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HOW TO BECOME
a Cybersecurity Engineer

Every day in the news you hear about a new information breach that’s wrecking havoc across the world. As our society becomes more dependent on computer technology, the arms race against malicious forces looking to exploit that technology increases. For every virus or data breach in the news there is a team working to combat or limit the damage done.

Unfortunately, there’s a definite shortage in those workers who can fight this fight. One 2018 survey said that almost 60 percent of information security companies have at least one open cybersecurity engineer position. Moreover, they said that filling those positions takes at least three months.

Forbes calls it, “the fastest-growing job with a huge skills gap.” That’s a big gap. Are you the person to fill that gap?

The job requires extensive – but acquirable – skills, making it an excellent position to study for in a coding bootcamp. Read on for a description of what the job is and what’s required to do it well.

Cybersecurity is a growing field, and now is a great time to get into it. Here are some statistics that support the cybersecurity career path:

  • According to salaries submitted to Glassdoor, US cybersecurity engineers earned a median wage of $115,744 per year.
  • In the next decade, the Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts that these security jobs will grow a whopping 32%. This is much higher than average.
two people typing on keyboard

What Is Cybersecurity Engineering?

At the heart of it, a cybersecurity engineer fights against computer threats to data or equipment. They usually have extensive IT, coding or network administration experience and are familiar with where and how cyber threats can occur.

What Do Cybersecurity Engineers Do?

Cybersecurity engineers are information technology professionals who use their coding skills to develop programs and systems to protect delicate information. They also perform tasks such as ethical hacking to identify security flaws.

Cybersecurity engineers are vital in the information age, as there’s so much stored on line to lose. Cybersecurity engineers help protect this information and these systems from attack, and stay one step ahead of hackers and other threats.

These professionals also use code for engineering computer systems, secure network solutions, and security technologies.

Cybersecurity Engineering Job Description

Cybersecurity engineering is a complex field, and these professionals have a wide range of responsibilities. There are a number of roles under the cybersecurity banner, with different focuses and job duties. Here are some of the most common shared duties of cybersecurity engineers.

Penetration Tester

Think of them trying to poke holes in an existing system. Not unlike a hacker, penetration testing experts continually try to find flaws in a cyber network or software.

Security Analyst

This position takes a proactive role, trying to prevent breaches before they happen in an organization. This involves looking for possible breaches based on past experience and speculative thinking.

Security Manager

This role has you on the front lines of keeping data safe and out of the wrong hands. This involves keeping systems up to date and secure at all times.

Security Architect

This is the person who designs the plans for avoiding security threats in the first place. These plans will have to grow and change as technology changes or new threats emerge.

Information Security Crime Investigator/Cyber Forensics Expert

Just like in “CSI”, they trace digital evidence to find the identity of any cyber attackers. Also, they identify clues as to what’s been stolen.

Chief Information Security Officer

The top of the line. This is the person who is responsible for everything and managing the people working in computer security. That’s a heavy amount of responsibility.

What Are the Required Skills for Cybersecurity Careers?

Anyone working in this field is expected to be a very knowledgeable and skilled computer scientist. Cybersecurity engineers are very knowledgeable about network administration, network security, and operating systems at the very least. While your position might not involve a lot of computer programming, you would be expected to read and understand code fluently.

There’s a lot of stress associated with cybersecurity engineering. This requires a lot of grace under pressure and ability to think well under pressure.

You’d be expected to be a keen analytical thinker, even in stressful scenarios.

That’s a lot of pressure! Especially so when it’s happen after regular business hours.

The farther up the ladder you proceed in this field, the more you’ll need to have excellent communication skills. You want to make a strong case to defend measures you deem necessary.

two cybersecurity engineers working on their computers

How Much Do Cybersecurity
Engineers Make?

According to Glassdoor, cybersecurity engineers make an average of $115,744 per year, with senior positions earning $130,000 or more. The need for skilled workers in this area is not going to diminish any time soon. This is especially true in the financial and healthcare fields.

Cyber attacks will only increase in time. This increases the need for these jobs as well as the range of knowledge needed for them. In short, now is a great time to become a certified information systems security professional.

Chief Information Security Officer roles can reach up to $400,000. But keep in mind that salary comes with a lot of hours. Plus, breaches can happen at any time of day and night.

That’s also the person who has to announce to the world that there is a breach at their company. Although the dollar amount might be an attractive goal, remember that everything else that comes with it.

Below, we highlighted the average salary for individuals in cybersecurity jobs around the country, including 15 of the largest metropolitan areas. Keep in mind that a number of factors influence salary, including location, position, work experience, and educational background.

City Average Salary
San Francisco, CA $159,222
Los Angeles, CA $126,155
Portland, OR $111,087
New York, NY $122,160
Philadelphia, PA $110,170
Seattle, WA $129,997
Minneapolis, MN $103,732
Atlanta, GA $97,535
Phoenix, AZ $103,601
Boston, MA $118,781
Miami, FL $104,457
Chicago, IL $107,320
Milwaukee, WI $102,521
Cleveland, OH $99,545
Dallas, TX $92,405

How Can You Become a Cybersecurity
Engineer?

Given the nature of the work (and the access to sensitive data), employers will often look for certs in the field. Security managers can be certified with a variety of certificates, such as:

  • CISM (Certified Information Security Manager)
  • CISSP (Certified Information Systems Security Professional)
  • CCNP (Cisco Certified Network Professional Security Certification): This program from Cisco (a popular manufacturer of computer network systems) is specifically geared towards their products.
  • CEH (Certified Ethical Hacker): This program teaches the same tactics as real hackers (“black hat hackers”) to evaluate security.

All of these certificates have online and in person learning opportunities to help with studying the material for the tests. They also require continual re-upping to keep the certification up to date. Continuous education is a crucial part of any cybersecurity engineer’s job.

Cybersecurity Learning Paths

Cybersecurity Bootcamps

Coding bootcamps are career training programs that are now a popular alternative to college. These programs are short-lived (usually around 6 months long) and provide to-the-point education for a specialized field.

College/University

College and university programs are the traditional route into a cybersecurity career. College, while expensive and long-lasting, is a proven way to land a cybersecurity job. Plus, degrees provide some level of career mobility when you don’t have much experience in the field. A bachelor’s degree, master’s degree, or doctorate will be helpful.

Self-Study

At one time, it was common for hackers and computer hobbyists to go far in the cybersecurity field. And while this still occurs today, it’s a lot less common. Computer systems are far more advanced, and constant specialized training is often necessary to keep up.

What Companies Are Hiring Cybersecurity Engineers?

FAQ

What does a cybersecurity engineer do?

A cybersecurity engineer is tasked with ensuring systems and networks are protected from cyber attacks of all types.

Is cybersecurity a good career?

Yes, cybersecurity is a long-term career that earns a high salary. Many tech companies are at risk of cyber-attacks and it has led to significant growth of this field.

How long does it take to become a cybersecurity engineer?

Cybersecurity engineer bootcamps take around 6 months to complete. These programs train people, even those with no experience, to become professionals in the industry.

What skills are needed to become a cybersecurity engineer?

You need programming, analytical, and problem-solving skills to be a cybersecurity engineer. Professionals who work in cybersecurity must stay up to date on the latest developments in malware and spyware.

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