a group of cybersecurity analysts, a man and two women, working together on a project

How To Get Into Cybersecurity With No Experience

Are you considering a career in cybersecurity? There are over 660,000 cybersecurity roles in the United States, but only 69 skilled workers for every 100 needed in the cyber security industry. According to some sources, the global cybersecurity workforce gap has increased by over 25%, with 3.4 million more workers required in the field. This is good news for qualified cybersecurity professionals who can command high wages and enjoy consistent job stability.

If you’ve worked in tech or are a complete beginner, you’re probably wondering whether you can get into the field, even if you don’t have experience. The good news is that you can. This guide will help you with the essential steps explaining how you can get into this dynamic field.  

Can You Get Into Cybersecurity Without Prior Experience?

Yes, you can. Thanks to the global skills shortage in the field, it’s much easier to get into cybersecurity than ever before. Having said that, it’s not an easy field to master, and it will take some effort to upskill. 

How To Get Into Cybersecurity With No Experience

If you’ve already worked in IT or computer science, making the transition will be easier than if you’re starting from scratch. However, it’s worth taking some time to get familiar with the various roles that are on offer, and the skills you’ll need to land the job you want.

  1. Get Familiar With the Basics (and Job Options) and Take Stock of Where You Are

  2. Chart Your Learning Route

  3. Hone Your Skill Set

  4. Remember: Practice Makes Perfect

  5. Develop a Strong Portfolio and GitHub Profile

  6. Get a Relevant Certification

  7. Develop Your Network and Get Involved in the Cybersecurity Community

  8. Pursue an Internship

  9. Work Toward the Role You Want

Get Familiar With the Basics (and Job Options) and Take Stock of Where You Are

Before diving into the deep end, take some time to get a basic understanding of cybersecurity. The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) Cybersecurity Framework is a good place to start. This framework provides a comprehensive overview of the five core functions of cybersecurity:

  • Identify: The first step in any cybersecurity plan is identifying the assets that need protection. This includes assets such as data, networks, systems, and applications. Once the assets have been identified, they need to be assessed for vulnerabilities. This will help to identify potential risks that attackers could exploit. Cybersecurity professionals who work at this stage include security analysts, risk managers, and penetration testers.

  • Protect: Once the assets have been identified and assessed, they need to be protected from potential threats. This includes implementing security controls such as firewalls, intrusion detection systems, and access controls. Security controls should be designed to prevent unauthorized access, modification, or destruction of assets. If you are interested in this stage of the framework, you may work as a security engineer, systems administrator, or network administrator.

  • Detect: Even with the best security controls in place, it is important to be able to detect potential attacks. This includes monitoring systems for suspicious activity and analyzing logs for potential threats. If a potential threat is detected, it can be investigated and stopped before it can cause damage. Professionals who work in cybersecurity detection include security analysts, incident responders, and forensic analysts.

  • Respond: If a cybersecurity attack occurs, it is important to have a plan to respond. This includes isolating the affected systems, removing malware, and restoring data. The response should also include an investigation to determine the cause of the attack and how to prevent it from happening again. Incident responders are responsible for responding to security incidents. Business continuity planners are responsible for developing and implementing plans to ensure that an organization can continue to operate in the event of a disaster or security incident.

  • Recover: After a cybersecurity attack, recovering and restoring systems to normal operation is important. This includes restoring data, repairing damaged systems, and implementing new security controls to prevent future attacks. Professionals who work in recovery include incident responders, security auditors, and data recovery specialists. 

As a cybersecurity professional, you’ll either work as a generalist who touches on all of these areas or as a specialist focusing on one or two aspects of cybersecurity. 

Chart Your Learning Route

Have you ever heard the expression, “Many roads lead to Rome”? The same can be said for learning cybersecurity. There’s no right or wrong approach or method, you can choose a learning route that’s best suited to your unique needs, including: 

Formal Degree

One of the most common paths to a cybersecurity career is to pursue a formal degree. The University of Maryland Global Campus offers a bachelor’s degree in cybersecurity management and policy, while US News, including Carnegie Mellon University, Georgia Institute of Technology, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and Stanford University all offer undergraduate cybersecurity programs. Most students who pursue a formal degree will complete a degree in Computer Science before specializing. Of course, this route is the most time-consuming and expensive. According to GetEducated, the average cost of an in-state bachelor's degree in cybersecurity is around $49,700


Bootcamps are a quicker (and more affordable) way to gain immersive cybersecurity training. Bootcamps can be held in person, or online, and usually focus on practical skills and self-paced learning. Programs like the University of South Florida Cybersecurity Bootcamp offer one-on-one mentorship, career coaching, and practical projects, including 55 labs and 30 mini-projects that can form the basis of your portfolio when you enter the job market. 


If you don’t want to pursue a bootcamp or a formal education, you can study cybersecurity online on your own. Sites like SANS Cyber ACES Online and Cybrary offer free training resources, tools, and cheat sheets. You can also use TechExam.net to prepare for cybersecurity certifications. In contrast, TryHackMe offers free online cybersecurity programs with certifications and lets you explore key security areas like confidentiality, integrity, non-repudiation, authentication, and even vulnerabilities. A word of caution, though: learning cybersecurity independently as a complete beginner isn’t easy. You need to be extremely disciplined, and it may be frustrating to master the fundamentals using several different sources. 

Hone Your Skill Set

As a cybersecurity professional, you’ll need to hone your technical and soft skills. Companies aren’t just looking for professionals who understand the basics of cybersecurity; they want to ensure you are a good cultural fit. 

Technical Skills

The first thing you’ll need to master is understanding various operating systems like Windows, Linux, and macOS, including their functionalities, security features, and vulnerabilities. You also need, at minimum, in-depth knowledge of network protocols, infrastructure, security concepts, troubleshooting techniques, encryption algorithms, digital signatures, and other cryptographic principles used to secure data and communication.

Most cybersecurity roles will require proficiency in scripting languages like Python, Bash, and PowerShell for automating routine tasks, analyzing data, and responding to incidents. Depending on the role you are pursuing, you may also need to know high-level languages like Java or C++ for more complex security tasks like developing security tools and analyzing malware.

Soft Skills

In addition to these technical skills, cybersecurity professionals also need to possess strong soft skills. This includes adaptability. The threat landscape is constantly changing, which means you’ll need a love of learning - and the ability to think on your feet - to adapt your security strategies. You’ll also need to exhibit attention to detail, i.e., the ability to identify and analyze subtle indicators of compromise and security vulnerabilities. Many hacks go unnoticed for months at a time, usually until it’s too late to respond. Most cybersecurity professionals will tell you that you’ll need to develop an ethical hacking mindset to be truly effective at your job, i.e., thinking like a hacker and thinking about the tactics they might use to compromise your network. 

Remember: Practice Makes Perfect

You won’t become a cybersecurity professional overnight - it takes time and effort. The best way to sharpen your skills and build your knowledge is to dive right in and start working. 

Work On Open-Source Projects

One of the best ways to gain practical experience is to work on open-source projects. The ATT&CK Navigator project is a great way to plan defensive and offensive cyber activities and track technique frequency in a real-world environment. If you want to focus on cloud computing, try Cryptomator. This open-source encryption software project provides transparent, client-side encryption for your cloud files. It is compatible with most cloud storage providers and allows you to protect your documents from unauthorized access. If you are interested in pen testing, there’s Faraday. This open-source collaborative penetration testing platform allows you to manage and track your security assessments. It provides a centralized repository for your findings and helps you generate client reports.

Volunteer Your Services And Explore Freelance Work

Many small companies and charities need protection but can't afford to hire a full-time cybersecurity expert. If there is a cause you’re passionate about, volunteer your time! They will appreciate the advice and you’ll gain practical experience simultaneously. You can also find freelance work as a beginner on sites like LinkedIn and Upwork. It’s a good way to fund your education while learning the ropes in the real world. 

Take Part in Cybersecurity Hackathons and Contests

Hackathons and contests are always happening where you can learn from other cybersecurity experts and fine-tune your skills. Events like the Open Source Security Hackathon allow software developers to work together on interesting ideas, projects, or collaborations related to information security. Major League Hacking is the official collegiate hackathon league that organizes student hackathons and coding competitions. The events are designed to provide students with opportunities to learn new skills, network with peers and industry professionals, and showcase their talents. You can also watch Cyberhack, an annual cybersecurity offensive CTF (Capture the Flag) competition aimed at finding young talents in the field for job opportunities. The event is open to university students and professionals, and it provides an opportunity to showcase skills and network with industry professionals.

Develop a Strong Portfolio and GitHub Profile

Once you start working in the field, either as a volunteer or a freelancer, it’s time to showcase your skills and knowledge to the rest of the world. Build personal projects demonstrating your understanding of vulnerability scanning, penetration testing, and incident response, or document your freelance/open source projects with clear instructions and explanations for potential employers to understand your process and thought process. You can use platforms like GitLab or Bitbucket to share your code and collaborate with other aspiring cybersecurity professionals.

Get a Relevant Certification

If you want to specialize in a specific field of cybersecurity, look at industry-recognized certifications like CompTIA Security+ or Certified Ethical Hacker (CEH) to validate your knowledge and skills. You should tailor your certifications to your desired specialization within cybersecurity, such as cloud security, network security, or incident response. You can also pursue vendor-specific certifications for products or technologies relevant to your career goals. Remember that continuous learning and certifications demonstrate your commitment to professional development and staying current with the evolving threat landscape, which can give you the edge over other candidates. 

Develop Your Network and Get Involved in the Cybersecurity Community

The cybersecurity community is extremely generous and willing to help young professionals find their feet. Try to attend industry events, conferences, and workshops to meet other professionals and learn from their experiences. If you can’t attend in person, participate in online forums, communities, and social media groups dedicated to cybersecurity discussions and knowledge sharing, or connect with professionals on LinkedIn and build relationships with potential mentors or future colleagues. You can also build your own profile by contributing to blogs, writing articles, or creating presentations. 

Pursue an Internship

If you are having difficulty building up the experience you need, start with an internship. Internships provide valuable insights into real-world cybersecurity challenges and team dynamics. While you are there, network with colleagues and supervisors to learn from their expertise and potentially secure future employment opportunities. You never know where your internship can lead. 

Work Toward the Role You Want

Before you start applying for work (ideally, before starting your studies), clearly define your long-term career goals within cybersecurity and identify the specific role you want to achieve. Research the skills and experience required for your desired role and focus on developing those areas. Use online resources and courses to fill any knowledge gaps and acquire necessary technical skills. It’s going to take a lot of effort, but it will pay off. 

Create Your Resume

Always tailor your resume to highlight your skills and experience relevant to cybersecurity, regardless of your previous industry or field. Quantify your accomplishments whenever possible to showcase the impact of your work, e.g. talk about the positive outcomes or impacts of your projects. Use keywords and terminology specific to cybersecurity to make your resume stand out to recruiters and increase your odds of being picked up by talent search software. 

Build a Well-Optimized LinkedIn Profile

LinkedIn can be a powerful tool for finding your dream job, so don’t neglect it. Create a compelling profile that showcases your skills, experience, and achievements in cybersecurity. Include keywords relevant to your desired role and target industry in your profile summary and experience sections to make it easier for recruiters to find you. Use endorsements and recommendations from colleagues and mentors to add credibility to your profile and actively engage with other professionals on LinkedIn by participating in discussions and sharing relevant content.

Ensure You Meet the Prerequisites for Each Role

Don’t just send the same resume to each hiring manager. Carefully review job descriptions and identify the essential and desired skills and experience required for each position. If there is a company or role you want and are struggling to get, consider pursuing additional training or certifications to meet your desired role's requirements. Prepare for job interviews by researching the company, practicing common interview questions, and demonstrating your passion and enthusiasm for cybersecurity.

Getting a Cybersecurity Job With No Prior Work Experience: Success Stories To Learn From

So far, we’ve spoken a lot about the possibility of finding a job in cybersecurity without prior experience. However, the proof is in the pudding. Here are a few examples of professionals who have actually walked the walk and found jobs in the industry without proper experience.

Charles Feller

screenshot Varonis website, with post about Charles Feller

In a Q&A on the Varonis site, Charles shares his unconventional path into the industry. The professional graduated with a major in English and a minor in Biology, started as a help desk analyst, and gradually transitioned into cybersecurity roles, eventually joining Varonis in 2015. He shows that a non-traditional background is not a barrier to entering the cybersecurity field.

Josh Madakor

Josh Madakor's YouTube video

In this YouTube video, SOC analyst shares his practical tips for climbing the cybersecurity career ladder without any prior experience. By listening to the right podcasts, getting involved with online communities, and putting your feelers out, you can launch a successful career with the right skills and knowledge to back you. 

Resources To Find Entry-Level Cybersecurity Jobs

Now that you’re properly inspired, it’s time to start your job search. Here’s where to look: 

Job Boards

General job boards like Indeed, LinkedIn, Glassdoor, and ZipRecruiter offer a comprehensive pool of entry-level cybersecurity jobs, but you should also look at specialized cybersecurity job boards like CyberSeek, Cybrary, and HackerOne that focus on positions in the industry, providing a more targeted search. Government websites like CyberCareers.gov and USAJobs.gov list cybersecurity positions within government agencies, if you are interested in that field. 

LinkedIn and Your Network

Use LinkedIn's advanced search feature to filter jobs based on keywords, location, company size, and other criteria. Connect with industry professionals, attend online and offline events, and leverage your network to gain insights and leads on available positions. You should also participate in LinkedIn groups dedicated to cybersecurity and engage in discussions to build your online presence and connect with potential employers.

Online Cybersecurity Communities

Forums like Reddit's r/cybersecurity and online communities like Cybrary and SANS Institute offer job listings and discussions about available positions. You should also follow industry blogs, websites, and influencers on social media to stay updated on job openings and industry trends.


Freelance platforms like Upwork and Fiverr offer opportunities for remote work and gaining hands-on experience through short-term projects. You can also consider micro-tasking platforms like Amazon Mechanical Turk to complete small cybersecurity-related tasks and build your skills.

FAQs About How To Get Into Cybersecurity With No Experience

Is Cybersecurity a Good Career for Beginners?

Absolutely! Cybersecurity offers high demand, excellent salaries, and diverse paths for beginners. The constantly evolving landscape keeps things exciting and provides ample opportunities for continuous learning.

What Should a Beginner Learn in Cybersecurity?

Start with a strong foundation in networking, operating systems, and cybersecurity fundamentals. Then, delve into specialized areas like penetration testing, incident response, or cloud security based on your interests.

What Are Some Entry-Level Cybersecurity Jobs You Can Apply to With No Experience?

There are several options: security analyst, security engineer, SOC analyst, junior penetration tester, or IT security specialist.

What’s the Easiest Way To Get a Job in Cybersecurity?

Key strategies are key to building a strong portfolio with personal projects, contributing to open-source initiatives, earning relevant certifications like CompTIA Security+, and actively networking.

Will AI Replace Cybersecurity Jobs?

AI is more likely to augment cybersecurity professionals, not replace them. AI tools will automate routine tasks, allowing human experts to focus on complex decision-making and strategy.