Cybercrime is on the rise all over the world. Malicious actors are using increasingly complex and sophisticated measures to attack and breach organizations as well as individual users. Cybercrime will cost businesses a total of $10.5 trillion annually by 2025, according to a report from Cybersecurity Ventures.
As cybercriminal threats increase, more companies across every industry are seeking professionals who can help them thwart these activities and protect their digital assets. This need to bring qualified professionals on board carries the potential for a strong job market. Cybersecurity Ventures projects 3.5 million open cybersecurity jobs in 2025.
Employers are racing to find the best cybersecurity candidates to fill these positions — and they are offering attractive salaries, benefits and other perks to encourage recruitment. This advantageous job market promises unprecedented opportunities. For example, Cybersecurity Ventures projects that women will occupy 30% of the cybersecurity workforce around the globe by 2025, and 35% of the global workforce by 2031.
Currently, one of the most in-demand positions in this field is the role of cybersecurity engineer. A cybersecurity engineer plays an invaluable role in an enterprise’s data security posture, helping design, implement and monitor security features that guard against unauthorized access and other threats.
Today, we’re taking a closer look at what cybersecurity engineers do and how to become one, including the skills professionals need, the tasks these engineers perform and the type of compensation they earn, as well as how a Master of Science in Cybersecurity can make all these things a reality.
Cybersecurity Engineer Job Description
Cybersecurity engineers — 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 cyberattacks and other digital threats. In addition to establishing and developing these safeguards, cybersecurity engineers continually monitor these systems and update them when necessary to prevent zero-day threats (from new and novel malware) and other emerging cybercriminal activity.
A cybersecurity engineer’s job description also entails overseeing an enterprise’s most crucial digital systems and information technology (IT) infrastructure, and working to protect key platforms including critical applications, data storage and networks that underpin all digital activity.
To gauge the effectiveness of the protection measures put in place, cybersecurity engineers also perform penetration testing. These tests take into account the most current threats against a business’s key digital infrastructure systems. Penetration testing helps engineers ensure that security features can adequately stand up to these threats.
Cybersecurity engineers are also responsible for remaining up to date on the latest IT trends and emerging threats. This means these professionals engage in considerable research to learn about and understand the techniques that hackers use to breach their targets, as well as the protection systems that can prevent these types of unauthorized access.
Cybersecurity engineers may also be instrumental in developing an organization’s disaster recovery plan. Their work can help the IT department continue functioning in the aftermath of a major emergency, such as a natural disaster or an act of terrorism. The components of these plans range from preventive measures to minimize the threat of data loss to post-disaster restoration strategies.
Cybersecurity engineers may work alone within smaller organizations, but they typically collaborate with IT departments and their staff. Engineers also work closely with other department supervisors and company leaders. They 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 cybersecurity engineers do is essential not only to help businesses keep vital information secure, but to protect their bottom line. The average cost of a data breach was $4.24 million in 2021, according to IBM’s Cost of Data Breach report. Based on this alone, cybersecurity engineers can be considered one of a business’ most valuable assets.
Cybersecurity Engineer Skills
To support the responsibilities of this role, cybersecurity engineers should have expertise in current cybersecurity practices and systems. This includes maintaining awareness of the latest threats and hacker techniques, as well as new and emerging cybersecurity best practices.
Cybersecurity engineers should understand not only data security and protection measures, but also the platforms and network systems these measures safeguard. After all, without knowledge of the inner workings of an enterprise’s network and other IT infrastructure, a cybersecurity engineer will not be able to adequately secure these critical systems.
In addition to this IT, digital data and cybersecurity expertise, a cybersecurity engineer’s skill set should include certain soft skills, such as the following.
- 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 current data security policies and seek out areas for improvement.
- Communication skills: Cybersecurity engineers are responsible for preparing reports related to any attempted attack and providing the details to the business’ leaders. Engineers must be able to clearly explain their findings and results to individuals who may not have a strong technological background or expertise.
- Problem-solving skills: The work of a cybersecurity engineer also requires strong problem-solving skills and the ability to find creative solutions to emerging data security concerns.
- Detail-oriented skills: Cybersecurity engineers must be able to detect even the slightest change in system functionality and performance, as cyberattacks can often start with subtle disruptions to systematic processes.
Cybersecurity Engineer Salary
Information security analysts (the job classification that includes cybersecurity engineers) earned a median annual salary of $103,590 in 2020, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). The BLS further reported that the upper 10% of professionals earned about $163,300 annually, indicating that with the right education and experience, salaries for cybersecurity engineers can be above average.
The job outlook for cybersecurity engineers is very strong. The BLS projects positions for information security analysts to increase by 33% between 2020 and 2030. This is significantly higher than the 8% growth projected for the nation’s job market as a whole.
How to Become a Cybersecurity Engineer
For those wondering how to get into cybersecurity, the right combination of education and experience can lead to a competitive, rewarding career as a cybersecurity engineer.
Most employers require candidates to hold a minimum of a bachelor’s degree in cybersecurity, IT or a related field such as math or engineering. However, an advanced degree such as a Master of Science in Cybersecurity can benefit individuals interested in senior positions that typically come with more responsibility. These positions also tend to be more lucrative.
Experience for a cybersecurity engineer is usually earned by succeeding at lower-level jobs in the IT field, such as working as a computer systems administrator. Those who are interested in a specific area, such as database security, may consider pursuing entry-level positions in that sphere, such as data security analyst or penetration tester.
Individuals working toward their degrees can also apply for internships, which can help them learn firsthand what cybersecurity engineers do and lead to long-term career advantages. First, internships help students apply classroom knowledge to a real-world setting within the context of an IT or cybersecurity team. It can also help individuals develop a professional network of contacts that can help with future career options.
Certifications help cybersecurity engineers showcase their expertise and prove themselves to be valuable assets in the job market. The Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP) designation, awarded by the International Information System Security Certification Consortium (ISC2), is among the most recognizable and valuable certifications in the field, though others focused on specific domains are also notable.
Consider a Career as a Cybersecurity Engineer
As computer networks continue to become more pervasive and sophisticated, it is increasingly critical that companies hire highly skilled cybersecurity professionals to protect complex systems. For those interested in cybersecurity, this can result in excellent opportunities for a satisfying, well-paying career.
Professionals interested in pursuing this in-demand and competitive career can best prepare by enrolling in a degree program, such as the online Master of Science in Cybersecurity from University of Nevada, Reno. Students in the program learn about the latest cybersecurity practices, including those used to secure critical internet-connected platforms and enterprise networks.
The program also covers mobile security, data privacy, digital forensics, cryptography and other leading cybersecurity topics. To find out more about a career in this space, check out our interview with Dr. Shamik Sengupta, executive director for the University’s Cybersecurity Center.
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Cybercrime Magazine, “Cybercrime to Cost the World $10.5 Trillion Annually by 2025”
Cybercrime Magazine, “Cybersecurity Jobs Report: 3.5 Million Openings in 2025”
Cybercrime Magazine, “Global Cybercrime Damages Predicted to Reach $6 Trillion Annually by 2021”
Fierce Electronics, “IoT Security: How Engineers Must Get Ready for the Crush”
Herjavec Group, The 2020 Official Annual Cybercrime Report
IBM, How Much Does a Data Breach Cost?
Indeed, What Is a Cyber-Security Engineer?
Infosec, “How to Become a Cybersecurity Engineer”
International Information System Security Certification Consortium, CISSP — The World’s Premier Cybersecurity Certification
U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Information Security Analysts