Not sure which path to take to reach your career goals?

Whether it's apprenticeships, university, or something else, there are different ways you can get working for well-known brands in whatever field you choose. Most industries offer lots of different routes into them, so if cyber security isn’t for you, keep exploring to find what is.

Ellie’s, Andrew’s and Martin’s stories show you how they secured their careers, all following different paths including university, apprenticeships and going straight into work from school. Read their stories to discover new inspiration for your future.

Meet the experts

Andrew's apprenticeship journey

"I did a foundation degree in Forensic Science many years ago but never really thought about formal re-training, even though I wasn’t fully satisfied with my career.

"I was working for Cumbria Police as an ICT Integrations Team Leader. I arrived at a work meeting early one day and someone mentioned the degree apprenticeship opportunity to me. I said yes because I thought it was a chance to learn new things, but I never thought it would change my career like it has.

"I’ve always had an interest in cyber security, and I joined the police to specialise in networks and security. I did that for three years before starting the apprenticeship. I only wish the apprenticeship had existed sooner, as the latest direction of my career – my new role as a Cyber Security Architect with the Police Digital Service - is what I’ve wanted to do for so long.

"I knew that going back into education, aged 32, wasn’t going to be easy, but my employer and University of Gloucestershire supported me to balance my work and study pressures. I live 300 miles from the university campus, and travelled down regularly for five-day blocks of learning.

"And while I was away from work, my managers treated it like I was on leave and gave me time for my studies. My final year was the hardest as I was managing restructures and infrastructure replacement programmes at work, but I felt really supported throughout to succeed in both worlds.

"Although I’ve worked in cyber security for six years, I wanted to move from management and back into a technical role. My apprenticeship has enabled me to do just that. I like the technical side of cyber security because I enjoy designing things from scratch, implementing and testing things, trouble shooting and problem solving. I can’t wait to get more technical in my new job."

More about apprenticeships

"My second-year project output is also being submitted for publishing in a European journal currently, which is exciting. I was surprised by the academic rigour involved in the apprenticeship. It was great having the opportunity to learn again. Towards the end of my second year, I had the opportunity to work on a project with colleagues from the national police management centre to prototype and develop a process for aggregating a specific dataset for centralised security monitoring. The national team was looking for a force to collaborate with; it was something Cumbria Police was interested in doing anyway, so we decided it would be good for me to do.

"The project got approved to be rolled out across all UK police forces. Even better than that, it helped me to secure my new role, as I had experience working with the team. It’s likely I’ll be working on the roll-out of this and similar projects in future."

Ellie's school leaver journey

"This was because I felt it was more suited to my career goals. In the tech world, you need a lot of experience to get a good job and I wanted to progress as swiftly as possible. I did my year 11 work experience with Deep Secure, which I really enjoyed. When I heard they were recruiting for a role, I knew it was something I couldn’t miss out on.

"I was also able to stay close to my family, which is important to me, and earn a salary, which is a bonus! I never really wanted to go away to university so moving straight into the world of work just felt right for me.

"I have no regrets. I’ve been learning on the job about so many different things. No two days are the same. One minute I’m working at a desk, then I’m in the server room, then I’m coding and hacking, and the next minute I’m collaborating with and presenting ideas to groups. Since starting at Deep Secure, I’ve now been given the opportunity to do an apprenticeship, so I get three years’ industry experience alongside a degree-equivalent qualification with University of Gloucestershire.

"Cyber security is such a growing field – everyone is constantly learning new things. As security develops, so do the risks, so the job is never going to go away. It combines science with creativity. That’s why it’s a great career for so many people. It requires a lot of teamwork so it’s also such a supportive environment."

"My advice to others considering moving into employment from school or college? Look for an employer that offers some form of training alongside your role. An apprenticeship is ideal, as it enables you to gain an internationally recognised qualification as well as real-world experience.

"I like working as part of a team, because I’m learning from so many different people, but I also feel supported to try out new ideas. I recently wrote a script that can scan computer viruses – if it works out, it could be retailed on the market as a hardware virus protection product. That’s exciting! When I was young, I never thought I would work in computing. But the more you do the more interesting it gets, and the more you want to do. It’s fascinating – there’s so many different aspects and areas of technology that could suit everyone’s interests."

Martin's undergraduate degree journey

"I worked in hospitality until I was 29 years old, then decided to move into cyber security. In the current climate, cyber security is very relevant, so I was confident I would land a good job at the end of my degree. I attended a University of Gloucestershire open event and could see how friendly and supportive the staff were – they made me feel completely relaxed as soon as I arrived. It was also evident how much expertise they had, so I knew I would be in safe hands by studying there.

"As a mature student, I appreciated learning. I was focused on achieving my goal and took the degree seriously as a result. I made the most of everything I could to maximise my career opportunities. There was so much time getting hands on in the laboratories, which I enjoyed. I especially liked the ethical hacking and penetration testing modules. In fact, I was able to get an additional penetration testing qualification as part of my degree, which was a big selling point in my final year and has helped in my career.

"I love my job. I’m working on important customer-facing security projects, developing new tools for use in the public domain. I’m surrounded by knowledgeable and helpful colleagues, who support me to develop technical and softer skills, such as communication, presenting, leadership etc. I learn new things every day from so many gifted people."

More about university

"I was keen to get work experience while studying, to help me secure a graduate career. The university arranged a summer work placement. It was really beneficial – getting out there and seeing what it was like in the work environment. I landed myself a brilliant graduate role with brilliant pay – because of my degree. Without the degree I definitely wouldn’t be in the position I’m in now.

"I secured my role through a university careers fair. Northrop Grumman had a stand there. I expressed interest and they took my contact details. They then called me and offered me a position. I was over the moon.

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