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In the information technology (IT) field, the demand for cybersecurity skills is growing at lightning speed. According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, for example, the job outlook for information security analysts is expected to have 33% growth between 2020 and 2030, which is much faster than growth for the average occupation.

Driving this demand is the fact that cybersecurity crime is a serious threat to almost every organization, and security breaches can easily cost large businesses millions of dollars in lost clients, productivity, and overall revenue. IT security analysts and other cybersecurity professionals help businesses combat these threats, including those who work as ethical hackers.

What is an Ethical Hacker?

Ethical hackers, also known as white hat hackers, help companies to find vulnerabilities and risk within IT systems and processes. Ethical hackers first assess and test an organization’s network and then use many of the same techniques and tools as a cybercriminal to gain access to or control over IT systems and data. This can include social engineering techniques like phishing scams as well as trying to bypass and crack encryption tools and evade firewalls and other security measures.

Unlike a typical hacker though, an ethical hacker completes this work with full knowledge and approval from an organization. Their goal is actually to help, not harm a company. Once an ethical hacker identifies where a company is vulnerable to being hacked—and informs the organization of how those vulnerabilities can be exploited, the company can address those risks and better defend themselves from future attacks.

What Companies Hire Ethical Hackers?

Ethical hackers can work within an IT or cybersecurity department of a large company, including companies in industries such as healthcare, finance, energy, aerospace, and telecommunications. Ethical hacking jobs are also available within government and law enforcement organizations. Alternatively, ethical hackers may work for an IT or cybersecurity organization that hires out their services to other companies. Ethical hackers who are more established may pursue working on a freelance and consulting basis.

What Skills, Training or Certification Do Ethical Hackers Need?

Many ethical hacker jobs require applicants to hold a bachelor’s degree in information technology, cybersecurity or a related field. To succeed in this career, you’ll need a strong foundation in operating systems, databases, networking, and, of course, the principles of information security. People who become ethical hackers often have experience in other technology roles before they pursue an ethical hacking career.

Some employers require or prefer employees to hold specific certifications. Below are a few of the credentials employers often ask for in this area:

Beyond having the required technical skills, ethical hackers must be analytical thinkers, creative problem-solvers and skilled communicators who can effectively document and report their findings to business leaders and technology teams.

Preparing for Your IT Career

The South University Bachelor of Science in Information Technology program with a Cybersecurity specialization can help you prepare to pursue a career in cybersecurity. Designed to meet cybersecurity education guidelines developed by government, academic and the private sector, this program can teach you how to:

  • Assess cybersecurity threats and vulnerabilities of information systems and infrastructures and analyze the cybersecurity risk impacts on enterprises.
  • Design robust, layered controls to safeguard mission-critical assets of enterprises.
  • Articulate clear, accurate and precise solutions to IT and discipline-specific problems.
  • Display effective teamwork and communication skills inside organizations.
  • Recognize and explain the societal, legal and ethical factors impacting individuals and organizations in various IT contexts.
  • Define IT and discipline-specific concepts, recognize applied usage, describe methodologies, determine governance and technical measures, and apply best practices effectively and accurately in all phases of the IT delivery lifecycle.

Our cybersecurity classes have direct relevance to in-demand jobs and align with certifications from organizations like the ECC and (ISC)2. Our cybersecurity specialization courses also each include virtual lab activities to give you hands-on practice solving problems, with classes covering areas such as:

  • Network security
  • Application software security
  • Information systems security
  • Ethical hacking
  • Cyber forensics
  • Incident response
  • And more

Visit our website to learn more about our IT program, or request information to speak with a South University representative today about how we could help prepare you to pursue a cybersecurity career.