The Virtual CISO with Brandy Harris

Recruitment & Reskilling Strategy , Training & Security Leadership

Technical or Nontechnical? Choosing Your Cybersecurity Path

Assess Your Interests, Skills, Educational Background and Career Goals to Decide
Technical or Nontechnical? Choosing Your Cybersecurity Path
Image: Getty Images

Technological advancements have brought unprecedented connectivity to the world in ways previously unimaginable. This connectivity creates opportunities, but it also brings significant risks, making cybersecurity a career field with near limitless growth potential.

See Also: Strategies for Protecting Your Organization from Within

If you are looking for a career path that combines challenge, impact and growth, cybersecurity offers a wealth of opportunities. And the field is not limited to those with deep technical expertise - numerous nontechnical roles are essential to the cybersecurity ecosystem.

Technical Careers in Cybersecurity

  • Security analyst: Security analysts are the front-line defenders of an organization's digital infrastructure. They monitor networks for security breaches, investigate violations and ensure compliance with security policies.
  • Penetration tester or ethical hacker: Penetration testers and ethical hackers simulate cyberattacks on an organization's systems to identify vulnerabilities. Their work is crucial in preemptively strengthening defenses against real attacks.
  • Security architect: Security architects design robust security systems and protocols to protect an organization's IT infrastructure. They are responsible for building complex security structures that can withstand cyberthreats.
  • Incident responder: When a cyberattack occurs, incident responders are the first to act. They analyze the incident, mitigate damage and develop strategies to prevent future attacks.
  • Network security engineer: Network security engineers focus on protecting an organization's network infrastructure. They implement and maintain security measures to safeguard network traffic and prevent unauthorized access.

Nontechnical Careers in Cybersecurity

  • Cybersecurity consultant: Cybersecurity consultants provide expert advice to organizations on how to protect their digital assets. They often work on a project basis, helping businesses implement effective security measures.
  • Governance, risk and compliance specialist: GRC specialists ensure that an organization complies with regulations and standards. They develop policies and procedures to manage risks and maintain compliance with industry standards.
  • Cybersecurity trainer/educator: Cybersecurity trainers educate employees and stakeholders on best practices for maintaining security. They develop training programs and conduct workshops to raise awareness about cyberthreats.
  • Cybersecurity policy analyst: Policy analysts focus on the legal and regulatory aspects of cybersecurity. They research, develop and advocate for policies that protect digital infrastructure and data privacy.
  • Cybersecurity project manager: Project managers oversee cybersecurity projects, ensuring they are completed on time and within budget. They coordinate between technical teams and stakeholders to implement security initiatives effectively.

Choosing Between a Technical and a Nontechnical Career

Both paths offer unique opportunities to contribute to the safety and integrity of digital environments. Your decision should be guided by your interests, skills and long-term career goals. By understanding the demands and benefits of each path, you can choose a career that aligns with your strengths and offers personal and professional fulfillment.

Technical Careers

  • Interest in technology: If you have a passion for technology, enjoy solving complex problems and like working with computer systems, networks and software, a technical role might be a good fit.
  • Skill set: Do you have strong analytical and technical skills? Are you proficient in programming languages, network protocols and system administration? Technical roles require a deep understanding of IT infrastructure and cybersecurity tools.
  • Hands-on work: Technical roles often involve hands-on tasks such as configuring security systems, writing code and conducting penetration tests. If you prefer direct interaction with technology, this path might be suitable for you.

Nontechnical Careers

  • Interest in policy and management: If you are interested in the strategic, policy and governance aspects of cybersecurity, a nontechnical role may be a good match for you. These positions often involve creating policies, managing compliance and overseeing security projects.
  • Communication skills: Nontechnical roles require excellent communication skills. You will need to explain complex technical concepts to nontechnical stakeholders and write clear policies and reports.
  • Analytical thinking: Nontechnical roles require strong analytical skills to assess risks, develop strategies and ensure compliance with regulations.

If you are changing careers, consider your educational background and experience. If you have a degree in computer science, engineering or a related field, a technical role might be more aligned with your expertise. For those with a background in business, law or management, nontechnical roles could be a better fit.

Career Goals and Opportunities

  • Long-term goals: Reflect on your long-term career goals. Do you see yourself advancing in a highly technical role, such as a security architect or penetration tester? Or are you more interested in leadership and strategic positions, such as a CISO or cybersecurity consultant?
  • Industry demand: Research the demand for various roles in your desired industry and consider geographic location. Both technical and nontechnical roles are in high demand, but the specific needs may vary by sector. Understanding the job market can help you choose a path with ample opportunities.

Choosing between a technical and a nontechnical career in cybersecurity involves thoughtful assessment of your interests, skills, educational background and career goals. Whether you are inclined toward technical intricacies or have a knack for policy and management, the cybersecurity field offers a wide range of opportunities to grow and make an impact by protecting critical information and systems.

Embark on your journey in cybersecurity today and become a part of the vital workforce safeguarding our interconnected world.



About the Author

Brandy Harris

Brandy Harris

Director, Learning And Organizational Development, CyberEd.io

Harris has more than 20 years of experience in education and is dedicated to evolving the cybersecurity workforce. She develops and evaluates cybersecurity programs. Harris promotes diversity and inclusion in cybersecurity by fostering collaboration between industry and academia, aiming to bridge the talent gap and drive positive change. She previously served as assistant dean and faculty member in the graduate cybersecurity program at Grand Canyon University.




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