Cyber security is one of the hottest topics in high technology and law enforcement. Behind the scenes, hidden in dark rooms and attacking via electrical conduits, hackers are trying to compromise banks, businesses, and government agencies. The Federal Government's agencies are scrambling to keep pace with the black-hat hackers and are thus seeking to train top computing talent to lend a hand in this vital area.
Computer science students are likewise taking note and are filling up cyber security courses at their colleges and universities. Since many of them desire careers in this exciting field, cyber security students are looking for internships that will provide the experience necessary to launch a successful career.
This page is dedicated to guiding students toward success as a cyber security intern. Keep reading to pick up tips for landing the best internship and a brief list of just some of the internships offered for top students.
What Types of Positions Can You Commonly Fill as an Intern?
Cyber security internships involve a wide range of duties and tasks. Often, interns may be asked to pick up the slack and fill certain gaps that full-time employees are unable to attend to. For instance, an intern may be utilized in a research capacity to determine what threats may be coming on the horizon. They may also be needed to design new methods for penetration testing and other ethical hacking activities. Some interns may conduct an audit of how an organization approaches its cyber security and provide a report to their supervisor.
Other interns may be thrust onto the front line to support professionals during an active cyber-attack. During some attacks, cyber security professionals need to be on their terminals thwarting a cascade of attacks as they come. Thus, interns can be there to support the professionals or get to work researching the problem and devising new solutions or approaches. If an attack occurs during their tenure, cyber security interns can demonstrate their true mettle.
How Can Internships Help You?
- Real-world Experience:
Internships offer an eye-opening view into the world of work. Students can take advantage of their experience as interns to observe how corporate or government organizations truly work. Sometimes, interns are asked to do menial tasks, but those types of chores form the backbone of major projects and corporate initiatives.
- Learning About Various Positions:
Interns are often in a position where they are floating around an organization, reporting to a manager but also working with support staff, calling vendors, etc. From this "fly on the wall" vantage, interns can learn plenty about each person and their position in the organization.
- Learning How to be Part of a Team:
Cyber security and other technology students often spend much of their time cloistered away writing code, examining code, or generally studying. However, once they take an internship, they must learn to work on a team. In fact, some corporations have internship programs that bring on entire teams of interns who must learn to work together to complete projects for their supervisors.
- Establishing a Network:
Internships are a fantastic way to meet people in the field. Interns can meet and network with professionals who may be helpful when it comes time to gather references. Furthermore, an internship is a great opportunity to start building a list of names and email addresses that could help you in the future. There's no telling how that might pay off later on.
What Does an Internship Usually Entail?
Internships come in a wide variety of shapes and forms. Some interns spend their time fetching coffee and making copies. In the cyber security field, interns might help put together educational materials aimed at informing other employees of new protocols for data security. There are as many types of internship programs as there are interns, it seems.
Some corporations have highly organized internship programs where students are assigned a mentor. Other programs may have a team of interns that are asked to collectively work on projects. Smaller firms, however, are more likely to have an ad hoc approach that allows interns to take more initiative and offer their insights or trains them in simple tasks that must be done continuously and are already in their wheelhouse, allowing them to get real work experience.
Prospective interns should be sure to investigate a number of internship possibilities prior to committing to one. As they learn about what each firm has to offer, they can make an informed decision as to which sort of internship would suit them best. Ultimately, interns should look for the places that will offer them the most opportunities to make a difference and display their talents.
Qualifications for an Internship
Since internships aren't actual jobs, there are many different ways to qualify for them. In cyber security, students will likely need to be at least in their third year of undergraduate work and have significant, relevant coursework under their belt. For instance, some internships may ask for exposure or expertise with blockchain, cryptography, or networking, for instance. Most will need to see that a student has significant experience with hardware and software matters, including programming.
If the internship is with the Department of Defense, or a federal law enforcement agency, interns may need to pass a background check and provide references. For instance, the Department of Homeland Security requires that interns be eligible to obtain security clearance. Federal internships will often require US citizenship.
Internships can also ask that applicants show evidence of leadership abilities and teamwork. Other soft skills, such as written and oral communication, may also be a factor in deciding who is awarded an internship.
Can I Earn an Internship Without Qualifications?
It's unlikely that anyone can land a cyber security internship without significant technical qualifications. Since the duties of a cyber security professional rely so heavily on computer technology, government and corporate organizations will surely require that their interns demonstrate competencies in relevant areas. However, there may be internships that are less exacting.
That is, if the cyber security department needs an intern to help create and distribute educational materials, they could look for an intern capable of performing technical writing tasks. However, even those positions may require some specialized knowledge of cyber security or at least information technology. This shouldn’t be an issue for students who are juniors or seniors but may make sure that most internships are out of reach for students with less time spent in the discipline.
Financial Incentives for Internships
Unpaid internships have long been the norm in corporate America. However, that has been changing over the past few years. In the cyber security field, it's more likely to find that interns receive some sort of compensation for their hard work. After all, organizations wish to attract the most competitive applicants to their cyber security teams, so they incentivize top students with stipends or some other form of compensation.
Nevertheless, there are still many corporate and government internships that do not provide financial stipends to their interns. There are other ways to provide for an intern, however. For instance, New York City's Summer Internship Program helps students gain valuable experience by providing free housing while they complete their 13-week internship. The housing includes more than shelter and students enjoy amenities such as cable television and internet. Students are likely required to provide their own food and transportation to and from their internship, however.
Ultimately, students should assess the long-term value of an internship. Even paid internships are unlikely to provide any substantial salary, but all of them are sure to be a highlight on one's resume. The value of that internship will rise if the job involves significant projects or outstanding tasks.
Is There a Difference Between Cyber Security and IT Internships?
Cyber security and information technology internships may sometimes seem remarkably similar, depending on the organization or the goal of the intern coordinator. In fact, the two fields have a lot of overlap. Both require that students have a knowledge of networking, coding, and even security. However, cyber security students will also be trained in areas such as cryptography, penetration testing, and computer forensics.
Both fields will require that students be well-versed in matters related to networking. With that in mind, it may be possible for an IT student to land an internship with a cyber security team if they are also able to demonstrate knowledge of relevant topics or the ability to learn on the job. On the other hand, it seems certain that an IT department would love to have a cyber security student on board, as they surely have IT skills on top of their cyber security training.
Resume Tips for Cybersecurity Internships.
Create a Project Portfolio
On top of a dynamite resume, cyber security students should also create a portfolio of their accomplishments. Any class projects can be included in this portfolio, as well as any outside projects that relate to cyber security. For instance, some students maintain cyber security blogs where they discuss relevant topics. Others might put together a white paper and a lecture to help their fellow students maintain their computing hygiene.
One key element to include would be evidence of soft skills. That is, seek out opportunities to create written materials or deliver speeches on the topic of cyber security. Since these skills are not only vital but also hard to quantify, when a portfolio includes solid examples, hiring executives are sure to take note. Another way to demonstrate these elusive abilities might be to undertake cyber security projects as part of a Computing Club where leadership abilities might also come into play.
When students are diligent and can provide a portfolio of completed work, they are sure to land an internship. That is because in the professional world of cyber security, employers want to see physical, quantifiable results. Students who demonstrate a track record of applying their technical knowledge are sure to stand out from the pack.
Tips for Resumes
Most students don't have a lot of real-world experience in cyber security. However, they all need to write resumes if they hope to land an internship in their field.
Here are a few quick tips for writing a resume:
- Join Clubs:
If there is a cyber security club on campus, be sure to join it and seek a leadership position. If not, discover how to create such a club.
- Attend Conferences:
This may seem like a passive activity, but conferences offer terrific learning opportunities that can be added to a resume.
- Extra-Curricular Cyber Security:
Students can create experiences of their own. For instance, creating materials and even a short seminar on cyber security for one's dorm or campus can be the perfect thing to bolster a resume.
Many financial aid packages include work-study experiences. Strive to land a position with the campus IT department.
- Delineate Skill Sets:
Make the most of a course in cyber security by subdividing its topics into individual skills for your resume.
- Department of Homeland Security Cybersecurity Internship Program
An internship with the Department of Homeland Security is sure to be enlightening and exciting. This internship provides top students the opportunity to learn alongside working cyber security professionals who are protecting the nation from cyber-threats. Interns will perform forensic analysis, incident handling, intrusion detection, and lots more. Applicants should be US citizens who can pass a background check and hold a security clearance.
- CISA Internship Program
The Cybersecurity & Infrastructure Security Agency seeks top interns to work with their dedicated professionals. Applicants need to have great grades from accredited institutions. This internship program is somewhat unique in that they take applicants from as young as high school through graduate students. Successful applicants are sure to have one of the most exciting working experiences of their lives.
- Cyber Summer Program – National Security Agency
The National Security Agency offers students a wide range of terrific opportunities to help protect the nation and its interests from hackers, malware, and all sorts of cyber-attack. There are opportunities in states such as Georgia, Colorado, and Hawaii. Students might work in information assurance, intelligence collection, or cyber operations. The agency also offers co-op programs for those who might enjoy taking a term off to work full-time in the agency.
- CIA Undergraduate Internship/Co-op Program
The nation's most well-known intelligence agency is seeking top students in cyber security. Interns need to have top grades from accredited cyber security programs. The positions entail detailed analysis of the agency's security architecture and protocols, among other duties. Interns might also develop risk assessments which could help defend the agency or the nation's other assets.
- NYC Cyber Command
Cyber security interns can work for New York City's Cyber Command during either the summer or fall. These internships are unpaid, but NYC provides comfortable housing solutions that include cable television, internet connections, and more. These internships only last 13 weeks and may lead to a position with the City, if not for a local corporation.