Im new to STO and im still stuck with a light cruiser. I want a regular cruiser soon because im finding that I barely have the firepower to take an orion cruiser. Also the shields seem to disappear half way through a battle, I cant do the mission "hide and seek". Any tips on how to get a cruiser fast, or how to make mine better.
The previous posters' advice is all good (the game starts everyone with balanced power levels, and everyone should immediately switch to max weapons power).
I'd also suggest that in the early levels of this game, most of your killing power is going to be with torpedoes. Equip one up front, and a torpedo enhancing BOff skill. This is reduced at max level, but that's a separate question.
I think with your added attack power you'll kill things faster, you won't need to worry about defense as much. In any event, if you have room for Emergency Power to Shields with an Engineer BOff, that will help keep you alive. Keep this skill active as much as possible.