, cybersecurity, or another related major.

2. Certification 

The well-rounded cyber-security training consultant has numerous certifications in many relevant subjects. More on this later.

3. Work Experience

As is true in so many other fields, prior cybersecurity experience goes a long way towards establishing the right credentials. There’s nothing like hands-on work to show a prospective employer or client that you know what you’re doing. As a rule, three to five years of working in an IT environment is ideal for cybersecurity consultant jobs.

4. Soft Skills

An effective cybersecurity professional knows how to communicate with both IT-related teams and non-technical people. Building on that, the cybersecurity consultant should possess some leadership skills, especially since it falls on you to implement new policies and procedures. Finally, the consultant needs to be a good negotiator, showing patience and tact when working with people at all levels of the corporate structure.

5. Hard Skills 

Finally, every good cybersecurity consultant needs to master these skills:

  • Penetration Testing

    Acting like a hacker, the consultant needs to see how secure the system is and gauge the vulnerability of the client’s cyber programs and software.
  • Ethical Hacking and Coding Practices 

    Related to the first item, this means having a working knowledge of threat modeling and configurations.
  • Advanced Persistent Threat Management 

    This skill covers concepts like phishing, social engineering, and network access control.
  • Firewall Safety and Management 

    This skill includes backups, fail-safe features, breach detection, and prevention protocols.
  • Operating Systems Knowledge

    That means Windows, Linus, UNIX, and any new operating systems that eventually get rolled out.
  • Programming Languages 

    Specifically, those used for storing and processing raw data. In this case, there’s no such thing as knowing too many programming languages!
  • Encryption Techniques and Capabilities 

    Cybersecurity professionals with this skill know how to send and receive data over the internet without falling victim to hacker attacks.
  • Knowledge of Compliance Assessments

    For example, PCI, HIPAA, NIST, GLBA, and SOX.
  • Frameworks Knowledge 

    Like COBIT and ITIL, for instance.

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What Is the Ideal Cybersecurity Consultant’s Career Path?

Here’s an example of a workable cybersecurity consultant career path:

  1. Get some initial experience in an entry-level Information Technology (IT) or information security position
  2. Rise to the role of a security administrator, analyst, engineer, or auditor
  3. Gain some appropriate information security certifications
  4. Begin your career as a bonafide cybersecurity consultant

The Benefits of Cybersecurity Consultant Certification

Earlier, we touched upon certification as a requirement. Let’s take a closer look at it. A professional gains certification by taking classes on a particular subject, completing all of the assigned work and projects, and then passing the certification exam.

Certification not only imparts knowledge relevant to your career path, but it also tells a prospective employer or l client that you have a solid, working knowledge of the corresponding subject. It reassures everyone that you will be able to carry out the duties that you’re hired to fulfill in the first place.

Here are the top certifications for cybersecurity consultants:

  • CISSP. Certified Information Systems Security Professional
  • CPP. Certified Protection Professional
  • CSC. Certified Security Consultant
  • GIAC. Security Certification
  • IAPSC. International Association of Professional Security Consultants
  • OSCP. Offensive Security Certified Professional
  • PSP. Physical Security Professional

What Does a Cybersecurity Consultant Salary Look Like?

According to Glassdoor, a cyber-security consultant in India can earn an average of ₹736,257 annually.  Consultants in the United States can expect an annual average of $85,427, while in the United Kingdom, the average is £43,354.

Want to Learn More About Certification?

Simplilearn offers courses in many of the certifications listed above, as well as many others.  It’s the perfect way to keep your cybersecurity consultant credentials fresh and up to date.

For instance, the CISM Certification is a crucial certification for any security professionals who want to manage, design, oversee, and assess enterprise information security. The course, closely aligned with ISACA best practices, enables you to define and design enterprise security architecture, achieve IT compliance and governance, deliver reliable service to customers, and understand how IT security systems contribute to broader business goals and objectives.

Then there’s CISSP Certification, considered the gold standard in the field of information security. This training is aligned with (ISC)² CBK 2018 requirements, teaching you how to become an information assurance professional defining all aspects of IT security, including architecture, design, management, and controls. Most IT security positions prefer or even outright require a CISSP certification, so this one’s a must!

And speaking of essential certifications, the CEH (v10) Certified Ethical Hacking Course is another crucial component of a well-trained cyber-security consultant. This course trains you on the advanced step-by-step methodologies that real hackers use, such as reverse engineering and writing virus codes, enabling you to better protect any corporate infrastructure from data breaches. This course helps you master advanced network packet analysis and system penetration testing techniques so that you can build your network security skillset and defeat hackers at their own game.

If you’re already an experienced cybersecurity professional, these certifications are an excellent way of doing a bit of upskilling. You can never know enough about cybersecurity, as there’s always something new to learn. Stay current and keep your skills sharp.

Test your skills in the  information security concepts with the CISSP Practice Test Questions. Try answering now!

Do You Want to Be a Cybersecurity Consultant?

Are you ready to join this fast-paced, rewarding field? As more of our lives move over to the digital world, there’s a corresponding increase in the demand for professionals who can keep systems and data safe.

Simplilearn can help you realize your career dreams with their Cybersecurity Expert Master’s program. This program equips you with the essential skills to become an expert in this rapidly growing field. You will learn comprehensive approaches to protecting your infrastructure, including securing data and information; running risk analysis and mitigation; architecting cloud-based security; achieving compliance; and much more.

This best-in-class program includes six courses, featuring more than 96 hours of live online classes, more than 64 hours of e-learning content, and lifetime access to self-paced videos and class recordings. Once you complete the program, you can use your voucher for the CEH & CompTIA Security+ exam.

So don’t delay. The field of cybersecurity needs as many experts as possible, and you could be one of them! Check into Simplilearn’s offerings now and get started.

About the Author

John TerraJohn Terra

John Terra lives in Nashua, New Hampshire and has been writing freelance since 1986. Besides his volume of work in the gaming industry, he has written articles for Inc.Magazine and Computer Shopper, as well as software reviews for ZDNet. More recently, he has done extensive work as a professional blogger. His hobbies include running, gaming, and consuming craft beers. His refrigerator is Wi-Fi compliant.

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