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8 Ways To Jumpstart Your IT Security Career

  • If there is one job role within enterprise IT that has the least clear-cut education path, it's security. Many information security professionals in high-level technical roles today simply ended up in security jobs after years of being experts in other areas of IT such as server administration or network architecture. But there are many paths to an IT security career outside of just falling into the profession.

    In this slideshow, we'll look at eight different ways to gain an education in the field of IT security. Keep in mind that IT security spans a wide spectrum of technologies, so some training methods are better for reaching a specific security skillset compared to others. For example, if your goal is to become an expert in application security, your education path will differ from someone who is interested in network security. So it's important to consider what areas of information security most interest you before diving into a certification or training program.

    At the same time, one of the best ways to become adept in the field of information security is to take on the education process from multiple angles. By doing so, you achieve different perspectives on similar topics so you can truly be an expert and advance your IT security career.

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  • Learn on the job

    Of course, if you're already in the IT department and want to break into a security-oriented role, the best way to get where you want is to learn about security on the job. For example, if you work in desktop support, start learning about security tools and trends that affect end devices and end users. Current hot topics in this area include advanced malware threats, DNS security, and social engineering. Then use what you learn as a springboard into more security-focused positions.

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  • College/university education

    The traditional method of furthering one’s education through a university degree is one option that many find appealing. Not only can you receive a structured, well-rounded and well-respected education in IT security, many college campuses around the globe are epicenters for cutting-edge cybersecurity research.

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  • Self-study

    In IT security, self-study can mean any number of things. There are plenty of books to read on the subject, but more likely, you’re going to leverage the Internet in order to immerse yourself in the latest security topics and trends. You can find publically available and free security documentation, attend online IT security webinars, watch security-focused content on YouTube, and participate in online, security-focused community forums. Most of these online resources are cheap, if not free, and you can study at a pace that suits your schedule.

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  • Vendor certifications

    In order to prove you are knowledgeable enough to install and manage security products, you can earn a vendor certification. Vendors commonly offer certifications that focus on their specific security tool, but some also offer broader IT security certifications. This route is useful if you are interested in learning the ins and outs of a specific vendor's architecture and security methodology. There are many well-respected vendor certifications available and earning them is often well worth the time and effort in terms of salary increases.

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  • Vendor-neutral certifications

    If you like the idea of using certifications as a way to get an education in IT security, but would prefer to not be tied to a specific hardware/software manufacturer, there are plenty of vendor-agnostic certifications that focus on a number of information security specializations. Two great examples are the Certified Ethical Hacker (CEH) and the Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP).

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  • IT security conferences

    If you prefer getting your IT security knowledge from a firehose, security-focused IT conferences are the way to go. The beauty of these conferences is that they give you a massive amount of information from world-renowned experts in a very short period of time. Popular security conferences include the upcoming Black Hat conference, DefCon, and the RSA Conference.

  • Hackathons and meetups

    If you’re looking to collaborate with security-minded IT professionals in your community, hackathons and local cybersecurity meetups are something to consider. IT security meetups are popular around the world and you likely can find a group near you to join and learn with.

  • Find an IT security mentor

    Finally, if your preferred learning method is one-on-one training, you can always try to go out and find a mentor to teach you. Today’s IT security professionals understand that the road you’re going down can be bumpy. You might find that they are more willing to share their expertise and lessons they’ve learned on their journey. Finding a mentor can be one of the most rewarding methods to achieving your IT security education goals.