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Vulnerability Research Engineer Career

How to Become a Vulnerability Research Engineer

Data, organizations, and other valuable resources all need skilled professionals to protect them from cybersecurity breaches and other disasters. A vulnerability research engineer is typically tasked with protecting corporate information, national security missions, and the projects of other high-stakes clientele, doing all they can to discover holes in the system before somebody else does.

In order to protect oneself from a potential threat, one must first know as much about it as possible. This technically-minded career is perfect for anybody who cannot rest until they’ve explored every possible scenario—a vulnerability research engineer is often one of the most trusted advisors within a cybersecurity team.

What Is a Vulnerability Research Engineer?

As the title would suggest, a vulnerability research engineer’s primary goal is to scour an organization’s digital line of defense for weaknesses.

Vulnerabilities can be easy for criminals to take advantage of, and they may not always be entirely obvious to those on the inside. These professionals use reverse engineering, penetration tests, exploit development, and more to put these systems to the ultimate test. This complex and vital role isn’t just one of conjecture, however, as mitigating these risks and addressing them fully are also part of the job.

At the beginning of every investigation, the system in question will be examined for bugs and other gaps in security, using any of the following:

  • Vulnerability metadata 
  • Severity information
  • Impact data

Functionally, vulnerability research engineers act as both data scientists and as engineers, using their findings to strengthen the digital security of an organization.

What Does a Vulnerability Research Engineer Do?

male DevOps engineer

Your days as a vulnerability engineer may include any of the duties below:

  • Assessing the architecture of a security system currently in place.
  • Monitoring the system in a day-to-day context.
  • Providing feedback and offering suggestions for improvement.
  • Building better, stronger solutions to replace outdated or flawed ones.
  • Drafting technical documents, data reports, and white papers.
  • Using tools like disassemblers, debuggers, and fuzzers.
  • Coming up with new ways to test each system.
  • Communicating technical needs to stakeholders and colleagues.

The bottom line: vulnerability research engineers command a strong sense of ownership when it comes to the systems that they’re responsible for. 

How Do I Become a Vulnerability Research Engineer?

A background in cybersecurity, computer science, or engineering is the baseline for this career—a bachelor’s degree in any of these fields is the perfect place to start. A master’s degree later on ends up being a natural progression for many professionals in tech, including vulnerability researchers.

Experience in the industry is also another asset that the most desirable employers look for on your résumé, as some skills can only be truly acquired in a real-world setting. Entry-level vulnerability research engineer positions, however, can be found in abundance.

We recommend honing your skills both in the classroom and on your own time. An ability to code, an understanding of tools like disassemblers, and an interest in software and app development in general will all serve you well here.

Best Degrees for a Vulnerability Research 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

 

Computer Science – B.S.

Problem solvers and math lovers needed! Your task: ...

Problem solvers and math lovers needed! Your...

Problem solvers and math lovers needed! Your task:

Lay the groundwork for the computing breakthroughs that will enable tomorrow's technologies. 

  • Time: 67% of graduates in similar programs finish within 30 months.
  • Tuition and fees: $3,625 per 6-month term.
  • Transfer: Your previous college coursework and existing certifications may waive course requirements, helping you finish even faster.

You'll have the opportunity to earn these certifications:

  • CompTIA Project+
  • Axelos ITIL Foundation

Professionals who need the skills a computer science degree provides include computer systems analysts, computer programmers, artificial intelligence specialists, software engineers, machine learning engineers, and more.

Network Engineering and Security – B.S.

For network engineering and security professionals looking for a...

For network engineering and security...

For network engineering and security professionals looking for a Cisco or vendor-agnostic experience.

  • Time: 70% of graduates finish similar programs within 39 months.
  • Tuition and fees: $3,625 per 6-month term.

Two focus areas: Students can choose between a Cisco or general program, allowing them to learn and gain experience in their chosen specialty.

Certifications: CompTIA A+, CompTIA Project+, CompTIA Cloud+, ITIL®*^ Foundation Certification, LPI Linux Foundations

The Cisco program also includes: Cisco CyberOps, Cisco DevNet, Cisco CyberOps

The general program also includes: CompTIA Security+, CompTIA Network+, CompTIA IT Operations Specialist (Stacked), CompTIA Secure Infrastructure Specialist (Stacked), CompTIA Cloud Admin Professional (Stacked), CompTIA Secure Cloud Professional (Stacked)

This program will help you develop strong skills in network design, network operations, and security management.


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What Skills Does a Vulnerability Research Engineer Need?

A genuine interest in cybersecurity is a must, but that’s not all you’ll need to succeed in this role. Along with a general comprehension of the basics of coding, engineering, and development, a vulnerability researcher should possess the following skills:

  • Knowledge of vulnerability management and its best practices.
  • An understanding of back-end code (Ruby and Go are two common examples).
  • Problem-solving skills in a cross-functional capacity.
  • Communication skills, both written and verbal.
  • The ability to analyze and interpret information abstractly.
  • An inquisitive mind; one finely attuned to detail.

These professionals need to be well-versed in several areas—source code analysis, compiler design, static application security testing (SAST), dynamic application security testing (DAST), software composition analysis (SCA), and software supply chain ecosystems, to name a few. Some experience as a product developer would also greatly inform this type of work.

How Much Does a Vulnerability Research Engineer Make?

$102,600

In 2021, the median salary for U.S. security analysts was approximately $102,600 yearly, or around $49.33 per hour. At the entry level, you can expect to earn between $100,000 to $115,000 annually.

If you’re striving for the higher end of this pay scale, then earning a master’s degree in this field is strongly recommended. You can also get certified in several specialty niches through remote learning, in-class courses, and other enrichment programs.

What Is the Projected Job Growth?

33%

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projects a 33% increase in demand for vulnerability research engineers and other related roles over the next decade—that’s around 141,200 new opportunities per year. 

Where Does a Vulnerability Research Engineer Work?

Varies

As with many jobs in tech and cybersecurity, professionals are most likely to find great opportunities in cities nationwide. Commercial ventures, academic institutions, government agencies, and nonprofits all need talent in this area—you’ve got plenty of options in this regard if you’re skilled and passionate.

In many cases, you’ll be able to work remotely or on-site. Even if you’re far from an urban or commercial epicenter, you’ll be more than able to earn a living in this field.

Interested in Becoming a Vulnerability Research Engineer?

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

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