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Cyber security career pathway
A career in cyber security can be a rewarding and challenging experience. There are multiple entry points into this exciting field, such as through networking, software development, coding, system administration, or even digital forensics. If you do not have a degree within this field, or decided not to attend university, then cyber security apprenticeships may be the option you are looking for. Choosing the best cyber security apprenticeship can be a difficult process, this article hopefully addresses most of these concerns and attempts to answer the questions you may have. This article is designed to ensure you have the information required to select the best cyber security apprenticeships.
It is important to understand that cyber security is an ever-evolving field with new cyber threats and solutions emerging daily. In order to stay on top of the latest developments in the industry, students must stay informed and take courses related to the field. Students will also be expected to continue to study throughout their apprenticeship and subsequently their career within this discipline.
Cyber security professionals have an incredibly important job, as they are tasked with protecting their organisations from malicious actors who seek to compromise their systems or data.
It is important that a cyber security professional is able to work together with other teams within an organisation, specifically technical staff to ensure they have adequate controls in place to protect against potential cyber threats. Additionally, they often provide assessment and recommendations on how organisations can improve their security posture.
Cyber security professionals may also investigate incidents of suspected attacks and participate in incident response activities as necessary.
In order to pursue a career in cyber security, individuals need to possess strong analytical skills and technical acumen. They should also be familiar with common cyber security protocols such as authentication methods like multi-factor authentication (MFA), encryption technologies such as Transport Layer Security (TLS) and asymmetric cryptography, as well as firewall configurations and malware protection solutions.
Additionally, those interested in this field should also have a good understanding of computer networks and network architectures such as virtual private networks (VPNs).
Cyber security apprenticeships
If you are serious about starting a career in cyber security then an apprenticeship has become an increasingly popular option for individuals, offering hands-on training and invaluable experience.
Cyber security apprenticeships provide the opportunity to learn on the job while receiving a wage, giving you a head start in your chosen field.
Apprenticeships are often offered through private companies, government agencies, and educational institutions.
Apprenticeships provide both paid and unpaid on-the-job training as well as classroom instruction in a variety of cyber security topics, such as network security, data protection, and system administration.
Many of these cyber security apprenticeships last up to two years and include hands-on experience working with various systems and software.
As a CISO with more than 36 years experience in information security & technology, I felt it may be beneficial to provide some guidance for those considering a cyber security apprenticeship.
You may also find the article on How I built a career in cyber security beneficial.
What is an apprenticeship
An apprenticeship is a form of vocational training that combines on-the-job experience with theoretical instruction. It typically involves a student (the apprentice) working alongside a more experienced worker (the mentor) in order to gain skills and knowledge within a specific field.
The apprentice will usually receive some payment for their work, although the amount can vary greatly depending on the industry and employer. The apprenticeship usually lasts for several years, and upon completion the apprentice may be awarded a certificate or other form of recognition for their achievements.
The most important reward for any apprenticeship is real life experience, which is critical when starting your career.
A cyber security apprenticeship is a structured programme that allows an individual to gain professional experience and skills in the field of cyber security within an organisation.
Cyber security apprenticeships can vary in length, but they typically involve hands-on training, on-the-job experience, and mentorship that lasts up to 2 years. Cyber security apprentices will often join a Security Operations Centre (SOC), where they will learn to protect systems from threats such as malware, viruses, phishing scams, and other hacking attempts.
As the cyber security apprentice matures they may be introduced to risk assessments and response, data analysis, intrusion detection and prevention, or even a network security assessment.
Cyber security apprenticeships may often differ depending on the organisation running the scheme or the employer, but there are usually defined guidelines to ensure the cyber security apprentice has a structured and measurable career path.
Who is eligible for cyber security apprenticeships
A cyber security apprenticeship is open to anyone who is not in full-time education. Within the UK the apprentice must be at least 16 years old and there is no upper age limit. Whilst most apprentices will have completed GCSE and/or A-levels (UK), they can have a degree but not in the same field of speciality.
Cyber security apprenticeships combine the practical experience of a real job with all the benefits of training. You’ll gain internationally-recognised qualifications and certifications while you build your practical experience in the workplace.
One of the benefits of a cyber security apprenticeship scheme is that it will demonstrate that the apprentice is employable and has the experience and qualifications needed within the cyber security field. Furthermore, unlike a degree, at the end of the cyber security apprenticeship scheme, the individual is debt free…!
How are cyber security apprenticeships structured
Within the UK some organisations run their own apprenticeship programmes directly, whilst others (usually smaller to medium sized businesses) choose to employ a UK government approved training provider. The training provider can be considered an intermediary between the apprentice and a suitable employer.
The training provider will provide candidate assessment, off site training, support for the apprentice and the employer. The training provider may also handle the recruitment process, working with the employers own HR department.
Candidates should submit their CV directly to a business offering an apprenticeship programme or through a UK government approved training provider. This will then be considered based on criteria and suitability.
The apprenticeship usually lasts for 1-2 years, during which the apprentice will be required to attend training and assessment sessions. At the end of this period, apprentices will be assessed by an independent body.
Is the location and the sector of the business an important factor
Well the short answer to this question is it depends – let me elaborate on that question. This article predominantly focuses on the UK but the information can be applied to numerous other countries.
First let me address the location question, applying for apprenticeships in a large city such as London, where there are a vast number of businesses, including corporate headquarters, makes perfect sense. The infamous 1920’s bank robber Willie Sutton was once asked why he robbed so many banks, to which he replied ‘that’s where the money is’. Using the same analogy you focus your attention on a major metropolis.
Whilst you could derive that you would have more success with an apprenticeship scheme within London, Manchester, Leeds or even New York, changes in working patterns, especially post Covid, have diversified the workforce and as a result the focus on a major city is arguably less important than it was.
That said, it is perfectly sensible to apply to as many suitable businesses as you can to increase the chance of success. You should focus on the role and the experience it will provide but you must feel comfortable working in the location your apprenticeship is based.
The same logic applies to the sector, which is possibly less important than the location but many of you may feel that the financial sector (as an example) could offer a more challenging role. Using the previous bank robber analogy, cybercriminals are focusing on financial institutions as they perceive there is more money available within this sector.
Either way my advice would be to keep your options open and apply to all sectors and locations, you need to show a willingness to be flexible but also ensure you are comfortable with location as a happy apprentice learns more and is more productive. They are also more likely to be offered a full time position at the end of the scheme.
You may find the section on cyber security apprenticeships London useful as it details why London offers significant advantages for any potential apprentice.
Cyber security apprenticeship support and mentoring
Each apprentice will be assigned a mentor within the business (employer) to help them achieve their specific goals within the cyber security programme. The mentor is dependent on the individual structure of the business but is usually a senior member of the employers team, such as one of the cyber security specialists, or security managers.
The apprentice will often receive regular visits from a dedicated coach assigned by the apprenticeship training company. This coach will guide the candidate through the apprenticeship programme, the milestones and the final assessment.
What makes a suitable cyber security apprenticeship candidate
A good cyber security professional should have a strong interest in technology and computer science. They should ideally be well organised, detail-oriented and skilled at problem solving.
It can also be beneficial (but not essential) if a cyber security apprentice has reasonable communication skills as this will help them explain technical topics in a way that is comprehensible to non-technical personnel. These skills can develop through experience and training so do not be put off if you find communicating with others daunting.
A good cyber security apprenticeship candidate should demonstrate a passion for cyber security and attempt to be up-to-date on the latest developments in cyber security through blogs, articles and newsfeeds.
The candidate must also be willing to commit to continuously learning new technologies so they can stay ahead of emerging cyber threats. The best cyber security apprenticeship candidates have a passion for security and a thirst for knowledge.
The apprenticeship levy
Within the UK every business with a wage bill over £3 million must invest 0.5% of its annual salary bill into an apprenticeship programme.
This government policy is designed to promote staff training and to improve the quality of apprenticeships across the country.
If a business doesn’t use the levy it will lose the money, so it is in the companies own interest to use the money to enhance the skill level of its employees.
Levels of apprenticeships
Within the UK there are numerous levels of apprenticeships based on the the specific educational levels.
|Class||Level||Equivalent Education Level|
|Higher||4, 5, 6 & 7||Foundation Degree & Above|
|Degree||6, 7||Bachelors or Master Degree|
Some apprenticeships within the UK may also give you an additional qualification, such as a Diploma.
How to choose the best suited cyber security apprenticeship
The type of apprenticeship experience can depend on the individual organisation or the training company. Larger organisations will probably adopt a more structured, rigid approach to your training schedule, whereas smaller businesses may be more flexible, exposing you to more areas within cyber security or the wider technology teams.
It is important to research your potential employer to ensure they are the right fit for you, don’t be tempted to opt for the first offer you receive, especially if the business isn’t suited to your personal needs. When interviewed have a list of questions relating to the process and how your role will fit within the team. The interviewers will be happy to address your questions, it could also impress them that you are proactive within the interview process.
If you use a government registered training company ensure you research them, ask questions to ensure their approach is in line with your expectations. Remember this is your career and it’s essential you choose the right team so you can thrive within your working environment.
How to apply for an apprenticeship programme
If you are interested in a cyber security apprenticeship programme then research the different apprenticeship programmes that are available and decide which one is best suited for you.
You can research the available apprenticeship programmes via the government website or through a dedicated apprenticeship partner.
Once you have decided on a programme, find out what qualifications or experience you will need to apply for the position and make sure you meet those requirements.
Submit your application form along with any other required documents such as a CV, cover letter and/or portfolio of work samples, if requested by the employer in their job advert.
For Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland please visit the UK Government website.
Cyber Security Apprenticeships London
As you assess the options when planning an apprenticeship in cyber security, and especially within the UK, then London will probably be top of your list. With some of the world’s biggest businesses and a vibrant culture, working in London offers endless opportunities for anyone wishing to begin a career in cyber security.
Whilst this article focuses predominantly on working in cyber security within the London area, the information provided is also useful in any major city in the world.
Why apply for a cyber security apprenticeship in London?
Applying for apprenticeships in a large city has distinct advantages. For example, major cities usually host a vast array of businesses, including corporate and global headquarters (if the business is a multinational firm).
Choosing London over other large cities across the UK and Europe has distinct benefits. London is seen as one of the world leaders in finance, insurance, legal and trading. Organisations based in London will each have large Information technology and security departments, with a reasonable turnover of staff, so there is a constant demand for talent.
London, the financial capital of Europe
As mentioned previously, the infamous 1920’s American bank robber Willie Sutton was once asked why he robbed so many banks, to which he replied ‘that’s where the money is’. As a leading global financial megacity London has a significant number of the worlds largest banks and financial institutions. Using Willie Sutton’s statement, banks continue to be targeted but not by armed robbers these days, they are more likely to be attacked by cybercriminals. Cyber security is therefore considered one of the most important functions within a bank.
As a potential cyber security expert of the future, exposure to advanced technology, knowledge and complex networks should be a major factor in wanting to start your cyber security career in a financial institution.
Research also confirms that financial institutions spend significantly more on cyber security technology, cyber security staff and probably more importantly to you more on cyber security training than most other sectors. This is another reason so many people are compelled to work in London.
How does London compare to other cities within the UK for a career in cyber security
London is home to some of the best companies with large cyber security divisions, such as KPMG, Deloitte, Goldman Sachs and Accenture. The city also hosts many of the world’s top universities which offer courses in cyber security and cutting-edge research opportunities, which provides an excellent pool of talent from which to draw from.
In addition, London is well connected to other cities across Europe due to excellent transport links. London’s proximity to other European countries promotes business opportunities related to cyber security across the continent.
London is home to numerous networking events and conferences related to cybersecurity, providing professionals with the opportunity to build useful contacts and further their careers.
Therefore whilst any large city has potential, it is difficult to compare London with other UK cities as the opportunities in London are significantly greater than any other city in the UK, and arguably the rest of Europe.
Competition in London
The competition for cyber security apprenticeships in London can be described as fierce. Companies are looking for the best and brightest talent, and the application process can be lengthy and complex.
The sheer amount of opportunity in London also drives the desire to work there. This can be seen through the number of applicants each role receives, with many companies reporting hundreds for even entry-level positions. There are also huge organisations that have their global or European headquarters in London.
As an example, Google has built a huge complex near Kings Cross station in central London, this will be the base for their European operations. Therefore you could consider opportunities for Google cyber security apprenticeships.
It is therefore important for any cyber security apprentice hopeful to ensure your applications are tailored and polished, leaving nothing to chance.
Any cyber security apprentice will usually face a competitive selection process. Those who make it through the first round of selections will be invited to participate in workshops and interviews in London. Successful cyber security apprenticeship candidates will then be offered an apprenticeship placement and have the opportunity to help shape the future of cyber security in Britain.
It should be stated that whilst London cyber security apprenticeships are arguably more difficult to secure, the sheer number of businesses offering places in London and the significant future career opportunities is so great, a well prepared individual has a reasonable chance of securing a position. A cyber security apprentice should see London as an amazing opportunity to start their journey.
A career in cyber security, my own experience
As I mentioned earlier, I have worked in Information Technology for more than 36 years, most of that in some form of Information Security role. I now run the IT and cyber security department of a financial institution within the City of London and been in my current senior management role for more than 24 years.
I have worked as a cyber security technician, cyber security analyst, an IT manager and head of department. I have also employed a significant number of trainees and apprenticeships over the years so I understand the journey many of you are about to take.
The cyber security sector is very active at the moment, and I don’t see that changing anytime soon. Cybercrime is rife, and cyber security is considered a major concern for most businesses.
As a cyber security apprentice, you are entering an exciting and exhilarating field that can lead into so many different roles.
I have written a article on How I built a career in cyber security that you may find interesting. This may help you when deciding if a career in information security is for you.
Post Covid changes to working patterns, how this could impact a career in cyber security
I have worked in IT Security within London for more than 36 years, the vast majority of that time onsite, usually at the company headquarters. Whilst there had been some remote working, this was not normal practice. Like most organisations pre Covid, the majority of staff worked in the office.
The post-Covid changes to working patterns had an impact on careers in cyber security. With many companies now able to work remotely there is an increased need for secure remote access solutions and more sophisticated network security measures.
As a result, job opportunities in the field of cyber security have increased as companies invest in better protection from malicious attacks and data theft. Additionally the demand for cyber security professionals with skillsets related to cloud computing, mobile computing, and data analytics has also risen as businesses move their operations to the cloud.
This increased demand for cyber security professionals is creating a competitive job market with many organisations now having to offer higher salaries and improved benefits in order to attract the best talent. In addition, career advancement opportunities are becoming more available as employers recognise the value of experienced professionals with specialised skillsets.
As Covid has now (thankfully) passed, the ability to work from home has been adopted by many businesses across the globe. Whilst this offers a significant amount of flexibility for the workforce, there is an impact junior members on staff learning their trade, especially those in cyber security apprenticeship jobs. This is especially true in London where staff have adopted a more flexible approach to work.
It is therefore very important any cyber security apprenticeship scheme outlines what face to face training will be provided, and whether the IT security team work in the office daily. Whilst I am a great advocate of flexible hybrid working, trainees and those working on the cyber security apprenticeship programme must be predominantly based in the office, working along experienced staff to mentor the candidates.
This is an important aspect and should be discussed with any potential employer before you join a company.
Apprenticeships in cyber security provide an invaluable opportunity for students to gain real-world experience, develop key skills and knowledge and open up potential career paths.
By becoming a cyber security apprentice, students can learn valuable technical and problem-solving skills while also gaining access to the latest industry tools and techniques.
Cybercrime is considered one of the biggest risks to businesses and individuals that shows no sign of abating. Cyber threats are on the increase and so is the need for skilled cyber security analysts and engineers. Furthermore, the salaries paid to a cyber security consultant, analyst or SOC manager has never been higher.
With the right attitude, dedication and commitment, apprenticeships in cyber security offer a great way to get ahead in this exciting field.
With more than 36 years’ experience in the IT industry, Jon has held a variety of senior IT positions since starting his career in mainframe computer systems in the 1980s. In recent years, he has focused on directing the IT department for JM Finn, an established wealth management organisation, where he has been responsible for all aspects of information technology and cyber security.
A highly respected technical leader and security specialist, Jon is known for his ability to deliver transformative security solutions that meet business objectives. Passionate about IT security, he understands the bigger picture and is able to see beyond the latest trends to identify new technologies that can be applied to achieve secure business outcomes. He holds numerous globally recognised cyber security certifications including CISSP, CISM, C|CISO, CAP, CEH, CHFI and MBCI. In 2016 he returned to academia and obtained a Masters Degree (Distinction) in Cyber Security.
Jon is an experienced Information Security professional with a proven ability to independently master complex products and technologies. He is a regular speaker at global cyber security events, working with a plethora of cyber security visionaries. Jon has been a senior manager for 28 years, working with business units, suppliers and stakeholders to deliver systems and projects on time and in budget that allow strategic change and organisational growth.
With over three decades of experience in the heart of London’s financial sector, I have dedicated my career to the pursuit of robust cybersecurity practices and IT leadership. As a Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP), Certified Information Security Manager (CISM), Certified Chief Information Security Officer (C|CISO), Certified Ethical Hacker (CEH), and Computer Hacking Forensic Investigator (CHFI), I bring a wealth of knowledge and expertise to the table.
My journey in the field of cybersecurity has not only been about personal growth but also about sharing my insights with others. As an international speaker, I have had the privilege of addressing audiences worldwide, discussing the importance of cybersecurity in today’s digital age. My passion for knowledge sharing extends to my work as an author and blogger, where I delve into the complexities of cybersecurity, offering practical advice and thought leadership.
In my role as a CISO and Head of IT, I have overseen the development and implementation of comprehensive information security and IT strategies. My focus has always been on creating resilient systems capable of withstanding the evolving landscape of cyber threats.
My Master’s degree in Cybersecurity has provided a solid academic foundation, which, when combined with my practical experience, allows me to approach cybersecurity from a holistic perspective.
I am always open to connecting with other professionals in the field, sharing knowledge, and exploring new opportunities. Let’s secure the digital world together.