How To Become A Cybersecurity Engineer: Salary, Education and Job Outlook – Forbes

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Cybercrimes cost the world economy trillions of dollars each year. Given these high stakes, organizations are seeking cybersecurity experts to protect their data, help limit losses and shore up their defensive security systems.

Cybersecurity engineering is a promising career path within the cybersecurity space, with roles for professionals at all career stages. Focused on designing and implementing security systems to safeguard vulnerable data, this position requires advanced skills and offers competitive salaries.

If you want to learn how to become a cybersecurity engineer, keep reading to explore day-to-day job duties for these professionals, explore salary and job outlook data, and discover the steps to launch your career in cybersecurity engineering.

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What Is a Cybersecurity Engineer?

Cybersecurity engineers focus on protecting data and preventing disruptions caused by digital attacks. While these engineers’ duties often overlap with those of cybersecurity analysts and other cyberdefense professionals, cybersecurity engineers occupy a distinct niche in the field. Emphasizing the creation of security solutions, this role is sometimes called information security engineer or network security engineer.

Cybersecurity engineers’ primary responsibilities often begin with designing and implementing security measures. Once a security system is in place, they may monitor, support, maintain or upgrade these 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 managerial roles.

Cybersecurity Engineer Salary and Job Outlook

Cybersecurity engineers typically earn highly competitive salaries. According to Payscale, these engineers make an average base cybersecurity salary of over $101,000. Their wages are likely to increase as they gain experience and earn certifications. Junior cybersecurity engineers with less than a year of experience earn an average of about $79,000 a year, but experienced engineers can see their salaries grow to more than $130,000.

As for job outlook, there is a massive labor shortage in the cybersecurity field. Cyberseek—a collaboration between the National Initiative for Cybersecurity Education, CompTIA and Lightcast—performs data analysis of the cybersecurity job market. Between September 2022 and August 2023, there were more than 570,000 job openings for cybersecurity professionals, according to Cyberseek.

Cyberseek also reports that cybersecurity roles take 21% longer to fill than other types of jobs on average. This indicates a large talent gap in the cybersecurity field.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projects a 32% job growth for information security analysts from 2022 to 2032, indicating continuing high demand for similar cybersecurity professionals.

How To Become a Cybersecurity Engineer

Cybersecurity engineers need a solid foundation of computer science knowledge and skills. Candidates can learn these skills through traditional degree paths, self-study or bootcamps. Becoming a cybersecurity engineer will likely require years of study and experience. Earning a certification can be helpful as well.

Earn a Degree

If you’re wondering how to get into cybersecurity, remember that this is a highly technical field requiring a background in computer networks, coding, programming and encryption, among other areas. A bachelor’s degree in cybersecurity or computer science can provide the necessary foundation in these subjects. Related fields like electrical engineering or math can also develop useful skills.

A degree is not always required for a cybersecurity career, but it is a strong option. According to a survey by (ISC)², an international nonprofit information security organization, about 62% of cybersecurity professionals earned a cybersecurity bachelor’s degree or a bachelor’s in another discipline before entering the field. About 36% of respondents held a master’s degree or Ph.D.

For those who take the non-college route, a cybersecurity bootcamp can also provide a good education. Completing a cybersecurity bootcamp can quickly equip you with the skills required to perform in an entry-level role in the field. Bootcamp graduates may also pursue certifications to back up their expertise.

Industry veteran Jordan Wigley advises aspiring cybersecurity professionals, “When choosing a cybersecurity bootcamp, look for programs that include hands-on lab exercises in addition to the knowledge-based learning curriculum. The hands-on elements will provide learners with more practical experience to prepare for a cybersecurity engineer role.”

Gain Experience

As you begin your career, you can find entry-level cybersecurity jobs in cybersecurity engineering and related roles to help you gain experience and build your skills. Potential positions to consider include cybersecurity specialist, cybercrime analyst, incident and intrusion analyst, and cybersecurity analyst.

Alternatively, you might start out in an information technology (IT) job before transitioning into cybersecurity. Related roles include software developer, network or systems administrator and IT auditor. In the aforementioned (ISC)² survey, more than 50% of respondents started their careers in IT before making the transition.

Obtain Certification

Cybersecurity certifications can help make you a more competitive candidate for available roles. As you work toward an engineering role, consider obtaining one or more of the following certifications.

Entry-level certifications like CompTIA’s Security+ and Network+ can bolster your cybersecurity résumé and help qualify you to become a cybersecurity engineer. These certifications also fulfill the requirement to work for the U.S. Department of Defense, if that’s your goal.

For intermediate cybersecurity professionals, ISACA’s Certified Data Privacy Solutions Engineer™ is a good option. Moreover, Global Information Assurance Certification, an entity that administers information security certifications, offers credentials that measure specific knowledge and skill areas.

The cybersecurity industry gold standard is the Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP)® certification, which marks you as an elite cybersecurity expert. This designation requires a minimum of five years of paid experience and the recommendation of a current CISSP holder.

Apply for Jobs

Once you have gained the education and certifications you need, it’s time to apply for jobs. And with over 570,000 open positions in the field to choose from, you should be able to find a cybersecurity engineering role that catches your eye. Cybersecurity vendors like Palo Alto Networks, Datadog and CrowdStrike are good places to start, but major companies across multiple industries also hire cybersecurity engineers.

If you are interested in working for the U.S. government, USAJOBS is a one-stop shop for positions across the country.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) About Becoming a Cybersecurity Engineer

What should I learn to become a cybersecurity engineer?

Required knowledge includes fundamental computer hardware and software knowledge, 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?

Demand for cybersecurity experts is high, and the time it takes to become a cybersecurity engineer may vary. Expect to spend several years completing an education and gaining experience in the field before landing a cybersecurity engineering job.

Is it hard to become a cybersecurity engineer?

Becoming a cybersecurity engineer requires hard work and dedication, but it is doable. According to (ISC)², 26% of cybersecurity professionals surveyed started in a different field. About 45% of respondents explored cybersecurity concepts on their own, and 14% were recruited to work in the field.

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