Get into Cybersecurity with a Security Intelligence Background

by Eileen Ristau Tauchman | Dec 17, 2018
From security intelligence to cybersecurity: choose your own career path

If you work in security intelligence, you are well on your way to having the skills needed in cybersecurity. While they both aim to identify, monitor and counter cyber threats, security intelligence takes a broader perspective and includes physical and cybersecurity whereas cybersecurity analytics homes in on protecting critical IT infrastructure. Security intelligence roles are most prevalent in government and enterprise, where cybersecurity roles can be found in any number of organizations and industries, opening up more job opportunities. People looking to switch from security intelligence to cybersecurity may need additional training or IT certifications to round out their skillset.  

If you work in security intelligence – or have a security intelligence background but are struggling to find work – take a look at cybersecurity. This booming field won’t be changing anytime soon, and CyberSeek outlines career paths that can set you on the road to success. Keep reading to see what a career path in cybersecurity might look like for someone with security intelligence skills.

Pathway to Success

You can see from the image below that there are a variety of entry-, mid- and advanced-level cybersecurity roles that are easily transitioned from other feeder roles. A career in cybersecurity offers endless possibilities and paths that you can take. You have control over where you go next! We will be going into detail on one role from each career level, and remember – this is just one of the many paths you can venture on in cybersecurity. You can head over to CyberSeek’s Career Pathway and explore other paths and choose your own adventure!

Learn About the Other CyberSeek Pathways and Feeder Roles

Entry-level: Cybersecurity Specialist/Technician

Cybersecurity specialist is a great starting point for a cybersecurity career. They guard an organization’s networks to help protect them from cyberattacks, and if an attack does occur, cybersecurity specialists fight it. They need to be creative and adaptable to ever-changing attack techniques. If you’re passionate about protecting networks and fighting off threats, a career as a cybersecurity specialist could be a great fit for you! Check out these quick facts about cybersecurity specialists:

Average Salary for Cybersecurity Specialists

  • $75,000

Total Number of Job Openings for Cybersecurity Specialists in the United States

  • 7,792

Degree Requirements for Cybersecurity Specialists

  • 15 percent do not require a bachelor’s degree
  • 58 percent require a bachelor’s degree
  • 27 percent require a graduate degree

Top Certifications Requested for Cybersecurity Specialists

  • Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP)Certified Information Security Manager (CISM)
  • GIAC
  • CompTIA Security+
  • Certified Information Systems Auditor (CISA)

Top Skills Requested for Cybersecurity Specialists

  • Information security
  • Information systems
  • Information assurance
  • Network security
  • Vulnerability assessment

Mid-Level: Penetration Tester

A penetration tester, sometimes known as an ethical hacker, thinks like a malicious attacker, but uses their skills for good to protect an organization’s networks. Have you ever heard the phrase, if you can’t beat em, join em? This perfectly describes a penetration tester – they test their networks by staging attacks to ensure they are as strong as possible. A career as a penetration tester can be very exciting – how often does one get to act like a bad guy at work and get paid for it? Check out what it has to offer and what it takes to get started:

Average Salary for Penetration Testers

  • $102,000

Total Number of Job Openings for Penetration Testersin the United States

  • 9,826

Degree Requirements for Penetration Testers

  • 6 percent do not require a bachelor’s degree
  • 72 percent require a bachelor’s degree
  • 22 percent require a graduate degree

Top Certifications Requested for Penetration Testers

Top Skills Requested for Penetration Testers

  • Information security
  • Penetration testing
  • Linux
  • Vulnerability assessment
  • Python

Advanced-Level: Cybersecurity Engineer

As you work your way up in cybersecurity, you can aspire to become a cybersecurity engineer. Cybersecurity engineers build and maintain a system that’s safe against cyberattacks. They focus on fixing and protecting these systems and stay up to date on new technology so they can keep their system secure. Cybersecurity engineers will work closely with and manage roles like the cybersecurity specialists and penetration testers we touched on earlier!

Average Salary for Cybersecurity Engineers

  • $108,000

Total Number of Job Openings for Cybersecurity Engineers  in the United States

  • 40,998

Degree Requirements for Cybersecurity Engineers

  • 11 percent do not require a bachelor’s degree
  • 67 percent require a bachelor’s degree
  • 23 percent require a graduate degree

Top Certifications Requested for Cybersecurity Engineers

Top Skills Requested for Cybersecurity Engineers

  • Information security
  • Network security
  • Linux
  • Information systems
  • Python

In Conclusion

If you work in in security intelligence and want to switch to cybersecurity , the pathway of cybersecurity specialist to penetration tester to cybersecurity engineer is just one of many you can take. A career in cybersecurity provides many possibilities, and you have the choice to do what will make you happiest and most fulfilled. Your experience in security intelligence has prepared you for a successful cybersecurity career – be confident in your established skills, develop additional skills where you may be lacking and earn a few applicable certifications, and you’re on your way to a thriving career in cybersecurity.

Get on the CompTIA Cybersecurity Career Pathway today!


  • Akujinwa Ifeanyi Oscar

    Thursday, December 27, 2018


  • Tee

    Thursday, December 27, 2018

    Wow... CASP isn’t in here at all. Does this mean it’s not worth getting? Skip CASP, get CISSP?

  • Marc Harter

    Friday, December 28, 2018

    Thanks again for the great information. I am working on my Security+!

  • Wednesday, January 2, 2019

    Hi, Tee! Thanks for your question. The listed certifications are those mentioned in job postings. But just because a certification is not outright listed in job postings does not mean it isn't valuable. CASP is highly regarded in jobs that support the U.S. government and military but is just breaking into the private sector. We compared CASP to CISSP and will be doing more articles about how the skills covered by CASP relate to advanced cybersecurity roles in all industries. Check this article out, and stay tuned for more:

  • Katerina Andreou

    Friday, January 18, 2019

    Dear Sir/Madame, To follow CompTIA Security+ do I need to have passed the CompTIA Network+? Regards, Katerina

  • Friday, January 18, 2019

    Hi, Katerina! Thanks for your question. You do not need CompTIA Network+ before you take CompTIA Security+, but the certifications build upon each other, so either having CompTIA Network+ or equivalent knowledge and experience will set you up for success with CompTIA Security+. You can download the exam objectives for both exams to see what's covered and determine how much you might need to prepare before getting certified. Good luck!

  • Leead

    Friday, January 18, 2019

    It's very hard to find entry level jobs in information security. They all want a minimum of 2 WORKING years of experience, it seems like the certs don't matter to them that much. Any advice on finding the first role?

  • Friday, January 18, 2019

    Hi, Leead! Thanks for your question. Many cybersecurity professionals gain hands-on experience in other IT roles before moving into cybersecurity. For example, help desk and technical support positions have increasingly more cybersecurity responsibilities. Getting a job takes a combination of credentials (like certifications or degrees), hands-on experience and a bit of luck. Don't get discouraged - broaden your search for IT jobs that may not necessarily specialize in cybersecurity, but include cybersecurity tasks so you can get that experience and then move into a more specialized role. Remember, your IT career is a marathon, not a sprint. Good luck!

  • Jimmie

    Saturday, January 19, 2019

    Hi, I was IT in US Navy and bern our filed 10 yrs. I am Administrative Officer with US DOL federal government and want to do system administrator since I do some system administrator task. Which certifications do I need and are there any scholarships or in class training? I am in Atlanta looking for advice not really a book self study rather do hands on!

  • KM

    Monday, January 21, 2019

    One thing to keep in mind, it’s relatively easy to move into cyber security. It is tough finding a position that is a contract position longer than 6 months. You need education, certification, and in-depth knowledge to make them decide to hold onto you and you won’t get that until you are level 2 or level 3. As an L1 with only an A+ or a Sec+ you are disposable ime. This is something that greatly disheartens a lot of people, but companies don’t care about their L1’s. The only immediate anser is to learn and build skills in a home lab take that knowledge to impress your employers

  • Wednesday, January 23, 2019

    Hi, Jimmie! Thanks for your comment. CompTIA Network+ is related to systems administration, and if you don't already have it (or relevant experience), CompTIA A+ could be a good starting point. Check out this article about how you can use the GI Bill for training: Good luck!

  • Michael D

    Friday, January 25, 2019

    I would love to switch careers and cyber security is something I’ve been interested. I don’t have an IT degree. Where would you recommend starting?

  • Friday, January 25, 2019

    Hi, Michael! Thanks for your question. It really depends on what you want to do and what your existing degree is in. It is possible to get into cybersecurity without an IT degree if you have the right mix of certifications and experience. Know that you might need to start your IT career a bit lower down the ladder - say in a tech support or systems administration position before you move into a dedicated cybersecurity role. Check out this article about cybersecurity certificates, certifications and degrees to help you figure out how to get started: Good luck!

  • Trevor Chandler

    Saturday, January 26, 2019

    Extremely informative. The opportunities in this cybersecurity arena are awesome.

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