Organizations today are facing an overwhelming wave of cybercrime. In fact, in 2022 ransomware attacks increased by 41% and identification and mitigation of these attacks took 49 days longer than the typical data breach, according to Top 50 Cybersecurity Statistics, Figures and Facts. Some other eye-opening statistics from the article include:
- Fraud cases increased 70% since 2020
- Over half of companies discovered at least 1,000 files that could be accessed by all employees
- Healthcare is the most targeted industry by hackers
- Healthcare security breaches cost $10.1 million per incident in 2021
When it comes to breaking down cybercrime, these stats are just the tip of the iceberg.
The fast rate of digital transformation, growth of the Internet of Things (IoT), rapid increase of remote work and poor cybersecurity practices have made organizations of all types vulnerable to cyberattacks. But nothing makes an organization more at risk of experiencing cybercrime than the lack of in-house cybersecurity professionals, including cybersecurity engineers.
Have you ever asked yourself, “What is cybersecurity?” or “what is a cybersecurity engineer?” If so, you’ll find everything you need to know below.
What Is a Cybersecurity Engineer? The Definition
Cybersecurity engineers are IT professionals who defend organizations from intruders and the havoc they cause. As a cybersecurity engineer you will help prevent data breaches by creating, implementing and monitoring security systems and features. The security measures you will take and the solutions you will design, launch and maintain prevent unauthorized users from accessing sensitive data. This makes cybersecurity engineers invaluable to organizations.
Roles and Responsibilities of a Cybersecurity Engineer
Cybersecurity engineers have many duties that go beyond creating, implementing and monitoring defensive security systems and features. Other tasks a cybersecurity engineer is responsible for include:
- Creating solutions for pre-existing security issues
- Defining, implementing and enforcing corporate security policies and best practices
- Configuring and installing firewalls and intrusion detection systems (IDS)
- Promptly responding to data security crises
- Overseeing any changes in facilities, software, hardware, user needs and telecommunications
- Performing penetration testing
- Conducting network maintenance
- Providing information assurance
Cybersecurity engineers also act as consultants within an organization and are responsible for suggesting specific modifications in any area that affects IT security. Some examples include technical, legal and regulatory areas.
Essential Skills and Qualifications for a Cybersecurity Engineer
Succeeding in a cybersecurity engineering role isn’t possible without targeted skills and qualifications. The technical skills you’ll need as a cybersecurity engineer are related to:
- Firewall installation
- Incident response
- Programming languages like Python
- Intrusion detection/prevention protocols
- Coding and threat modeling
- Knowledge of computer networks and network solutions
- Identity and access management
- Windows, Linux and UNIX operating systems
- Virtualization technologies
- Security testing methodologies like penetration testing
- Software engineering
- MySQL and MSSQL database platforms
- Systems engineering
- Encryption and application security technologies
- Secure network architectures
- Computer programming
- Domain name server (DNS)
- Encryption technologies and standards
- Network routing methods like virtual private networks (VPNs), virtual LANs (VLANs) and voice over IP (VoIP)
- TCP/IP, user datagram protocol (UDP), IP security (IPSec), HTTP, HTTPS, routing protocols and other network and web-related protocols
- Phishing, advanced persistent threats (APT) and social engineering
- Network access controllers (NAC)
- Gateway anti-malware
- Enhanced authentication
Also, although cybersecurity engineers are not ethical hackers, understanding the fundamentals of ethical hacking can help you effectively test the security solutions you create. This enables cybersecurity engineers to decrease the vulnerabilities of networks and computer systems.
Cybersecurity engineers also need soft skills, especially communication, analytical and problem-solving skills. But cybersecurity engineers don’t come by these skills easily. These skills are gleaned through cybersecurity degrees, work experience and cybersecurity certifications.
Most employers require cybersecurity engineers to have a bachelor’s degree in cybersecurity or a related field. Other acceptable subjects include computer science, mathematics, engineering or information security. A master’s degree in an appropriate subject can open more job opportunities and unlock better salaries for cybersecurity professionals.
Job Description and Responsibilities
Not every employer writes the same job description for cybersecurity engineers. However, most job descriptions for these IT pros share commonalities. They often call for most or all the skills listed earlier.
“A cybersecurity engineer’s job description also entails overseeing an enterprise’s most crucial digital systems and information technology (IT) infrastructure, and working to protect key platforms including critical applications, data storage and networks that underpin all digital activity,” according to What Does a Cybersecurity Engineer Do?
If you’re applying for cybersecurity roles, including cybersecurity engineer jobs, don’t be discouraged if you don’t meet an employer’s educational requirements. Employers sometimes waive educational requirements for candidates with significant work experience and relevant IT skills and certifications.
For example, a cybersecurity engineering job description may call for a master’s degree. If you only have a bachelor’s degree, you should consider applying if you have several years of experience, cybersecurity certifications and expertise in the field.
Career Path and Advancement
The career path and advancement of a cybersecurity engineer can vary, but you can typically begin your cybersecurity career while you’re earning a security-focused degree. It’s common to start out at the help desk as time allows and participate in a cybersecurity-related or cybersecurity engineering internship.
Once you’ve earned a suitable degree, worked an entry-level IT job and completed an internship in cybersecurity, you’ll be ready to step into their first full-time job role. Common roles for future cybersecurity engineers include penetration tester, cybersecurity analyst and cybersecurity architect.
To secure a job as a cybersecurity engineer, you’ll typically need at least 3 years of experience in an entry-level IT job role. Once you have your education, work and internship experience and cybersecurity certifications, you can start applying for cybersecurity engineer jobs.
Salary and Job Outlook for a Cybersecurity Engineer
The job outlook and average salary for cybersecurity engineers are top-notch. Currently, there is a startling shortage of cybersecurity professionals in the United States. In addition to other cybersecurity professionals, cybersecurity engineers are in high demand.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) shows employment for information security analysts is expected to grow 35% through 2031. This is considered a much faster growth rate than the average for all occupations. In this context, “security analysts” is inclusive of cybersecurity engineers.
The cybersecurity engineer salary is as exciting as the job outlook. According to the BLS, the average annual wage for information security analysts, including cybersecurity engineers, was $102,600 in May 2021.The top 10% of cybersecurity professionals in the cybersecurity analyst classification earned more than $165,920, per the BLS.
Both the job outlook and the average salary of cybersecurity engineers makes this a great role for individuals wishing to build a cybersecurity career and earn a high wage doing so.
6 Tips to Become a Cybersecurity Engineer
Are you wondering how to become a cybersecurity engineer? If it’s what you want and you are willing to put in the work to reach your goals, you can have a career as a cybersecurity engineer. These tips will help you get there.
1. Complete a degree program. Most cybersecurity engineer job descriptions require a bachelor’s degree or master’s degree in computer science, information technology, cybersecurity or a similar topic. Enrolling in one of the many degree programs designed for data security professionals is the first step to becoming a cybersecurity engineer.
2. Work while you’re in school. Many IT pros enrolled in a degree program are already working full-time jobs not related to IT. These individuals may not have time to work an IT job on the side, but if you can, start getting IT work experience as you earn your degree. The help desk is an ideal place to start.
3. Complete an internship. Internships look great on a resume. Security-focused internships will appeal to employers, so try to complete at least one cybersecurity or cybersecurity engineering internship. Internships afford the perfect opportunity to find answers the question, “What is a cybersecurity engineer?” and help you figure out if cybersecurity engineering is really what you want to do.
4. Get certified. Earning cybersecurity certifications can’t be overemphasized. Two of the best vendor-neutral cybersecurity certifications you can earn are CompTIA Cybersecurity Analyst (CySA+) and CompTIA Advanced Security Practitioner (CASP+).
CompTIA CySA+ can help cybersecurity professionals who are responsible for incident detection, prevention and response broaden their skill set and stand out in the cybersecurity field. It covers security operations, incident response and management, vulnerability management and reporting and communication.
CASP+ is an advanced cybersecurity certification. It was designed for security architects and senior security engineers who are tasked with leading and improving an organization’s cybersecurity readiness. The certification covers security architecture, governance, risk and compliance, security operations and security engineering and cryptography.
The Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP) is another vendor-neutral cybersecurity certification. It covers disaster recovery planning, management practices, cryptography and network security.
5. Be patient. The path to becoming a cybersecurity engineer isn’t short. It takes time. When you land your first entry-level job with a security focus, stay there for at least a couple of years. You can certainly apply for cybersecurity engineer jobs before you have the amount of experience a job description requires. However, most IT pros will need at least 3 years of experience before getting hired as a cybersecurity engineer.
6. Commit to ongoing learning. Cybersecurity engineers must be committed to continuous learning. Why? Because cybersecurity is an evolving field. There is always something new to learn in cybersecurity. It is essential that cybersecurity engineers seek out training opportunities, certifications, bootcamps, workshops and independent study throughout their career.
Cybersecurity Engineer vs. Other Cybersecurity Roles
A cybersecurity engineer is just one of the key players on an organization’s data security team. They are sometimes referred to as information security engineers, data security engineers or IT security engineers.
There are several other cybersecurity professionals that cybersecurity engineers routinely work with. They include but are not limited to:
- Security manager
- Cybersecurity analysts
- Security architects
- Cybersecurity specialists
Cybersecurity engineers share tasks and responsibilities with some of these cybersecurity professionals. But their role is unique in that they engineer software systems and security features that defend organizations from hackers. This is their specialty, and no data security team is complete without them.
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Cybersecurity engineers develop software that protects information and information systems. They identify vulnerabilities and system blindspots, develop solutions, and then test and implement the software. Depending on the size and scope of the project, some engineers order and manage the development process.What does a cyber security engineer do daily? ›
A security engineer's day-to-day duties include identifying and addressing vulnerabilities in computer networks and systems. These professionals are often senior members of cybersecurity teams. They also participate in refining their employers' user policies and security procedures.What does it take to be a cyber security engineer? ›
They require a high degree of training and experience to get into. As such, most organizations require at least a bachelor's degree in cybersecurity, computer science, or a related field. Some employers give preference to applicants with a master's degree. A cyber or CS degree is just the starting point, though.Is cyber security engineering hard? ›
There's a difference between difficult and challenging. Learning cybersecurity can be challenging, but it doesn't have to be difficult, especially if you're passionate about technology. Nurture a curiosity for the technologies you're working with, and you might find that challenging skills become easier.Do cyber security engineers make a lot of money? ›
The average cyber security engineer salary ranges between $75,000 and $131,000 in the US. Cyber security engineers' hourly rates in the US typically range between $36 and $62 an hour. Cyber security engineers earn the highest salaries in California (113,546), Nevada (102,377), and Oregon (101,287).Is cyber security a stressful job? ›
High-stress and demanding hours.
As they can happen at any time, plenty of workers are required to be on-call to manage or mitigate problems as they occur. As such, they may be contacted during weekends, evenings, and even while on vacation.
Considering the good salary, flexible work hours, and the option to work from home, most people are now preparing themselves for a career in cyber security. People who join the industry are extremely satisfied with their careers. They can achieve a good work-life balance, one that is sought after in most industries.Is cyber security a tough job? ›
Many people hold the idea that cybersecurity is hard - hard to study, hard to become an expert in, and hard as a career. While cybersecurity does require highly technical skills, attention to detail, and excellent time management, the rewards for developing your skills in this field are well worth the effort.Does cyber security engineer do coding? ›
Security engineers write secure code. They may not be expert coders, but they must know how to code at a basic level to understand the implications of other programmers' code. Security engineers also need knowledge of common programming languages to read code in those languages.Does cybersecurity require coding? ›
To reiterate, coding is not a requirement to begin your cybersecurity career. If you're curious about where to begin, you should start with the globally recognized CompTIA Security+ certification.
What Kind of Math is Used in Cybersecurity? Most entry-level and mid-level cybersecurity positions like cybersecurity analyst aren't math intensive. There's a lot of graphs and data analysis, but the required math isn't particularly advanced. If you can handle basic programming and problem solving, you can thrive.Is cybersecurity harder than coding? ›
Is Cyber Security Harder Than Programming? Cyber security can sometimes be more difficult than programming because it includes many different elements, including programming itself. As a cyber security analyst, you must understand how to code, infiltrate code, and prevent infiltration.How long will it take me to become a cyber security engineer? ›
Most people can get into an entry-level cyber security Engineer position within two to four years if they have the required experience. For someone who has already been working in IT and has enough experience, a certification is a sure-fire way to quickly transition into this field.Which pays more cybersecurity or it? ›
That equates to $49.33 per hour. This is almost twice the median annual wage for all workers, $57,260. Compared to other information technology (IT) jobs, cybersecurity jobs pay $12,700 more per year on average .Can I make 200K a year in cyber security? ›
Cloud Security Engineer - AWS Focused (TS/SCI Req.) Salaries start at $200K and can go substantially higher based on qualifications.Does cyber security require a degree? ›
Do You Need a Degree for a Cybersecurity Career? The short answer to this question is no — at least not technically. Bootcamps and certifications can help forge a path to career success or complement degrees in related fields.How many hours a week do cybersecurity engineers work? ›
A cyber security expert career is not your typical 9 to 5 job. Data breaches occur at any time, and you need to be available to prevent or intervene. Most of the technical and administrative duties require you to work about 40 hours a week.
Most work 40 hours per week. May work evenings or weekends to meet deadlines or solve problems. May travel to different companies within the city or nation if working as a consultant.How many hours a day do cybersecurity work? ›
Most cyber security professionals spend roughly 40 hours a week in the office for full-time employment. However, during technology releases or program updates there are often longer hours required. Sometimes systems need updates or maintenance overnight, over weekends, etc.What should a cyber security engineer do? ›
A cyber security engineer designs and implements secure network solutions designed to defend against hackers, cyberattacks, and other persistent threats. They also engage in continually testing and monitoring these systems, making sure that all the system's defenses are up to date and working correctly.