What a Career as a Cyber Security Engineer Looks Like

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Young woman holding a tablet standing next to server equipment.

Cyber criminal activity is on the rise, and these malicious actors are using increasingly complex and sophisticated measures to attack and breach organizations and individual users. According to an annual report from global information security advisory firm Herjavec Group, cyber crime will cost businesses a total of $6 trillion annually by 2021.

As cyber criminal threats increase, more companies across every industry are seeking out professionals that can help them thwart these activities and protect their digital assets. A separate report from Herjavec Group estimated that there will be more than 3.5 million unfilled cyber security roles across the globe by 2021. Employers are racing to find the best cyber security candidates to fill their open positions, and are offering attractive salaries, benefits and other perks to encourage recruitment.

One of the most in-demand positions in this field currently is the role of cyber security engineer. This individual plays an invaluable role in an enterprise’s data security posture, helping to design, implement and monitor security features that guard against unauthorized access and other threats.

Today, we’re taking a closer look at this career, including the skills and education professionals need to pursue these positions, the tasks these engineers perform, and the type of compensation they earn.

What do cyber security engineers do?

Cyber security engineers – sometimes also known as information security engineers, data security engineers, or similar titles – are responsible for putting in place the security and protection features that guard against cyber attack and other digital threats, Infosec Institute noted. In addition to establishing and developing these safeguards, cyber security engineers also continually monitor these systems and update them when necessary to prevent zero-day and other emerging threats.

The cyber security engineer oversees an enterprise’s most crucial digital systems and IT infrastructure, and works to protect key platforms, including the business’s critical applications, data storage and the network underpinning all digital activity.

In order to get the best sense of the capabilities of the protection measures put in place, cyber security engineers will also perform penetration testing. These tests take into account the most current threats against a business’s key infrastructure systems. Penetration testing helps engineers ensure that security features can adequately stand up to these threats.

As the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) pointed out, it is the responsibility of the cyber security engineer to remain up-to-date on the latest IT trends and emerging threats. This means these professionals will engage in considerable research to learn about and understand the techniques hackers use to breach their targets, as well as the protection systems that can prevent these types of unauthorized access.

Cyber security engineers may work alone within smaller organizations, but will typically collaborate with the rest of the information technology department. Engineers also work closely with other department supervisors and company leaders. Cyber security engineers will prepare reports for these stakeholders that detail any attempted attacks on the organization, as well as the response to and result of these instances.

What skills do cyber security engineers need?

In order to support the responsibilities of this role, cyber security engineers need a deep understanding of current cyber security practices and systems. This includes maintaining awareness of the latest threats and hacker techniques, as well as new and emerging cyber security best practices.

Cyber security engineers should not only understand data security and protection measures, but the platforms and network systems that these measures safeguard as well. After all, without knowledge into the inner workings of an enterprise’s network and other IT infrastructure, a cyber security engineer will not be able to adequately secure these critical systems.

In addition to these information technology, digital data and cyber security expertise, engineers will need to have certain soft skills in order to be successful, including:

  • Analytical skills: These professionals should be able to analyze IT systems, as well as the approaches that potential hackers might take to attack. Engineers will also analyze the current data security policies in place and seek out areas for improvement.
  • Communication skills: As noted, cyber security engineers are responsible for preparing reports related to any attack attempts and providing these to the business’s leaders. Engineers must be able to explain their findings and results in a way that makes sense to individuals without a strong technological background or expertise.
  • Problem-solving skills: As the BLS pointed out, the work of a cyber security engineer also requires strong problem solving capabilities, and creative solutions to emerging data security concerns.

How much do cyber security engineers earn?

Currently, the salary range for this role is highly attractive and competitive. Glassdoor reported that the average base pay stood at $99,834 annually as of early April 2020. The highest earners in this position could take home as much as $130,000 annually, depending on the industry and environment in which they work.

How to become a cyber security engineer

While some employers will consider candidates that hold a Bachelor’s degree in cyber security, information technology or a related field, a Master’s degree is considerably desirable and preferable.

Professionals interested in pursuing this in-demand and competitive career opportunity can best prepare with a degree program like the online Master of Science in Cybersecurity from the University of Nevada at Reno. Students engaged in this program learn about the latest cyber security approaches and practices, including those used to secure internet-connected platforms and enterprise networks.

This program also covers mobile security, data privacy, digital forensics, cryptography and other leading cyber security topics.

To find out more about a career in this space, check out our interview with Dr. Shamik Sengupta, a University of Nevada, Reno Cybersecurity Center Executive Director.

And check out the full details of our leading online Master of Science, Cybersecurity program here.


Recommended Readings:

Interview with Shamik Segupta, PHD Executive Director, University of Nevada, Reno, Cybersecurity Center

Cybersecurity Career Guide: How to Land the Best Jobs



The Herjavec Group – The 2020 Official Annual Cybercrime Report

The New York Times – The Mad Dash to Find a Cybersecurity Force

Infosec Institute – How To Become A Cybersecurity Engineer

Bureau of Labor Statistics – Information Security Analyst

Glassdoor – Cyber Security Engineer Salaries