To start off, there are very few certifications that do not require or recommend having at least two to three years of experience. This is often to ensure the candidate has a basic understanding of business and information technology before pursuing a specific skill area. However, that doesn’t prevent you from taking action right now to put yourself on the path for a successful career in information security.
This is one reason pursuing an internship during or immediately following your college years is so critical before venturing out into the working world. This not only provides a couple of lines of experience on your resume, but it can also be a way to validate your career goals and aspirations.
Where to gain experience in technology and information security?
If you’re interested in getting into the very hot information security field, a great place to start out is often the computer lab at your school. Being an intern, temporary staff, or even volunteering to support your school’s technology department is an excellent foot in the door. If you’re already beyond your school years, you can start by building your own computer or taking a job in a company’s technical support area.
You often start by resolving technical problems with software or hardware, troubleshooting network issues, or replacing hardware on computers. Getting your hands dirty (or dusty) with technology is a great way to show your familiarity with technology and aptitude to learn. More importantly, it demonstrates your ability to creatively think through and solve problems. Often times this holds more weight in a job interview than actual experience when it comes to entry-level positions.
After you have the basic technical experience under your belt, you can pursue a technical certification to further boost your resume.
If you want to stay a step ahead, you can also begin taking online courses that focus on the IT or security certification that fits your interest. This is not only the best way to study for a technical certification exam, but it also teaches you new concepts and practices to leverage throughout your career.
Why would a company hire me for an information security position right out of college?
In an age where security threats are increasing at a rapid pace, many companies are seeking skilled and trained candidates. However, there is a skill gap when it comes to information security professionals due to the high demand across nearly every industry.
This means there is a large job market for new college graduates or those early in their career to get into the security field. The high demand also leads to a higher starting pay than many other professions.
Performing a quick search on job sites, you’ll quickly find postings for Information or Cyber Security Analysts positions. These are entry level roles that involve the analyst defining security requirements and solutions for applications, projects, or networks. This provides the opportunity to understand the business and how best to mitigate potential threats.
Businesses know that right out of college your mind is still agile and can quickly learn new concepts. Having you start at an analyst level also allows you to build your knowledge of the company’s information security protocols, processes, and systems.
What are the best entry-level IT certifications for a career in cybersecurity?
Without further delay, let’s get into the top 5 recommended entry-level certifications to launch an information security career.
- CompTIA A+: This certification covers the essentials for a technology professional. You’ll learn concepts specific to technology hardware, mobile devices, system networking, and troubleshooting related issues. The A+ certification confirms your ability to understand core IT concepts and is a prerequisite for some advanced certifications.
- Prerequisites: At least 9 months of technical experience
- Recommended Training: CompTIA A+ 901 Certification Prep Course – Cybrary
- CompTIA Network+: This is an excellent follow-up to the A+ certification. It builds upon your knowledge by including critical security and network methodologies, Cloud computing best practices, and hardware and virtualization techniques. The Network+ certification brings you up to speed with current networking technologies and concepts.
- Prerequisites: CompTIA A+ or at least 9 months networking experience
- Recommended Training: CompTIA Network+ Certification Prep Course – Cybrary
- CompTIA Security+: This is without a doubt the first security-related certification an IT security professional should obtain. The CompTIA Security+ certification provides the foundational knowledge and skills required for cybersecurity professionals to launch their career. The primary focus is on covering the latest risk and threat management techniques.
- Prerequisites: CompTIA Network+ and two (2) years of experience in IT administration with a security focus
- Recommended Training: CompTIA Security+ Certification Prep Course – Cybrary
- Cisco Certified Entry Networking Technician (CCENT): The CCENT provides job candidates with the knowledge of building a network, mostly for small businesses. It also contains essential security topics to train you how to set up a secure network from the beginning.
- Prerequisites: None
- Recommended Training: Interconnected Cisco Network Devices Part 1 (ICND1)
- Microsoft Technology Associate (MTA): The MTA is one of the broadest certifications out there. It covers a wide range of technology related topics and provides a solid foundation for those just getting into IT. The core focus areas are Database, Software Development, and Infrastructure (Networking and Security). The MTA certification will certainly make your resume stand out when applying for entry level IT positions.
- Prerequisites: None
- Recommended Training: MTA Learning Materials by Certiport / Pearson Vue
These are the best certifications that are guaranteed to put your resume at the top of the stack for an entry-level information security position. You may be able to find a company that doesn’t require a previous certification, but it’s a heck of a lot easier to get a foot in the door with one.
We hope this has helped you think through options for your career path. Have questions or a difference in opinion? We’d love to hear from you below.