Cyber Security: Career Path | Skills | Salary | Certifications

What Does a Cyber Security Expert Do?

A cyber security expert, also known as a cyber security professional or specialist, protects an organization's computer systems, networks, and data from security cyberattacks and unauthorized access. Their primary role is to ensure digital information and resources' confidentiality, integrity, and availability. Here are some of the key responsibilities and tasks that a cybersecurity expert typically performs:

1. Security Planning and Strategy:

  • Develop and implement cyber security strategies and policies tailored to an organization's specific needs and risks.
  • Assess current security measures and identify vulnerabilities and weaknesses in the organization's infrastructure.

2. Network Security:

  • Configure and maintain firewalls, intrusion detection systems (IDS), intrusion prevention systems (IPS), and other network security technologies.

3. Endpoint Security:

  • Manage and secure endpoints (computers, smartphones, tablets) by implementing antivirus software, encryption, and endpoint detection and response (EDR) solutions.
  • Conduct regular software patching and updates to mitigate vulnerabilities.

4. Threat Detection and Incident Response:

  • Monitor security alerts and investigate potential security breaches.
  • Develop incident response plans and lead efforts to contain and mitigate security incidents.
  • Analyze security incidents to determine the root cause and prevent future occurrences.

5. Security Awareness and Training:

  • Educate employees and users about cyber security best practices and awareness.
  • Conduct training sessions and phishing simulations to improve security awareness.

6. Access Control and Identity Management:

  • Manage user access to systems and resources through identity and access management (IAM) solutions.
  • Implement multi-factor authentication (MFA) to enhance authentication security.

7. Security Compliance and Risk Management:

  • Ensure compliance with industry standards (e.g., ISO 27001, NIST, GDPR) and regulatory requirements.
  • Run risk assessments and develop risk mitigation strategies.

8. Security Testing and Vulnerability Assessment:

  • Perform regular security assessments, penetration testing, and vulnerability scanning.

9. Incident Documentation and Reporting:

  • Maintain records of security incidents, investigations, and actions taken.
  • Provide reports and updates to management and relevant stakeholders.

10. Collaboration and Communication:

  • Work closely with IT teams, management, and other stakeholders to align security measures with organizational goals and objectives.
  • Communicate security risks and recommendations effectively.

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Prerequisites for a Cyber Security Career

Prerequisites for a career in cyber security encompass a blend of educational qualifications, technical skills, and personal attributes. A foundation in computer science, often attained through a bachelor's degree, is an important starting point. However, continuous learning and staying updated with evolving threats and technologies are crucial in this dynamic field.

Proficiency in programming languages, network protocols, and system administration is essential, as is a deep understanding of cyber security concepts and practices. Certifications such as CompTIA Security+, CISSP, and CEH can provide a competitive edge. Additionally, strong problem-solving abilities, attention to detail, and ethical integrity are vital traits for a successful cybersecurity professional, as they play a pivotal role in protecting critical data and mitigating cyber threats.

Building hands-on experience through internships, capture-the-flag (CTF) challenges, or ethical hacking exercises further solidify one's readiness for a rewarding career in cyber security.

Cyber Security Skills

Here are some essential cyber security skills:

1. Technical Skills:

  • Understanding network protocols, architecture, and how to secure networks.
  • Proficiency in diverse operating systems, including Windows, Linux, and macOS, to secure and administer them.
  • Configuring and managing Firewalls and Intrusion Detection/Prevention Systems (IDS/IPS) security devices.
  • Knowledge of encryption techniques to protect data in transit and at rest.
  • Detecting and patching vulnerabilities in systems and applications.
  • Analyzing and mitigating malware threats.
  • Skills in Python, PowerShell, or Bash for automation and tool development.
  • Understanding security best practices for cloud platforms like AWS, Azure, and Google Cloud.
  • Securing computers, mobile devices, and servers.
  • Identifying and mitigating vulnerabilities in web applications.
  • Managing and responding to security incidents effectively.

2. Cyber Security Knowledge:

  • Understanding various cyber threats and attack vectors.
  • Knowledge of security tools such as SIEM (Security Information and Event Management) systems, antivirus software, and access control mechanisms.
  • Familiarity with cyber security frameworks and standards like NIST, ISO 27001, and CIS Controls.

3. Soft Skills:

  • Practical communication skills to convey security concepts to non-technical stakeholders.
  • The capacity to think critically and make decisions under pressure.
  • Meticulous attention to detail to spot anomalies and potential vulnerabilities.
  • Adhering to ethical principles and a strong code of ethics, especially in roles like ethical hacking and penetration testing.

4. Continuous Learning:

  • Keeping up with the ever-evolving cyber security landscape and emerging threats.
  • Participating in conferences, workshops, and training programs to expand knowledge and skills.

5. Cyber Security Tools and Software:

  • Familiarity with various cyber security tools and software for scanning, monitoring, and managing security.

6. Certifications:

  • Industry-recognized certifications like CompTIA Security+, Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP), Certified Ethical Hacker (CEH), Certified Information Security Manager (CISM), and others can validate your skills and knowledge.

7. Legal and Compliance Knowledge:

  • Awareness of cyber security laws and regulations relevant to your region or industry.

8. Risk Management:

  • Understanding risk assessment, risk mitigation strategies, and prioritizing security measures based on risk.

9. Teamwork and Collaboration:

  • The ability to work effectively with IT teams, management, and other stakeholders to align security measures with organizational goals.

10. Security Awareness and Training:

  • The capability to educate employees and users about cyber security best practices and awareness.

Cyber security is a dynamic field, and staying updated and adaptable is essential. Professionals often specialize in specific areas of cyber security like network security, cloud security, application security, or ethical hacking. Building a diverse skill set and continuously improving your knowledge is crucial to a successful career in cyber security.

Job Roles and Responsibilities

Cyber security encompasses various job roles and responsibilities, each with a specific focus and responsibilities. Here are some common cyber security job roles and their associated responsibilities:

1. Cyber Security Analyst:

  • Monitor network traffic and security alerts for suspicious activity.
  • Investigate security incidents and breaches.
  • Implement and maintain security technologies like firewalls, IDS/IPS, and antivirus software.
  • Conduct vulnerability assessments and assist in remediation efforts.
  • Develop and enforce security policies and procedures.

2. Security Engineer:

  • Design, implement, and manage security infrastructure and solutions.
  • Configure and maintain firewalls, VPNs, and other network security devices.
  • Perform security architecture reviews and risk assessments.
  • Collaborate with IT teams to integrate security measures into infrastructure and applications.
  • Develop and test security tools and automation scripts.

3. Incident Response Analyst:

  • Lead and coordinate incident response efforts during security breaches.
  • Create and execute incident response plans.
  • Collect and analyze evidence related to security incidents.
  • Communicate with law enforcement and legal teams if necessary.

4. Security Consultant:

  • Assess an organization's security posture through penetration testing and security assessments.
  • Provide recommendations and strategies for improving security.
  • Assist clients in complying with regulatory requirements.
  • Deliver security awareness training to clients' staff.

5. Ethical Hacker/Penetration Tester:

  • Conduct authorized penetration testing to identify vulnerabilities in systems and applications.
  • Exploit vulnerabilities to demonstrate potential risks.
  • Provide recommendations for remediation and security improvements.
  • Maintain knowledge of hacking techniques and tools to stay ahead of attackers.

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6. Security Architect:

  • Design and develop security architectures for systems, applications, and networks.
  • Ensure security measures align with business objectives.
  • Evaluate and select security technologies and solutions.
  • Create and maintain security policies and standards.
  • Collaborate with other IT teams on security implementation.

7. Security Operations Center (SOC) Analyst:

  • Monitor security alerts and incidents in a SOC environment.
  • Respond to and investigate security incidents.
  • Use SIEM tools to analyze and correlate security data.
  • Provide reports and updates on security incidents to management.

8. Security Compliance Analyst:

  • Ensure compliance with industry standards and regulations (e.g., ISO 27001, GDPR, HIPAA).
  • Conduct audits and assessments to identify compliance gaps.
  • Prepare and maintain compliance documentation and reports.
  • Provide guidance on compliance-related issues.

9. Security Awareness and Training Specialist:

  • Develop and deliver security awareness training programs.
  • Create security policies and guidelines for end-users.
  • Conduct simulated phishing exercises to educate users.
  • Monitor and track employee compliance with security policies.

10. Cloud Security Engineer:

  • Secure cloud environments (e.g., AWS, Azure, Google Cloud) by configuring security controls.
  • Conduct risk assessments for cloud deployments.
  • Monitor and audit cloud infrastructure for security compliance.
  • Collaborate with cloud providers and internal teams to ensure cloud security.

Cyber Security Roadmap

A cyber security career roadmap typically involves steps and milestones to help you progress in the field. Here's a general roadmap to guide you toward a successful cybersecurity career:

Step 1: Start with a strong educational foundation. Many cyber security professionals hold a bachelor's in CS, IT, or a related field. Consider pursuing a master's degree or specialized certifications for advanced roles.

Step 2: Develop a strong understanding of fundamental IT concepts, including operating systems, networking, and databases. This forms the basis of your cyber security knowledge.

Step 3: Learn programming languages like Python and C++ or scripting languages such as PowerShell. These skills are essential for automating tasks and understanding vulnerabilities.

Step 4. Gain expertise in networking protocols and technologies. Understanding how data flows through networks is crucial for identifying and mitigating security threats.

Step 5. Study foundational cyber security concepts such as encryption, access control, authentication, and security policies. CompTIA Security+ is a popular entry-level certification.

Step 6. Familiarize yourself with various operating systems, especially Windows and Linux. You'll need to secure and troubleshoot these systems.

Step 7. Obtain relevant certifications like Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP), Certified Ethical Hacker (CEH), Certified Information Security Manager (CISM), and CompTIA Security+ as you progress in your career. These certifications validate your expertise.

Step 8. Cyber security is a broad field. Consider specializing in penetration testing, incident response, network security, or cloud security based on your interests.

Step 9. Gain hands-on experience via internships, volunteering, or personal projects. Participate in capture-the-flag (CTF) challenges and hacking competitions to apply your knowledge.

Step 10. The cyber security landscape is constantly evolving. Stay updated with the latest threats, vulnerabilities, and security technologies through blogs, forums, conferences, and online courses.

Step 11. Build a professional network within the cyber security community. Attend conferences, join online forums, and connect with industry experts to exchange knowledge and opportunities.

Step 12. Uphold ethical standards in your work. Ethical behavior and a strong code of ethics are essential in cyber security.

Step 13. Cybersecurity requires lifelong learning. Adapt to new advancements, technologies, and threats as they emerge.

Step 14. Consider pursuing advanced degrees (e.g., Master's or Ph.D.) or specialized certifications if you aim for high-level leadership roles in cyber security.

Step 15. As you gain experience and expertise, aim for higher-level roles such as security architect, security consultant, or chief information security officer (CISO).

Salary Prospects for Cyber Security Experts

The salary prospects for cyber security experts can vary widely depending on location, experience, education, certifications, and the specific job role. However, cyber security is generally a high-paying field due to the increasing demand to protect organizations from cyber threats. Here are some approximate salary ranges for different levels of cyber security roles in the United States:

1. Entry-Level Roles (0-2 years of experience):

  • Security Analyst: $55,000 - $85,000 per year

2. Mid-Level Roles (3-5 years of experience):

  • Security Engineer: $85,000 - $120,000 per year
  • Penetration Tester: $90,000 - $130,000 per year
  • Security Consultant: $90,000 - $140,000 per year

3. Senior-Level Roles (5+ years of experience):

  • Security Architect: $120,000 - $180,000 per year
  • Incident Response Analyst: $110,000 - $160,000 per year
  • Security Manager/Director: $140,000 - $220,000 per year

4. Specialized Roles:

  • Ethical Hacker: $100,000 - $160,000 per year (can be higher for experienced professionals)
  • Cloud Security Engineer: $120,000 - $180,000 per year
  • Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP): $110,000 - $170,000 per year (CISSP certification often commands higher salaries)

These approximate figures can vary based on geographic location, industry, company size, and other factors.

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Top Cyber Security Certifications to Consider

  1. Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP): A globally recognized certification covering various cyber security topics for information security professionals.
  2. Certified Ethical Hacker (CEH): Focuses on ethical hacking techniques, penetration testing, and vulnerability assessment.
  3. Certified Information Security Manager (CISM): Designed for professionals in management roles, emphasizing information risk management and governance.
  4. Certified Information Systems Auditor (CISA): Focuses on auditing, control, and assurance skills for information systems.
  5. Certified Cloud Security Professional (CCSP): Specializes in cloud security and is relevant for professionals working with cloud platforms.
  6. CompTIA Security+: A foundational certification covering essential security concepts.

How Can Simplilearn Help You?

Simplilearn offers diverse courses and certifications in cyber security and related fields. Simplilearn can help you advance your cyber security career by providing the following:

  1. Certification Training: Simplilearn offers comprehensive training programs for various cyber security certifications, including CISSP, CEH, CISM, and more.
  2. Flexible Learning: Simplilearn offers self-paced and instructor-led training options to suit your learning style and schedule.
  3. Industry Expert Instructors: Learn from experienced industry professionals who provide practical insights and guidance.
  4. Global Recognition: Simplilearn's courses align with industry standards and certifications, enhancing your credibility in the job market.
  5. Continuous Updates: Stay up-to-date with the latest cyber security trends and techniques through Simplilearn's continually updated content.


Through this tutorial on the cyber security career path, you would have understood the importance of cyber security in today's times, the prerequisites for a cyber security career, and the certifications to become a cyber security expert. Boost your career as a cyber security expert through this Post Graduate Program In Cyber Security in collaboration with MIT.


1. What Is the First Step in Developing a Cyber Security Strategy?

Conducting a risk assessment is the first step in developing a cyber security strategy. This involves identifying assets, assessing vulnerabilities, and understanding potential threats to your organization's information systems. You can create a plan to mitigate them effectively once you understand the risks.

2. How Frequently Should a Cyber Security Assessment Be Performed?

The frequency of cyber security assessments should be regular and ongoing. At a minimum, organizations should conduct assessments annually, but more frequent assessments, such as quarterly or semi-annually, are advisable, especially in industries with rapidly evolving threats. Regular assessments help identify and address vulnerabilities promptly, reducing the risk of security breaches.

3. What Are the Best Practices for Cyber Security Training for Employees?

Best practices for cyber security training for employees include providing regular and up-to-date training sessions, raising awareness about common threats like phishing, encouraging the use of strong passwords and multi-factor authentication, and creating a culture of security within the organization. Simulated phishing exercises and continuous reinforcement of security practices also improve employees' cyber security awareness and behavior.

4. How Can Small Businesses Manage Cyber Security Risks Effectively?

Small businesses can manage cyber security risks effectively by implementing the following measures: 

  • Use robust antivirus and anti-malware software.
  • Regularly update and patch software and systems.
  • Back up data regularly and store it securely.
  • Educate employees on cyber security best practices.
  • Consider outsourcing cyber security to a managed security service provider (MSSP) if resources are limited.
  • Stay informed about emerging threats and adjust security measures accordingly. Small businesses should tailor their cyber security efforts to their specific needs and resources, making risk management a priority despite their size.

About the Author

Kartik MenonKartik Menon

Kartik is an experienced content strategist and an accomplished technology marketing specialist passionate about designing engaging user experiences with integrated marketing and communication solutions.

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