The question of how to become a cyber security engineer is of increasing interest in our hyperconnected world. From tech to finance to education, every industry needs its sensitive data to be safe from cyber attacks and security threats. The quality of a cyber security engineer’s training is often the difference between well-protected and poorly projected systems.
This guide covers how to get into cyber security and find success. We explore the requirements for becoming a cyber security engineer, including education, skills, certifications, and hands-on experience. Whether you’re interested in coding bootcamps for cyber security engineer training or degrees for cyber security engineers, we’ll show you how to start your cyber security career.
A cyber security engineer is a tech professional who comes up with ways to protect an organization’s hardware, software, or data from theft or tampering by external parties. Unlike security analysts who merely detect vulnerabilities in a system, cyber security engineers are more proactive in that they create the actual programs that prevent security breaches.
A cyber security engineer, also known as an information security engineer or a security architect, protects computer systems, databases, and IT networks against malicious third parties. In doing so, they design state-of-the-art solutions that match a particular organization’s needs and goals. Here are the most important tasks that cyber security engineers perform:
Identify weaknesses in a system and design policies and solutions to resolve them
Monitor a company’s system and report on any problems or attacks
Evaluate new security policies
Advise staff on how to stay safe when using company computers
Stay up to date with the latest technological advancements in cyber security
The average salary for a cyber security engineer is $114,810, according to ZipRecruiter. The annual salary for cyber security engineers in the 25th percentile is over $90,000, while those in the 75th percentile earn over $140,000. Location is also a heavy predictor of salary. For example, the average cyber security engineer in Santa Cruz earns $141,774.
The job outlook for cyber security is very promising. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, jobs for information security professionals are expected to grow by 32 percent by 2032, an increase of 53,200 jobs. Among tech jobs, the demand for cyber security engineers is especially high. It offers high salaries, positive career prospects, and excellent job security.
The following step-by-step guide offers a straightforward way to become a cyber security engineer. Later in the article, we’ll dig a little deeper into the most important of these steps. While the time it takes to complete each of these steps varies, following all of the steps in order will put you well on your way to starting a cyber security career.
If you want to know how to get into cyber security and become an engineer, you first need to decide how you’re going to meet the education requirements. Until the last decade or so, cyber security engineers needed a bachelor’s degree in a relevant field to get their foot in the door. Nowadays, you just need a way to prove that you have the right skills for the job.
Alternative education pathways such as coding bootcamps are becoming a more common gateway into tech careers. You can use free cyber security bootcamps and online cyber security courses to pick up the fundamentals. After that, you can decide between a full-length cyber security bootcamp or a cyber security engineer degree program.
Once you have completed your education, you should consider internships, apprenticeships, or other forms of real-world experience. Cyber security apprenticeships are an especially efficient way for newcomers to gain valuable experience before applying for jobs. As a cyber security apprentice, you work alongside professionals and hone your skills.
Apprenticeships for cyber security are common because data protection is so important and the role is in such high demand. Organizations are incentivized to help recent graduates develop their skills and advance their careers. By providing apprenticeship opportunities, companies can train young, in-house talent on the best security measures for their systems.
Most cyber security jobs require official certification, which makes this a vital step in your cyber security engineer training. Some bootcamp or degree programs will teach you the up-to-date skills and knowledge you need to pass relevant certification exams. Bear in mind that cyber security certifications are not the same as certificate programs.
An important step on your career path is knowing how to get certified in cyber security and what types of certifications are available. Professional cyber security certifications include Certified Ethical Hacker, Certified Information Systems Auditor, CompTIA Security+, and Certified Cloud Security Professional. We take a closer look at these top certifications later in the article.
Most cyber security jobs require potential employees to have a professional cyber security portfolio. Bootcamp programs generally assign projects and offer guidance that will help you build your cyber security portfolio. You can also network with cyber security professionals for help with putting together the best cyber security portfolio.
You must also have a high-quality cyber security resume and cover letter if you want to impress prospective employers. Knowing how to write a professional resume will ensure that any skills you have learned, as well as any specific job requirements, are clearly listed. You should tailor your resume to different jobs and ensure you keep the information relevant.
The best way to prepare for your job interview is to research cyber security engineer interview questions. If you have access to career services, you can take advantage of mock interviews. These are great tools to help students prepare for upcoming interviews and gain confidence. A good understanding of typical questions will help you gain confidence and avoid any surprises.
The final step in becoming a cyber security engineer is to apply for cyber security jobs. If you are a recent bootcamp graduate, you might have access to employer partners. Alternatively, you can look for cyber security events, such as job fairs, where you can network with prospective employers. Websites like Indeed or Hired can help you with your cyber security job search.
There are multiple ways to acquire the fundamental knowledge and skills needed to become a cyber security engineer. That being said, an aspiring cyber security engineer’s education options are limited by their financial situation and location. Here are the most common cyber security education options:
Attend a cyber security engineering coding bootcamp. Short-term, intensive coding bootcamps have become a popular alternative to university education, especially for in-demand tech professions. For a fraction of the cost of college, bootcamps can help you become a cyber security engineer in six months to a year.
Pursue a cyber security engineering degree at a traditional university. The traditional path is still quite common. While most colleges don’t offer bachelor’s degree programs in cyber security specifically, you can instead pursue a computer science degree, which usually allows students to specialize in cyber security.
Cyber security bootcamps are short-term, intensive training programs that teach students in-demand and up-to-date technical skills, as well as the critical thinking and problem-solving skills needed to assess and prevent security threats. Bootcamps use hands-on training to help students gain real-world experience and ensure they are job-ready.
Cyber security bootcamps also offer students extensive career services, such as mock interviews, career coaching, networking opportunities, and technical portfolio building. Here are five bootcamps that excel at providing students not only technical training in cyber security but also the soft skills needed to land lucrative cyber security jobs.
Simplilearn. Simplilearn has multiple cyber security bootcamp programs, but the Introduction to Cyber Security program is ideal for beginners and career switchers. This program is self-paced and gives students lifetime access to the curricula. It teaches the fundamentals of cyber security and is a starting point for more intensive study.
Flatiron School. This cyber security bootcamp program is offered both full-time and part-time, as well as on-campus or online. Students receive one-on-one career coaching and access to Flatiron School’s employer network. The expert-approved curriculum covers network security, Python, threat detection, application security, and more.
Springboard. This bootcamp covers cyber security fundamentals, IT project management, network security, and application security. The program is self-paced, takes about six months to complete, and includes a job guarantee. Students graduate with CompTIA Security+, one of the most important industry certifications.
Clarusway. This part-time Cyber Security Analyst Bootcamp offers students instruction from industry professionals, a flexible schedule, hands-on learning with labs, personal mentoring, CompTIA Security+ exam training, and job-hunting assistance. It is aimed at both beginners and cyber security specialists interested in advancing their careers.
Coding Dojo. This online, part-time cyber security bootcamp takes 24 weeks to complete and requires 20 hours of weekly study. It includes a two-week prep course to ensure newcomers are up to speed on cyber security fundamentals. Coding Dojo also offers dedicated career services, including resume help and technical portfolio building.
College education for cyber security ranges from cyber security certificates to bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral degrees. A Bachelor’s Degree in Cyber Security will suffice for most job seekers. These undergraduate degrees include both general education courses and cyber security classes, putting most graduates in a position to apply for entry-level cyber security jobs.
A graduate-level cyber security engineering degree, however, will help professionals land high-level positions. Master’s degrees have more focused curricula that allow students to choose specific tracks or concentrations. Doctoral degrees may require students to complete a thesis and are ideal for students looking to teach cyber security or pursue research roles.
More important than where you go to school for cyber security are the skills on your resume. Professional cyber security engineers must be trained in up-to-date and in-demand practices, including programming languages, development processes, and other important cyber security concepts. Below are the requisite skills for getting into cyber security.
Malware analysis. Protecting a system against malware is one of the most important parts of being a cyber security engineer. Cyber security engineers must stay up to date on the latest malware threats and understand how to protect against them.
Continuity planning. A cyber security engineer must create plans to ensure an organization can continue operations if there is ever an attack. This may include creating backup storage and recovery policies in the event that data becomes corrupted.
Programming languages: Bash, C, C++, Python. As a cyber security engineer, you’ll need to have an active knowledge of at least one programming language. The most common programming languages for cyber security are Bash, C, C++, and Python, which are often used in cyber security tools. Most organizations state upfront which programming languages you’ll be expected to know. If you need to learn a coding language in a pinch, the top coding bootcamps can get you the knowledge fast.
Risk analysis. A big part of being a cyber security engineer is identifying risks before they become threats to your organization. You’ll need to be able to find any and all risks and ensure your systems are protected against them. To mitigate the risk of an attack on your network, you’ll need to know how to conduct audits of existing security systems.
Cloud security. Demand for cloud security skills is high in cyber security 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 of how to prevent common cloud attacks.
Problem-Solving. Cyber security is all about finding threats and preventing them. Being able to effectively problem solve is thus a vital part of the job. As your experience grows, you will be able to identify threats more quickly and develop ever more creative solutions to problems.
Teamwork. As a cyber security engineer, you will often work as part of a team. Being a strong team player will allow you to identify and nullify cyber threats more easily. This required cyber security skill can be learned in school as part of group projects and simulations, or on the job as part of collaborative projects.
Communication. Cyber security is an extremely technical job, and you may be dealing with colleagues or clients who lack your level of technical understanding. Communicating issues clearly and simply will help you advance in your career.
Cyber security certifications prove that you are fully qualified in cyber security best practices, industry-standard skills, and assessment tools for given professions, including cyber security engineers. Most employers require job seekers to have a cyber security certification before they apply.
Depending on which course or bootcamp you enroll in, you may earn a cyber security certification upon graduation. Other programs provide certification training for cyber security engineers specifically. Below is a list of the best cyber security certifications to consider getting if you want to become a cyber security engineer.
The CEH certification covers the ins and outs of how hackers think and what they do when they infiltrate a network. It also covers many of the technologies that cyber security engineers use to protect against hackers who are looking to penetrate systems and steal information.
This is a high-level certification that requires you to have five years of experience before you can take the exam. It is mainly used to validate information auditing skills and IT management and governance skills, which is something that all cyber security engineers need. In studying for the exam, you will learn about protecting information assets and auditing information systems.
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. Cyber security engineers who work in this field gather evidence and prosecute offenders.
The CCSP certification is intended for professionals with five years of cyber security experience within a cloud computing environment. Those who obtain this certification will have verified experience in cloud data security, cloud operations, cloud architecture, and design concepts.
CompTIA Security+ is a beginner-level certification for IT professionals who are looking for a general understanding of cyber security. You will learn about network attack strategies and how to defend against them, encryption standards and products, and network- and host-based security practices. This is the ideal certification if you want to start a career in cyber security.
Cyber security engineers can work in any industry because everyone uses computers to store private information. Where you work ultimately depends on the kind of system you are tasked with securing. Below are the five main types of cyber security jobs, categorized by the type of system on which the work is focused.
Much of today’s essential infrastructure is connected to the Internet, which makes it vulnerable to cyber attacks. Cyber security engineers in this field work to guarantee the safety of the electricity grid, water purification systems, traffic lights, shopping centers, and hospitals.
The focus here is on the cyber security 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.
The cloud is gaining prominence in our lives, and cloud providers are constantly updating their tools to ensure user data is safe. Much of the growth in the cyber security profession is happening in the cloud security domain, as the transition from physical to cloud-based servers continues.
Network security deals with unauthorized intrusions in internal networks. The goal is to guarantee the integrity of the network by protecting the infrastructure and responding to security issues. Common examples include intrusion detection, new passwords, penetration testing, and antivirus programs.
The interconnectedness of today’s world has brought a myriad of new cyber threats. With a growing number of devices connected to the Internet, the opportunities for malicious actors to carry out cyber attacks have multiplied.
Those with exceptional skills in leadership may take on cyber security engineer roles such as this one. A chief information security officer (CISO) is essentially a high-level cyber security engineer who takes the lead on neutralizing new and persistent threats. This cyber security career path typically requires a graduate degree, such as a Master’s Degree in Cyber Security.
Before you commit to earning a degree in cyber security engineering or attending a cyber security bootcamp, you can get a head start on your cyber security career by going online to learn the various programming languages and cyber security tools used to protect networks from security threats.
Online cyber security courses are for anyone who wants to know how to get into cyber security without committing to an expensive or long-term learning program. This is a risk-free option for newcomers who want to learn fundamental principles. While these courses are not enough on their own to land a cyber security job, they are a great way to build or enhance your knowledge.
The following online course providers are the best places to go if you want to learn more about cyber security and find out if this is the right career for you. Enrolling in one of these online cyber security courses will give you as much flexibility as you need to go at your own pace.
Cybrary is a cyber security course library with a range of options for beginners. Upon signing up, you will get a free three-day trial to see if you like what Cybrary has to offer. The courses include expert-produced instructional videos, virtual labs, and exam prep. Below are the most popular options for aspiring cyber security engineers:
IT and Cyber Security Foundations
Information Security Fundamentals
Become a Cyber Security Engineer
Penetration Testing and Ethical Hacking
Identifying Web Attacks Through Logs
Information Security Management Systems
Coursera offers a number of online cyber security courses for people looking to learn more about the field. Coursera collaborates with over 200 leading organizations and schools, including Google, IBM, and Stanford. Furthermore, some of the programs provide you with a professional certificate upon completion. Courses offered through Coursera include:
Secure Coding Practices
Introduction to TCP/IP
Security in Google Cloud Platform
Cyber Security in Healthcare
IBM Cyber Security Analyst Professional Certificate
Cyber Security MasterTrack Certificate
Udemy has a large selection of classes on virtually every subject, including a range of courses in cyber security. 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
You should study to become a cyber security engineer if you’re interested in protecting data, defending computer systems, and staying up to date on the latest in cyber protection. Learning cyber security opens up several career opportunities, many of which are in high demand, very lucrative, and don’t require a degree.
High salary potential. Cyber security engineers can earn a lot of money. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the top 10 percent of earners make more than $174,540 per year.
Flexible learning options. There are numerous ways for cyber security enthusiasts to learn the fundamental skills needed to become a cyber security engineer. These range from traditional university degrees to cyber security bootcamps to self-paced online courses.
In-demand. Cyber threats and attacks are becoming more and more frequent. Protecting data is a high priority for nearly every company and organization. Therefore, the need for cyber security engineers is rapidly growing. Choosing a career that is in high demand is great for a high salary, job opportunities, and job safety.
Emerging technologies. Cyber security technologies and practices are constantly evolving to keep up with the increase in cyber threats. While there are plenty of easy-to-access resources to keep professionals on top of these practices, it can be overwhelming and costly to stay up to date.
High stress. Being responsible for the safety of private information and data is stressful. As a cyber security engineer, there is no room for error. One small mistake could result in an entire company going bankrupt or personal information being stolen.
Budget roadblocks. Cyber security engineers are needed by most companies, but budget roadblocks can make it difficult for engineers to work to the best of their ability. A professional cyber security engineer relies on companies to invest in cyber security initiatives and to educate their staff on best practices.
It takes between two and five years to become a cyber security engineer. While cyber security degree programs usually last four years, cyber security bootcamps can train you in six months to a year. Once you’ve met the minimum educational qualifications for cyber security engineers, you will need real-world experience and certifications to qualify for a full-time job.
There are multiple ways to find a cyber security engineer job. You can use job search websites like Indeed or GlassDoor or attend cyber security events and job fairs. You can also find cyber security engineering jobs through your school’s career services, via career partnerships, internship programs, and networking opportunities.
No, it is not hard to get into cyber security. From coding bootcamps to degree programs, there are plenty of ways to break into this occupation, even for beginners. How hard it is to learn cyber security ultimately depends on your work ethic. Both bootcamps and degrees cover a lot of ground, and students are expected to devote considerable time to learning the industry.
Yes, cyber security is a good career. Cyber security engineers can work in nearly any industry and receive a high salary. Furthermore, this is an in-demand job according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, and the most prominent cyber security jobs are expected to grow by 32 percent between 2022 and 2032. With job growth on the rise, you will have job security.