How to Land a Job in Information Security

Information Security Wordle: FFIEC IT Examiner...

Information Security Wordle: FFIEC IT Examiner’s Handbook (Photo credit: purpleslog)

In July of 2011, the unemployment rate reported by information security analysts was a striking 0%. Not only were information security analysts reporting steady employment, they even reported an increase of 6,000 jobs between the first and second quarter of the same year. Two and a half years later, the Pentagon announced that it planned to add thousands of jobs of new cybersecurity jobs.

Sounds like a great time to be employed in the field of information security, doesn’t it?

Understand this: a career as an information security professional isn’t easy. Aspiring infosec professionals struggle to break in to the industry, unsure of what skills they need or how to attain those skills. The lucky few who do break into the industry find themselves in fast-paced, constantly changing industry, where the quest for knowledge is constant, as is the need to sharpen your skills.

It’s a busy, active, frequently stressful career, and most information security professionals wouldn’t change it for the world.

But how does someone outside of the field land a job in information security?

First and foremost, aspiring information security professionals need to understand and be able to explain the foundational concepts of information security. When you find yourself in a job interview with a security manager, you’ll need to be able to explain the CIA triad, the concept of defense-in-depth, and the step-by-step process that you would follow if you were tasked with securing a system or application.

Once you have a solid grasp of basic information security concepts, you need to know which information security job is right for you. Infosec professionals aren’t all cut from the same cloth. Some want to be heads down technicians, hacking away at target systems and finding ways around existing controls. Others want to spend their time writing policies and procedures, ensuring that the security of their organization is sustained through consistent, repeatable procedures. Other information security professionals want to interact with people on the business side of the organization, identifying security requirements and making the case for information security controls when the value of those controls isn’t readily apparent to non-security employees.

A job applicant with a basic understanding of information security frameworks and standards will send a clear message to the hiring manager that he or she understands what external compliance requirements will impact a retail organization versus a home healthcare provider. That same hiring manager is likely to be impressed by a job applicant who comes to the interview already speaking the organization’s internal security language.

For the more technically-oriented positions, job applicants will be expected to demonstrate a hands-on understanding of some of the more common information security tools. If a hiring manager asks you about Nmap, Wireshark, or BackTrack Linux, and you respond with a blank stare, that hiring manager is going to wonder how serious you are about the job.

Finally, an aspiring information security professional who already has one or more industry certifications will have a much easier time getting through the HR screening process and making it to the interview with the hiring manager. While a certification doesn’t automatically make you a security professional, it does send a message that you’ve studied the material and that you’ve retained an understanding of what you studied. More importantly, when you want to make the move to a senior level information security role, the right certifications speak volumes.

When you feel you’re ready to begin applying for information security jobs, visit the job board to see what jobs are currently available in each state. Narrow down your search to positions that fit your interests and your personality, and then submit your application.

Good luck!



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One Response to How to Land a Job in Information Security

  1. John Klipsch says:

    Good article! It’s very concise and excellent as a guide.

    I have been in the IT industry for over 7 years and for the past 2 years I’ve been trying to break into the security area. I have the GSEC and all the other items you mentioned, but still find it difficult to break into the field. In my case, there’s interest but once you tell them you don’t have the explicit experience, they skip. It’s like no one wants to train, even if you have the right credentials. Bit of a catch 22. To make it more difficult, a lot of them want some form of scripting knowledge.

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