The 5 Best Cybersecurity Careers in Virginia
And how you can train to become a cybersecurity professional in Virginia in less than a year.
Steeped in U.S. history and brimming with colonial architecture, the Commonwealth of Virginia is the sweet spot for anybody looking to settle in an area full of job opportunities and with easy access to the splendor of the American backcountry. But in between the Blue Ridge Mountains and Virginia Beach, the Old Dominion state offers far more than spectacular views and world-class seafood.
Virginia is home to 35 Fortune 1000 companies, including Freddie Mac, General Dynamics, Northrop Grumman, Capital One, Dollar Tree Stores, DXC Technology, and Altria Group.
The state also boasts a high concentration of governmental organizations. The Norfolk and Hampton Roads metro areas register a large military presence, in addition to the NASA Research Center and facilities of the Departments of Energy, Transportation, Commerce, and Veterans Affairs.
All these varied industries and organizations contribute to a thriving economy. Still, they make Virginia a prime target for hackers looking to infiltrate our government institutions or steal proprietary and confidential data from corporations and innovative high-tech startups. And that’s why the Commonwealth has the most cybersecurity companies per capita in the nation.
Why Choose Cybersecurity in Virginia
There currently are tens of thousands of job openings for cybersecurity professionals in the Commonwealth of Virginia and thousands more in the Hampton Roads metro area.
The key to understanding why cybersecurity jobs are so in-demand in the Old Dominion state is to realize that, no matter the industry, every single organization operates through technology.
From government agencies to tech startups, to Fortune 500 companies, every organization sends communications via email or online messaging apps, stores documents in databases housed on servers or in the cloud, conducts meetings through video calling services, monitors their premises via remote security infrastructure, and tracks their fleets via GPS. Each and every one of these tools can be hacked.
Technology enables our way of conducting business, but it also makes our data and privacy vulnerable and prone to being attacked by hackers. That’s why every single industry needs skilled cybersecurity professionals to secure their networks and online systems.
Government agencies and military bases are a special area of concern in Virginia because of the dangers security breaches would pose to our homeland security and the integrity of our intelligence services.
The 5 Hottest Cybersecurity Jobs in Virginia
In cybersecurity, there are plenty of career paths you can take. You can be part of the cybersecurity team of a government organization or large corporation; you might want to work for an IT agency offering cybersecurity services to small businesses, or you can fly solo and start your own business testing the cyber defenses of your clients.
The 5 cybersecurity positions most sought-after by employers in Virginia are:
- Cybersecurity Analysts
What They Do: Cybersecurity Analysts protect organizations’ computer networks by planning security measures and contingency plans, keeping up with new tools and strategies used by hackers, and constantly monitoring the network for any breaches. Sometimes called “Information Security Analysts”, professionals in this role might also be responsible for educating employees on security risks and best practices, including how they can contribute to keeping the network safe.
Hard Skills You’ll Need:
- Familiarity with various operating systems like Windows, Linus, and UNIX.
- Installing firewalls and encryption tools.
- Reporting vulnerabilities and attacks.
- Researching evolving security techniques and strategies.
- Cybersecurity Managers and Administrators
What They Do: the true backbone of cybersecurity efforts for any organization, Cybersecurity Managers and Administrators are responsible for the security tools and techniques used throughout a company. Often, they also write the security policies and employee training materials that outline best security practices for an organization. They have an overall view of a company’s security across software, hardware, and are in charge of the entire cybersecurity system.
Hard Skills You’ll Need:
- Monitoring network traffic for unusual activity.
- Configuring firewalls and patch management systems.
- Implementing network security policies, application security, access control, and corporate data safeguards.
- Developing business continuity and disaster recovery protocols.
- Cybersecurity Consultants
What They Do: sometimes working as freelancers and sometimes part of a larger IT agency, Cybersecurity Consultants can perform varying tasks depending on their clients’ needs. They can be both the attacker and the defender in computer systems, networks, and software programs. Cybersecurity Consultants always work to curb the latest and most sophisticated hacking techniques, giving them invaluable insight into how hackers really think, and allowing them to stay one step ahead in hardening cybersecurity infrastructures.
Hard Skills You’ll Need:
- Penetration testing.
- Firewall safety and management.
- Knowledge of advanced persistent threat management.
- Encryption techniques.
- Programming languages used for the storage and processing of raw data.
- Cybersecurity Specialists and Technicians
What They Do: Cybersecurity Specialists and Technicians build security tools directly into the development stages of networks, software, and data centers. They use a multi-layered approach, often known as Defense in Depth, to build defenses around every level of a company’s system by identifying weaknesses and figuring out how to strengthen systems to prevent hackers from exploiting vulnerabilities.
Hard Skills You’ll Need:
- Deep knowledge of how to set up security systems.
- The ability to detect malware.
- Coding skills are also often required, as cybersecurity professionals in these positions frequently need to adapt or create ad hoc security solutions.
- Penetration Testers and Vulnerability Analysts
What They Do: these two roles are both responsible for detecting a system’s vulnerabilities. However, while Penetration Testers—also known as pen testers and white hat hackers – try to lawfully hack into an organization’s network to uncover weaknesses, Vulnerability Testers take it one step further by also implementing new security measures to render the system more secure.
Hard Skills You’ll Need:
- Performing social engineering tests.
- Collecting data and deploying testing methodologies.
- Locating, assessing, and managing vulnerabilities.
- Making suggestions for security improvements.
- Preparing technical responses to security questions.
Cybersecurity Training in Virginia
Cybersecurity threats are a very real problem, and hiring managers in this space often favor cybersecurity talent who can demonstrate practical abilities more than candidates with only academic credentials.
So whether you are new to the industry or pivoting from a computer science major or IT role, you should be looking for ways to acquire the practical skills that will get you hired.
Certificate programs like the Old Dominion University Cybersecurity Bootcamp can help you acquire the key skills you’ll need on the job with hands-on online labs and expertly guided practice. The bootcamp accommodates the lifestyle of busy professionals, with classes scheduled during weeknights and weekends, so you can learn everything you need to enter the cybersecurity field without sacrificing your current job and responsibilities.
Cybersecurity Training at Old Dominion University
Three things set the ODU Cybersecurity Bootcamp apart from others: the quality and depth of education, the expertise of its instructors, and the caliber of its career services.
Accomplished cybersecurity professionals teach all classes live and online, bringing their expertise and everyday experience directly into the classroom. Career services start working with learners early on with a professional resume, a polished LinkedIn account, and access to our extensive network of hiring partners—so you can jumpstart your job search even before the end of the program.
The ODU Cybersecurity Bootcamp curriculum prepares you to enter the cybersecurity workforce no matter your initial level of tech-savvy. In our proprietary platform, called CyWar, every course you take has a corresponding set of online resources, including study guides and additional hands-on exercises you can use to further hone your skills.
Additionally, while not mandatory, the bootcamp also offers elective classes that prepare you for 8 of the major globally recognized cybersecurity certifications:
- LPI Linux Essentials
- AWS Certified Cloud Practitioner
- CompTIA Network+
- Ec-Council C|ND – Certified Network Defender
- CompTIA Security+
- Ec-Council C|SA – Certified Soc Analyst
- Ec-Council C|EH – Certified Ethical Hacker
If you are just starting out in the cybersecurity industry, acquiring some of the above certifications can help you stand out to employers and serve as an additional confirmation that you have what it takes. However, keep in mind that sitting for all of the above exams in less than a year is somewhat unreasonable, so we generally advise students to aim for two to three certifications, according to what type of career path they desire.
So what are you waiting for? The time to start is now. New cohorts start on a rolling basis—schedule a call with our admissions team and learn how you can become a cybersecurity professional in Virginia in less than a year!