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How to Become a Cyber Security Engineer: Courses, Training, and Other Resources

How to Learn Cyber Security Engineering

Cybersecurity engineers master how to protect us against attacks. They keep private information safe for individuals, governments, and corporations.

In this guide, you’ll learn about cybersecurity courses, coding bootcamps, books, and training programs and find out how to enter the job market for this fast-growing tech career.

What Is Cybersecurity?

What Is Cybersecurity? image
Cybersecurity is the protection of systems and networks from theft or damage to their hardware, software, or data. It also aims to stop the disruption or misdirection of the services rendered by these systems.

Among tech jobs, the demand for cybersecurity engineers is incredibly high. It offers high salaries, positive career prospects, and high problem-solving skills. However, learning how to become a cybersecurity engineer can be difficult, especially if you have no experience.

What is a Cybersecurity Engineer?

A cybersecurity engineer is responsible for protecting data and systems against unauthorized use by external parties. Cybersecurity engineers create policies and programs to prevent security breaches and protect an organization's data.

Cybersecurity Job Requirements

Cybersecurity engineers are focused on protecting networks, websites, databases, and other technological systems against attack. A cybersecurity engineer’s responsibilities vary between organizations. Here are a few of the everyday tasks you can expect to have as a cybersecurity engineer:
  • Keep up-to-date with the latest technology developments and security systems
  • Identify potential weaknesses in a system and create policies to resolve them
  • Advise staff on how to stay safe when using company computers
  • Evaluate new security policies
  • Monitor a company for attacks and report on any problems
A cybersecurity engineer does more than just monitor attacks. They also create programs to fix vulnerabilities and work with others to ensure that the systems are safe from attacks. Such attacks can cause damages that are costly and time-consuming to repair.
Cybersecurity engineers are on the front line in protecting our data.

Cybersecurity Engineer Job Outlook

According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, jobs in cybersecurity are expected to grow by 32 percent by 2028. This is much faster than the average job, and faster than many other roles in computer science.

How much can you earn? (source: Glassdoor)

$188,000
Senior Engineer
$120,000
Middle Engineer
$50,000
Junior Engineer

Cybersecurity Engineer Salaries: How Much Do Cybersecurity Engineers Make?

According to ZipRecruiter, the average salary for a cybersecurity engineer is almost $120,000 per year. Junior cybersecurity engineers usually earn over $50,000, and more senior engineers can earn up to $188,000 per year.

The exact salary you will earn depends on the company you work for and your location. For example, cybersecurity engineers in San Francisco earn an average of almost $125,000. Some positions offer salaries of up to almost $363,000.

Some cybersecurity engineers work as independent consultants and are not affiliated with any company. These engineers usually have more experience in cybersecurity and can earn thousands for only a few hours of work.

How to Become a Cybersecurity Engineer?

There are many different career paths you can take to become an entry-level cybersecurity engineer. Here are the most common ones:
  1. Pursue a cybersecurity degree at a traditional university
  2. Attend a cybersecurity engineering coding bootcamp
  3. Learn cybersecurity engineering on your own through self-study
Each career path has its own benefits. In cybersecurity, the most common path is to pursue a computer science degree, because many employers require a CS degree when hiring cybersecurity engineers.
However, more short-term, intensive coding bootcamps and training programs have started in recent years. Take one to become a cybersecurity engineer in six months to a year. Learn all the practical cybersecurity engineering skills you need at a lower cost than at a traditional university.

Types of Cybersecurity

Generally speaking, cybersecurity can be divided into five broad categories. Different tools are available to the cybersecurity expert according to their specialization:
  1. Critical infrastructure security:

    Much of today’s essential infrastructure is connected to the Internet, which makes it vulnerable to cyberattacks. It is imperative to guarantee the safety of the electricity grid, water purification systems, traffic lights, shopping centers, and hospitals.

  2. Application security

    The focus here is on the cybersecurity software and hardware needed to tackle cyber threats during the development stage of an application. Antivirus programs, firewalls, and encryption programs fall into this category.

  3. Cloud security

    The cloud is gaining prominence in our lives. As a result, the need to protect the data in cloud resources has drastically increased. Cloud providers are constantly updating their tools to ensure user data is safe.

  4. Network security

    Network security deals with unauthorized intrusions in internal networks. The goal is to guarantee the integrity of the network by protecting the infrastructure and preventing security issues from occurring. Common examples include intrusion detection, new passwords, penetration testing, and antivirus programs.

  5. Internet of Things security

    The interconnectedness of today’s world has brought a myriad of problems and new cyber threats. With a growing number of devices connected to the Internet, opportunities to carry out cyberattacks with malicious intent have multiplied.

  6. Chief Information Security

    Security engineers that show exceptional skills in leadership may take on cybersecurity engineer roles such as this. A chief information security position is a high-level cybersecurity engineer role where someone works with experienced cybersecurity engineers to neutralize new and persistent threats.

Learning Cybersecurity

You can start learning cybersecurity through a wide variety of methods. Some people learn through earning a degree in cybersecurity or by attending a coding bootcamp. Others are self-taught. Whatever path you choose, you’ll need to learn essential cybersecurity skills and be well-versed in various programming languages, security threats, and the latest cybersecurity tools used to protect networks.

Cybersecurity Engineer Skills

Here are a few of the key cybersecurity skills you’ll need to be a successful engineer. These skills include programming languages, development processes, and other important concepts.

Malware analysis

Protecting a system against malware is one of the most important parts of being a cybersecurity engineer. Cybersecurity engineers must stay up-to-date with the latest malware threats, and understand how they can protect against those threats.

Continuity planning

A cybersecurity engineer must create plans to ensure an organization can continue operations if there is ever an attack. This may include creating backup storage policies and recovery policies if data becomes corrupted.

Programming languages: Bash, C, C++, Python

As a cybersecurity engineer, you’ll need to have an active knowledge of at least one programming language. The most common you’ll encounter are Bash, C, C++, and Python, which are often used in cybersecurity tools. Most businesses state upfront that they use certain programming languages which you’ll be expected to know. That said, having knowledge of additional programming languages such as PHP, Java, and Ruby on Rails may be helpful.

Risk analysis

A big part of being a cybersecurity engineer is identifying risks before they become a threat to an organization. You’ll need to be able to find risks and track those which may present a threat to your organization. You'll also need to ensure your systems are protected against certain risks. Likewise, you’ll conduct audits of existing systems to ensure you have done everything to mitigate the risk of an attack on your network.

Cloud security

Demand for cloud security skills is high in cybersecurity roles. This is because many companies use cloud technologies for everything from data storage to application deployment. You’ll need to be familiar with the basics of the cloud and have some knowledge on how to prevent common cloud attacks.

How Long Does It Take to Learn Cybersecurity?

It takes 2 to 4 years to get a cybersecurity degree. Coding bootcamp students take 6 months to a year to become a cybersecurity engineer. It can vary on how long it takes to become a self-taught cybersecurity engineer based on prior professional experience and what resources a person uses.

How to Become a Cybersecurity Engineer: Step-by-Step

Here are the main steps to follow to become a cybersecurity professional.
  1. Learn cybersecurity engineering through university, a bootcamp, or self-study
  2. Refine your technical skills
  3. Build a portfolio
  4. Craft a technical resume
  5. Start looking for a job
Many bootcamps, universities, courses, and training programs can help you throughout every step of this process. Below is a list of the best courses and resources available to help you find one of several cybersecurity jobs.

The Best Cybersecurity Courses

Below is a list of the best cybersecurity courses for those that want to become a cybersecurity engineer with no experience.

Case Western Reserve University

Case Western Reserve University is a private school located in Cleveland, Ohio. It offers a part-time, virtual cybersecurity bootcamp that focuses on information technology, networking, and modern information security. This challenging, hands-on bootcamp is for newcomers to cybersecurity. Those already working in tech who want to broaden their knowledge of IT and cybersecurity can also benefit from it.

By the end of this course, you will have learned the fundamentals of network security. You will also have developed skills that you can apply to the certifications CompTIA Security + and Certified Ethical Hacker.

Here are some skills you will learn during the course:

  • Bash scripting
  • Secure network design and architecture
  • Cryptography and encryption
  • Cloud security
  • Kali Linux
  • Wireshark
  • Digital forensics methods

Cybrary

Cybrary is a cybersecurity course library. It has a range of courses for beginners and for industry experts who want to learn more. Upon signing up, you will get a three-day free trial to see if you like what the program has to offer.

In any Cybrary course, you will be watching instructional videos taught by cybersecurity professionals. You will gain experience in a virtual lab, practice for your final test, and take a final assessment to get your certification.

These courses will introduce you to the industry and teach you all-new skills. Some of the courses you can take are:

  • Information Security Fundamentals
  • Become a Security Operation Center Analyst (Level 1, Level 2, Level 3)
  • How to use tcpdump (BSWJ)
  • Identifying Web Attacks Through Logs
  • Become an Incident Handler
  • Cyber Network Security

Coursera

Coursera offers a multitude of online cybersecurity courses for people looking to learn more about the field. Some of them will earn you a professional certificate at the end. Programs offered through Coursera include:

  • Secure Coding Practices
  • Introduction to TCP/IP
  • Security in Google Cloud Platform
  • Cybersecurity in Healthcare
  • IT Security: Defense against the digital dark arts
  • IBM Cyber Security Analyst (Professional Certificate)
  • Cybersecurity MasterTrack Certificate (MasterTrack Certificate)

Udemy

Udemy has a large selection of classes in any field that comes to mind, including a range of courses in cybersecurity. Fewer than 100 of Udemy’s courses are free, but there are many other paid options.

Available programs range from beginner to expert levels. Most of the classes are paid for individually. However, Udemy also offers some packages that combine a few related courses for a more affordable price.

Some of the courses offered through Udemy include:

  • The Complete Cyber Security Course: Hackers Exposed!
  • The Complete Cyber Security Course: Network Security
  • The Complete Cyber Security Course: Anonymous Browsing
  • Complete Ethical Hacking & Cyber Security Masterclass Course
  • Cyber Security for Normal People: Protect Yourself Online
  • Intro to Cyber Security Certification – Security + Bootcamp

Cybersecurity Courses

Below is a list of free cybersecurity courses. These courses allow you to learn more about cybersecurity and find out if this is the right career for you. Most of these are online programs, which means you can learn at your own pace.

Introduction to IT & Cybersecurity

  • Cybrary
  • 4.5 hours
  • Prerequisites: none
  • FREE

This course covers system administration, network engineering, incident response and forensics, and penetration tests (also known as white hacking). It is led by a former employee of the US Department of Defense. Students who complete this program receive a better idea of what a career in cybersecurity is like.

Introduction to Vulnerability Assessment

  • Open Security Training
  • 3 days
  • Prerequisites: none
  • FREE

In this course, students receive an introduction to vulnerability assessment. You learn about the general methodology for conducting assessments, scanning, and mapping network topology, and testing network firewalls, among other topics. All materials can also be downloaded as PowerPoints and PDFs.

Essentials of Cybersecurity

  • University of Washington/edX
  • 6 weeks
  • Prerequisites: none
  • FREE ($199 for completion certificate)

This course by the University of Washington is composed of four classes. It focuses on helping learners identify the skills and tools necessary in today’s cybersecurity toolkit. Students will gain insight into the cybersecurity field directly from academic leaders and practitioners. The course culminates in a self-assessment to match students to a specialization.

Cybersecurity Books

Sometimes you just want to hold a paperback book in your hands. If analog learning is your thing, here is a list of some of the best books on the topic of cybersecurity:

Hacking: The Art of Exploitation (2nd Ed.)

Jon Erickson

Erikson’s book provides a holistic view of network communications, programming, and current hacking techniques. The author doesn’t just show you how to run existing exploits. Rather, he walks you through how arcane hacking techniques actually work. The included LiveCD provides a complete Linux programming and debugging environment—all without modifying your current operating system.

Ghost in the Wires: My Adventures as the World’s Most Wanted Hacker

Kevin Mitnick, William L. Simon

This book presents a thrilling account of Mitnick’s career. As a hacker, he accessed the networks and computers of some of the world’s biggest corporations, including Motorola, Pacific Bell, and Sun Microsystems.

Cult of the Dead Cow: How the Original Hacking Supergroup Might Just Save the World

Joseph Menn

Cult of the Dead Cow is the oldest and most respected hacking group in the US. Through their hacktivism, they forced many corporations to take their security protections more seriously. In this book, you will learn about their history and how their work has impacted the world.

Cybersecurity Certifications

Depending on which cybersecurity course you take, you can get a cybersecurity certification that will help advance your career. Below is a list of certifications you should consider getting if you want to become a cybersecurity professional.

Certified Ethical Hacker (CEH)

During this certification course, you will learn the ins and outs of how hackers think and how they can infiltrate a network. You will also learn the technologies that protect against hackers that are looking to penetrate systems and steal information.

Certified Information Systems Auditor (CISA)

This is a high-level certification that requires individuals to have at least five years of experience before they can register. This certificate is mainly used for information auditing. In studying for this certificate, you learn how to protect information assets, how to audit information systems, and explore IT management and governance.

Computer Hacking Forensic Investigator (CHFI)

This is an advanced certification for individuals who are already employed in a forensic security networking field. Through this certification, you will learn how to recover data that has been deleted, damaged, or encrypted. People who work in this field gather evidence and prosecute offenders.

Certified Cloud Security Professional (CCSP)

A certified cloud security professional certification is also intended for individuals with five years of experience in cybersecurity or a cloud computing environment. Individuals who obtain this certificate will have verified experience in the following topics: cloud data security, cloud operations, cloud architecture, and design concepts.

CompTIA Security+

CompTIA Security+ is a beginner level certification for IT professionals who have two years of experience and will bring you up-to-date on general cybersecurity. It provides a basic understanding of the cybersecurity field. It is also great for anyone looking to work with the US Department of Defense, which prefers this certification.

You will learn about network attack strategies and how to defend against them, encryption standards and products, and network- and host-based security practices.

Online Cybersecurity Resources

Cybersecurity professionals and those still learning the ropes will find the following sites extremely useful:

National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST)

NIST is an agency of the US Government that aims to promote excellence in science and industry. It contains various departments related to IT and cybersecurity and publishes guides and standards that are indispensable for professionals in the field. One such resource is a collection of papers that describes security best practices held by the Computer Security Resource Center. NIST also creates security assessment tools.

United States Computer Emergency Readiness Team

This is an online library containing lots of top-quality publications on all kinds of security-related information. This initiative is a collaboration of Carnegie Mellon and the US Department of Homeland Security.

Station X

A UK online portal for cybersecurity training and education. It offers comprehensive training for established and aspiring professionals. With a VIP membership, the student has unlimited access to all the training material needed to become a well-paid professional.

Should You Study Cybersecurity?

You should learn cybersecurity if you’re interested in protecting your data, defending computer systems, and staying up to date on the latest in cyber protection. Learning cybersecurity opens up several career opportunities, many of which are in high demand, very lucrative, and don’t require a degree.

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Advantages

  • Options for both in person and online bootcamps
  • Immersive and structured program
  • Mentors, instructors, and peers at your fingertips
  • Quick-start to a new career
  • Learn to collaborate with others
  • Build a strong professional network in technology

Disadvantages

  • Requires motivation and hard work
  • Fast-paced learning style
  • Staying up to date with evolving web technologies

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