In the Information Age, one of the most crucial pieces making our world go round is Cybersecurity. Without Cybersecurity, the world as we know it would be witnessing destruction all over from basic websites constantly being exploited to critical infrastructures being destroyed (it still kind of happens but at a much smaller scale 😉 ). Today, we at least have some type of formal hygiene in place whenever a new website gets built or some type of internet connected smart home device is being assembled. But don’t get me wrong, we still have a long way to go. A huge asset that helps bridge the gap in making sure all things brought to life are being secured is a Cybersecurity Engineer.
What exactly is a Cybersecurity Engineer
One of the most broad definitions of a Cybersecurity engineer is someone who designs, develops, and implements security solutions. The role of a Cybersecurity engineer can vary from organization to organization but in most cases, the primary goal a Cybersecurity engineer needs to fulfill is making sure that what they are protecting is secure. As you can imagine, virtually anything built today has some sort of technology feature. That means security is everywhere. Organizations are paying Cybersecurity engineers to help secure their products from websites to the automotive industry with vehicles.
How to land a Cybersecurity engineer job?
One of the first questions you need to ask yourself is why does a Cybersecurity engineer role even exists? The reason is because companies don’t want to ship products to consumers with vulnerabilities that can be exploited. That is the case for Internet of Things (IoT) devices. In other organizations, Cybersecurity engineer roles exist with the products already in hand. They need people in the trenches working on securing current and new vulnerabilities. On the other hand, other organizations could be starting from scratch and need help deploying an infrastructure that is secure as possible.
As you can see from the paragraph above, a Cybersecurity engineer is not a cookie-cut position. This means that you don’t just go to school or take a certification and are qualified to become a Cybersecurity engineer because it can entail various job descriptions.
If you are really motivated and want to become a Cybersecurity engineer, you should first pick an industry that interest you. Practically all industries need Cybersecurity engineers. After you pick an industry, you can start to see what those job related Cybersecurity engineer roles require.
Do you want to focus on the network architecture? Meaning do you want to implement network wide solutions that will mitigate risk for companies. This typically means helping network engineers/system engineers integrate security solutions in the network.
Do you want to focus on organizations who already have an up and running infrastructure and patch/remediate vulnerabilities? This typically entails patching devices and if those devices can’t be patched, mitigation’s need to be put in place to reduce the impact.
Do you want to focus on products being developed? This typically means being part of the development phase where the Cybersecurity engineer has a big say on the security of products whether hardware or software.
Cybersecurity Engineer Required Skills
Skills required to become a Cybersecurity engineer will vary from organization to organization. Although that is the case, many Cybersecurity engineers already have a couple years under their belt in other areas of IT. Many work their way up from Help Desk and onto system administrator, etc. Don’t let the path discourage you. If you are brand new to IT this is a good thing (check out the complete guide to IT). Building a solid foundation will set you up to become a world class Cybersecurity engineer. The more you learn in your early years of IT from Help Desk, Windows Admin, System Admin, or Network Admin, will help you out tremendously in the following years. There is nothing like starting a new position and struggling to adapt to everything thrown at you. If you can build a solid foundation from the start, you can start to demand the high dollar jobs everyone seeks. To put the required skills more into perspective, Cybersecurity engineers are expected to be the subject matter experts in securing assets. That means if your dream company does a lot of networking, focus extensively on the basics to advance networking courses. Same goes for all other areas.
If you are already in the field of IT and have those years under your belt, the best thing you can do now to make your next move is to focus on networking. No, not the networking in the IT world, the type of networking where you talk with people 🙂 . In all honesty, sometimes it’s not what you know but who you know. If you’ve been in the same position for years and are ready to make the next leap of faith, go out of your comfort zone and start connecting with others. LinkedIn has made it HUGE for people in IT who struggle with social anxiety trying to talk in person. Go on LinkedIn and start connecting with recruiters or hiring managers. Send them a quick note letting them know you have x amount of experience and are ready to make the next move. Sell yourself. You will be surprised how many people don’t do this. Recruiters and hiring managers love those types of people who are go-getters. All it takes is one person from the billions of people on earth to say yes to you.
You should have some of the early entry level certifications under your belt already. These could be from early on in your career ranging from CompTIA Net+, Sec+, or even CCNA. At this point in your career, the next certifications you should focus on would be more advanced such as the CISSP. Certifications are not a requirement but in the world of IT, it is a bit frowned upon to not have any certifications.
This leads us to education. For some reason, early on in IT, most employers seem to care more about certifications than a degree. It could be that certifications really test your knowledge on specific areas, whereas degrees focus on a wide range of topics. This is not to say education is not important. When you are competing for jobs, having a degree on your resume could put you above all others if equally matched. You also can’t forget that in some organizations, degrees are required to fill managerial type positions. So if you want to continue to move up, it would behoove you to get a degree.
Cybersecurity Engineer Salary
According to many online sources and peers, the average annual salary for a Cybersecurity engineer can range around $90,000 per year. That’s not to say you will immediately start at $90,000 or max out. One of the biggest contributing factors is location. Cities like San Francisco, California or New York City, New York will pay substantially more than less populated areas. A Cybersecurity engineer in a big city could be making around $130,000 compared to $75,000 in a less populated city, while doing the same tasks. But don’t let the high salary number be the main decision, you also have to factor the cost of living. Sometimes in the long run making $75,000 in a low-cost of living area can allow you to save more money versus making $130,000 in an area with high-cost of living such as San Francisco.
The potential is there. Your early career decisions will be a huge factor in where you start off as a Cybersecurity engineer. Don’t chase the Cybersecurity engineer position, chase the dream and the money will follow.