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Cybersecurity Engineer Career Guide

How to Become a Cybersecurity Engineer

Hundreds of millions of cyber breaches have occurred in the past couple of years, resulting in billions of dollars in loss globally. It’s no longer a question of whether cybercrimes will occur, but rather how to react to them when they inevitably happen and how to stop those that are preventable. This is the work of cybersecurity engineers, who help identify threats and vulnerabilities in digital systems and software. They use their skills to develop and implement sophisticated solutions against hacking, malware and ransomware, insider threats, and other types of cybercrime. Their work entails continually testing and monitoring computer systems to ensure that all the system’s defenses are up-to-date and working correctly. If you’re interested in keeping data safe from criminals and improving network security for a variety of organizations, a career as a cybersecurity engineer could be perfect for you. Keep reading to learn more about common job responsibilities, education requirements, and salary expectations.

What Is a Cybersecurity Engineer?

Cybersecurity is a branch of information technology focused on protecting data. Cybersecurity engineers’ duties include developing and engineering secure and trusted systems, performing assessments and penetration testing, managing network security technology and audit/intrusion systems, and developing and fielding secure network solutions to protect against advanced persistent cyber threats. Cybersecurity engineers play a vital role within organizations by setting the standards for security policies and procedures. There are many types of cybersecurity engineers, including information security engineers, data security engineers, cloud security engineers, and web security engineers, so those who want to explore this career have a variety of options for job prospects.

What Does a Cybersecurity Engineer Do?

male DevOps engineer

Cybersecurity engineers protect organizations from cyber criminals and perform damage control in the event of a cyberattack. Their most important responsibilities include:

  • Planning, implementing, managing, monitoring, and upgrading security management protocols for the protection of the organization’s data, systems, and networks.
  • Troubleshooting security and network problems.
  • Responding to all system and/or network security breaches. 
  • Ensuring that the organization’s data and infrastructure are protected by enabling the appropriate security controls.
  • Participating in the change management process.
  • Testing and identifying network and system vulnerabilities.
  • Daily administrative tasks, reporting, and communication with the relevant departments in the organization. 

How Do I Become a Cybersecurity Engineer?

In order to hack a system, cybercriminals have to get it right just once, while cybersecurity engineers must constantly be at the top of their game to create an impenetrable wall against attackers. That said, a comprehensive and in-depth education is essential to becoming a skilled cybersecurity engineer. Here is the step-by-step guide to beginning your career. 

Hackers and cybercriminals are always increasing the sophistication of their attacks. Research shows that hackers steal roughly $600 billion globally each year. If you want to help stop them, WGU's online cybersecurity bachelor's degree will prepare you to beat these cybercriminals. This degree was designed with help from network security experts and top IT employers, like IBM, Amazon, Microsoft, and Apple, to meet the latest security policies and standards of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and National Security Agency (NSA). Upon finishing this degree, you will have earned 14 top certifications that position you to be competitive in the job market right out of college. 

If solving problems and tackling new challenges everyday sounds like your calling, WGU’s computer science bachelor’s degree is the one for you. This degree program sets you up with knowledge and skills that allow you to choose from a broad array of cybersecurity career options. The courses in the program allow you to design, develop, and optimize systems that will meet current and future industry needs. You'll gain vital skills in logic, architecture and systems, data structures, AI, and computer theory, making you a highly qualified, in-demand professional in a diverse and promising industry.

  • Get relevant certificates and licensure.

The most common cybersecurity certifications include the Certified Information Systems Security Professional—Architecture (CISSP), Security 5 Certification, Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP), and IT Information Library Foundations Certification (ITIL). Depending on the role you pursue, you may have to earn specific certifications beyond this list. You can also seek to obtain your Professional Engineer (PE) licensure. This will make you eligible for some types of publicly funded projects. You must complete at least four years of work experience to pursue these credentials and pass the exam. The certifications and licensures a post-bachelor professional chooses are unique to the individual.

If you finish your bachelor’s degree and decide you want to gain an even deeper knowledge in the cybersecurity field, consider earning WGU's Master of Science in Cybersecurity and Information Assurance. This degree will prepare you to better protect invaluable data at top organizations. It will also allow you to increase your earning potential and take on leadership roles in your field. This is an optional step to becoming a cybersecurity engineer; you need only a bachelor’s degree to work in this field. 

  • Three or more years of work experience in the IT field and relevant positions.

Once you’ve completed your education, you can start working in cybersecurity. Most engineers begin as security analysts and move up from there. Throughout your career, you can add certifications and licensures to your résumé to qualify for more advanced, higher-paying positions.

Best Degrees for a Cybersecurity Engineer

Cybersecurity and Information Assurance – B.S.

Protect your career and earning potential with this degree....

Protect your career and earning potential with...

Protect your career and earning potential with this degree.

  • Employer approval: 74% of graduates finish within 18 months.
  • Tuition: $3,950 per 6-month term.

Some careers and jobs this degree will prepare you for:

  • Cyber crimes investigator
  • Director of cybersecurity
  • Chief of cyber counterintelligence
  • Cybersecurity engineer
  • Cyber operations planner

Certifications included in this program at no extra cost include:

  • Certified Cloud Security Professional (CCSP) - Associate of (ISC)2 designation
  • Systems Security Certified Practitioner (SSCP) - Associate of (ISC)2 designation
  • ITIL® Foundation Certification
  • CompTIA A+
  • CompTIA Cybersecurity Analyst Certification (CySA+)
  • CompTIA IT Operations Specialist
  • CompTIA Network+
  • CompTIA Network Vulnerability Assessment Professional
  • CompTIA Network Security Professional
  • CompTIA PenTest+
  • CompTIA Project+
  • CompTIA Secure Infrastructure Specialist
  • CompTIA Security+
  • CompTIA Security Analytics Professional

 

Cybersecurity and Information Assurance – M.S.

Become the authority on keeping infrastructures and information...

Become the authority on keeping infrastructures...

Become the authority on keeping infrastructures and information safe.

  • Time: 76% of graduates finish within 24 months.
  • Tuition and fees: $4,295 per 6-month term.
  • Certifications: cost of two EC-Council certs, included.

The curriculum is closely aligned with the National Initiative for Cybersecurity Education (NICE) Workforce Framework, plus includes the opportunity to earn these certifications:

  • EC-Council Certified Ethical Hacker
  • EC-Council Computer Hacking Forensic Investigator (CHFI)

This program was designed in collaboration with national intelligence organizations and IT industry leaders, ensuring you'll learn emerging technologies and best practices in security governance.


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What Skills Does a Cybersecurity Engineer Need?

Cybersecurity engineers have highly technical, high-stakes jobs. Therefore, they’re heavily equipped with important skills spanning programming languages, website and network design, security technology, and anti-malware software. Some of their most important skills include:

  • Excellent understanding of technology infrastructures using Firewalls, VPN, Data Loss Prevention, IDS/IPS, Web-Proxy and Security Audits.
  • Secure coding practices, ethical hacking, and threat modeling.
  • Proficiency in Python, C++, Java, Ruby, Node, Go, and/or Power Shell.
  • IDS/IPS, penetration and vulnerability testing.
  • Firewall and intrusion detection/prevention protocols.
  • Windows, UNIX, and Linux operating systems.
  • Virtualization technologies.
  • MySQL/MSSQL database platforms.
  • Identity and access management principles.
  • Application security and encryption technologies.
  • Secure network architectures.
  • Subnetting, DNS, encryption technologies and standards, VPNs, VLANs, VoIP, and other network routing methods.
  • Experience with advanced persistent threats, phishing and social engineering, network access controllers (NAC), gateway anti-malware, and enhanced authentication.

How Much Does a Cyber Security Engineer Make?

$79,709

According to Glassdoor, the national average salary for a cybersecurity engineer is $79,709, with a possible salary range of around $52,000 to $123,000.

What Is the Projected Job Growth?

33%

The employment of cybersecurity engineers is projected to grow by 33% from 2020 to 2030. About 16,300 new openings for information security analysts are projected each year, on average, over the decade.

Where Does a Cybersecurity Engineer Work?

Varies

A cybersecurity engineer can work internally for an organization or for a consulting firm. Some of the industries with the greatest wealth of jobs for cybersecurity include financial services, government, health care, manufacturing, and retail.

Interested in Becoming a Cybersecurity Engineer?

Learn more about degree programs that can prepare you for this lucrative career.

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