How to become a Cybersecurity Consultant: Complete Guide

If you want to become a Cybersecurity consultant or you are looking for information on whom or what a cybersecurity consultant is, this article is for you.

In this article, we break down all the information on whom a cybersecurity consultant is, what it takes to become one, the salaries they are paid, and the steps or tips you can follow to land a cybersecurity consulting job.

become a Cybersecurity Consultant

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We all know that hackers will always be hackers, that is why there is a growing need and demand for cybersecurity professionals in major industries today. According to the Bureau of Labor and Statistics, the average annual salary for an information security analyst was $90,120.

Cybersecurity professionals have one of the most enviable job roles and salaries today because of the increase in cyber warfare right now between hackers and cybersecurity engineers.

So without any further delay, let’s get to it.

  • What is Cybersecurity?
  • Who is a cybersecurity Consultant
  • Cybersecurity Consultant skills
  • Steps to take to become a Cybersecurity Consultant
  • Salary of a Cybersecurity Consultant in the United States
  • Cybersecurity Consulting Job description
  • Top 10 Cybersecurity Consulting Firms
  • Conclusion

What is Cybersecurity?

Cybersecurity or information security has to do with the protection of computer systems, databases, or networks from hackers or any sort of breaches that threatens the integrity of its files, software, or hardware.

Cybersecurity is very important today because we now have more systems that are dependent on the internet, and more databases connected to networks that can be vulnerable to attacks.

Cyber security also has become a challenge to most companies because there are not many cybersecurity professionals out there that have the necessary skill set to do the work of a cybersecurity engineer or consultant.

The question now is who is a cybersecurity consultant and what does their job entails?

Who is a cybersecurity Consultant?

A cybersecurity consultant is oftentimes referred to as a security consultant or an information security consultant.

They are professionals trained to protect the integrity and safety of data, databases, and networks connected to various hardware devices.

Most times cybersecurity consultants work independently or are part of an organization that provides their services without the actual direct supervision of the organization.

Cybersecurity consultants are trained in various areas of network security and their skills match up to the level of a white hat hacker or an ethical hacker.

They are trained to be able to detect and possibly terminate any form of a data breach caused by a hacker, this means they also have knowledge of hacking protocols and software.

They spend most of their time running tests on networks to try and find vulnerabilities that a hacker can utilize and when they do, they fix those vulnerabilities.

Cybersecurity consultants and other related fields are said to have one of the highest skill quotients compared to other job fields. What is the required skill for a cybersecurity consultant?

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Cybersecurity Consultant skills

One of the required skills or qualifications needed in order to become a cybersecurity consultant is to have a bachelor’s degree in cybersecurity or any other related field like computer science, information security, system analysis, database administration, etc.

So what else is required? Let’s say you don’t have a degree in cybersecurity and you are interested in becoming a cybersecurity engineer, is it possible?, the answer is Yes. To find out how you can become a professional in this field without a degree, read our article on Master’s Degree in Cyber Security.

So what are the important skills you need to have as a cybersecurity consultant?

  1. Soft Skills

These are the basic skills that would require you to be efficient in your duties as a cybersecurity consultant. One of which is your ability to communicate and share your findings with other teammates and departmental heads.

A cyber security consultant must be able to communicate effectively because; you would be working for clients who would require you to share vital information with them in order for them to be able to understand the protocol they need to keep their systems updated and secured.

Another soft skill needed is the ability to guide and oversee others. This skill most times might not be considered a skill but it is required you have it because you would be working in an environment whereby you would need to be able to guide other members of your team and act as an overseer to all other security operations and protocols.

  1. Technical Skills

These are the skills that set you apart from the other bunch of professionals. The skills directly relate to the daily operations and protocols executed within the organization.

These skills include:

  • Penetration testing
  • Building Custom Software’s
  • Firewall safety
  • Creating backups
  • Ethical hacking
  • Programming
  • Encryption
  • Understand UNIX Operating System

As a cybersecurity consultant, the required skills listed above should be part of you. Having an understanding in most if not all of them could really give you an edge in the industry.

There are cybersecurity job positions looking for penetration testers only, or looking for cybersecurity engineers with knowledge in a few of the above-listed skills.

So this should give you an understanding of what you need to succeed in this field.

Steps to take to become a Cybersecurity Consultant

This is going to be as straightforward as it can possibly be. These are the steps you should take if you are thinking of pursuing a career as a cybersecurity consultant or just any other related cyber security field.

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Step 1: Get a Degree

Having a bachelor’s degree in cybersecurity or any other related field is a major requirement for any professional in this field. For a more senior position, you would need to go for an advanced degree like a master’s in cybersecurity.

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But if you don’t have a degree in cybersecurity, how can you become a cybersecurity consultant?

The short answer is, to enroll in online courses or get professional certificates from an online school that is highly recognized.

We have outlined various online degree programs you can enroll in to kick start your career in cybersecurity.

The next thing is to apply for internship positions.

 Step 2: Apply for Internships

Cybersecurity internships are one of the most popular ways to easily get the required experience needed that would give you an edge in the industry and help you land a cybersecurity job role.

Looking at how competitive cybersecurity job roles are, for you to become a proficient cybersecurity consultant, you need the experience. And the only way to get it is through internships.

We have various types which are:

  • Paid internship
  • Unpaid internship
  • Job shadowing

How to go about this is looking for companies that are offering internship positions for cybersecurity consultants. Apply for several of these internships and wait.

Another advantage of getting an internship job position is that you would have access to the latest cutting-edge technology and experience firsthand how operations and protocols are executed in the real world.

You would be exposed to real-life threat analysis and scenarios, and gain the knowledge of mitigating or disrupting hacks from different simulations run within the organization.

Now, it doesn’t stop there. You have an internship position, the next thing for you to do is network with people.

Step 3: Networking

Connecting with the right people is a wise step in moving forward in this industry.

This is because no matter how smart you are if you don’t link up with the right people, you wouldn’t be exposed to the kind of opportunities or platforms where your skills would shine.

At that internship program you might be running or that startup company you are part of, connect with other professionals within your circle and share ideas together.

You can also link up with professionals outside your organization using platforms like LinkedIn and Facebook groups, etc.

When you do this, you are directly letting people know of your skill and possibly increasing the level of authority you have in the field. When the time comes for cybersecurity consulting opportunities, you would be at the top of their list.

Salary of a Cybersecurity Consultant in the United States

According to Glassdoor, the average annual salary for a cybersecurity consultant in the United States is $94,745.   

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Cybersecurity consultant salary can vary depending on various factors including:

  • Company
  • Location
  • Level of experience

There are companies that do pay their cybersecurity consultants more than other companies. For example, according to Glassdoor, AT&T pays their cybersecurity consultants an annual salary of $171,072 compared to Microsoft which pays their own an annual salary of $109,438.

Location too affects the salaries for practically any industry. This is something to take note of, if you are looking for internships or full-time job roles, you should research the average salary that companies do pay professionals in that region.

Your level of experience is also a deciding factor in how much you are likely to make as a cybersecurity consultant. There are majorly three categories of professionals, which are:

  • Entry-level cybersecurity consultants: These are the ones with just a bachelor’s degree in cybersecurity with no years of experience. They are paid the least of the three levels.
  • Mid-level cybersecurity consultants: These professionals have at least 3-4 years of experience and they are paid more than an entry-level cybersecurity consultant. They have experience in handling real-life threat scenarios and mitigating attacks, penetration testing and debugging scenarios, etc.
  • Senior-level cybersecurity consultants: These are the golden goose of them all. These levels of professionals have at least 5-10 years of experience working as cybersecurity consultant.

They consult for big corporations and organizations and are vast in all areas of cybersecurity analysis.

Cybersecurity Consulting Job description

You might be wondering after all the discussion above what the actual job description for a cybersecurity consultant is.

Well, this does not have a straightforward answer as different organizations have their requirements on what they expect a cybersecurity consultant to do for them.

But I would be listing out the basic requirements or job description for a cybersecurity consultant below:

  • Designing and building custom security software
  • Performing penetration testing
  • Performing database vulnerability checks
  • Designing and building cloud solutions
  • Writing security protocols
  • Researching security systems and validating procedures

These are just a few underlining job descriptions for a cybersecurity consultant.

Top 10 Cybersecurity Consulting Firms

As cybercriminals and hackers are looking for new ways to disrupt systems and networks of users all around the globe, you also have industries that offer their services to other organizations or individuals to secure their files and systems.

These industries comprise cybersecurity professionals that work for them. In this section, I would be listing the top 10 cybersecurity consulting firms.

Conclusion

I believe you have learned something today. This is a practical guide on the steps to take to become a cybersecurity consultant. Do check our other related articles for more information on cybersecurity and news.