CYBER SECURITY ENGINEER: EDUCATION, DUTIES & SALARY

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Cyber security engineers play a vital role in protecting computer and networking systems from potential hackers and cyber-attacks. As security gaps in technology have become more sophisticated, information security occupations are in demand. This guide outlines the necessary education, certifications, and skills to become a successful cyber security engineer (as well as how much they make).

WHAT DOES A CYBER SECURITY ENGINEER DO?

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Information systems security engineers (ISSE) are responsible for designing, implementing and maintaining the security infrastructure of an organization's computer and network systems. They work to prevent cyber-attacks by identifying and fixing security vulnerabilities, creating security policies and procedures, and implementing security measures such as firewalls, intrusion detection systems, and encryption protocols.

The primary job duties of a security engineer

Identifying security vulnerabilities: Cyber security engineers use various tools and techniques to identify weaknesses in an organization's security systems.

Developing security policies and procedures: They create policies and procedures that employees must follow to ensure that the organization's data is secure.

Implementing security measures: They install and configure security software and hardware, such as firewalls, intrusion detection systems, and encryption protocols.

Monitoring security systems: They constantly monitor the organization's security systems to detect any suspicious activity.

Responding to security incidents: They investigate security incidents and take appropriate action to mitigate any damage.

Keeping up-to-date with security trends: Cyber security engineers keep up-to-date with the latest security trends and technologies to ensure that their organization's security systems are current and effective.

Data may include confidential client records such as patient records at a hospital, trade secrets, and financial records which are all potential targets of cyber-attacks. Being an ISSE plays important role in guarding businesses, government, and individuals against hackers and cyber-criminals who are always creating new ways to infiltrate sensitive databases.

EDUCATION AND TRAINING FOR CYBER SECURITY ENGINEERS

If you are interested in becoming a cyber engineer, it is advisable to start planning early. In high school, take courses in math, science, computer science, and work on developing your communication skills as well. A background in accounting and marketing can also be beneficial for those who plan to work as freelance cyber engineers or information security consultants.

Associate or Bachelor's Degree in Computer Science

The next step to becoming a security engineer is to obtain an associate's or bachelor's degree from an accredited computer science or cyber security program. You can take classes through a university, community college, or online classes. Obtaining an associate degree in information security engineering from a community college can often provide transfer credits to a university or college at a lower cost.

Your courses may include the following:

  • Computer engineering
  • Information systems
  • General computer sciences
  • Information technology security

Employers often prefer potential employees who at least have a bachelor's degree in disciplines such as information systems (IS), information technology (IT), applied mathematics, computer programming, engineering, or another computer-related field. Further education may be necessary during your career with a certification from organizations and businesses such as Microsoft, Cisco, or other major software companies that need security workers.

Master's Degree AS A TOOL FOR ADVANCEMENT

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For those who want to further advance their career, pursuing a master's degree or graduate-level program in computer security can offer a Master of Science degree related to information systems.

This can lead to a more successful career and open up opportunities that may not be available with just an associate's or bachelor's degree.

Certifications for Security Engineers

While a degree in computer science is a requirement for most security engineering jobs, additional professional information security certifications can be beneficial. Many employers prefer candidates who have certifications from organizations like Microsoft, Cisco, or other major software companies that need security workers.

It is recommended that cyber security engineers pursue multiple certifications to stay up to date with the latest technologies and trends. Some of the most popular certifications for cyber security engineers include the Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP), the Certified Ethical Hacker (CEH), and the CompTIA Security+ certification.

Entry-Level Certification

Entry-level certification is available through organizations like the Computing Technology Industry Association, which can provide an opportunity for potential security engineers to acquire basic security knowledge for different operating systems and software.

Their CompTIA Security+ certification is an entry-level one that covers the basics of cyber security. It covers topics such as network security, compliance and operational security, threats and vulnerabilities, application, data and host security, access control and identity management, and cryptography.

CISSP Certification

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Those who want to advance their careers in the field of security engineering should consider obtaining CISSP certification through the International Information Systems Security Certification Consortium.

Candidates must have at least five years of work experience in computer security and pass a background check to qualify for this certification. Those who obtain the CISSP must renew their certification every three years and meet the organization's continuing education requirements.

Skills for CYBER Security Engineers

In addition to formal education and certification, security engineers need to have a range of technical skills, including IT support skills, familiarity with Unix/Windows, understanding of how to monitor security systems, and knowledge of security systems infrastructure, and networking operating systems.

Other important skills include the ability to detect phishing attempts, computer viruses, computer forensics, ethics of security engineering, and encryption of laptop data.

CONTINUING EDUCATION

Join Professional Organizations for Networking Opportunities and Career Support Security engineers or those interested in pursuing a career in cyber security should consider joining professional organizations such as the Information Systems Security Association (ISSA). Being a member of such organizations can provide access to training opportunities, career support, industry publications, and job openings.

Information Systems Security Association (ISSA)

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The ISSA is a professional organization that aims to organize and provide international conferences, seminars, local chapter meetings, and seminars for training and networking opportunities.

Members also have access to information through the ISSA Website, E-Newsletters, and the monthly ISSA Journal. Moreover, the ISSA provides its members with leadership opportunities to serve as a chapter or international council leader, on committees, as an event speaker, or as a contributor to the ISSA Journal. By attending chapter meetings, ISSA Web Conferences, and subscribing to the ISSA Journal, members can earn continuing professional education (CPE) credits.

International Information System Security Certification Consortium, Inc. (ISC2)

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ISC2 is another organization that provides certification programs for security engineers. The organization's mission is to provide its members with educational resources, credentials, certification, and leadership in cyber information, software, and infrastructure security.

The ISC2 offers various certification programs in information systems security, authorization, systems security, secure software lifecycle, forensics, healthcare information security, cloud security, security engineering, computer architecture security, and security management. Staying current with current trends and emerging technologies is essential for a successful career, regardless of which certification program you choose.

CYBER SECURITY ENGINEER SALARY

The salary of a cybersecurity engineer can vary depending on factors such as one's experience, education, location, industry, and specific role. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual wage for information security analysts, which includes cybersecurity engineers, is $102,600.

Information Security Analysts

National data

Median Salary: $102,600

Projected job growth: 34.7%

10th Percentile: $61,520

25th Percentile: $79,400

75th Percentile: $131,340

90th Percentile: $165,920

Projected job growth: 34.7%

State data

State Median Salary Bottom 10% Top 10%
Alabama $84,970 $48,190 $162,330
Alaska $79,230 $61,070 $124,260
Arizona $101,570 $61,600 $164,030
Arkansas $98,320 $48,920 $138,820
California $128,970 $77,750 N/A
Colorado $102,390 $60,030 $165,530
Connecticut $99,410 $77,910 $162,940
Delaware $102,410 $77,750 $165,500
District of Columbia $124,550 $95,270 $166,660
Florida $100,690 $60,590 $156,710
Georgia $101,850 $62,110 $161,070
Hawaii $99,420 $62,210 N/A
Idaho $98,320 $48,800 $140,770
Illinois $119,990 $62,970 $155,160
Indiana $80,170 $50,200 $127,590
Iowa $102,080 $59,620 N/A
Kansas $86,210 $54,610 $131,340
Kentucky $79,990 $48,630 $129,220
Louisiana $83,100 $48,780 $136,030
Maine $80,150 $59,620 $120,300
Maryland $124,870 $63,160 $194,700
Massachusetts $101,380 $63,160 $165,730
Michigan $97,980 $46,810 $132,380
Minnesota $101,000 $62,780 $151,770
Mississippi $62,970 $45,880 $102,090
Missouri $95,270 $60,490 $131,040
Montana $79,200 $48,920 $102,350
Nebraska $80,330 $59,290 $128,330
Nevada $82,760 $61,700 $128,920
New Hampshire $102,090 $63,070 $165,730
New Jersey $127,090 $77,750 $167,810
New Mexico $119,990 $62,310 $167,520
New York $127,590 $76,200 N/A
North Carolina $119,980 $64,260 $165,720
North Dakota $80,150 $38,340 $124,550
Ohio $99,040 $57,220 $133,190
Oklahoma $79,860 $48,180 $131,340
Oregon $101,390 $63,160 $162,770
Pennsylvania $98,220 $53,630 $135,410
Rhode Island $99,340 $61,750 $151,760
South Carolina $99,050 $48,770 $131,340
South Dakota $99,040 $77,500 $129,800
Tennessee $82,650 $56,590 $132,260
Texas $100,680 $60,680 $154,880
Utah $98,870 $59,620 $156,660
Vermont N/A N/A N/A
Virginia $126,230 $63,090 $167,930
Washington $127,370 $75,150 $165,730
West Virginia $79,860 $60,680 $131,830
Wisconsin $98,170 $49,040 $131,040

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) 2021 median salary; projected job growth through 2031. Actual salaries vary depending on location, level of education, years of experience, work environment, and other factors. Salaries may differ even more for those who are self-employed or work part time.

However, this figure can be higher or lower depending on the above-mentioned factors. For example, cyber security engineers in metropolitan areas or in industries such as finance or healthcare may earn more than those in rural areas or work in small businesses. Additionally, those with advanced degrees, professional certifications, or specialized skills may command higher salaries.

Overall, the field of cyber security engineering is known for offering competitive salaries and benefits, and as the demand for skilled cybersecurity professionals continues to grow, it is expected that salaries for these roles will remain strong.

LAUNCHING YOUR CYBER SECURITY ENGINEERING CAREER

Becoming a cyber security engineer requires a combination of education, experience, and certifications. Pursuing a career in this field can be challenging but rewarding, as cyber security is a critical aspect of modern organizations. With the right skills and qualifications, you can help protect organizations from cyber threats and contribute to a safer digital world.

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