How To Become a Security Consultant (With Career Steps)

By Indeed Editorial Team

Updated 2 December 2022

Published 4 October 2021

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Security consultants protect the information and data systems of an organisation. These professionals design and implement security measures to prevent breaches and help block lapses that can compromise companies' critical infrastructure. Learning how to become a security consultant and the common duties involved in this role can help you decide whether the career aligns with your professional interests. In this article, we discuss the steps to become a security consultant, the functions of the role, the salary and the benefits of choosing the career.

How to become a security consultant

Here is how to become a security consultant:

1. Earn a degree

Many clients and employers may require security consultants to have an associate or bachelor's degree in computer science and other IT fields. Having a degree isn't compulsory, but it can help you gain fundamental knowledge about computer security systems, cybersecurity law and industry protocols. Having a degree can also make your resume look professional and more attractive to employers.

2. Learn the fundamentals of networking

Many of the security breaches consultants work to prevent come from clients' network systems. This means you may use an in-depth understanding of networking to protect clients' assets, such as customer data and patents. One way to gain networking knowledge is through entry-level jobs and professional certifications. You may learn about networking during your degree studies, but it might not be as thorough as that of an industry-recognised credential like the CompTIA Network+.

3. Master cybersecurity basics

You also want to learn the fundamentals of cybersecurity. Consider learning about everything from firewall safety and management, encryption techniques, penetration testing and operating systems. Knowing the basics can help you identify the area of cybersecurity that best aligns with your skills and career aspirations.

4. Learn how to code

To be an effective security consultant, it's important to know how to code. Depending on the area you wish to specialise in, you can choose from different programming languages, such as Python, Javascript, Ruby, PowerShell, Perl, Node.js and Bash. Each of these programming languages has specific applications and they can be a force multiplier for your effectiveness. Being proficient in these coding languages can help you better collaborate with other IT professionals, such as coders and software engineers, and make it easier for you to work independently.

5. Build a home lab

Considering that many security consultant job posts require candidates to have three to five years of experience, it's important to gain technical experience. One way to do that is to build a home lab. A home lab can be a simple virtual environment on your PC where you work on projects and test your knowledge of threat assessment and mitigation. Document projects you complete in your home lab and share them with clients and employers when you apply for jobs. This may help increase your chances of employment.

6. Earn professional certifications

You can choose from a wide range of cybersecurity certifications to boost your knowledge and employability. There are free and paid courses for every budget, depending on your level in the industry. Professional certificates such as Certified Information Systems Auditor (CISA), Certified Information Security Manager (CISM) and Certified Ethical Hacker (CEH) are common choices.

Related: What Is Ethical Hacking? (With Examples and Types of Hacker)

When choosing certifications, go for those that are likely to be valid in the future, as the industry is fast changing. Certifications related to managing threats in the cloud and other emerging technologies are likely to stay relevant for longer periods. Advanced degrees in cybersecurity can also give you more professional clout and qualify you for senior, higher-paying roles in management, policy formulation and regulation.

Related: 10 Valuable Cyber Security Certifications (And Requirements)

7. Build a professional network.

To enter this field, you may consider developing a professional network. This can help you hear about new roles. Consider attending industry events, contacting acquaintances in the industry or using your professional contacts from your training or education to help you grow a professional network.

Related: How To Become a Software Tester: Overview, Duties and Salary

What does a security consultant do?

A security consultant or security analyst is a highly specialised IT professional who identifies vulnerabilities in computer software and hardware systems and network infrastructure and develops strategies and solutions to safeguard them from attacks. They do this by trying to hack clients' systems to identify lapses criminals can exploit to compromise data and other critical assets.

Security consultants play a vital role in ensuring that businesses can operate smoothly without fear of cyber-related disruptions. Clients can recruit security analysts to prevent or correct data breaches and protect their digital assets, such as trade secrets, consumer data and other proprietary information. As a security consultant, you can work as an employee or independent contractor.

Related: What Does a Software Developer Do? (With Skills and Salary)

What are a security consultant's typical duties?

The primary function of security consultants is to protect clients' critical infrastructure against cyber attacks and other related disruptions. Here are some of their duties and responsibilities:

  • Creating, implementing and improving security strategies, plans and solutions to protect clients' assets from cybersecurity risks

  • Collaborating with IT departments to identify, diagnose and correct online and offline safety issues

  • Working with engineers, managers and other IT security professionals to reduce the risk of cybersecurity attacks for organisations

  • Performing penetration testing to identify vulnerabilities in a company's cybersecurity infrastructure

  • Planning, developing and supervising the deployment of security architectures for IT projects and infrastructure

  • Developing and presenting cybersecurity reports to management and other stakeholders to enhance decision making

  • Performing research on security systems, cybersecurity protocols and validation processes and procedures

  • Updating and upgrading security systems in anticipation of new and more dynamic threats

  • Training IT and regular staff on cybersecurity best practices

  • Advising policymakers on cybersecurity regulation and legislation

Related: What Does a Computer Programmer Do? (With Career Steps)

What education do you need to be a security consultant?

Most security consultants have a degree in computer science, cybersecurity, information security or a related field. People with degrees in other fields can also go into the profession by taking professional cybersecurity certifications, although it helps to have a background in information technology. Because of the rapidly changing threat landscape of cyber crimes, effective security consultants are proactive and stay ahead of industry trends. This makes it important for consultants to acquire in-demand professional certifications and other core competencies, regardless of their educational background.

Is cybersecurity consulting a good career?

Cybersecurity can be a rewarding career if you have the skills and experience to excel in the field. The profession can be demanding because of the important roles and responsibilities of security consultants. In recent years, malicious hackers have become highly sophisticated at compromising cybersecurity defences, and this increases the need for the expertise of security consultants.

If you have the right combination of technical know-how, experience and marketing skills, there are plenty of in-house and independent job opportunities in the information security profession. Because of the limited supply of talent in this field, security consultants can get lucrative salaries and fees. So, if you think you have the right qualifications and passion for cybersecurity, the profession can be highly rewarding in terms of job satisfaction, financial reward and personal fulfilment.

How much do security consultants make?

Security consultants can make an average base salary of $91,390 per year. Several factors can determine pay, including the employer or clients, qualifications, experience, location and specific job duties and experiences. Your income may vary widely if you're an employee or work independently. Having in-demand certifications and expertise in highly specialised areas, such as penetration testing and designing security infrastructure projects, can increase your earning potential.

Important skills for a security consultant

Here are skills that can increase your effectiveness as a security consultant:

  • Inquisitiveness: The work of security consultants is primarily looking for vulnerabilities and how to block them. This means being inquisitive, open-minded and flexible in trying new ideas and adapting strategies to changing situations.

  • Problem-solving: To be efficient as a security consultant requires excellent problem-solving skills. Whether you configure software or hardware programs or do penetration testing, you may identify and assess issues to provide actionable and sustainable solutions.

  • Communication: This role involves working with a wide range of people, including engineers, end-users and people who may have no technical background. To collaborate with all these parties, security consultants require excellent written, verbal, presentation and active listening skills.

  • Drive: Cybersecurity can be a high-pressure industry, with threats changing and getting more sophisticated every day. Being self-motivated and resilient can help you cope with the high demands of the job.

  • Creativity: Security consultants are hackers, but the good type. Being a good hacker requires creativity to think like the malicious actors and anticipate their methods and strategies.

Related: How to Write a Loss Prevention Resume (With Example)

Please note that none of the companies mentioned in this article are affiliated with Indeed. Salary figures reflect data listed on Indeed Salaries at time of writing. Salaries may vary depending on the hiring organisation and a candidate's experience, academic background and location.

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