You’re ready to take on the world as a newly-minted cybersecurity engineer. You have new skills, a new security certification, and a solid foundation in information security. You also know how to fight against hackers who use technological weaknesses. But now what? What’s next?
If you’re like many of today’s cybersecurity professionals, you might consider getting your Security Certification, continuing your education (and getting that master’s), or exploring other career options. However, with so many cybersecurity roles available, it can be challenging to know where to start.
If you want to begin your career as a cybersecurity engineer, you’ll find some valuable ideas and suggestions in this article. It covers topics such as resume prep, the different types of engineers, and the pros and cons of their job.
Job Description & Responsibilities of a Cybersecurity Engineer: What Do They Exactly Do?
• Managing, planning, implementing, designing, maintaining, and monitoring security measures,
• Upgrading network security,
• Responding to all security breaches and any attack against data or networks,
• Assessing the organisation’s security needs,
• Establish the best practices standards,
• Digging into the network to troubleshoot any security problems.
As demand in the cybersecurity job market dramatically grows while supply is still running low, you can expect many duties you have to handle as a cybersecurity engineer.
Typically, a cybersecurity engineer specialises in computer security and digital forensics. However, they also might work in information security or network security. The concepts used by cybersecurity engineers are used to help protect government, military, and commercial systems from cybercrime and hackers. Essentially, they help keep information secure and safe by applying the appropriate security controls.
Additionally, a cybersecurity engineer works to protect data from unauthorised access, generally called protecting systems and networks. They do this by ensuring that information cannot be accessed, corrupted, or deleted without authorisation.
Not just that, cyber engineers block malicious software and data from wreaking havoc on systems by conducting penetration tests and scans to identify network vulnerabilities.
Another area where a cybersecurity engineer is helpful is in investigating cybercrimes against the government or the public. They look for evidence related to internet security breaches and cybercrimes. The evidence collected by a forensic engineer helps authorities prosecute criminals. In some cases, they look for evidence in foreign countries to help with international cybercrimes. Essentially, they help uncover international crimes against national security that occur online.
Working in cybersecurity has become an important field with the rise of internet usage. Employers need skilled people to protect their valuable data, mobile computing, and systems from cybercrimes. That makes it easier for businesses to run efficiently while keeping their data safe. A cybersecurity engineer may work in any industry since the job has far-reaching effects on society at large. People working in cybersecurity have a lot to contribute to the safety of people’s data, which is a meaningful job.
A part of I.T. engineers’ job entails daily administrative tasks by reporting and communicating with other involved departments in the organisation.
Side tasks you might be asked to tackle
A cybersecurity engineer might participate in changing management style as there is always another way for hackers to get into the network, such as taking advantage of human weakness, which we call social engineering. At this point, they should offer the best approach to protect the organisation.
Key Skills to Be a Professional Cybersecurity Engineer
Indeed, cybersecurity is quite a trending topic lately as today’s world has become significantly more dependent on the internet to accomplish simple everyday tasks.
The market is soaring, and the security issue has become urgent. So, you need to be ready with a vital and intensive skill set to succeed in this role. A creative mind is a must. It would help if you learned to design solutions that meet your organisation’s unique needs and have a high degree of training and several years of experience to get into. In addition, many organisations might require an academic degree in computer science, cybersecurity, or any relevant field. And, of course, the higher, the better; some employers prefer applications with a master’s degree.
But let’s break it down to make it easier for you to start your dream job.
When we’re talking about skills you have to hone to start a successful career in cybersecurity, your first thought is likely that you’ll need a background in computer science. Most of us focus less on soft skills, which are as important as others. Have a look at these skills below.
You need to be able to communicate clearly and concisely, both verbally and in writing, with different segments of your audience or clients. Take into consideration that you might have to convey your message to a layperson with zero experience in the cyber world in the simplest possible way. Also, you need to coordinate with other departments and non-technical people.
2. Analytical skills
You need to be able to analyse data and spot trends. These skills will help you detect potential security threats and develop mitigation strategies. Analytical skills also entail collecting, organising, and presenting data. In simple words, you need the ability to see beyond scenes. To do that, read a lot and stay up to date with new software and methods for data analysis.
3. Problem-solving skills
When confronted with a security issue, you need to be able to quickly and ingeniously identify the root cause and develop a plan of action to resolve it. To strengthen your problem-solving ability, you can start by conducting brainstorming sessions with the other I.T. departments. Once your ideas list has been generated, it is possible to evaluate them and choose the best solution.
4. Taking learning as a lifelong process
Cybersecurity engineers must keep their eye on any cyber trends and vulnerabilities and act accordingly. It would be hard if you didn’t know about this threat. Yes, courses and degrees will put you on the right track, but it should be your mindset throughout your life. It’s critical to have a learning capacity, which means quickly and easily absorbing new information and then applying it meaningfully.
5. Good Listener
Some cybersecurity positions don’t include interacting with people, but engineers are not on this list. That’s why we have heard much about the cybersecurity talent gap because not many of us can be good at listening. As a cybersecurity engineer, you must pay attention to the speaker. That means making eye contact and not letting your mind wander. If you master this skill, it will allow you to gather information effectively to improve your market standing.
6. Presentation Skills
You will face many situations in which you have to present to people who might not have heard about cybersecurity before. So, it’s not just about keeping your presentation compelling and informative. Also, you must be selective regarding concepts and terms and ensure they deliver what you’re trying to explain. Using numbers and visuals will take your presentation to the next level.
7. Management Skills
You’ve probably managed a team before in cybersecurity; it could be slightly different because you need to be a leader more than just a manager. For example, you need to be able to give clear instructions. Keep in mind that people need to know what they’re supposed to do to complete a task correctly. Weaknesses in ambiguity can compromise network safety. Therefore, if identified, a hacker will undoubtedly take advantage of the situation.
8. Challenging Skills
What makes cybersecurity a fascinating branch is that it offers people a new career concept to enjoy daily challenges. Challenging skills will enable you to identify gaps, fix problems, and prevent future incidents. Jobs like incident responder or cybersecurity engineer require this kind of skillset because you have to deal with risks and challenge yourself to be patent till you find the most satisfactory solution.
9. Decision Maker
Cybercrimes take a wide range of forms, and you need to choose the best answer. It’s not just about taking action based on what you have. It’s about gathering and analysing information, taking the most relevant measure, and the ability to weigh options and make trade-offs. As a result, you’ll need the ability to think swiftly and critically as you assess hazards and formulate action plans.
10. Persuasion Skills
The ideal candidates for information technology, in general, are those who show their point of view is valuable. It’s surprising how people relate persuasion skills to a sales career only. But it’s an ability that can be used in various contexts, from friendship-building to conflict-mending to boosting teamwork. For example, suppose you are sure about the eligibility of your solution to block suspicious access. In that case, you need persuasion skills to communicate with your manager by choosing the right time and the brilliant way.
Security or information security engineers need to exercise creativity in problems by being open-minded, delivering new ideas, and not being afraid to experiment. Try out new methods and approaches, and see what works best for your organisation’s security. Also, it would help if you learned to exploit all the resources at your disposal. Finally, to thrive in cybersecurity, remember there’s no right way to do things, so feel free to taste.
Highly sought hard technical skills are necessary to occupy a technical role inside an organisation or company. This skills list can be longer than you might think, but we compiled the most important for anyone looking to enter this field based on people already working as security engineers.
1. Strong knowledge of networking concepts
As a security engineer, you need to be well-versed in networking concepts and know how to secure networks from potential threats. Your knowledge should also include routing protocols, DNS, subnetting, encryption technologies and techniques, Virtual Private Networks (VPN), Voice over I.P. (VoIP), and other secure network architecture. Additionally, you must build a strong background in network security technologies such as encryption and firewalls.
2. In-depth understanding of security protocols
It is essential to have an in-depth knowledge of different security protocols to implement the most effective security measures. For example, IPSec provides authentication and encryption for Internet Protocol (I.P.) traffic. In addition, VPNs often protect data in transit—or TLS, which provides communication security over the Internet. It is the successor to SSL and is used in many web browsers to encrypt communications.
3. Building and Using Virtual Machines (V.M.s)
V.m.s are operating systems that run on top of your host OS, which is managed by hypervisor software. This software is responsible for resources like CPU, memory, and disk space. In other words, it’s a software computer that, like a physical computer, runs on a system and applications. However, it doesn’t have dedicated hardware. Instead, it borrows resources from the underlying physical host. So, understanding how virtual machines work can help you troubleshoot issues more effectively.
Gaining programming skills is inevitable here because cybersecurity engineers often need to create custom tools and scripts to automate tasks or investigate security incidents. While there are many different programming languages, some of the most prevalent cybersecurity applications include Python, Java, C++, Go, and Ruby. Each language has its advantage. However, the correct language trends can vary from year to year. Keep yourself from falling behind and constantly update yourself.
5. Learn the Command Line
Commonly referred to as SHELL, the Command Line is the most effective and arguably straightforward way to communicate with the operating system. You can say it is a text-based interface that allows you to execute commands, edit files, and run programs. So, the Command Line is an essential tool for any engineer looking to be successful in cybersecurity. It functions as the centre of your system.
6. Knowledge of Database Platforms
To protect an organisation’s computer network, cyber engineers need a thorough knowledge of how to structure, store, and disseminate data to help them when any security threats or attacks are in place. By understanding the different database platforms, you’ll be better equipped to secure them. For instance, MySQL, Oracle Database, and Microsoft SQL are the most popular database platforms, known for being fast and easy to use.
7. Learn about System Administration
It’s responsible for maintaining and configuring all computers or mobile connected to the network. This managing process can include anything from updating software to monitoring networks. Security engineers use system administration to ensure all system components work correctly and efficiently. They also help others who probably don’t know about various tools inside and out.
8. Understanding Operating System
Operating systems are the core of any software. They are the foundation of all computer systems; without them, we would be lost. From Windows to UNIX and Linux, each has its quirks and vulnerabilities. Security professionals must have a detailed background of how operating systems work to secure them effectively and diagnose any attempt to divulge information or unauthorised access to networks.
9. Ethical hacking
Ethical hacking is the process of finding vulnerabilities in computer systems and networks and then using that information to secure the system. This skill allows security engineers to see how an attacker could potentially exploit a plan and then take steps to block any possible attacks. A professional engineer should also acquire skills in duplicating strategies and attackers’ actions like malware and ransomware attacks.
10. Virtualisation technologies
By creating multiple virtual machines, each with its own operating system, security settings, and applications, a security engineer can more easily secure data. Additionally, virtualisation can improve performance by allowing multiple machines to run on a single physical machine. Many types of virtualisation are available such as Full software virtualisation, Hardware Virtual Machine (HVM), Hardware-assisted software virtualisation, or Paravirtualisation.
Education, Required Certifications & Experience
Well, you’ve always known how complicated data vulnerability is, but after reading headlines about governments around the world suffering a problematic unnoticed breach, now you’re overwhelmed with many skills you need to enhance to get started.
So, before entering the workforce, we will put you on the right track by heightening your education, certificates, and other required experience.
Security engineers typically have a bachelor’s degree in information security, computer science, computer engineering, or a related field. Many also hold certifications in specific security technologies or products.
So, a cyber or C.S. degree will be helpful but remember, and it’s just a starting point.
However, organisations are increasingly searching for candidates who hold a master’s degree in any related field, especially if you want a well-paid job with a seniority level. So, keep in mind that if you’re going to get promoted in your career path in the cybersecurity domain, consider registering for a master’s program.
Note: A bachelor’s degree will take 4 years, followed by at least 2 years for a master’s degree. The college tuition varies depending on location and the college name, but be prepared to pay at least £5,000 per year. Even though the internet is packed with endless online resources, the education path is much better. Self-learning might take 6 months to two years, but a B.A. degree will enhance your CV as a professional security engineer.
Let’s face it: if you want to climb any company ladder, you should set your sights on gaining additional industry certifications to keep yourself on the top of the company’s shortlist. Yes, cybersecurity has sprung into a lot of job alerts, but online resources enable many people to enter the market and make the competition intensive.
So, skills and prerequisites are not enough to start a cybersecurity career. These certifications can help you gain fundamental skills, learn more about new techniques, and demonstrate your qualifications.
Security+ by CompTIA
It is widely recognised as a benchmark for measuring competence in critical areas of information security, and its certifications are sought by professionals all over the world. Security+ covers the most important foundational principles for securing a network and managing risk. It is a comprehensive and practical exam that tests your knowledge and skills in eight key areas:
• Network security and architecture
• Compliance and operational security
• Threats and vulnerabilities
• Application, data, and host security
• Access control and identity management
• Implementation and design
• Incident response and governance.
This certification is always the best, especially for beginners in the field. Also, it’s a good place for entry-level security analysts, I.T. audits, cloud engineers, security administrators, and I.T. project managers.
On the website, you will find two different exams. The only difference is the period of each certificate. The test will cost you $349.
Note: Just head to any hiring website to see how many jobs require this certificate, and you will be shocked.
Certified Informations System Security Professional (CISSP) by ISC2
It’s a certification program offered by the International Information Systems Security Certification Consortium, better known as (ISC)². CISSP is designed to certify information security professionals with the knowledge and skills necessary to protect an organisation’s data and systems.
The ISC2 offers a wide variety of certifications covering many cybersecurity areas, so be sure to pick the best for you and your experience. For example, the CISSP is ideal for experienced security system engineers to prove their knowledge across various practices and principles. The CISSP will test you in the following:
• Access control
• Security architecture and design
• Risk management
• Business continuity and disaster recovery planning
• Legal, regulations, compliance, and investigations
The exam will cost you $699; if you need to reschedule the exam, you must pay a $50 fine.
Note: Five years of experience in two security fields are required to sit for the exam. Here is the list of specialities: Security Assessment and Testing, Identity and Access Management (IAM), Security and Risk Management, Asset Security, Security Operations, Communication and Network Security, and Software Development Security.
Offensive Security Certified Professional (OSCP) by Offensive Security
Offensive Security Certified Professional (OSCP) is an Offensive Security certification designed for security engineers. The OSCP certification validates a security engineer’s ability to perform penetration testing and ethical hacking.
The OSCP certification is globally recognised and is one of the most respected certifications in the infosec community. Earning the OSCP certification requires passing a rigorous practical exam that tests your skills and knowledge in offensive security. The OSCP will test you in the following:
• Hacking web apps and systems
• Penetration testing
• Ethical hacking tools and techniques
• Directory attacks
• Command line
• Vulnerability scanning
This test is not just for cybersecurity engineers; it will prioritise your resume on top of candidates in different roles like penetration testers. Also, this gruelling 24-hour test will challenge you with other personal characteristics, like your determination and how much you’re willing to do and pay to find the solution.
Note: You must take Kali Linux and Ethical Hacking courses before taking the exam. The course and OSCP packages range from $999 to $1399.
CompTIA Advanced Security Practitioner (CASP+) by CompTIA
This is another excellent certification you can get from CompTIA. The CASP certification is aimed at security engineers and other I.T. professionals who want to demonstrate their knowledge and skills in enterprise security.
Passing this exam showcases your knowledge and skills in enterprise security, which can benefit your career. In addition, it can help you earn a higher salary. However, remember that CASP+ is designed for advanced levels with a robust background of technical skills in security operations and architecture.
The exam will test you in the following:
• Risk management
• Enterprise security integration
• Security architecture
• Security Operations
The exam is available for $494, and it would take 165 minutes without a scaled score— just pass or fail.
Note: CompTIA refers to the engineers willing to take CASP+, who should have +10 years of experience in any related field of I.T. administration. However, it’s not an obligation; it’s just an indication of the difficulty of the exam.
The Project Management Professional (PMP) by PMI
Project Management Institute is responsible for conferring the Project Management Professional (PMP) certification (PMI). You need to take and pass a test to get your PMP certification. This Project Management Professional exam is a test of your understanding of the fundamentals of project management. If you want to obtain the project manager position, you must demonstrate your competence by doing well on this test.
As a cybersecurity engineer, many project management certifications are out there, but if you have to choose one, unquestionably, choose PMP. First, you should meet the eligibility requirements: holding a four-year degree, 35 hours of project management education or training, and three years of on-the-job know-how related to leading projects.
The exam will test you in the following ways:
• Understand and apply management tools
• Handle various project management situations
• Evaluating your capacity in three domains: People – Processes – Business Environment
• General management skills
The exam fee is $555; however, you can save money by purchasing a membership in the PMI organisation if you’re willing to pursue your skills as an I.T. manager.
Note: If you have CAPM® certification or any associate degree or training, attach it to your application to prove your experience.
SysAdmin, Networking, and Security (SANS) Institute by SANS Institute
The SANS Institute is a well-respected organisation offering many security engineers resources. One of the most popular resources offered by SANS is its certification program. This program is designed to help security engineers learn about and implement best practices in cybersecurity.
SANS also offers many other resources, such as training courses, online programs, conferences, and webinars in partnership with Global Information Assurance Certification (GIAC). With more than 35 technical certifications, these resources can help security engineers stay up-to-date on the trends and upgrades in the cybersecurity field.
Taking advantage of the resources offered by SANS can help security engineers improve their skills and knowledge, which can, in return, help them better protect organisations from cyber threats.
What you will learn from SANS:
• Align security awareness program with cooperative strategy
• Identify cyber risks
• Integrate security awareness
• Identify and prioritise the top human risks
• Create a strategic engagement plan
• Train and enable teams for cyber threats
For high school students, some training is available for free. Otherwise, the entire training course and certificate will cost you an average of $7000 based on the certificate and the course duration.
AWS Certified Security – Specialty
AWS Certified Security – Specialty is a certification for security engineers who want to validate their skills and knowledge in securing AWS workloads. The accreditation covers best practices for identifying and mitigating security threats and incident response.
Becoming certified includes gaining industry-recognised credentials and staying up-to-date on the latest security threats and trends. That’s how you differentiate yourself in the job market because this certification will level up your resume. Even if it’s not your priority now, make sure it’s on your roadmap. Many cloud vendors offer it, but you can take it on Amazon.
The test evaluates:
• Knowledge about securing the AWS platform
• Securing data in the AWS cloud
• Network security
• Incident response
• Logs capture and processing
AWS Certified Security – Specialty’s exam fee is $300 and will take 170 minutes.
Note: The exam is intended for people with at least 2 years of securing AWS workloads. Amazon recommends this test for individuals with 5 years of I.T. security experience, including designing and applying security solutions.
Other organisations you can consider to be a certificated security engineer:
- GIAC (Global Information Assurance Certification)
- ISAC (Certified Information Systems Auditor)
To sum up: it’s always a great idea to check job listings for cybersecurity positions and find the most certifications on demand to enhance your chances of getting connected with these vacancies. Plus, some organisations like Cisco and Microsoft design their courses and certifications. You can start from there to get noticed the next time you apply for a cybersecurity engineer in Microsoft.
Cybersecurity engineering roles include many other titles, such as Application Security Engineer, I.T. Engineer, and I.S. Security Engineer. Of course, there is no one right way to start your career in one of these positions, but even an entry-level cybersecurity engineer is required to have two to four years in a relevant field. Therefore, if you’re fortunate enough to come from an IT-related background, you should transition to this industry as soon as possible.
The proper roadmap to take now if you have no experience is to check out academic certificates or available online training programs, have hand on practical experience, and then apply for an IT-related job. During this, never stop learning and take exams to add to your CV.
That takes us to the most important section of this guide to get started as a cybersecurity engineer.
Possible Scenarios and Learning Paths to Be Cybersecurity Engineer
With all this information, you can catch a glimpse of what cybersecurity engineering is about. Nonetheless, getting started is not as easy as it sounds. And we know that! The path can be burdensome, but all cybersecurity professionals are there, and they can give you a hand to minimise the hassle and reduce wasted money and effort.
After consulting with several security engineers, we came up with three scenarios and paths. Each one has its advantages and drawbacks. So, take your time to narrow down your options and choose the right for you according to your future ambitions and what uniquely meets your situation.
Path One: Start With an Academic Degree
• Increasing your market standing
• Cementing your skills perfectly by getting involved with other students.
• Cutting off the confusion of where you should start with.
• Taking more time.
• More fees
It’s the old fashion way to start any new domain. However, it often works. So, register in a college to study computer science or any related field. Most of these degrees will take four years and cost you hefty tuition based on your college name and geographic area. However, it’s well worth giving you the right direction and boosting your resume. So, start searching for a nearby academy and get in touch to know the fees and requirements.
Highly recommended for younger engineers.
Path two: Paid Courses and Bootcamps
• Taking less time.
• Cheaper than college
• Practical practices
• Experience is required
• You can get easily distracted by a lot of material
A bootcamp is an intensive, immersive training program that focuses on teaching participants the skills they need to succeed in a specific field. In this case, participants will learn the skills they need to become successful cybersecurity engineers. It’s ideal for anyone who is considering a career shift. However, it’s not for tech newbies; you will need at least a background in programming languages and networking systems.
Nonetheless, the best part of bootcamps is that you can determine how many weeks or maybe months to complete your learning path, which is a great place to get you speeding.
Before you register, look at the course outcome to ensure it’s the best for you, and don’t worry! You can find everything covered, from security concepts to managing security measures, career guidance, and interview preparation.
You can start with one of these bootcamps: Level Effect, SecureSet Core Cybersecurity Engineering, and Evolve Security Academy.
Also, you can ask seasoned cybersecurity engineers to recommend other sources they used to kick a start in this area.
Highly recommended for experienced I.T. professionals.
Path Three: Self-Studying
• A cheaper way to learn about cybersecurity
• Pick the best program for you
• You can stay put and not go anywhere.
• Lacking guidance
• Requiring self-discipline
Indeed, you’re lucky to witness the revolution of available information on the internet to learn and develop. But unfortunately, the internet drives many people to overlook the academic certificate for self-teaching and enjoying their learning journey.
Today, you can choose any online course and learn anything you want. However, it’s not something for everyone; it requires a high level of commitment and self-motivation. Also, you can get overwhelmed with millions of sources, courses, institutions, and platforms offering compelling content. So, do your research before starting the self-learning route and choose reputable centres that offer courses that align with your goals.
Additionally, always look for a monitor to guide you with the best practices and help you improve your productivity by displaying information in an easy-to-read format.
Highly recommended for experienced I.T. individuals and energetic people
Salaries and Career Outlook
A career in cybersecurity engineering is an excellent choice for anyone with a passion for computers and a desire to keep people and organisations safe. The salary and career outlook for this field are both very positive.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual compensation for a cybersecurity engineer is $116,000. However, the average yearly wage for all occupations is only $36,200, which is significantly greater. According to the website CareerBuilder, the average annual compensation for this job is $139,000.
However, according to Glassdoor, the average salary for beginners will start from $71K, and, of course, it all depends on the employer, the size of the company, education, experience, geographical location, and the type of job (full-time, part-time, freelance).
The job outlook for cybersecurity engineers is very optimistic as well. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts that employment in this field will grow by 32 per cent from 2018 to 2028, much faster than the average growth rate for all other occupations.
Not only that, but based on a report by the Wall Street Journal, the demand in the market for cybersecurity engineers makes it harder for companies to attract and retain seasoned engineers who have sufficient skills to implement secure networks. That means if you can be a certified professional engineer, the whole world is for you, and you can negotiate your desired salary.
Extra Information You Need to Know
• According to InfoSec Institute, a cybersecurity engineer is one of the hottest paths in I.T. security, and it’s one of the roles that most organisations are desperately trying to find the right employees.
• The mentioned average salaries are for junior levels. More experienced will get an average of $145K annually.
• According to Security Magazine, Washington D.C. has the highest job availability with the highest salary, followed by Singapore and Luxembourg. *Even if you don’t live there or have no plans to relocate, you can take advantage of remote opportunities.
• The main job of cybersecurity engineers is to protect devices and block persistent attacks.
• Security engineers are also responsible for designing, monitoring, and applying secure infrastructure.
• Often, cybersecurity engineers’ positions are called Web Security Engineer, Data Security Engineer, and I.T. Security Engineer.
• Some small companies can not afford to hire more cybersecurity professionals, so they assign cybersecurity engineers to handle all security-relevant tasks. So, reading the job description thoroughly is important to know what you’re in for.
• Industry certifications are not required but are preferable to enhance your opportunity to get your desired job offer.
• Technical hard skills can be countless, but you need to pick what you best for your career objectives and always check the most-demand requirements among employers.
• You shouldn’t count on making the typical median salary, but this is one of the highest-paying occupations in the corporate sector, no matter where you happen to be.
• Not all learning paths are for everyone. If you want the best outcomes, it’s best to put in the time and effort required to perform some groundwork to ensure you’re headed in the correct direction.