Exploring the Cyber Security Skills Employers Are Seeking

cyber security professional working at a computer with cyber security skills icons around the screen

“Cyber security” has become quite the buzzword. A decade ago, people were more concerned with protecting their homes and physical property from a break-in. Nowadays, you would almost rather hand over your television to a burglar than let your passwords fall into the wrong hands—and for good reason!

Protecting digital data and safeguarding against attacks is incredibly important. That’s why corporations across all industries hire cyber security professionals whose only focus is to keep their data safe and secure. You’ve often wondered what it takes to join the ranks of these tech pros. Unlike physical security guards, bulging muscles and a stoic demeanor aren’t really part of the job description. So what skills do you need to make it in the field of cyber security?

You won’t be surprised to learn that there’s a range of technical skills employers are looking for when they hire for a cyber security job position. But did you know that hiring managers are also looking for soft skills in this tech career? We researched job postings and spoke with experts to bring you the cyber security skills that are in demand today.

What do cyber security analysts do?

You can’t fully understand the skills needed to do the job if you don’t understand what the job is. To a lot of people, saying you work in cyber security causes Hollywood depictions to spring to mind. While it’d be nice to collect a paycheck for simply wearing a hoodie, typing furiously and spouting technobabble—there’s a lot more to it.

In reality, the cyber security field relies on a variety of professionals who work together to prevent and correct data breaches. Cyber security teams are responsible for implementing prevention measures like firewalls, encryption programs and multi-factor authentication. Additionally, cyber security professionals often engage in what’s called penetration testing in order to probe systems for known security exploits or weaknesses—any issues are then documented along with recommendations for how to fix and improve.

Much of this work involves focusing on small details since hackers can take advantage of even the smallest gap in security. But cyber security pros also get to think strategically about the big picture as they plan their organization’s overall security and data recovery plans. In addition to planning for “What if?” worst-case scenarios, they also need to help organizations educate and guard against what’s likely to be their biggest liability—human error!

You can see that cyber security careers are about far more than just sitting behind a computer all day—and that means they need a specific skillset to do their jobs well.

In-demand technical cyber security skills

Let’s start with the technical side of things. If you want to work in cyber security, you’ll need to know your way around the programming languages and software that are commonly used in the field.

We analyzed more than 175,000 cyber security job postings to bring you this list of the most in-demand technical skills:1

  • Information systems
  • Linux
  • Network security
  • Python®
  • Project management
  • Information assurance
  • Cryptography
  • Vulnerability assessment
  • UNIX
  • Penetration testing

If that list sounds like it was written in another language, don’t panic! These are skills you’ll learn in a high-quality cyber security program, like the Cyber Security Bachelor’s Degree program at Rasmussen College. Through courses like Malware Reverse Engineering and Hacker Techniques, Tools and Applications, you’ll develop a rock solid foundation of technical know-how to continue building upon throughout your career.

Essential soft skills in cyber security

Technical skills can only take you so far in this field, however. “Our professionals require adequate soft skills to complete the job effectively,” says Garry Brownrigg, CEO and founder of content management system QuickSilk.

We spoke with hiring managers within the cyber security field to learn which soft skills they’re looking for in a new employee. Here’s their list of must-have cyber security soft skills.


Cyber security analysts aren’t isolated at their computers all day like you might expect. These pros work on a team with other specialists, with each person bringing their own unique perspective and expertise to the table to increase digital security. That’s why Jessica Lim, HR partner at MyPerfectResume, calls teamwork skills “underrated but highly useful” in the cyber security field.

“These days it is very much a team effort with various stakeholders,” Lim says. However, not all cyber security pros have the collaboration skills to work on a team. If you know how to ask for help when you need it, share ideas and accept and provide constructive criticism, and garner buy-in from other stakeholders, you’re well-equipped to work on a cyber security team.

Communication skills

Both verbal and written communication are an important part of a cyber security career. Not only do these experts need to make sure they’re on the same page with their team, they’re also responsible for sharing important information with people who aren’t well-versed in the technical language of cyber security.

“The technical jargon of our day-to-day work can be very jarring,” Lim says. “That is why it is absolutely imperative that cyber security experts can ‘translate’ our purpose, needs and requests into easily digestible language.” Not everyone has the ability to explain complex topics in a simple way. Your stand-out communication skills could put you ahead of the rest in a cyber security setting.

Research skills

Best practices and trends in cyber security change regularly as technology evolves and hackers develop new tactics. Cyber security analysts are responsible for staying on top of the latest developments in the field, and that means doing plenty of research.

“You will need to keep up with the endless threats and the latest vulnerabilities,” Brownrigg says. “If you are passionate about learning and can adapt quickly, you are setting yourself up for tremendous success within the cyber security field.” If you love learning and don’t shy away from research, employers could be looking to put your skills to work.

Problem solving

The entire field of cyber security is like one big problem-solving exercise. Cyber security analysts need to anticipate problems before they arise, as well as solving the inevitable data breaches that occur. “Troubleshooting is what we do the most,” Lim says.

Lim adds that problem solving requires both technical knowledge and creative thinking—a combination that can be hard to come by. If you can approach a problem from different angles to find the best solution, you could be a valuable resource in the cyber security field.

Attention to detail

Minor mistakes in cyber security can lead to devastating data breaches. You can have all the technical skills in the world, but without attention to detail, you risk leaving your organization open to attacks from hackers.

Cyber security analysts need to evaluate their work with a fine-tooth comb, searching for anything that may have been overlooked. Rushing through this process will only lead to vulnerabilities for your organization. Attention to detail is a soft skill that’s difficult to teach, so your natural eye for catching errors could make you an asset employers want to hire.

Securing your future in cyber security

Did any of these in-demand cyber security skills seem familiar? Chances are, you already have some of the soft skills employers want to see in their cyber security team.

You may have a handle on these soft skills, but cyber security technical skills are another matter. You know a degree program will give you the foundation you need, but is a degree really necessary for this field? Find out with our article, “Is a Cyber Security Degree Worth It? The Facts You Can’t Ignore.”

1SOURCE: Burning-Glass.com (analysis of 175,336 cyber security job postings, May 01, 2019–Apr. 30, 2020).

Python is a registered trademark of The Python Software Foundation.

About the author

Ashley Brooks

Ashley is a freelance writer for Collegis education who writes student-focused articles on behalf of Rasmussen University. She believes in the power of words and knowledge and enjoys using both to encourage others on their learning journeys

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