Editorial Note: We earn a commission from partner links on Forbes Advisor. Commissions do not affect the opinions or evaluations of our editors.
Cybersecurity Ventures projects that cybercrime will cost the world a staggering $10.5 trillion per year by 2025. Given this high risk, organizations are looking to cybersecurity experts to protect their data and help limit cybercrime losses. .
Beyond the many entry- and intermediate-level cybersecurity positions, the cybersecurity engineer role is near the top of the career ladder. This position requires advanced skills and offers competitive salaries.
This article explores how to become a cybersecurity engineer, the daily job tasks of these professionals, and the career facts of cybersecurity engineers.
What is a Cybersecurity Engineer?
The cybersecurity engineer is among the most advanced roles in cybersecurity. This role is sometimes called an information security engineer or network security engineer. Cybersecurity engineers focus on protecting data and preventing disruptions caused by digital attacks.
The main responsibilities of cybersecurity engineers include designing, implementing, monitoring and updating security measures. As part of information or cybersecurity teams, these engineers respond to security breaches, test and identify system vulnerabilities, and write reports for those in management roles.
Cyber Security Engineer Salary and Job Outlook
Cybersecurity engineers earn highly competitive salaries. According to Payscale, these engineers earn an average cybersecurity base salary of nearly $99,000. Their salaries are likely to increase as they gain experience and earn certifications.
As for job prospects, there is a massive labor shortage in the cybersecurity field. Cyberseek, a collaboration between the National Initiative for Cybersecurity Education, CompTIA, and Lightcast, conducts data analysis of the cybersecurity job market. Between May 2021 and April 2022, there were more than 700,000 job openings for cybersecurity professionals, according to Cyberseek.
Cyber security roles take 21% longer to fill than other job types on average. This indicates a huge talent gap in the cybersecurity field.
The US Bureau of Labor Statistics projects a 35% job growth for information security analysts from 2021 to 2031. This indicates continued high demand for similar cybersecurity professionals.
How to become a cybersecurity engineer
Cybersecurity engineers fill advanced roles that require a strong foundation of computer science knowledge and skills. Candidates can learn these skills through traditional degree pathways, self-study, or bootcamps.
Remember that becoming a cybersecurity engineer will likely require years of study and experience. Getting certified can also be helpful.
get a degree
If you’re wondering how to get into cybersecurity, remember that this is a highly technical field that requires experience in computer networking, coding and programming, and encryption, among others. A bachelor’s degree in cybersecurity or computer science can provide a solid foundation in these subjects. Related fields like electrical engineering or math can also provide useful skills.
A degree is not always required for a career in cybersecurity, but it is a good option. According to a survey conducted by (ISC)², an international nonprofit information security organization, 81% of today’s cybersecurity professionals have a college degree or higher. Fifty-one percent of cybersecurity professionals have computer science degrees.
For those taking the non-college route, a cybersecurity bootcamp can also provide a good education. Completing a cybersecurity bootcamp can quickly equip you with the skills needed to perform in an entry-level position in the field. Bootcamp graduates can also pursue certifications to support their experience.
A cyber security engineering job is unlikely to be the first position in your career. First, you should look for entry-level cyber security jobs to help you gain experience and build your skills.
Potential roles to consider include cybersecurity specialist, cybercrime analyst, and incident and intrusion analyst. More intermediate positions include cyber security analyst, consultant, and penetration tester.
Alternatively, you can start in an information technology (IT) job before moving on to cybersecurity. Related roles include software developer, network or system administrator, and IT auditor. In the aforementioned (ISC)² survey, more than 50% of respondents began their IT careers before transitioning.
Due to the advanced nature of this engineering role, cyber security certifications can be a great way to make you a more competitive candidate for available roles. As you move toward an engineering position, consider earning one or more of the following certifications.
Entry-level certifications like Security+ and Network+ from CompTIA can bolster your cybersecurity resume and help you qualify to become a cybersecurity engineer. These certifications also fulfill the requirement to work for the US Department of Defense, if that is your goal.
For intermediate cybersecurity professionals, ISACA’s Certified Information Systems Auditor® and Certified Information Systems Manager® are good options. Additionally, Global Information Assurance Certification, an entity that administers information security certifications, offers credentials that measure specific areas of knowledge and skills.
The gold standard of the cybersecurity industry is the Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP) certification, marking you as an elite cybersecurity expert. This designation requires a minimum of four years of paid experience and the recommendation of a current CISSP holder.
apply for jobs
Once you’ve obtained the education and certifications you need, it’s time to apply for jobs. And with over 700,000 open positions in the field to choose from, you should be able to find a cybersecurity engineering position that catches your eye. Companies like Palo Alto Networks, Datadog, and CrowdStrike are good places to start.
If you are interested in working for the US government, USAJOBS is a one-stop shop for positions across the country.
Frequently Asked Questions on Becoming a Cybersecurity Engineer
What do I need to learn to become a cybersecurity engineer?
Required knowledge includes basic understanding of computer hardware and software, firewall intrusion and detection principles, programming languages such as Python and C++, identity management principles, encryption, and vulnerability testing.
How long does it take to become a cybersecurity engineer?
The demand for cyber security experts is high and the time it takes to become a cyber security engineer can vary. Expect to spend several years completing an education and gaining experience in the field before landing a cybersecurity engineering job.
Is it difficult to become a cybersecurity engineer?
Becoming a cybersecurity engineer takes hard work and dedication, but it is doable. According to (ISC)², 26% of cybersecurity professionals surveyed started in a different field. Eight percent explored cybersecurity concepts on their own and were recruited to work in the field.