How to Become a
Cyber Security Engineer
Education Pathways, Skills, and Certifications
There are many possible pathways you can follow to become a cyber security engineer. Coding bootcamps offer concise and exciting cyber security courses. Universities and colleges offer computer science bachelor’s degrees that are also a great way to get started in cyber security.
In this article, we’ll cover everything you need to know about becoming a cyber security engineer. This includes your education options, certifications, and career expectations.
What Is a Cyber Security Engineer?
A cyber security engineer builds technologies that help keep computer architectures safe. They know how to develop plans that will enforce security standards. Most of the work in these roles is anticipatory. In other words, a cyber security engineer has to create a framework that is protected from threats before they happen.
Cyber security engineers usually work for an organization, but can also build a career by freelancing. There are many areas of specialization within cyber security. You might work as a cyber security analyst or consultant, or as a network engineer or architect.
What Does a Cyber Security Engineer Do?
A cyber security engineer develops software security tools and systems to ensure the confidentiality, integrity, and designated availability of certain information.
There are many possible tasks that make up the day of a cyber security engineer. Below are some of the most common.
Protecting Company Information
A cyber security engineer may be tasked with building a company’s security system from scratch. Subsequently, they might also be asked to develop a security code of conduct that a company’s employees will need to follow.
These measures are meant to protect all of a company’s information regarding its products, customers, and employees. This is the primary reason why cyber security engineers are so important.
Keeping Up to Date with Threats
An exciting part of a cyber security engineer’s job is that technologies and threats are constantly evolving. It is important that a cyber security engineer is aware of any new developments in the world of tech security.
A cyber security engineer must then update and maintain a company’s security mechanisms and protocols to respond to new potential threats.
Analyzing Computer Networks
A cyber security engineer must also fill the role of a guard dog. Ninety-nine percent of the time, a company will not face any immediate threats or danger, but it only takes one attack to penetrate and compromise a computer network.
A cyber security engineer should thoroughly analyze a network in order to prevent any possible attacks. Monitoring and analysis are a major part of the job.
Cyber Security Engineer Education Pathways
Now that we’ve covered what a cyber security engineer does, we’ll go through the various educational pathways they can choose from. A computer science degree is arguably the best option for anyone who wants to pursue a tech career. However, there are quicker and cheaper options available.
Cyber Security Degrees
It is common for cyber security engineers to have a bachelor’s degree. These undergraduate programs last four years and cover a lot of ground. Furthermore, completing a graduate program such as a master’s degree or PhD will give you an edge in the job market.
Cyber Security Bootcamps
There are many bootcamps that will provide you with a solid jumping-off point to your cyber security career. Claim Academy, Code Fellows, Cyber Retraining Academy, and DevLeague all offer full-time and flexible courses in cyber security engineering. Most of these courses last two to four months.
Bootcamps are gaining popularity over four-year degrees in part because they cover very precise topics in detail. They are also usually cheaper than a formal college degree. Keep in mind that in light of the pandemic, most bootcamps are offering their courses online.
Cyber Security Courses
On top of bootcamps and fully-fledged degrees, cyber engineering students can also sign up for short classes offered by massive open online course providers. These usually come with a certificate of completion, and are a great addition to any resume.
Coursera, Udemy, and Edx are a few of the platforms that offer courses in cyber security. MOOCs often collaborate with universities to offer these courses, and some of them are free of charge. However, obtaining a certificate will often require that you make a one-time payment.
How to Become a Cyber Security Engineer: A Step-by-Step Guide
The fastest way to become a cyber security engineer is to complete a bootcamp course. These programs are usually fast-paced, immersive, and interactive. However, getting an education is only part of the equation. You will also need to work on your soft skills and spend time networking. Below are some steps you should follow to get started.
Research training opportunities
The first step is to figure out the educational path that works best for you. To do this, you might want to sift through curriculums, certifications, and training programs.
Develop soft skills
A successful cyber security engineer will need to have skills in critical thinking, communication, and strategic planning. If these do not come naturally to you, you will need to brush up on these skills before applying for jobs.
After you have participated in some cyber security training, you will also need to get a certification. Employers will want to see this to make sure you are qualified. Certifications are absolutely crucial to landing a job in the cyber security field.
Build a professional network
As you complete your education, it is very important to meet others who work in cyber security and ask them any questions you have about the industry. Consider attending cyber security events and workshops. These can be held either online or in person.
Building professional relationships can be a big help in landing your first entry-level job.
Apply for jobs
Now that you have a certification, have developed soft skills, and have built up a strong network, you can start applying for jobs. The best way to do this is through your friends and professional network.
Ask around to see if anyone knows of any openings, and go from there. Otherwise, you can turn to online job portals.
Top Cyber Security Engineer Skills
Coding bootcamps and college courses cover a great deal of material. However, you should also make sure that you are developing relevant skills. Having all the key skills when you graduate will make your job search much easier.
Plus, the more skilled you are, the higher your starting salary will be. We’ve listed a few top cyber security skills below that you should include on your resume.
Build Virtual Machines
A virtual machine allows you to run programs on remote software, instead of on a physical computer. This is a great tool for a cyber security engineer because it allows them to run an operating system within another operating system.
Learn the Command Line
The command line interface is also referred to as the shell. With the command line, a cyber security engineer can interact with an entire operating system. In other words, mastering the command line allows you to access the outer components of an operating system, which means you can make changes to the operating system’s kernel.
Master the Art of System Administration
System administration involves maintaining and configuring computers, and it is a skill that all cyber security analysts must have. If you understand system administration, you will also be able to understand network management and personal digital security.
Cyber Security Engineer Salary and Job Outlook
Cyber security jobs are very well paid. According to PayScale, the average salary for a cyber security engineer is approximately $97,000. Cyber security engineering also has a strong job outlook, thanks to a constantly expanding field.
Entry-Level Cyber Security Engineer Job Requirements
You will need a professional certificate or a bachelor’s degree to land an entry-level job in cyber security. It is a high-level job, and your potential employers will want to know exactly what you’re capable of.
How to Prepare for Your Cyber Security Engineer Job Interview
Preparation is the key to performing well in an interview. If you have landed a job interview, you’ve already ticked all of the boxes in terms of technical requirements. Now, it’s time to use online resources to find advice on how to present yourself and display confidence.
Cyber Security Engineer Job Interview Practice Questions
- How is encryption different from hashing?
- What is the OSI model?
- In your opinion, what is the best security framework, and why?
- Where do you get your security news from?
Cyber Security Engineer Certifications
There are several professional cyber security certifications that you can get online. Massive open online courses also often come with certificates of completion, but these are not nearly as well respected as professional certification. Below, we’ve listed some of each so you can get an idea of what’s available.
OpenLearn - Introduction to Cyber Security: Stay Safe Online
This is a short introductory course offered by The Open University. This eight-week program is online and includes modules on threat landscape, malware, cryptography, and managing security risks. This is a great option if you’re just starting to learn about cyber security.
CompTIA - Security +
CompTIA offers a globally recognized certification upon completion of this course. In this program, you will learn about attacks, threats and vulnerabilities, architecture and design, governance, and risk and compliance. This is a well-rounded program that ends with a 90-minute exam. The course costs $370.
ISACA - Certified Information Security Manager
This is another globally-recognized certification. You must master information security governance, information risk management, and information security incident management. To get certified, you must pass an exam at the end of your course. The program costs between $575 and $760.
How Long Does It Take to Become a Cyber Security Engineer?
Becoming a cyber security engineer is not easy. If you have no background in coding or computer science, you should plan on dedicating at least two years of hard work. If you are going into it with some programming experience under your belt, a four- to six-month course should do the trick.
Why You Should Become a Cyber Security Engineer in 2021
Cyber security is a very rewarding job. Recently, there has been growth in the number of cyber security jobs available. For example, according to Indeed, between March 2017 and March 2018, postings for cyber security roles increased by 3.5 percent.
One thing you can count on is that cyber security will always be relevant. Today, most businesses have an online platform, and therefore require the expertise of a cyber security engineer. So, this is a very safe route to take in terms of job stability.
Cyber Security Engineer FAQ
Yes. Most cyber security courses will cover the fundamentals of programming and computer engineering. The more you know about coding before you enroll in a course, the better.
Yes. Most cyber security courses include ethical hacking training. It is important to know how a hacker would think and operate in order to build reliable defence mechanisms.
Penetration testing is a type of ethical hacking. Companies hire cyber security engineers to hack into their systems to uncover any faults. Penetration testing is different than ethical hacking in that it focuses only on information systems.