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UMGC Career Connection
Five Key Steps to Changing Careers to Cybersecurity

Rhoda Smackum
By Rhoda Smackum

The cybersecurity field is experiencing tremendous growth. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) estimates a 31 percent growth in information security jobs from 2019 to 2029. On the other side, cyber crime is also on the rise, leading to a heightened demand for cybersecurity professionals. Making the leap to a career in cybersecurity requires a strategy that incorporates your transferrable skills, background and experience.  Below are five steps to help make your transition a smooth one:   

Choose a Career Path    
The cybersecurity industry offers a range of diverse roles and career paths, but there are foundational skills you will need to perform most of these roles. These skills include: 

  • Knowledge of common cyberattacks 
  • Risk analysis 
  • Managing risk through using controls 
  • Compliance regulations and how they work 
  • Knowing how to explain risk and compliance in business terms 

Get Trained  
Once you establish your foundational skills, you will then build more specific skills for your chosen career path through more concentrated training—from industry training classes and cyber bootcamps, to college courses, and degree and certificate programs. If you work for the federal government or are a veteran, consider the Federal Virtual Training Environment (FedVTE), a free online, on-demand cybersecurity training system. 

Expand Your Network 
Networking can help you get hired and grow your career. LinkedIn reports 80 percent of professionals consider networking to be important to career success. A good avenue for networking is to attend conferences as well as events online and in-person to help you build connections with other cybersecurity professionals.  

Be willing to get your hands dirty.  
Now that you’ve identified your path and have acquired your skills, complete hands-on activities to help you apply various concepts to further build your base of technical knowledge. Guided labs are step-by-step exercises that allow you to dig deeper into a topic. Also be available to help complete projects for family and friends. Be available to assist those around you whom may not be tech savvy with setting up their laptop, mobile phone, troubleshoot any software/hardware issues.   

Consider Entry-Level Roles 
Some professionals start their cybersecurity careers in IT before moving on to entry-level cybersecurity analyst positions. IT positions can be a good first step into cybersecurity, as they include IT Technician and Desktop Support roles, where you are dealing with software and hardware support. Help Desk or Service Desk positions require troubleshooting issues with clients and can also be a good place to begin your tech career and refine some of your skills. 

The thought of launching a cybersecurity career may seem intimidating, but it doesn’t have to be. Follow these steps, and keep in mind your UMGC Career Services is always available to help you plan and achieve career success. Set up an appointment with a UMGC Career Advising Specialist.  

Rhoda Smackum is a manager in Career Services at University of Maryland Global Campus. She has approximately 28,000 hours of work experience in the field of career development. Ms. Smackum enjoys working collaboratively, in partnership with students and alumni to identify career issues, match values with career choices and obtain meaningful work. She holds a Master of Arts degree from Bowie State University and a Bachelor of General Studies degree from the University of Maryland College Park. She is a Certified Master of Career Services (CMCS) and an Associate Certified Career Coach.