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As technology advances, the need for cybersecurity experts increases. Due to the increasing number of cyber attacks, businesses are looking for qualified cybersecurity professionals to protect their data. If you are interested in a career in cybersecurity, there are several things you need to know.

This article will provide an overview of what a career in cybersecurity entails, the skills and qualifications necessary, and the job outlook for this profession. It will also discuss how to pick or be the best cybersecurity consultant and some tips for aspiring cybersecurity consultants.


What is a Cybersecurity Consultant?

Well, that can depend since job responsibilities for cyber security consultants vary so greatly, and in truth, many people and businesses mean different things when they use the term. So there can be quite a bit of latitude regarding what a cybersecurity consultant does and what their specific job responsibilities would be. With that said, we’ll explore some of the typical descriptions, expectations, and duties of these cybersecurity professionals. We’ll also walk through some information regarding how pick the right cyber security consultant for your business, or if you are so inclined, how to become one yourself. So hang tight, we’re in for a wild ride.


Is It Cyber Security, Cybersecurity, or Cyber-Security?

So if we go based on the definitions of the Economic Times and TechTarget (which is silly to write, because who doesn’t), then cybersecurity and cyber security mean the same thing. However if we utilize William F. Friedman’s “Military Cryptanalytics’s” method (remember that from grade school, I told you we were in for a wild ride, ‘weeeee’), then:

  • Cybersecurity would be used only when using it as an adjective.

    • For example: The Cybersecurity process.

  • Cyber Security would be used when it was the object of a noun.

    • For example: Cyber security is an important area of focus to support an organization’s overall risk management strategy.

That’s of course if we are getting extremely technical and also use the above mentioned references as our source of truth. In common practice however, cyber security, cybersecurity, and cyber-security all mean the same thing from a communication point of view. People don’t know how to write it, but they are talking about the same thing.

What is inarguable though is that the difference between cyber security, cybersecurity, and cyber-security creates an absolute keyword soup! This is why it’s used in all its different formats within this document, and everything else we create. Aside from the SEO benefit (or perhaps hit depending on the flavor of the search engine), it’s really about being able to connect cyber security related information to those that are searching for it.

So for the most part, it really doesn’t matter. Though if you want to win friends and influence people, make sure you know the “book” definitions and be sure to correct everyone every time they use them “incorrectly.” For an added bonus, refer them to the links above, or better yet, directly to this article!


By the Books, the General Definition of a Cyber Security Consultant.

A cyber security consultant is an information security professional focused on identifying security threats within an organization and recommending appropriate security measures to address those identified security risks.


So, What Are Cyber Security Consultants Really?

Cybersecurity consultants do fit within the above definition, but it’s a pretty broad definition. Which therein lies the rub. That definition is so broad, covers so many things, that it brings us right back to our original question. What are cybersecurity consultants?

This ultimately depends on the entity asking or looking to fill/source the cybersecurity consultant position. It’s imperative to get clarification on what the organization (or asking party) on what they mean, and what they are looking for.

Perhaps the best way to answer this (or at least provide as much clarification that can be given) is to review some of the different ways cybersecurity consultants are identified, addressed, or described, and then discuss what they actually do.


What Are Other Ways Cyber Security Consultants Are Described?

Aside from the above, cyber security consultants may also be described as, or take on the role of:

  • Certified Information Security Manager,

  • Professional security consultants,

  • Computer security consultant,

  • Information Systems Security Professional,

  • IT Consultant,

  • Security engineer, and

  • Security systems assessor.

Honestly, the list could go on practically forever so we’ll just stop here to save your screen the pixels (and because we’re running out of keywords). What’s really important is that the security consultant that you engage with (or wish to become) is able to support the needs of the organization.


What Does A Cybersecurity Consultant Do?

At their core, cyber security professionals help an organization appropriately manage their security risks. Exactly how they do that for each organization and team they support may vary, but it always comes down to, the lowest common denominator, is managing security risks.


Common Cybersecurity Consultant Duties

It’s been said, that security consultants’ duties (and job descriptions) can vary greatly. With that said, most security consultants typically support organization’s in at least some of the following ways (buckle up, we’re going on a keyword ride):

  • Support the organization’s security administrator in managing information security,

  • Perform security assessments,

  • Analyze network security to address network access control deficiencies and identify security problems within the organization’s network,

  • Work (or become a part of) an organization’s security team,

  • Perform ethical hacking (penetration testing) exercises to prevent data breaches from malicious hackers,

  • Execute social engineering tests (i.e., phishing exercises),

  • Develop and deliver cybersecurity educational programs to improve organizational associate’s abilities to identify and manage security issues,

  • Perform vulnerability testing to identify security threats and test findings,

  • Analyze and improve firewall safety and security controls,

  • Support the organization’s information technology team to prevent, identify, and quickly manage online fraud and cyber attacks,

  • Ensure appropriate encryption techniques are utilized and implemented,

  • Develop, implement, and manage cybersecurity systems,

  • Review and improve security baseline configurations for computer systems’ operating systems,

  • Provide information security technical reports, and

  • So, so (so, so, so) much more. (That’s not bitterness)

With so many (possible) responsibilities, it’s imperative that security consultants are provided (and illicit) the exact needs of the organization. Doing this will ensure that the cybersecurity consultant understands the scope of their engagement (what the organization expects/needs from them), and to ensure they have the required capabilities to deliver on those expectations and needs.


What Skills & Credentials Are Needed To Be A Cyber Security Consultant?

Cybersecurity consultant looking at a flow chart of required skills.

Like all great consultants like to answer, it depends. Ultimately what it comes down to is the scope of the engagement, what the organization needs and expects from the cybersecurity consultant. Specialized technical skills will be needed to address certain issues or even work with certain systems. Get ready to eat healthy kids, we’ve got some keyword salads coming right up.


Cybersecurity Consultant Skills

This list isn’t exhaustive, as a baseline however, all cybersecurity consultants should have these baseline skills:

  • A comprehensive understanding of cybersecurity industry concepts,

  • Technical and soft skills,

  • Leadership skills and experience,

  • Report development and presentation skills,

  • Strong communication skills and an ability to communicate security related concepts to associates of varying positions and technical skill,

  • Thorough knowledge of cloud computing systems and network security best practices,

  • Experience managing and/or securing information systems,

  • Information security advanced persistent threat management experience (which includes relevant tools and practices to prevent, identify, and resolve them),

  • Experience working with multiple programming languages and/or scripting capabilities, and/or

  • Experience as a certified ethical hacker.

Quick aside, for those looking to become a cybersecurity consultant, I’m going to get real here with you for a second (and those in information security may not like to hear it), your soft skills are going to provide you the biggest benefit, or perhaps limit you the most, in your career development. A cybersecurity consultant must be able to effectively communicate and (successfully) engage with multiple departments, personalities, and with all levels of an organization. So if your soft skills are lacking, go grab yourself a volleyball to practice with, cause you’re going to need them.


Cybersecurity Consultants Qualifications

To be honest, there are no hard and fast requirements for security consultants. It really all comes down to what the organization needs, and if the consultant has the skills necessary. With that said, securing a gig (especially at security consulting firms), and the general career path in this digital world, can be considerably easier to navigate with some of the following:

  • Designate yourself as a certified information systems security consultant,

    • With certifications such as a CompTIA CASP, ISC² CISSP, etc.

  • At least a bachelor’s degree in computer science or information security,

  • A bachelor’s degree in business management,

  • Hold an ISC² CISA (Certified information systems auditor) certification, and

  • Extensive and varied work experience (varied being multiple systems, not necessary different jobs).


How To Pick or Be The Best Cybersecurity Consultant

Cybersecurity consultant candidates waiting for job interview.

If you’ve been following along this whole time (and I’m so sorry if that’s the case), it will probably make sense to say, it depends. What it depends on is what the organization needs (which works if you’re hiring or looking to fill job openings).

As an organization, it’s imperative to fully identify your needs, and then look for a certified security consultant in the areas that you need. For example, if you have a physical data center, then having someone with experience as a physical security consultant would be wise. Or, if you’re an international association, security consultants with international privacy laws (i.e., GDPR) is a must.


How Is The Job Outlook For Cybersecurity Consultants?

Ok, ear muffs business owners and HR reps, I need to have a chat with aspiring cybersecurity consultants. This is a great time to be a cybersecurity consultant as there are far more job openings than there are cybersecurity consultants to fill them.

That means (ear muffs HR) the average annual salary for a cybersecurity consultant (or similar) is fairly high, and continues to rise, so there are buku (or beaucoup for any of our French cybersecurity consultants in the house) opportunities for a cybersecurity consultant to negotiate salary and benefits along their cybersecurity career path.


Cybersecurity Consultants for Businesses or as a Career Path

Whether you’re looking to hire a cybersecurity consultant, or become one yourself, understanding what they are, and what they do is imperative. For businesses hiring, it comes down to understanding your needs and matching those with the right candidate. For those looking to become cybersecurity consultants (or those just thrust into it, shout out to our man Johnny), understanding what your client (or organization) needs, and polishing your skills to support those needs will ensure you’re success now and well into the future.