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Building a contracting career in cyber security

Demand for cyber security specialists has soared in the past five years as employers come to recognise the importance of robust systems to protect access to data, with the failure to do so leading to huge costs in financial and reputational terms.

For many specialists in this field, contracting is an appealing prospect, giving them the opportunity to command lucrative day rates and gain experience across a wide range of businesses and systems.

Cyber Security professionals at Robert Walters, share four steps junior cyber security professionals can take to prepare for a successful career in contracting.

Choose your career path

Cyber security is a broad term and professionals considering a future in contracting will need to decide where they want to specialise. 

When you have decided the area you want to specialise in, you can pursue projects and training to equip you with the skills to excel in this area.

Professionals in this field can be broadly sorted into specialising in audit, application/implementation and advisory fields. All of these specialisms can offer contracting opportunities but will require professionals to develop distinct skills.

  • For advisory specialists who provide consultative services to companies, it is essential to have a thorough understanding of the technologies available, coupled with a strong sense of business acumen in order to tailor their advice to the specific needs of the business and understand how it can impact other priorities.
  • For professionals hoping to specialise in audit roles, experience with establishing robust processes and ensuring that stakeholders receive appropriate training to use these tools effectively is essential.
  • While implementation specialists can find success as generalists, demand is generally highest for specialists who are able to find a niche by becoming experts on a particular system or tool. However, professionals who take this approach need to be conscious of the need to constantly update their knowledge to ensure that their skills remain relevant.

 

Junior cyber security professionals should find where their strengths and interests lie early in their career. When you have decided the area you want to specialise in, you can pursue projects and training to equip you with the skills to excel in this area.

Seek out varied experience

Regardless of which area you plan to specialise in, a broad range of experience is vital. As a contractor you will be working with businesses across a range of industries, with varied priorities and challenges.

Early in your career, take any opportunities available to work on varied projects. When looking to take on contracting roles, employers will look for professionals who can demonstrate a wide range of experience across the whole lifecycle of systems implementation.

While working for a range of employers is one way to gain experience on different projects, professionals can also achieve this by volunteering for varied projects within a single role.

Pursue relevant qualifications 

Increasingly, employers are looking to take on staff with qualifications which are specific to their profession. Even within cyber security, specific qualifications are highly valued by employers. Before entering a career in contracting, acquiring these can help you stand out from competitors when looking to secure a role.

Depending on which specialism you are looking to pursue, the following qualifications can help equip you with a solid understanding of your field and demonstrate your expertise.

  • CISSP – This qualification is highly regarded by employers among contractors who are looking to move into an advisory role.
  • CISA – For professionals looking to pursue a career in cyber security contracting as an audit specialist, this qualification.
  • CISM – The Certified Information Security Manager qualification is highly valuable for professionals looking to forge a contracting career in technical advisory roles.
  • CEH and GPEH –  Certified Ethical Hacking and General Protocol Error Handling qualifications are extremely valuable for professionals looking for contracting roles helping to test clients’ cyber security systems.
  • CRISC – The number of hybrid roles where professionals cover IT and information risk are increasing. This qualification (Certified in Risk and Information Systems Control) is highly sought after by employers looking for candidates to fill these roles.
     

Learn to be adaptable

The lucrative opportunities offered by contracting can appeal to many professionals, as can the opportunity to work across a broad range of projects and for a variety of businesses in different industries.

However, contracting is of course also less reliable than a permanent role, meaning that contractors need to actively pursue new opportunities, as well as pursuing opportunities which can offer longer projects to work on to guarantee an income.

In many cases, working with a recruitment agency to gain access to their network of contracting opportunities can be a helpful aspect of your strategy to find new contracting roles, in addition to drawing on your own contacts.

 

Contracting can offer extremely attractive opportunities for cyber security professionals. In light of the exponential growth of the industry, demand for specialists in this field is extremely high, and this, combined with an acute skills shortage, has led to contractors being able to command lucrative day rates.

While pursuing a career in contracting brings its own challenges, it can offer exceptional opportunities to gain experience across a broad range of industries and offer unparalleled flexibility.

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