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Careers of the Future: Ethical Hacker

Globalisation, automation and rapidly changing needs mean the future of employment will probably look very different to now. In fact, many current careers won’t exist in the next 10 to 20 years. So, it’s critical that students ask the important question: ‘Will my chosen study path lead to strong job opportunities after graduation and beyond?’

In this series, we’re exploring a range of occupations forecast to have strong employment prospects in the future. Some careers in the tech industry are quickly emerging. Plus, there are other existing careers that will also have an important place in the employment opportunities of tomorrow.

Today we are looking at ethical hacking. With cyber-security becoming more and more of a priority for governments, businesses, and individuals, ethical hackers are already in high demand.

Why become an ethical hacker?

Ethical hackers are data-focused, detail-oriented problem-solvers and critical thinkers. They aim to find and fix problems and loopholes in systems, networks and/or applications. Ethical hackers are responsible for outsmarting malicious hackers and protecting highly valuable information from potential attacks. They work well in teams, love solving puzzles, and have a keen curiosity about how things operate.

Ethical hackers are basically the ‘white hats’ (or ‘good guys’) of the hacking world. They are trained professionals hired by companies to use their skills for good, working professionally and ethically on the right side of cyber security.

As an ethical hacker, you’ll be working for big companies, government agencies, security firms or other organisations who will hire you to keep their information safe and secure. These clients will require you to legally hack into company networks to look at network security, find and fix potential dangers, and create solutions to patch serious security risks or fight off harmful attackers. You’ll become a trusted advisor, developing IT policies and provide valuable strategies to individuals or companies about how they can fight back against cyber threats.

Ethical hackers think outside the box

Ethical hackers are the ultimate problem-solvers. To stop dangerous hackers from accessing sensitive information, you’ll have to think creatively, like a hacker. That means staying one step ahead of criminals and fraudsters in order to beat them at their own game before they can do any major damage.

Ethical hackers constantly challenge themselves

The world of cyber security is an ever-changing space, so you’ll always be on your toes, racing against the clock to find and fix vulnerabilities and prevent fraud. You’ll be at the forefront of technological innovation, constantly putting your abilities to the test.

You’ll learn skills that employers are looking for

If you study to become an ethical hacker, you will learn key skills in Java, SQL, SharePoint, Adobe Photoshop and website development — all job-specific skills commonly requested by employers. Working in teams, you’ll also develop skills in collaboration, communication and customer service. You’ll also immerse yourself in project management, honing your abilities in quality assurance and project planning, and being detail-oriented.

Ethical hackers are in-demand all over the world

With more connectivity between countries and people, cyber-attacks are increasing — and are making more impact across the world than ever before. The need for strong cyber security has never been more important, so more and more big organisations, companies and government institutions are actively hiring ethical hackers to test their systems and keep them safe and secure.

Students who study subjects within information technology have adaptable, flexible employability and strong career prospects. In particular, security specialists are more in demand locally and overseas.

Education pathways to ethical hacking

To qualify to become an ethical hacker and work in cyber security, you may need to complete a relevant Bachelor qualification in a related field. Relevant career pathways may include:

    • Information technology
    • Software engineering
    • Web design and production
    • Entrepreneurship and innovation
What makes a successful hacker?

“The best coders are those who play around by themselves,” says Glenn ‘Devalias’ Grant, a developer, ethical hacker, mentor, entrepreneur and highly successful graduate of Canberra University’s Technologist Cluster. “That self-motivated curiosity and learning makes all the difference.”

Grant began playing with computing and coding around the age of 12, developing a keen interest in how things work. After graduating from Canberra University’s Bachelor of Software Engineering program in 2009, Grant worked as a security analyst (as a part of the government’s Department of Human Services’ graduate program), and joined a local tech startup (Welcomer), before co-founding his own company, HACT.

He’s since made a successful career out of ethical hacking, receiving a number of innovation and entrepreneurial grants, and mentoring younger students interested in coding.

For Grant, studying to be an ethical hacker has been an incredibly rewarding pursuit.

“Penetration testing and ethical hacking is like what the bad guys do, but the big difference is that you’ve got permission to do it,” Grant says. “It’s all about thinking how the program might be put together, and where the vulnerabilities might be.”