Cyberspace communication specialist apprenticeship: a guide

Updated 1 June 2023

A cyberspace communications specialist manages and secures digital information and assets for infrastructure on aircraft and their bases. They usually work for the Royal Air Force (RAF) and can pursue apprenticeships to begin their career. Learning about apprenticeships can help you understand the unique opportunities and benefits they offer to trainees. In this article, we define cyberspace communication specialist apprenticeships, outline the duties apprentices fulfil and discuss the specific skills they learn for a full-time job.

Please note that none of the companies, institutions or organisations mentioned in this article are affiliated with Indeed.

What is a cyberspace communication specialist apprenticeship?

A cyberspace communication specialist apprenticeship is a training programme in the RAF. It features theoretical learning and practical application to teach individuals how to manage and maintain aircraft communication technology. In theoretical learning, you study cyber communications topics, such as digital information flow, cyber threat detection and mitigation strategies. The practical training teaches you to apply knowledge from theoretical learning under the guidance of cyberspace communications specialists.

Apprenticeships have different levels, from level 3 to level 7. Level 3 apprenticeships offer qualifications equivalent to A-levels, while levels 4 and 5 are equivalent to a foundational degree. You can get qualifications equivalent to a bachelor's or master's degree from level 6 and 7 apprenticeships.

Related: A guide on how to join an RAF apprenticeship (And benefits)

Cyberspace communications specialist apprentice duties

Apprentices receive theoretical and practical training to help them perform the duties of a cyber communication technician. A cyberspace communications specialist apprentice typically learns to fulfil the following duties:

  • Creating and monitoring digital communication networks: Cyberspace communication apprentices learn to create communication networks overseas, monitor network activities, identify unusual activities and investigate potential cyber threats. These tasks contribute to the system's overall security, prevent breaches and maintain the network's integrity.

  • Safeguarding sensitive data: Apprentices learn to implement reliable security measures and encryption techniques to safeguard network data. They help ensure that data remains secure from potential threats to maintain confidentiality and the integrity of information when storing or sending it.

  • Maintaining an aircraft's mission support system: Cyberspace communication apprentices and specialists work as part of squadrons to support an aircraft's system as it executes various missions. They ensure the seamless integration and functioning of communication systems, contributing significantly to the success of each operation.

  • Responding to cyber threats or breaches: Apprentices learn to respond quickly and decisively when they identify a threat to the network. As future cyberspace communications specialists, their role involves mitigating the damage and taking steps to restore normal system operations to minimise network downtime and disruption.

  • Installing and managing system updates: Cyberspace communication apprenticeships teach apprentices to install updates and manage system upgrades. Ensuring the system is always up to date keeps its performance and security at optimal levels.

  • Providing support to network users: Apprentices learn to troubleshoot any issues that users may encounter and guide them on ideal practices for secure operations. It helps them maintain a user-friendly and secure experience when they become full-time cyberspace communications specialists.

  • Analysing potential cyber threats: Apprentices study and practise reviewing and interpreting data to understand the nature and potential impact of various threats. They learn and help develop counteractive strategies to contribute to the system's resilience against cyberattacks.

  • Contributing to the development of cybersecurity policies: Apprentices learn to develop and implement guidelines that aid in safeguarding digital information. A full-time specialist helps the organisation determine its approach to cybersecurity.

Related: What does a communications specialist do? (With FAQs)

Cyberspace communications specialist apprentice skills

Here are some skills a cyberspace communication apprentice gains to help them perform their duties in a full-time job:

  • Network analysis: Apprentices learn to analyse network performance. They use this skill to identify issues or determine potential improvements for communication networks.

  • Cyber threat intelligence: A cyberspace communication apprenticeship involves developing the ability to interpret cyber threat data. Apprentices use this information to predict potential risks and create strategies to mitigate them.

  • Encryption techniques: The apprenticeship equips individuals with the skill to encrypt sensitive information. This helps them ensure data remains secure during transmission and storage.

  • Penetration testing: Apprentices learn to perform penetration testing attacks on systems. Cyberspace communications specialists use this skill to identify and rectify system vulnerabilities.

  • Understanding of regulatory standards: A cyberspace communication role requires knowledge of relevant cybersecurity regulations. Apprentices develop this knowledge to ensure systems comply with standards.

  • Communication: Apprentices develop the ability to convey technical information in easy-to-understand language. They use this skill in a full-time role to educate staff and report cybersecurity issues.

  • Problem solving: An apprenticeship enhances the ability to solve complex technical issues. Apprentices use problem-solving skills in full-time roles to troubleshoot and resolve network and security problems.

  • Firewall administration: Apprentices learn to manage and configure firewalls from the cyberspace communication programme. It helps them control incoming and outgoing network traffic depending on specific security rules.

  • Intrusion detection: Apprentices may develop the ability to utilise intrusion detection systems. The skill allows them to monitor network traffic for incidents.

  • Understanding of cryptography: Apprentices learn about cryptography principles, which involve using algorithms and mathematical concepts to secure communication and information. This skill helps them create relevant protocols to maintain the security and integrity of data.

  • Cloud security management: An apprenticeship equips individuals with skills in using, managing and securing cloud applications. It allows them to manage users and devices, encrypt data and audit cloud security settings.

  • Risk assessment: Apprentices develop skills in conducting risk assessments for cyber systems to identify potential vulnerabilities and assess the potential impact of a breach. Risk assessment also helps them develop relevant mitigation measures.

  • Scripting: Cyberspace communications specialists use scripting skills to automate tasks, analyse data and manage systems more efficiently. Apprentices learn different languages under the two main scripting languages, including the client-side and server-side languages.

  • Cyber forensics: The role requires skills in cyber forensics. This helps communication specialists investigate and analyse digital evidence following a security breach.

  • Knowledge of operating systems: Cyberspace communications apprenticeships teach individuals to use different operating systems. This knowledge helps them optimise and secure different systems efficiently.

Related: How to become a communications consultant (With key skills)

How to qualify for a cyberspace communications specialist apprenticeship programme

Review the following requirements to understand how to get a cyberspace communication apprenticeship:

1. Meet the educational requirements

There are different educational requirements for different apprenticeship levels. For a cyberspace communications specialist apprenticeship, you require five GCSEs, including mathematics, English, science or a technology subject, in grades 9 to 4 or above. For apprenticeships at a higher level, you require A-level qualifications in a relevant subject, such as computer science or mathematics. Some employers ask for level 3 apprenticeship qualifications.

2. Demonstrate your interest in technology and cyber communications

This is an optional requirement for many apprenticeship programmes, but it's an advantage, as it can make you a unique candidate. Display your passion for cyberspace communications or technology by providing evidence of participation in relevant activities outside of your formal education. Examples include participating in coding clubs, completing online courses in relevant fields, such as cyberspace security, or learning coding skills independently.

Related: A guide to IT apprenticeships (Definition, types and tips)

3. Complete a background check

Cyberspace communication apprenticeships and full-time positions require candidates to complete a background check because the positions involve working with sensitive data. You require a successful Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) check to work in the RAF. Passing security clearance checks shows potential employers they can trust you to manage confidential information and work in a security-sensitive environment.

Related: How long do DBS checks take? (With types and stages)

4. Commit to the apprenticeship duration

Apprenticeship durations usually range from one to four years, depending on the apprenticeship level and provider. The cyberspace communication apprenticeship is often 36 months long, and apprentices work and learn for about 40 hours a week. Prepare to dedicate this period to completing your apprenticeship. Completing the programme successfully shows your commitment to career development.

5. Develop and showcase relevant skills and personal qualities

Those offering a cyberspace communication apprenticeship may prefer candidates with specific skills, which they list in the apprenticeship description. Examples of skills and personal qualities you may require include proficiency in IT, attention to detail, problem solving, communication and teamwork. Work in the RAF may involve physically demanding environments, making physical fitness a requirement to join an apprenticeship programme.

Related: How to become an IT specialist: a step-by-step guide

6. Create a CV and cover letter

Create a CV and cover letter to communicate your interests and qualifications for the apprenticeship position. In your CV, provide your contact information, write a professional summary, outline your experience, list your skills and highlight your educational qualifications. Include independent learning initiatives to show your passion.

A cover letter discusses your interests and qualifications in more detail than your CV. Provide your contact information and recipient address at the top of the cover letter. Express your eagerness to contribute positively to the organisation and your desire to learn and grow within the industry. Elaborate on why you're interested in this opportunity and how your skills and experiences make you a suitable candidate. Thank the recruitment manager for reading the letter and invite them to contact you and send information on the recruitment process.

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