The realities of working in and pursuing a career in cybersecurity

(ISC)² released a study which provides insights on how to successfully staff up a balanced and diverse cybersecurity team with a broad range of skills.

cybersecurity career realities

Cybersecurity career realities

The research reflects the opinions of 2,034 cybersecurity professionals (professionals) and cybersecurity jobseekers (pursuers) throughout the US and Canada.

Recruiters and hiring managers may need to adjust the tactics they use to proactively identify internal and external candidates, the study suggests. Findings point to strong agreement about:

  • Tasks and experiences that make a cybersecurity professional successful
  • The value of mentorship
  • Key moments in their careers when pursuers typically seek a cybersecurity path
  • What attracts people to cybersecurity
  • Candidate qualities that are strong indicators of future success

cybersecurity career realities

“One of the biggest challenges we have in cybersecurity is an acute lack of market awareness about what cybersecurity jobs entail,” said Clar Rosso, CEO of (ISC)². “There are wide variations in the kinds of tasks entry-level and junior staff can expect. Hiring organizations and their cybersecurity leadership need to adopt more mature strategies for building teams.

“Many organizations still default to job descriptions that rely on cybersecurity ‘all stars’ who can do it all. The reality is that there are not enough of those individuals to go around, and the smart bet is to hire and invest in people with an ability to learn, who fit your culture and who can be a catalyst for robust, resilient teams for years to come.”

Recruiting beyond IT

A key conclusion from the research is with skilled cybersecurity talent increasingly scarce, organizations must adopt more pragmatic approaches to team building. This starts by relying less on the recruitment of cybersecurity ‘unicorns’ with many years of experience, advanced certifications and deep technical acumen, or sourcing new talent exclusively from IT.

Instead, organizations must take broader approaches: curate role-specific requirements; invest in their cybersecurity team’s training and professional development, as well as commit to upskilling and reskilling home-grown talent to help team members translate tangential skills into valuable risk management and security know-how.

cybersecurity career realities

Additional findings

  • While cybersecurity professionals tend to be highly educated, just 51% have degrees in computer and information services. 42% of the professionals who responded said a dedicated security education is critical for a role in cybersecurity.
  • While IT jobs are the leading gateway to cybersecurity roles, that entry pathway is shifting. Half of those newer to the field (with less than three years of experience) came from an IT background, compared to 63% of those with between three and seven years of experience in the field.
  • By a wide margin, fewer professionals who are relatively new to the field (less than three years) consider IT experience to be critical (46%) than do their more senior colleagues (69%)
  • Military veterans and those with law enforcement experience make up 31% of the cybersecurity professional respondents, affirming these backgrounds as ripe areas for recruitment.
  • Cloud security was rated by professionals as the most important technical skill new entrants to the field should learn, while problem solving was the top-rated “soft skill” they should have. Both of these areas were simultaneously the top-rated responses by career pursuers too.


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