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How to Become a Data Protection Officer

Data Protection Officer

Due to the ongoing digitalization of many operations and processes within companies, one of the biggest problems most modern businesses face is cyber threats.

Those dangers, if not dealt with correctly, put sensitive information, and customer trust at risk.

Thus, the issues concerning ensuring data safety and protecting it from cyber threats are widely discussed in the contemporary business world.

As a response to a growing need to ensure more safety, there emerged a need to design a new role in companies.

That person would take care of advising the proper protection of sensitive data held by the company, according to the official norms and standards. These individuals are commonly known as Data Protection Officers or DPO.

DPO in 2021

For many companies, hiring a Data Protection Officer became a necessity with the EU’s GDPR, which has established the mandatory status of DPOs. These norms apply to companies processing sensitive information on a large scale, as well as all the businesses that monitor individuals.

For example, companies that use Internet tracking and profiling for advertising purposes. Think hospitals that process big data daily, security companies monitoring public places, small head-hunting agencies collecting profiles of people, and many, many other small and big companies, not to mention social media giants.

Due to the sudden demand for DPOs on the market, more and more companies seek to hire DPO individuals or decide to use outsourced DPO services to help them comply with the norms and carry on working with people’s data.

The demand and the significant shortage of professionals in the field contributed to this career path’s growing popularity. Nowadays, a DPO position is often chosen by individuals majoring in computer science and Internet enthusiasts interested in finding success in a new career path.

The possibilities are endless, but what is the next step to taking up this career? To find out the key responsibilities of the DPO and how to successfully become a DPO, follow our short guide.

Key Responsibilities of a DPO

The role and responsibility of a DPO are generally defined by the GDPR of the EU, adopted in 2016. Typically, the set tasks and responsibilities of a DPO include:

# Informing and advising the staff regarding their data protection responsibilities according to GDPR and best practices,

# Monitoring the company’s data protection procedures, norms, and compliance with GDPR, as well as monitoring assessment of duties, their way of implementation, and the results,

# Informing management about the necessary data protection impact assessments (DPIAs),

# Being a point of contact for data subjects regarding their privacy matters,

# Being a point of contact between the supervising authorities and the company to report all data protection issues.

How to Become a Data Protection Officer

A path to becoming a successful DPO is not an easy one, as it requires a combination of education, certification, experience, and a particular skill set.


To become a data protection officer, you don’t necessarily have to have a proper higher education.

For the most part, a solid combination of knowledge in related fields, certificates, and experience of work in the niche, as well as a bit of interest and passion for data protection matters, should be enough.

With that being said, remember that if you’re a complete beginner in this field, a university background might indeed be beneficial: it can help you gain essential knowledge and a comprehensive understanding of this complex notion.

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To gain a degree valued in the DPO position, you should seek majors in information security, computer science, or a similar field.

To make sure the major will equip you with useful knowledge, check the offered courses, and make sure they cover subjects such as compliance, auditing, or privacy.

Professional Certifications

Professional certifications are widely recognized by multiple companies, as they guarantee your knowledge combines a solid dose of theory and professional practice.

When applying for a DPO position, certifications of the International Association of Privacy Professionals (IAP) such as CIPP/U, CIPP/EU, and CIPM might be required.

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Others – such as ISACA’s certifications regarding risk management and government, CGEIT, or CRISC – might be preferred and favorably viewed.

Any other certifications additionally prove your skills, as well as your devotion to the job.

Good Career Path

Promotion to DPO most likely won’t happen overnight, so you should expect a steady path composed of different levels and positions leading to the DPO level.

Typically, the promotion requires 5 to even 10 years of former experience in various compliance-related fields, whether it’s information security, information technology, business administration, or finance.

The spectrum of the required area of expertise might be wide, as long as the candidate can demonstrate the necessary knowledge for their security-based role.


The required skills of a candidate include deep expertise in GDPR, norms, regulations, and legal background in the privacy field.

Apart from the required certifications, the best candidate will have existing relationships with specific authorities in data protection and privacy and a proven track record of work in the field.

Moreover, a successful DPO candidate will be able to quickly learn about new rules and regulations to help adjust the company’s policies easily.

Lastly, a perfect DPO candidate’s skillset includes solid communication skills, as the role will require keeping a proper relationship both with the organization’s staff and management and with the supervising or legal authorities.

The bottom line

In the digital era of operating businesses, the importance of the role of a DPO is unquestionable. These days, most companies require a professional’s assistance to advise them concerning legal matters of data protection.

For businesses, the benefits of hiring a data protection officer are endless. Hiring a DPO enables building a company based on a factual legal basis and creating the right brand image to increase brand awareness and customer trust.

The multiple benefits of hiring a DPO in companies result in great demand for professionalists in the field. Successful DPOs can both help businesses and consequently build a successful career around their area of expertise.

Although completing the stages of becoming a good DPO requires time, experience, and money, with the demand in the niche and job possibilities, the invested time and resources are bound to pay off.

Hi, I'm Michael, a research writer with expertise in technology, education, business, finance, insurance, real estate, and legal insights. My goal is to share the newest updates and trends from these industries with you.

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