Job descriptions and industry overviews

Cyber security specialist: job description

21 Nov 2023, 16:22

Cyber security specialists protect organisations’ IT systems from hacks, malware and other attacks by cyber criminals.

A cyber security specialist typing code. The code can be seen on their computer monitor.

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Cyber security specialist : Salaries | Employers | Qualifications and training | Key skills

Cyber security specialists play an essential role protecting organisations’ digital networks from criminal intrusion. Much of their work involves a mix of artistry and technical expertise as they need to be constantly one step ahead of the hackers and organised criminals behind cyber attacks.

Typical duties include:

  • developing and implementing a cyber security strategy.
  • monitoring for vulnerabilities and risks in existing software and systems.
  • building firewalls and spyware and malware detection into network infrastructures.
  • monitoring software use.
  • installing and testing new security measures.
  • if a breach occurs or a threat is identified, closing off the security vulnerability and developing a plan to prevent any future incidents.
  • reporting and investigating IT security incidents, including recreating them to identify vulnerabilities.
  • testing new security measures.
  • advising and training colleagues.

You’re likely to work standard office hours (9.00 am – 5.00 pm) but you may have to stay late to respond to an emergency. You may also need to be on call in case there is a security incident outside working hours.

Graduate salaries

With the increase in cybercrime and its growing threat to organisations, cybersecurity professionals are in demand. Salary survey websites suggest that earnings can start from around £29,000 and rise to around £100,000.

As you progress, you could choose to specialise, which will increase your earning potential.

Typical employers of cyber security specialists

  • Network providers.
  • Local and central government.
  • Banks.
  • Schools and universities.
  • Professional services firms.
  • Telecommunications providers.
  • Utilities providers.
  • Entertainment companies.
  • Engineering firms.
  • Airlines.
  • Health and welfare organisations.
  • Manufacturers.
  • Security consultancy firms.

Once you’ve gained experience, you could work as a cybersecurity contractor or a self-employed consultant.

Jobs are advertised on targetjobs and by careers services and university departments. You’ll also find them advertised by specialist IT recruitment agencies and on sector-specific job sites.

Qualifications and training required

Both university graduates and school leavers can enter the cyber security profession. Graduates tend to need a degree related to computer science or in a STEM subject, but this isn’t always essential. A commitment to working in technology, plus hands-on experience with IT systems and software, is just as important.

It’s essential to continue learning once you’re employed, as cybercrime and the ways to tackle it are constantly evolving. Your employer may support you to work towards specialist qualifications.

A number of employers run apprenticeships in cyber security, some of which involve studying towards a degree at the same time as working.

Key skills for cyber security specialists

  • Strong IT skills and knowledge including hardware, software and networks.
  • Meticulous attention to detail.
  • Ability to use logic and reasoning to identify the strengths and weaknesses of IT systems.
  • Adaptability.
  • A forensic approach to challenges.
  • A deep understanding of how hackers work and ability to keep up with the fast pace of change of cyber crime capabilities.
  • Ability to seek out vulnerabilities in IT infrastructures.

Next, head to our guide on extracurricular activities that will build your IT skills for creative ideas on how you can develop the traits IT employers look for.

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