17 Essential Skills for Cybersecurity Success

17 Essential Skills for Cybersecurity Success

With cyberattacks on the rise, the need for experienced and knowledgeable cybersecurity experts is more profound than ever. If you’ve been considering leveling up your cybersecurity skills, now could be a great time to get started.

What are the essential skills needed for cybersecurity success? In this dynamic yet rewarding career, having the right master’s degree or graduate certificate under your belt could help you develop various cybersecurity soft skills and hard skills.

Understanding the Landscape of Cybersecurity

These days, businesses and individuals alike rely on the internet to share and store information. Unfortunately, hackers and other cyber criminals look for any opportunity to steal information and wreak havoc.

The Importance of Cybersecurity in Today’s Digital World

Across the globe, nearly 73% of organizations fell victim to ransomware attacks in 2023 alone. Over the past several years, there has been a steady and alarming increase in these numbers—which has prompted a greater need for cybersecurity professionals to help enhance cloud security and minimize chances of security breaches.

Scope and Opportunities in Cybersecurity

Having solid cybersecurity skills allows you to work across a wide range of industries, as almost all fields need cybersecurity to some degree. Some of the most common career paths or positions for those who study cybersecurity include:

  • Systems integration engineer
  • IT technician
  • Systems administrator
  • Security analyst
  • Systems test engineer
  • Chief information officer (CIO)

9 Key Technical Skills for Cybersecurity Success

Of course, not just anybody can thrive in a cybersecurity role. There are numerous cybersecurity hard skills you should possess in order to serve your clients well and advance your career as a security professional.

1. Networking and System Administration

All security professionals should understand the role of network security, access management, and intrusion detection in keeping information safe from threats such as data breaches and attacks.

2. Security Incident Handling and Response

Unfortunately, even with the right tools and prevention techniques, cyberattacks can still occur. That’s why cybersecurity professionals need to be well-versed in responding to incidents swiftly and confidently. Doing so can minimize damages, so having expertise in security incident handling, risk management, and security breaches is a must.

3. Understanding of Operating Systems

Different organizations may rely on different operating systems to run their servers and computer networks. To best serve their clients, cybersecurity professionals should be able to work with any operating system, including (but not limited to):

  • Microsoft Windows
  • macOS
  • ChromeOS
  • Linux
  • Ubuntu

4. Network Security Control

Cybersecurity professionals should also be experts in network security control, which is the process of protecting an organization’s data and network from intrusions and other threats. This includes making sure proper firewalls and intrusion prevention systems (IPS) are in place and robust enough to protect an organization’s data as effectively as possible.

5. Malware Prevention and Detection

Malware is another frequent issue on the web these days, and businesses rely on cybersecurity experts to protect them against this growing threat. This entails implementing systems to detect malware when it enters a network, as well as proper training and other initiatives to prevent malware from spreading in the first place.

6. Mastery in Coding and Encryption

Many security professionals are also experts in computer coding and encryption, involving the act of scrambling important data into a code that can only be unlocked and unscrambled with an encryption key. Encryption is especially crucial when it comes to sharing or storing sensitive data, such as financial information or personal client data. There are also numerous ways to go about encrypting data, so security professionals need to be familiar with the most effective strategies.

7. Implementation and Management of Cloud Systems

More businesses are beginning to implement cloud systems as a means of storing large amounts of data without consuming as much physical space. Although cloud systems certainly have their advantages, they can also be more prone to cyberattacks if the proper security precautions aren’t taken. For this reason, security professionals need to be experts when it comes to choosing, implementing, and managing cloud systems on behalf of organizations.

8. Familiarity With Virtual Machines

A virtual machine (VM) refers to any resource that relies on software to run in lieu of a physical computer or other machine. The use of VMs is becoming increasingly common—so cybersecurity professionals need to be familiar with these different types of machines, how they run on different operating systems, and how to keep them as secure as possible.

9. Remaining Up to Date With Regulation Guidelines

Cybersecurity experts work in various industries, ranging from government and finance to healthcare. Each realm has its own specific regulations and compliance laws that businesses need to follow, and thus, security professionals are expected to stay up to date on any changes to these regulations that may affect their security practices. Failure to do so could result in costly fines, penalties, and other issues for the company.

8 Soft Skills and Their Role in Cybersecurity

As important as technical skills are in the cybersecurity industry, there are also a range of soft skills these professionals need to perform their jobs well.

1. The Power of Effective Communication

IT and cybersecurity professionals should be effective communicators, especially when explaining key concepts and changes to clients and their respective teams. This includes communicating both verbally and in written form. They often need to draft memos, emails, reports, and other documents upon which others will rely for important information. Communicating clearly and confidently can make all the difference in a cybersecurity professional’s ability to do their job.

2. Collaboration With Other Team Members

While, to an extent, some work a cybersecurity professional does is solitary, it is also not uncommon for these experts to occasionally work on projects with peers. When this is the case, adopting a team mindset and collaborating well with others is necessary. This may include not only projects with other cybersecurity and IT professionals but also potential collaboration with others outside the industry.

Working well with other team members means following through with individual tasks along with attending and participating in meetings as needed.

3. Necessity of an Analytical Mindset

Cybersecurity professionals should also have an analytical mindset in order to understand and interpret large amounts of data, as well as to extract valuable insights from that data. This may come naturally to some people, whereas others must learn and adopt this skill through education, training, and real-world experience.

4. Problem-Solving: A Key Skill

One of the most crucial soft skills a cybersecurity professional can possess in this ever-changing field is the ability to creatively problem-solve. In some ways, this can go hand-in-hand with an analytical mindset.

However, data-based problem-solving that helps you innovate creative solutions to issues in a less conventional way takes things a step further. Whether it’s determining the best way to respond to a security incident or finding a workaround for a software issue, cybersecurity professionals are often natural problem-solvers who can find solutions to problems on the fly.

5. Importance of Attention to Detail

Strong attention to detail is also critical as a cybersecurity professional, especially considering that all it takes is a small oversight to create a huge security vulnerability. Security professionals must look at the “big picture” needs of an organization’s cybersecurity without overlooking the finer details that can make all the difference.

6. The Need for Adaptability in a Changing Landscape

The cybersecurity industry landscape is constantly evolving, particularly as new threats emerge. Cybersecurity professionals need to stay on top of the latest trends in order to adapt and best serve their clients at all times. Being versatile and flexible is an everyday part of the job, so these experts must enter into their work understanding that there might be a change of plans requiring them to think quickly on their feet to adjust.

7. Critical Thinking: A Must-Have Skill

Cybersecurity professionals are also critical thinkers able to maintain organized and rational thoughts even when things feel chaotic. These experts need to separate ideas and facts in a logical manner, coming up with solutions to problems and practical plans to maximize cybersecurity in any scenario.

8. The Influence of Being an Active Listener

Though active listening may not seem like a skill that would be essential in the cybersecurity field, it can be more than you might realize. Whether working with a new client or trying to explain a decision to an employer, active listening is valuable for understanding where another person is coming from and their needs. Working on your active listening skills as a cybersecurity professional can pay off in a variety of ways, plus help ensure you, your clients, and fellow coworkers are on the same page.

The Lifelong Learning Journey in Cybersecurity

Cybersecurity is one of many fields where professionals must commit to being lifelong learners. The industry itself is highly dynamic, with new security threats emerging almost daily. To do their jobs well, cybersecurity professionals need to be prepared to learn about the latest innovations and trends.

Importance of Continuous Learning and Upgradation

There are numerous reasons why continuous learning and skill upgradation are so essential in cybersecurity. For starters, committing to ongoing learning helps these professionals stay on top of emerging and evolving threats so they can learn how to respond accordingly.

Meanwhile, continuing education helps improve upon existing skills, which helps them stay competitive and best meet clients’ changing needs. It allows these professionals to prepare for future challenges they may face in the field; this way, they can more readily overcome obstacles as they arrive while protecting their clients’ networks and data.

Staying Updated With Latest Cybersecurity Trends

Each year, trends in cybersecurity change rapidly. With this in mind, cybersecurity professionals must stay up to speed to remain relevant in their respective fields. Just in 2023 and 2024, for example, some trends to focus on include:

  • More remote employees working from home (which poses unique security challenges)
  • Increasing vulnerability of IoT devices
  • Machine learning and artificial intelligence (AI) integration

Is Cybersecurity a Good Career Choice?

If you’re the type of person who enjoys working with computers and technology—and you want to help make the cyber world a safer, more secure place—then a career in cybersecurity may be an ideal choice.

Because more businesses rely on computer networks and systems than ever before, the demand for experienced and knowledgeable security professionals will only continue to rise. In fact, according to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the job outlook for information security analysts is projected to grow by 32% between 2022 and 2032 alone. That’s much faster than the average for all occupations nationwide.

Additionally, many cybersecurity experts enjoy the flexibility that accompanies this line of work. With the right hard and soft cybersecurity skills, you could work in just about any industry imaginable. Some of these professionals even work as freelancers or run their own businesses.

What Is the Average Salary for a Cybersecurity Professional?

A range of factors may affect the salary of a cybersecurity professional, including the specific job title, level of experience and education, and even the job’s location. However, according to BLS data, the median annual salary for an information security analyst is $112,000. Computer and information systems managers make a median salary of $164,070 per year.

How Do You Get Started in Cybersecurity?

While it is possible to become “self-taught” in the field of cybersecurity, the reality is that most employers prefer to hire candidates who have a formal degree and experience in the field. Specifically, holding a bachelor’s degree in cybersecurity or a related discipline can be an excellent starting point for many jobs in the industry. From there, diversifying your skill set and growing your knowledge with a master’s degree or graduate certificate could qualify you for more advanced roles.

Looking to elevate your education? Marymount University is proud to offer a Master of Science in Cybersecurity program that can prepare you to navigate the ever-changing digital world with confidence. Learn more about this program or start your online application today.

How Crucial Are Certifications for Advancing in Cybersecurity?

In addition to a formal degree, industry certifications can help cybersecurity professionals diversify and build upon their knowledge to become more competitive in the job landscape. There are many certification options available and in high demand, including:

  • Certified Information Systems Security Professional
  • Certified Information Systems Auditor
  • Certified Information Security Manager

Likewise, graduate certificates such as Marymount University’s certificate in cybersecurity can help those with an existing IT background expand their skills in topics like computer security, network defense, incident response, and computer forensics.