20 September 2023

Cyber Security Internships & Placements: A Closer Look

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Want to protect computer devices from criminal attacks? Beat the hackers and ensure all online information is in safe hands? Yes? If so, cyber security is the path for you.

With the world becoming ever more digital, the demand for cyber security specialists is on the rise, especially when it comes to sensitive government data – you know – all the top secret stuff that shouldn’t be leaked.

So.. how do you break into cyber security? With a placement or internship of course!

Read on for your all-you-need guide to becoming a cyber security whizz…

What is cyber security?

Cyber security is the practice of defending networks, data and technological systems from cyber attacks. Let’s begin by breaking down the types of threats that cyber security experts spend their days and nights fighting…

Ransomeware – This form of cyber attack is becoming increasingly common. In a ransomware attack, victims must pay a ransom to decrypt files, however the putting forth of dollar doesn’t guarantee the encrypted files will be recovered. 

Phishing –  Not to be mistaken with fishing. In this attack fraudulent messages will appear as if from a reputable source with the purpose of stealing sensitive information (such as credit card details). 

SQL Injection –  A Structural Query Language (SQL) injection, which is one hell of a name, is an attack on a server in which malicious code is inserted in a server to reveal hidden data. 

Denial-of-service attack  A system or network is flooded with traffic to shut it down. 

Defend your data and networks with cyber security

What do cyber security professionals do?

There are three key pillars of cyber security, and they define what cyber security guards do on a day-to-day basis…

People –  Employees are often the biggest security risk when it comes to preventing cyber attacks. There was a time when it was highly fashionable for people to leave memory sticks containing highly sensitive information on trains. Cyber security staff train employees within their company (or in a consultancy role) to ensure they are not putting a company at risk.

Process –  An organisation’s processes are crucial to preventing cyber threats. The role of the cyber security team is to put processes in place to reduce these threats, and review the processes as the threats evolve.

Technology –  Once a cyber security analyst has identified the risks their organisation faces they can then identify the technology required to prevent them. Technology is deployed to reduce the risk of cyber risks, or completely prevent them. Analysts have to carry out a risk assessment to decide what controls to put in place.

How do I get cyber security experience?

It’s becoming increasingly important to get work experience while you’re at university. There are an average of 91 applications for every graduate job in the UK.

It’s competitive – like Mario Kart. 

This is true even in the IT and technology sector, which is the fastest-growing in terms of graduate opportunities. 

It’s skills like time-management, the ability to accept criticism and manage-up that employers are looking for. They are crucial and transferable to any working environment.

Doing a placement or internship is an opportunity to develop these skills alongside your degree. Even just a short internship with a cyber security team will help prepare you for the real thing, and show employers that you have the minerals to begin a career in the field. 

Cyber security placements

FOR: 2nd years
DURATION: 5-13 months

There are a few different names for placements – some people call them ‘student placements’, others say ‘sandwich placements’, but they all refer to the same thing.

Cyber security placements are designed to give students a full year of professional work experience. They take place in between the penultimate year, and the final year of a degree. For that time, a placement student is a full-time employee for their company.

If you’re considering pursuing a career in cyber security, applying for a placement is a good first step. There are two types of cyber security placements on offer.

You can either work for a company that specialises in cyber-security, or work with a smaller, in-house cyber security team of a large organisation.

Cyber security internships

FOR: One and all
DURATION: 4-16 weeks

The majority of internships take place during the summer, so they are creatively advertised as summer internships.

A cyber security intern is not employed to be a photocopier or maker of tea. They join a team, shadow experienced professionals, contribute to projects and get a first-hand look at what it’s really like to work in cyber security.

Doing an internship like this is not only a marvellous addition to your CV, it’s an opportunity to work out if cyber security is the right path for you.

Cyber security is but one branch of the IT sector, and there are opportunities to get placements and internships in many other areas. Read our guide to IT internships to discover what’s on offer. 

Cyber security jobs

What can you do with a cyber security qualification? Have a look at the table below to find the top SIX cyber security jobs that’ll pay off your mortgage faster than you can say – ‘Achoo!’.

                        Job Title  Average Salary (per year)
Chief Information Security Officer £120,693 
Security Architect £73,068 
Malware Analyst £50,000 
Penetration Tester£54,072 
Cybersecurity Engineer £44,011 
Computer Forensics Analyst£33,907

What are the best internships for cyber security?

Each year we announce our Best Student Employers; a list that is based on the thousands of reviews submitted to RateMyPlacement.co.uk by previous placement students and interns.

This year’s finest companies for cyber security placements and internships are: