October, as many people now know, is National Cyber Security Awareness Month. But where exactly does the awareness come from, and who is gathering the information needed to keep citizens informed about personal data protection and corporate cyber security? This information comes from a variety of individuals, from advocacy groups to IT experts, all people who have a vested interest in cybersecurity.

Cybersecurity is one of the exploding career fields right now in the tech space, but there is a lot of information to know before working towards a career goal involving computer protection. This infographic from StaySafeOnline shares a wealth of information on how to break into this lucrative and rewarding career, even if you’re not focusing on long-term plans for IT work.

First, a number of companies actually pay everyday citizens for reporting security flaws that they have discovered on their own. With the right technical know-how, you can reap the rewards of exposing vulnerabilities in major platforms, as long as you’re following the right protocols for reporting. Facebook, Google, Yahoo!, and a host of other companies compensate individuals who are known as “white hat hackers,” or basically, the good guys of the hacking world.

But for someone who wishes to become an industry professional, what does it take? According to the data, the overwhelming majority of cybersecurity jobs require a college degree in a related field of computer science, although some schools have placed this kind of educational program under the criminal justice department due to its close association with law enforcement. Major colleges around the country are only just beginning to develop four-year degrees and graduate degrees to create professionals in this new field, so seek out a program that offers accreditation through the university and has a proven track record of its graduates gaining employment.

A number of hacking competitions and cybersecurity events take place that will provide great knowledge, networking opportunities, and even resume experience. Look for information on the Global CyberLympics at cyberlympics.org, or the US Cyber Challenge at uscyberchallenge.org. There are also a lot of other similar events that can lead students who place well into a good higher ed program, so reach out to these event organizers for details on what it takes to be a part of them.

One catch-all organization that serves as a source of information and support is the National Initiative for Cybersecurity Careers and Studies, which can lead you in the right direction for pursuing this kind of work. With updates, resources, news items, and guidance, the NICCS works to increase the number of professionals working in this important law enforcement and tech field. Find out more about the organization at niccs.us-cert.gov.

For anyone with an interest in any specific field, the most important aspect is knowledge of the industry. Be sure to keep up with the news of data breaches, hacking events, software and tech vulnerabilities, and more, and make sure you’re following current industry leaders on social media to see what threats are currently on their radar. As technology continues to expand and the definition of a digital society continues to evolve, the need for qualified security experts will only go up.