The General Teaching Council for Scotland

7 Feb 2018

Six subjects to pick for a top career in cyber security

Claire GillespieClaire Gillespie, Skills Development Scotland

Claire Gillespie, key sector manager for Digital Skills at Skills Development Scotland, highlights six pathways in order to begin a career in cyber security

The glow of the new year may be starting to fade but there’s no time to rest because now is the time when school pupils all across Scotland will begin looking at what subjects they want to do, both in school and in the next big stage of their lives, be it university, college or an apprenticeship.

Cyber security is more important than ever in today’s digital age. Stories about high-profile hacks break almost every day as criminal gangs find it far more convenient to steal money from behind a computer screen than by robbing banks the old fashioned way. As a result, cyber security professionals are amongst some of the highest prized professionals worldwide.

So for any young person dreaming of a career in cyber security and in need of some inspiration as to how to get there, here’s a few school subjects and pathways that may help pave the way to a cyber crime fighting career.

Computing Science

While still at school, studying computing and other STEM subjects can be an excellent starting point for anybody aiming to get into cyber security - or any kind of digital career for that matter. Some schools may also offer a National Progression Award in Cyber Security.

The ability to analyse big data and trends, develop algorithms, and understand networks and hardware are key skills that can help develop the knowledge required to be successful in fields such as digital forensics, ethical hacking and wireless security.

Foundation Apprenticeship in IT: Hardware & System Support and Software Development

This is one of the newer apprenticeships available to young people which they can do while still in school and gives a fascinating insight into hardware and systems within individual companies.

Those keen to embark upon this apprenticeship will have the opportunity for a work placement, giving them the chance to experience and learn how a real technology company operates day-to-day. Whilst on placement apprentices will experience various real-life opportunities such as investigating system faults and incidents, and seeing how genuine solutions are developed to help deal with any threats that may occur.

A Foundation Apprenticeship in Software is also available and will support young people to develop skills in programming, robotic systems, apps and website development as well as learning how to keep the hackers out.

Modern Apprenticeship in Information Security

For young people who would like to combine earning with learning there are a whole host of apprenticeship options now available. See:

Cyber security is no exception and a Modern Apprenticeship in Information Security will take young people on this career path. During their apprenticeship, they will be challenged to protect consumers, companies and maybe even governments from the threat of cyber attacks by ensuring the safety and security of computer systems and processes. Clearly, James Bond now works from behind a computer screen.

Graduate Apprenticeship in Cyber Security

For young people who like the idea of an apprenticeship but want a degree-level qualification, a Graduate Apprenticeship in Cyber Security could be for them. It has been developed to offer candidates the chance to gain on-the-job experience with a cyber security role while working towards a degree in Cyber Security.

As a graduate apprentice they will learn the core technical concepts behind cyber security as well as developing skills in communication and problem-solving, helping them to understand the kind of threats and attacks that frequently face those in the technology industry. This course will also focus on how these attacks can exploit vulnerabilities and what can done be to prevent or intercept possible threats.

Ethical Hacking BSc (Hons)

Believe it or not, Abertay University in Dundee created the world’s first ‘Ethical Hacking’ degree and has become renowned for its prestige in teaching cyber security.

Launched in 2006, the concept for this course is to teach students how to take a practical and pre-emptive role in the prevention of hacking. In order to do this, Abertay teaches its students to learn about the process behind cyber security attacks by deliberately breaking into security systems and circumventing security measures. Some may say that they teach you to think like a criminal to know how to catch a criminal.

Advanced Security and Digital Forensics (MSc)

Edinburgh Napier’s GCHQ-accredited Advanced Security and Digital Forensics course may be an ideal fit. This course offers students critical knowledge in the major areas of computer security, network and communications systems, incident response and the forensic investigation of devices and networks.

Edinburgh Napier’s School of Computing has worked closely with industry, law enforcement and the public sector to establish this popular, high-quality course, which plays host to many guest lectures by key industry experts.