How to Become a Cyber Security Engineer

As today’s world becomes increasingly more dependent on the Internet and mobile computing to accomplish so many of our everyday tasks, the issue of security becomes more urgent. As a result, this boosts the demand for more Cyber Security engineers.

Cyber Security is a fascinating branch of Information Technology and is ideal for people who enjoy a challenge. The field is ripe with potential, and we’re about to show you why a Cyber Security career is a fantastic (and rewarding!) choice. Let’s start things off by taking a look at some Cyber Security fundamentals, then move on to the “how-to” part.

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What is a Cyber Security Engineer?

Cyber Security engineer designs and implements secure network solutions designed to defend against hackers, cyber-attacks, and other persistent threats. They also engage in testing and monitoring of those systems, continually making sure that all of the system’s defenses are up to date and working correctly.

Often, a Cyber Security engineer’s position is called something else, like data security engineer, IT security engineer, or Web security engineer. Furthermore, sometimes, the role of a Cyber Security engineer is rolled into a different IT position, especially in smaller companies that can’t afford a Cyber Security specialist.

What Does a Cyber Security Engineer Do?

The roles and responsibilities of a Cyber Security engineer include:

  • Evaluate the organization’s security needs and establish best practices and standards accordingly.
  • Designing, implementing, maintaining, overseeing, and upgrading all security measures needed to protect organizations’ data, systems, and networks.
  • Responding to all security breaches to the network and associated systems.
  • Troubleshooting all network and security issues and incidents.
  • Routinely conduct penetration testing.
  • Taking appropriate security measure to ensure that the organization's infrastructure and existing data are kept safe.
  • Conducting testing and scans to identify any vulnerabilities in the network and system.
  • Taking an active role in the change management process.
  • Assist in any security breach investigations.
  • Handling routine daily administrative tasks such as reporting and keeping open lines of communication with the organization’s appropriate departments.

Note that a Cyber Security engineer job and responsibilities come very close to those of a security analyst. A Cyber Security engineer designs and builds systems, while a security analyst is more concerned with putting the system through its paces, trying to break it.

There is an overlap, however, since many Cyber Security engineers routinely conduct stress tests and attempt to predict the weak spots and test them out. It’s not unusual to see job listings for a Security Engineer/Analyst, effectively rolling both positions into one.

What Are the Qualifications for Becoming a Cyber Security Engineer?

In general, a Cyber Security engineer must have the following qualifications:

  • Degree in Computer Science, IT, Systems Engineering, or a similar field.
  • Two years of work experience in Cyber Security related duties such as incident detection and response, and forensics.
  • Experience with the functionality, operation, and maintenance of firewalls and various forms of endpoint security
  • Proficiency in languages/tools such as C++, Java, Node, Python, Ruby, Go, or Power Shell.
  • The ability to work in a fast-paced environment, often under pressure
  • Possess the right eye for detail and outstanding problem-solving skills.
  • Up to date knowledge of the latest Cyber Security trends and hacker tactics.

Note that different organizations may have more or fewer qualifications, or attach lesser or greater importance to any of the given criteria.

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What Kind of Salaries Does a Cyber Security Engineer Get?

The average Cyber Security engineer salary is around $74K a year, according to this article in careerexplorer. Senior-level engineers earn an average of $96K annually, while beginners can look forward to $59K a year. Nice work if you can get it!

In India, a Cyber Security engineer’s salary averages ₹525,652 a year, while a similar engineer in Australia earns A$130K and an engineer in the UK can make £47,926 annually.

Of course, the above numbers can fluctuate depending on the demand in your particular part of the world. But regardless of the range, a Cyber Security engineer can earn some serious pay.

What’s the Demand Like for Cyber Security Engineers?

Demand for Cyber Security engineers is projected to grow 12-percent between 2016 and 2026, which is a faster rate than that of the average for all other occupations, according to this job outlook report. The demand for Cyber Security engineers will continue to grow as businesses, governments, and other organizations rely more on digital platforms.

The good news, according to Cyber Security Ventures, is that there will be 3.5 million Cyber Security job openings by 2021. The bad news (at least from a business owner’s perspective) is that there will be a corresponding widening skill gap regarding Cyber Security professionals.

The Forbes article from a couple of years back called Cyber Security, “the fast-growing job with a huge skill gap.” The article cites an ISACA report that predicted a world shortage of two million Cyber Security professionals by 2019. And here we are in 2019, and the situation is only getting direr. In the US alone, 40,000 Cyber Security analyst positions go unfilled.

In terms of cyber-related crime, Cyber Security Ventures also predicts that the annual costs of cyber-crime damages will increase dramatically, going from $3 trillion in 2015 to $6 trillion by 2021. Consequently, in the period between 2017 and 2021, cyber-spending is predicted to reach over $1 trillion cumulatively.

Although countless companies are hiring Cyber Security engineers, these ten companies lead the pack in Cyber Security professional hiring.

  • BAE Systems
  • Symantec
  • Check Point Software
  • Lockheed Martin
  • FireEye
  • Amazon (Amazon Web Services)
  • Microsoft
  • IBM
  • Cisco
  • CyberArk Software

When taken all together, these forecasts paint a promising picture for anyone interested in becoming a Cyber Security engineer. It’s reasonable to call Cyber Security engineering (and related positions) a “recession-proof career.”

So now that you know what a Cyber Security engineer does, what they make, and how secure the career is, you no doubt are curious about how to become one. 

The Cyber Security Engineer Career Path

We’ve already seen the list of prerequisites for becoming a Cyber Security engineer, as well as how many responsibilities they have. Thus it shouldn’t come as a surprise that it takes the right amount of planning and a lot of work to become one, though it’s certainly worth it.

For starters, you should have a bachelor’s degree in a field relating to Cyber Security. That includes computer engineering, computer programming, computer science, engineering, information security, or software engineering, to name a few. Once upon a time, companies didn’t care if a candidate didn’t have a degree, but an increasing number of organizations are adopting that requirement. So, step one: have your formal education squared away.

Optionally, a cyber-engineering candidate can then continue his or her education by earning a master’s degree, once again focusing on fields that closely relate to Cyber Security. That master’s degree will be especially crucial if you want to become a Senior Cyber Security Engineer.

Then, you should get some work experience under your belt. Conventional wisdom says that an aspiring Cyber Security engineer should get three years of professional experience before making an official move. This figure can vary depending on the level and quality of work experience that the prospective candidate has managed to accumulate.

At last, there’s the final step: certification. Certification does two things for you; first of all, it gives you additional skills and knowledge that will come in handy down the road. Secondly, it provides verifiable evidence to the hiring party that you are well-trained for the position they’re interviewing for.

If you’re looking for certification, there are many resources available to you, practically an embarrassment of riches. There may be TOO many resources out there, but no worries, we’ll discuss a great option in just a little bit.

There are many different appropriate certifications that you can try for. There’s no reason you can’t go for more than one of them. The more tools you have at your disposal, the better your chances of getting the position you want. Among the certifications you should consider:

  • CCNP Security: Cisco Certified Network Professional Security
  • CEH: Certified Ethical Hacker
  • CISA: Certified Information Systems Auditor
  • GIAC: Web Application Penetration Tester
  • CISSP: Certified Information Systems Security Professional
  • GSEC / GCIH / GCIA: GIAC Security Certifications

There are plenty of others, but the above list represents some of the more popular ones. The below video will give you an idea about the various Cyber Security Certifications:

Want to Become a Cyber Security Engineer?

It’s easy to get overwhelmed by all of the choices. Fortunately, Simplilearn is here to make things, well, simpler for you! When you’re looking for that first certification, Simplilearn’s CEH (v10) - Certified Ethical Hacking Course is a great place to start. The course will train you on the advanced step-by-step methodologies that hackers use. These include as writing virus codes and reverse engineering, so you can better protect corporate infrastructure from data breaches. This ethical hacking course will help you master advanced network packet analysis and advanced system penetration testing techniques to build your network security skill-set and beat hackers at their own game.

The course offers 40 hours of instructor-led training, six months free access to CEH v10 labs, and an exam pass guarantee! Hackers are a Cyber Security Engineer’s greatest enemy, so by taking this course and getting your certification; you’re better equipped to stop them dead in their tracks and keep your company’s systems safe.

Even if you’re not currently interested in becoming a Cyber Security Engineer, this is an excellent upskilling resource for you in your current position, increasing your value and prestige at your workplace or organization.

Take the course, and join the fight for a more secure Internet!

About the Author

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Simplilearn is one of the world’s leading providers of online training for Digital Marketing, Cloud Computing, Project Management, Data Science, IT, Software Development, and many other emerging technologies.

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