What Is a Cybersecurity Engineer? (Plus How To Become One)

By Indeed Editorial Team

Updated August 30, 2022

Published July 23, 2020

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Cybersecurity engineers identify threats and vulnerabilities in computer systems and software. These professionals are experts who implement secure network solutions to protect organizations' networks and data systems from hackers, cyberattacks and other forms of computer crime. Learning more about the role and the unique skills necessary to work in it can help determine if it's the right career. 

In this article, we discuss what a cybersecurity engineer is, list the skills required for the career, explain how to become one and detail the salary, job outlook and work environment of these professionals.

What is a cybersecurity engineer?

A cybersecurity engineer is an information security professional who performs information security functions that include designing, developing and implementing highly secure network solutions. These solutions help organizations secure their networks against cyberattacks and hacking threats. They apply information security concepts to design and implement various protective security measures. They're typically involved in developing, assessing and initiating security systems and subsystems, and they may work with other IT professionals to modify or improve computer codes to address vulnerabilities.

In addition, cybersecurity engineers may work with other departments in an organization to ensure continuous network security. This allows them to address rising threats more quickly. A few of their additional responsibilities may include the following: 

  • Penetration testing: Cybersecurity engineers often evaluate an organization's computer networks, applications and data systems for vulnerabilities.

  • Network maintenance: Engineers may also install, test and configure networks.

  • IT system security: Engineers often spend time defining protocols and installing and configuring security devices

Related: 16 Jobs in Cybersecurity To Consider Today

Skills to become a cybersecurity engineer

Working as a cybersecurity engineer requires a range of hard and soft skills. Here are a few of the primary skills necessary for the role:

Technical skills

Cybersecurity engineers use a variety of technical skills to complete their regular duties, such as coding, intrusion detection and knowledge of operating systems. These skills allow them to assess cybersecurity threats and develop effective solutions quickly. Depending on their organization, they might use certain technical skills more often. For example, engineers working for large corporations may need more extensive knowledge of security protocols and cybersecurity tools to protect bigger networks. 

Related: Technical Skills: Definitions and Examples for a Resume

Problem-solving skills

Engineers regularly assess and solve various cybersecurity issues, ranging from ransomware attacks to general software vulnerabilities. They use problem-solving skills to address these issues effectively and implement solutions that prevent them from occurring again. These skills also allow them to identify the correct solution when there are multiple. 

Read more: What Are Problem-Solving Skills? Definitions and Examples

Mathematical skills

Like many technical fields, cybersecurity requires understanding various advanced mathematical concepts. Engineers in this field employ mathematical skills to create programs that protect computer networks. They regularly use linear algebra, cryptography and other concepts to design more effective cybersecurity solutions. 

Analytical skills

Analytical skills are the ability to collect and analyze information to make important decisions. Cybersecurity engineers often use analytical skills to analyze risk, handle security incident reporting and conduct security audits. These skills allow them to collect the correct information and investigate cybersecurity incidents in more detail.

Related: Analytical Skills in the Workplace: Definitions and Examples

Teamwork

Cybersecurity engineers frequently collaborate with other cybersecurity and IT professionals, particularly when working on projects requiring a higher skill level. Communicating with others can allow them to solve problems more effectively and develop better solutions. When working on a team, practicing active listening enables them to assess situations more thoroughly and understand different perspectives, which can be especially useful when solving extensive cyberattacks or other incidents. 

Related: 7 Examples of Important Teamwork Skills

Creative thinking 

Creative thinking is the ability to consider a problem in a new or unique way. Creative thinking can help engineers gain new insights and think more critically about cybersecurity issues. It can also help them develop innovative ideas for addressing incidents, such as new methods for troubleshooting network problems to save organizations time. 

How to become a cybersecurity engineer

If you're interested in a career as a cybersecurity engineer, here are five steps you can take to gain the education, experience and skills required for the position: 

1. Research specializations

There are a variety of specializations within cybersecurity that you may want to pursue as an engineer. These include architecture, risk and compliance, incident response and data loss prevention. Considering the specialization you want to pursue can help you locate the right degree program for you. In addition, it's helpful to research more about the role to gain a better understanding of its specific requirements. Depending on the organization you want to work for, you may need additional education or certifications. 

2. Earn a bachelor's degree

Once you know the specialization you want to pursue, you can enroll in a university and earn your bachelor's degree in cybersecurity, information security or a related field. A four-year degree program in cybersecurity or information security typically includes coursework like computer science, data analysis, cryptology, network communications and network infrastructure. While completing your degree, consider participating in a club or extracurricular activity for aspiring cybersecurity professionals. 

Related: Cybersecurity Majors: Types and Benefits of Each

3. Obtain a cybersecurity certification 

After obtaining your bachelor's degree, consider pursuing professional certifications through accredited programs to help you appeal to employers and distinguish yourself in the field. Certification can also showcase your expertise and continuing development. Most certificates available to IT and cybersecurity engineers require you to pass an exam. Some have pre-exam requirements for you to meet, such as a certain number of years of experience in the field. Consider pursuing certification as you gain more work experience.

Related: Top 10 Cybersecurity Certifications and How They Will Improve Your Career

4. Complete an internship

One useful way to enter cybersecurity as an engineer is to complete an internship after earning your degree. Internships can help you test your abilities while gaining valuable professional experience and skills. They can allow you to evaluate your fit in various companies as you learn to interact and collaborate with different teams. If you're still unsure of which cybersecurity specialization to pursue, participating in an internship can also help you learn more about what each offers. 

Related: How To Find Entry-Level Cybersecurity Jobs in 5 Steps

5. Pursue a master's degree in your field

Pursuing a graduate degree like a master's degree in cyber-security or information security can help you advance in your career and access more professional opportunities. If you choose to obtain your graduate degree, you may also have more opportunities to specialize in the more unique areas of cybersecurity. For example, you may find a degree program concentrating on cryptology, cyberterrorism or authentication technologies. 

Related: 100 Best IT Master's Degrees

Salary of a cybersecurity engineer

The national average salary for a cybersecurity engineer is $121,685 per year, according to Glassdoor. Depending on where cybersecurity engineers work, where they live and their role within an organization, these professionals may have a salary that's significantly more or less than the national average. For example, engineers in California make an average of $131,154 per year, while engineers in Florida make an average of $110,846 per year.

Related: FAQ: How Much Can You Earn With a Cybersecurity Degree?

Job outlook of a cybersecurity engineer

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projects the employment of information security analysts, a role closely related to cybersecurity engineers, to increase 33% by 2030. This increase is much faster than the average across all other occupations. The bureau attributes this to an increase in the number of cyberattacks and the need for cybersecurity professionals to develop innovative solutions to handle them in many different industries. 

Work environment of a cybersecurity engineer 

Since cybersecurity engineers can fulfill a range of IT security roles, they also find work in a variety of settings. Many cybersecurity engineers work in banks, large retail corporations, government agencies, and the nonprofit sector. They typically work full time, and many work additional hours to protect networks and address cyberattacks and other threats.

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