How to Break Into the Cybersecurity Industry Without a Degree

Pursuing a rewarding career that offers a sense of purpose and fulfillment is a top goal for many career-aged adults. They search for careers that allow for impact and a path for continued growth and success. 

If you’re looking to transition into a secure and rewarding career, cybersecurity may be the right fit for you. In tech-saturated California, just about every organization relies on internet connectivity to keep their operations functional; however, they may not always account for every vulnerability within their networks. 

Citizens are also at risk of having their identity or financial information stolen or having their devices and files infected with malware. Between 2019 and 2020, the number of identity theft complaints in California increased by almost 50%. As a result, cybersecurity professionals are growing in demand to help maintain the first line of defense against these online criminals. In other words, California is long overdue for cybersecurity upgrades.

What Skills Do I Need for a Cybersecurity Career?

You don’t need to be a computer whizz to pursue a tech career. Many professionals in the field pivot from unrelated backgrounds or train from scratch with a degree or accelerated career-prep program. Those who pivot from non-tech sectors, including customer service, business administration, or even hospitality have already developed useful skills that can be easily applied to a cybersecurity role.

Soft Skills

Soft skills are non-technical skills that make it easier to navigate the professional landscape, such as critical thinking, effective communication, and a keen eye for detail. The soft skills you build throughout your professional career are not usually specific to one industry so you won’t have to worry about whether or not your current job is equipping you with the right soft skills for a cybersecurity career

Important soft skills for cybersecurity:

  • Innate curiosity
  • Determination
  • Collaboration
  • Leadership
  • Analytical thinking
  • Communication (written and verbal)

Hard Skills

The exact hard skills you will need to develop will vary depending on the type of career path you want to pursue. Most people think being a cybersecurity professional means spending all of your time in a server room tangled in wires. In reality, “cybersecurity professionals” can look very different from role to role. While the titles and functions may differ, there are some basic hard skills every professional must possess.  

Important hard skills for cybersecurity:

  • Proficiency in cybersecurity fundamentals
  • Ability to test networks and vulnerabilities
  • Working knowledge of Python and other programming languages
  • Understanding mitigation and security measures
  • Performing data analysis and digital forensics

With the right training and skills, almost anyone can excel in a cybersecurity position and help defend data for people worldwide.

Upskilling for Experienced Professionals

New types of cyberattacks and constant technological innovation ensure that the cybersecurity landscape is always changing. It’s important to continue learning new skills and stay updated on new developments in the space, which is why even those with years in a particular field can benefit from taking specialized courses. 

Agricultural workers, for example, make up a large part of California’s workforce and need to stay up-to-date with new smart devices and learn how to protect them and the networks they run on. Someone with a cybersecurity background can help make an impact by keeping these technologies and those who rely on this industry safe.

Is Cybersecurity Right for Me?

Cybersecurity is an excellent option when considering a career path. For starters, if you are naturally proficient with computers or tech-savvy in general, cybersecurity can be a space where you use your interests for good. 

Speaking of doing good, cybersecurity professionals do help make a difference in their organizations and communities. They defend and protect sensitive information and secure the critical networks we rely on on a daily basis. Similar to police officers, firefighters, and detectives, cybersecurity professionals can play a critical role in areas like criminal justice and community management. 

Job security plays a large role in the allure of this career path. As demand for qualified professionals continues to increase, there is an enormous talent gap that is making cybersecurity one of the more consistently in-demand career paths out there. Every industry, whether it’s goods and services, entertainment, manufacturing, etc., has a need for cybersecurity and IT as long as their employees are relying on internet connection and technologies to keep their operation running. 

Cybersecurity Jobs That Don’t Require a Degree

For many career changers or those just now entering the workforce, cybersecurity is an ideal industry since many of the jobs available don’t require a traditional degree. Many entry-level positions only require the requisite experience and skillset, an ideal way to demonstrate both to potential employers is to gain cybersecurity certifications.

We’ve gone ahead and listed a few positions below that are attainable with entry-level cybersecurity training and the ideal certification to accompany it. 

Cybersecurity Analyst

These analysts protect an organization’s hardware, software, and networks from potential breaches. They typically monitor network traffic and investigate past breaches. 

The CompTIA CySA+ certification is designed for cybersecurity professionals who specialize in the application of behavior analytics to networks to assist with the detection and prevention of threats. It is ideal for any aspiring cybersecurity analyst.

Network Security Engineer

Engineers in this position plan out and build a company’s security system by identifying potential threats and designing tools to combat them. 

The CompTIA Security+ certification is considered to be the ideal first certification for any budding cyber professional. For Network Security Engineers this certification will demonstrate your ability to assess security systems and how you respond to breaches or other security events. 

Identity and Access Management

Specialists in this position design and maintain processes and policies that manage who in their business or organization has access to their network.

The (ISC)² SSCP certification is designed for intermediate cyber professionals to demonstrate their ability to implement, monitor, and administrate IT infrastructure. 

This certification is ideal for those seeking a management position on a cybersecurity team. 

Becoming a Cyber Professional Without a Degree or Previous Experience

No experience? No degree? No problem! The first step towards becoming a cybersecurity professional is getting proper training.

Cybersecurity Training

Whether you’re inexperienced or you want to sharpen your current skills, an accelerated career-prep program is an ideal way for learners to gain the skills they need from active industry professionals on a flexible schedule. 

The CSULB Cybersecurity Professional Certificate Program is a 10-month program with classes taking place in the evenings and on weekends. Learners will gain hands-on experience in real-world scenarios through simulations of cyberattacks as well as other in-class activities.

By the end of the program, you’ll be able to start applying for jobs in the field, breaking into the industry faster and without a traditional degree. Upon completion learners will receive a Certificate of Completion after 400 hours of extensive training and practical learning in the skills employers are hiring for!


When talking about “breaking into the industry,” hands-on training and a working knowledge of the fundamentals is enough to get you started. If you want to stand out from the crowd, however, getting certified is your best bet. Industry certifications show employers that you’re proficient in a particular area or function.

Some cybersecurity roles require specific certifications but these are the recommended cybersecurity certifications for beginners:

Free Cybersecurity Resources

Interested in learning more about cybersecurity? Here are a couple of excellent reads where you can learn about the industry and receive some tips on how best to break into cybersecurity.

  • The Cybersecurity to English DictionaryThis book goes even further with industry terms, keeping the reader informed and up to date on the language cybersecurity professionals use every day. This is a great resource to keep on hand for quick references for beginners as well as current industry professionals.

Here are some resources we’ve compiled to help you learn about the cybersecurity positions available in California. 

  • – designed specifically for California residents. You can search state careers and set up personalized alerts to be notified when jobs you are interested in are available.
  • Employment Development Department of California – An informative tool designed to provide data about the many careers available at the state and local levels in California.
  • U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics – An excellent resource that provides data on salary and wages, as well as a broad overview of the career paths available to cybersecurity professionals.

Start Today. Defend Tomorrow.

Want real training with real pros? The CSULB Cybersecurity Professional Certificate Program offers online classes led by active cybersecurity experts who are passionate about transferring their knowledge and experience to you via hands-on training and simulation labs. Learn the relevant techniques professionals are using in the cybersecurity field today and prepare for some of the more recognized certifications in the industry. 

Get serious about your cybersecurity career. Get in touch with our admissions advisors by calling 562-359-4787 or filling out the form below.


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