Become a Cyber Security Vulnerability Assessor – Careers & Outlook

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Cyber security is a term that is on everybody's lips these days. Whether you're concerned about hackers influencing our elections infrastructure or the malware you may have downloaded, everyone wants to see safe and secure computing as the norm. This is why cyber security assessors are on the job to evaluate networks, databases, and computer applications to determine their relative security.

If you are a tech-savvy individual who is considering various career paths, this is certainly a terrific option. Information security analysts are well paid and the field is growing by leaps and bounds. Furthermore, you can enter the field with an associate degree, though security managers may need a bachelor’s or a master’s degree. Keep reading to learn more about this fascinating and vitally important field.


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What is a Cyber Security Vulnerability Assessor?


In the world of cyber security, vulnerability assessors are a crucial part of keeping a network secure and its data safe. Cyber security vulnerability assessors are charged with evaluating a network's security software, operating systems, hardware, and the overall security protocols associated with it. Among other tasks, vulnerability assessors do periodic security audits to evaluate the network's overall operation and to check for breaches or attempts to thwart network security.

Steps to Become a Vulnerability Assessor:


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Step 1

If you wish to become a cyber security vulnerability assessor, you first need to determine that you have a real desire to work in the technology sector. If you have strong math or analytical skills and are intrigued with computer programming languages, then you are on your way. It's also important to have a passion for solving puzzles, strong attention to detail, and the patience to work on long, drawn-out projects.

Even before you go to a college or university, you can begin to prepare by learning computer languages, either from a book or by taking affordable online courses. There are also resources online that will help prepare you for cyber security in particular. These will give you a taste of what is required to succeed as a cyber security professional. In fact, there are many computer programmers and cyber security experts who are mostly self-taught. Since there is a huge demand for cyber security experts, if you are able to build a suitable skill set, you might be able to land an entry-level job without much, if any, college credit.

Step 2

One of the most important steps towards becoming a cyber security vulnerability assessor is to enroll in a college or university degree program. These days, the demand for cyber security is huge and there are entire bachelor’s degree programs that focus on the field. You will probably find more computer science degree programs, however, but many of those will feature coursework in cyber security. You can also investigate information technology bachelor’s degree programs, which may also feature information security concentrations.

During your search, seek out fully accredited programs. At a minimum, you will want to find programs that have regional accreditation approved by the CHEA. You can look for programs that are accredited by ABET, which accredits a range of STEM degree programs. You could also choose to seek a bachelor’s degree program that is endorsed by the National Security Agency and the Department of Homeland Security as one of their Centers for Academic Excellence (CAE). There are CAE approved degrees available from community colleges, major universities, and graduate degree programs, too.

Step 3

Once you have found and enrolled in a program that offers the cyber security focus you desire, and which is fully accredited, you are on your way to success. Work with your academic adviser to make sure that you take the proper classes to ensure a strong foundation in cyber security. For a job as a cyber security assessor, you may want to even take auditing courses from an accounting department as well as statistics.

On top of your coursework, you should seek out practical experience to help give your resume more depth. Some computer science departments are often affiliated with firms that seek summer interns, there may even be a co-operative program whereby you are able to alternate between working for a cyber security firm or IT department and studying at your college or university.

Step 4

Once you have graduated with a bachelor’s degree in cyber security, computer science, or information technology, you can move on to the next phase of your education. This can take many different forms. Some will enroll immediately in a CAE-endorsed master’s degree program for cyber security. Others will take entry-level positions and then start working towards a cyber security certification on the side.

It's hard to say which approach is preferred, but either should help advance your career, boost your salary, and result in long-term success. For certification, you will not only need to study highly specific material, but you will continue to study vulnerability assessment in order to maintain your credentials. For instance, to become a Certified Vulnerability Assessor (CVA) through the National Initiative for Cybersecurity Careers and Studies, you need to take a tough course and pass an exam. To maintain the certification, you'll need to complete 20 continuing education units (CEUs) per year and then pass the revised exam.

What Does a Cyber Security Vulnerability Assessor Do?


Vulnerability assessors have many tasks they must attend to on a regular basis. In fact, their job responsibilities never truly end, even after five o'clock. After all, cyber-criminals never sleep. Thus, one of their chief duties is to perform security audits and evaluate their firm's network and its cyber defense. They check for any possible flaws in security and even help to update cyber security protocols throughout their company or division. They can run automated tests that evaluate a network's traffic so they can check for any irregularities that might indicate a breach. They also perform manual tests that add more depth and detail to their assessments.

Most vulnerability assessors work in offices where they are able to access the network and all of its hardware. However, a security manager may also work remotely and access their networks using secured connections. They may also attempt to break into the network as though they were a black-hat hacker intent on theft or mayhem, or this can be left to penetration testers.

Periodically, assessors will prepare a report that details the results of their testing efforts. This report will include an overall analysis and recommendations for bolstering security. Depending on the firm, this report might be delivered as a multimedia presentation in addition to a bound report. It’s also highly valuable for vulnerability assessors to maintain a database of their findings for later review and analysis.

Cyber Security Vulnerability Assessor Skills to Acquire


Cyber security is an ever-evolving field, but if you are a master of certain fundamental problem-solving skills in the area of cyber defense, you will be on your way to success. One key skill that vulnerability assessors need is auditing. You can acquire this skill by taking courses from your computer science department with specialized auditing courses. You will also need to have top-level mathematics abilities, including statistics.

You will also need skills that pertain specifically to technological matters. Database analysis, networking, and computer programming are valuable additions to any cyber security toolkit. To get started you should learn Linux Server, Kali Linux, SQL, multiple Operating Systems, and Python. In order to conduct effective problem solving you'll need to have a well-equipped toolkit.

Along the way it will be invaluable to hone your soft skills. You can sharpen your written communication in courses such as technical writing, business communications, and even creative writing. There are also courses in interpersonal communication, which can help ease your interactions with non-technical workers. Since many cyber security breaches occur more due to thieves who manipulate human foibles than their technological savvy, it can be useful to study psychology and sociology. When you can identify and reduce that sort of vulnerability, your firm will be far more secure.

Since you might apply your cyber security training to work in law enforcement, you should consider taking courses in law. Some schools offer courses that cover intellectual property, cyber law, or criminal justice in general.

Alternative Paths


The technology sector may seem rather rigid and inflexible, but there are many alternative career paths that can result in outstanding careers. The field is hungry for talent, especially in the field of cyber security. Therefore, you can pick up a book and take relatively inexpensive online courses and possibly land a job just based on some self-motivated education. The online learning resource known as ‘A Cloud Guru’, for instance, offers courses in cyber security, programming, and cloud computing, among others.

You can also pursue more formal education in cyber defense, including a college degree. While the bachelor’s degree is often considered to be the standard for entry-level positions, if you find a community college that offers cyber security courses with a CAE endorsement or accreditation you can certainly launch a career with their associate degree. A two-year degree will also help you form a foundation with soft skills such as writing and they are sure to offer other helpful electives in mathematics, accounting, and more.

Whether you choose to attend traditional courses through an accredited institution or take the non-traditional mode of online courses and self-taught skill, you will benefit from earning a certification. A Cloud Guru, EdX, Coursera, and other affordable online learning platforms can pave the way to a professional certification. You can also seek certification through NICCS, a government agency that helps foster cyber security professionals.

Cyber Security Vulnerability Assessor Career and Salary


Where Might You Work?


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Cyber security professionals, including cyber security vulnerability assessors, can work for a wide range of employer. Currently, federal law enforcement is undergoing a huge push to recruit cyber security experts. The private sector, including finance, hospitality, ecommerce, and healthcare, are also clamoring for new recruits to help secure their networks and databases. They will especially need a vulnerability assessor who can take stock of their network as it stands.

You can also find job listings for cyber security jobs in nearly every industry with companies of all shapes and sizes. The need is so great that you might be able to work as an independent consultant who can work with small firms who can't yet afford a full-time information security professional. If you have a bachelor’s degree in cyber security or a certification in penetration testing (ethical hacking), to name one, you can help smaller firms bolster their networks and secure their databases.

Career Outlook


Given the intense rise in cyber-attacks on our nation's infrastructure, including our elections, banks, and hospitals, the outlook for cyber security professionals is looking better all the time. While the field is indeed growing by leaps and bounds, it is still quite competitive. IT managers and CIOs are looking for the best recruits who will stop at nothing to thwart cyber-crimes. After all, the bad-guy hackers are all highly skilled and very hungry to succeed.

The median salary for information security analysts is currently around $99,000, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). And that figure does not include other compensation such as bonus pay or benefits. They also show that the typical entry-level education for the field is a bachelor’s degree. The BLS is projecting terrific growth over the next ten years or so. For the years 2019-29, the field is expected to grow by 31%, which is characterized as being much faster than average. That translates into over 40,000 new information security jobs. Given that there is so much demand, it can be assumed that salaries will only rise for the foreseeable future.

Jobs


The cyber security job market is exploding with opportunities. Every firm needs some level of protection from the bad actors that are lurking in cyberspace. Since the demand is so high, cyber security experts are finding that they can negotiate high salaries, even at the entry-level. They also find that they can easily branch out into independent consulting if they so choose. If you have a strong resume and top skills, you are sure to do very well indeed.

  • Security Analyst:
    This is a job title that might include the duties of a cyber security vulnerability assessor. These professionals assess a network and its databases to determine its relative safety. They might also perform tests to see if they can hack in from the outside.
  • Cyber Security Engineer:
    These professionals hold offices toward the top of the cyber security chain of command. They are in charge of building cyber security infrastructure, including assessing software vulnerabilities, network strength, and database protections. This job description may sometimes be synonymous with security architect, but each security manager can select their own job titles.
  • Penetration Tester:
    These cyber security professionals are often known as ethical hackers. That's because they act like the bad guys in order to assess a network's overall security. They employ all sorts of methods to crack into networks and databases as though they were criminals. Their simulated cyber-attacks help vulnerability assessors truly see where a system's weaknesses are.
  • Cyber Investigator:
    This job title is for those who love assessing the virtual scene of a cyber-crime and then hunting down those responsible. This field is often known as computer forensics and it's closely allied with vulnerability assessors, though they operate on opposite sides of a malicious hacking event. This job is perfect for those who fancy themselves as high-tech versions of Sherlock Holmes.

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Advancing from Here


For those with strong cyber security skills, the sky is the limit. Some may decide to keep their work purely in the technological realm and spend a career protecting cyber resources. However, others may seek master’s degrees and move into management. In fact, some cyber security professionals return to graduate school for an MBA with a cyber security (or computer science) concentration. You may also find a dual MBA program that allows you to pair your business degree with a second graduate degree in computer science or even cyber security. Those who pursue an MBA may find it easier to land a position in the C-suites as a Chief Information Officer, though some firms may have Chief Security Officer, depending on the relative size of that corporation.

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