Meet the students working to protect the UK’s online security, all while studying for their degree

They receive an annual bursary of £4,000 towards their tuition fees

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Let’s be real, we’re all guilty of using the internet pretty haphazardly. The more technology we have in our lives, the more we’re at risk. Cybersecurity is more important than ever, and there are some students who are already on their way to being at the forefront of the industry.

The CyberFirst Bursary Scheme is run by GCHQ and the National Cyber Security Centre – these are the guys who gather security intelligence to keep Britain safe and constantly prevent hacks to the country’s online systems. We spoke to three students on the scheme about life on the front line of keeping your data safe.

*All names and pictures have been changed for security purposes

CyberFirst are offering a scheme that gives students an annual bursary of £4,000 and paid cybersecurity training

Apply here for their bursary scheme

Meg, Biochemistry, second year

This photo is not a representation of Meg*

What made you want to go into cybersecurity?

My school didn’t offer any cybersecurity-related learning and I felt like I’d really missed out. I always wanted to work in a field that was helping people and making a difference in the world. The more I study and work, the more I find new areas I’m interested in. Doing this scheme is the best decision I’ve made at university.

How did you find the transition, as a biochemistry student?

I was really worried that I’d be at a disadvantage but this really wasn’t the case. Having a different way of thinking can really help, especially when working as part of a larger team. As long as you’re motivated to learn and work stuff out for yourself, it doesn’t matter what your degree background is.

Have you met a lot of people through the scheme?

The bursary scheme is really social. There are loads of other students on the summer placements and events so I’ve made a lot of friends from all corners of the country. Everyone’s really like-minded and knowing that in the future we might be working alongside each other makes it even better.

With CyberFirst, you receive an annual bursary of £4,000 towards your tuition fees as well as training to set you up for a career in cybersecurity

Apply to CyberFirst’s Bursary Scheme today

What online resources are there to help with any additional study?

I’ve used Codecademy to help with my programming skills. Humble Book Bundle is great as well, and FutureLearn often runs online courses which are really helpful and only take a couple of hours a week to complete. You can also sign up for Immersive Labs with your uni email – it’s an interactive research platform for practising cyber skills using problem-solving exercises.

With the knowledge that you’ve gained, do you feel safer online now?

CyberFirst has helped open my eyes to the importance of managing my digital footprint. Even the obvious things like making sure your Facebook settings are properly managed can be more complicated than you’d think, and you can always be more protected.

Become an expert in one of the world’s most important industries and get an annual bursary of £4,000 towards your tuition fees

Apply to CyberFirst’s Bursary Scheme today

Kat, History, third year

This photo is not a representation of Kat*

What interested you in cybersecurity as a career path?

Over the past few years, I’ve become more aware of the role tech plays in my life. Every day there are newly-discovered vulnerabilities with these technologies and I wanted to get involved in protecting them. Cybersecurity to me seemed like a career path that was growing rapidly. 

I didn’t have much knowledge of anything technical or any awareness about the career options in cybersecurity available to me after uni. After completing the CyberFirst Academy and an industry placement with a sponsor from the scheme, it’s opened my eyes to the possibility of doing this long term. The staff are there to help you find these placements and job opportunities too.

What do you enjoy most about working with cybersecurity?

I enjoy learning about how systems work and trying to come up with ways to improve them. I like that my career won’t stay the same for all of my working life, and I could be protecting systems in the future that haven’t even been invented yet.

Receive continued support through your cybersecurity training course and an annual bursary of £4,000 towards your tuition fees

Apply to CyberFirst’s Bursary Scheme today

Are there any subjects that would be helpful to study for a cybersecurity role?

It’s open to anyone. If you’re analytically minded, you can apply any subject to cybersecurity. Anything that provides insight into how the human mind works would also be beneficial if you’re interested in the human aspect of cybersecurity.

What advice would you give to those thinking about cybersecurity as a profession?

Good communication skills are a must, as this industry needs collaboration between people to find the best solutions. No one is expecting you to be an expert in the field right away, but doing your own research and study into the areas you’re interested in will go a long way. 

Get expert training, career opportunities in cybersecurity and £4,000 every year towards your tuition fees 

Apply for CyberFirst’s Bursary Scheme now

Jen, Maths, second year

This photo is not a representation of Jen*

How does the scheme work?

The CyberFirst Bursary Scheme is a training course that fits alongside my degree. I applied after being sent the scheme on a UCAS email, and once I’d been accepted, I joined the CyberFirst online community space where I could get in touch with mentors and other students.

I spent eight weeks at the CyberFirst Bursary Scheme Academy, being taught the key areas of cybersecurity by industry experts. We covered everything from networking and programming to gathering open source intelligence online. I lived in nearby halls with 50 or so other students, from a huge range of degrees. The academy wasn’t always easy but the support was incredible. 

I’m currently completing a technical summer placement in Cheltenham. On the bursary scheme, I receive a yearly bursary towards my uni fees and also get paid to do a summer placement. It’s a really privileged position to be in. 

Why do you think it is important for people to go into cybersecurity roles?

It’s easy to take for granted that all the things we do online are relatively safe, and we shouldn’t just assume that there will always be someone around to make sure that Facebook isn’t hacked or that the bank’s voice recognition can’t be beaten. The cybersecurity industry needs young people with a passion for protecting the country’s infrastructure.

With CyberFirst, you get expert training in cybersecurity, as well as £4,000 every year towards your degree

Apply for CyberFirst’s Bursary Scheme now

What advice would you give to those thinking about cybersecurity as a profession?

If there’s any part of you that’s interested in protecting security systems, just go for it. I came from a background with minimal cyber knowledge and it’s never hindered me. 

What’s been the biggest challenge you’ve faced?

Coming from a degree course that’s pretty equally split between males and females, I was initially disheartened by the lack of women in the industry. However, this industry requires diversity to grow and if you stick with your conviction, regardless of your gender or background, you won’t be overshadowed.

CyberFirst’s Bursary Scheme trains students in cybersecurity alongside their degree for free

You’ll receive an annual bursary of £4,000 to go towards your tuition fees

Apply now to CyberFirst’s Bursary Scheme