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Career Path: How to Become a Security Engineer

Becoming a Security Engineer is not as challenging as it might seem. It's a specialized field that's in high-demand according to the IDC and centered around the security aspects within the design of a system. Businesses are in need of skilled individuals that can keep their computer network safeguarded from disruptions due to malicious cyber attacks or natural disasters.

Getting Through the Door

To land an entry-level job as a security engineer, you need to know that there are subsets to the field that all have the same goal.

  • Network Security...more

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Salary range for Security Engineers

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Opportunities for Security Engineers

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Career Path: How to Become a Security Engineer

Becoming a Security Engineer is not as challenging as it might seem. It's a specialized field that's in high-demand according to the IDC and centered around the security aspects within the design of a system. Businesses are in need of skilled individuals that can keep their computer network safeguarded from disruptions due to malicious cyber attacks or natural disasters.

Getting Through the Door

To land an entry-level job as a security engineer, you need to know that there are subsets to the field that all have the same goal.

  • Network Security Engineers are focused on the security of network systems
  • Information Security Engineers maintain the integrity of all the data communicated and stored in a business
  • Cyber Security Engineers defend an organization’s networks, data and computers from unauthorized digital access
  • Information Systems Security Engineers implement and plan safety measures for computer networks
  • Information Assurance Engineers will oversee the processing and storing of information within a business to make sure that it's secure

It's easier for individuals already in an IT role to transition to that of a security engineer, but for those that are beginning from the ground up experts recommend being knowledgeable of operating systems such as Windows, Linux and UNIX. Entry-level security engineers must also understand network and system architectures, security concepts and principles, programming and software development.

Other technical skills that can give you an advantage include knowledge of virtualization software, disassemblers, assembly language, programming in Java, C or C++, as well as scripting languages like Perl and PHP. Some minimum requirements that you will need to qualify as an entry- or junior-level security engineer include:

  • Drafting system architectures and developing security designs
  • Responding to and tracking security incidents
  • Evaluating the effectiveness of security solutions against current and projected threats
  • Implementing tools, processes and techniques to assist in the prevention of security incidents
  • Using and installing software like firewalls and data encryption programs
  • Willing to learn and work in a team environment
  • Good problem-solving, as well as verbal and written communication skills

Degrees and Experience

To land that first job as a security engineer, employers look for you to have at least a bachelor's in cybersecurity, information systems, computer science or other related fields. Companies may also seek a few years of hands-on experience with building test networks or system prototypes. Having certifications like CompTIA Security+, the CERT-Certified Computer Security Incident Handler (CSIH) Certification or the GIAC Security Essentials Certification (GSEC) will also help gain you employment.

Working as a Junior-Level Engineer

As a junior-level engineer, you are tasked with developing threat models, as well as implementing new security tools and frameworks. Researching threats and providing detailed reports is part of the job. A junior-level engineer may do malware analysis, breach and incident responses, security automation and cloud security. You can also perform black and white box security assessments of applications.

Moving Up the Ranks

You have now obtained the necessary experience as a security engineer to move up the ladder in your career. Being able to communicate and collaborate with others is very important when it comes to completing tasks successfully. You will be working around a team of very experienced engineers and asking for help is a wonderful way to gain valuable insight that will help further your career. There are other certifications for those with more experience in the field, which includes the CEH (Certified Ethical Hacker) and the CISSP (Certified Information Systems Security Professional) You should also increase your problem-solving skills and familiarity with different security testing tools.

Advance Your Career: How to become a Senior Security Engineer

Senior Security Engineers oversee the functionality of security systems to ensure that security policies are being upheld. They are responsible for monitoring and maintenance. Senior-level engineers will perform risk assessments for projects, as well as provide guidance to management on the appropriate course of action. They will also create information security policies and processes, compile and analyze data, and respond to computer security incidents.

Study the Core Fields

To be an expert security engineer, you have to be skilled in your field. This involves being aware of the latest technologies in security software and testing tools. Gaining more experience with intrusion detection systems, firewalls for systems and web applications, DDOS prevention and network packet capture solutions is important. Senior security engineers are able to multitask and take ownership. Being adept in information security compliance frameworks is a must. You can also boost your résumé by getting an advanced degree.

Invest in Yourself

You have proven your expertise in the field as a security engineer. You understand security information and event management (SIEM), as well as security architectures. You can provide support when and where needed. Having excellent analytical, conflict resolution, time management and communication skills is something you possess. A good understanding of protocols and technologies like TCP, NetBios, UDP, SSL and FTP is helpful. To gain an advantage, employers also like to see experience with APIs, cloud services and cryptography.

Don't Stop at Security Engineer

Expand your knowledge by taking advantage of educational opportunities while on the job. There are organizations where you can gain valuable insight like ISSA (Information Systems Security Association) and the ISF (Information Security Forum). This can further accelerate your goals by helping you keep up with industry trends and building a stronger network of skilled individuals that may offer access to potential clients or employers.

Security Engineer Job Description

We’ve done the research for you. After evaluating numerous job descriptions, we’ve written our own representative job description for a mid-level engineer with between two and five years of relevant experience.

As a security engineer, you will screen and test security software, monitor networks and systems for breaches or intrusions. You can resolve the causes of security threats and recommend enhancements to prevent them. You can also work independently, as well as efficiently in a team environment. Our security engineers are self-motivated and display leadership qualities. We welcome diversity and encourage healthy debate and discussion.

What We Need Your Help With

  • Installing, maintaining and troubleshooting security software and hardware
  • Analyze, design, test and deploy standard security controls
  • Perform analysis against large data sets to identify potentially malicious behavior
  • Support of routers, switches and VPN devices
  • Secure remote access technologies
  • Build complex automated solutions that assist IT policy and risk assessment
  • Create and maintain documentation of networks and systems
  • Develop and integrate security features into new device platforms
  • Apply security patches and version updates for compliance
  • Generate trouble tickets and determine whether incidents are security events
  • Work with project managers, system and software engineers to ensure successful integration

What We Look For

  • 3+ years in information security and network engineering
  • 3+ years of incident detection and response
  • Experience in the terms, concepts, processes and policies of information security
  • Experience with data visualization and data integration tools
  • Experience with Python, Powershell or Perl scripting
  • Experience with agile software development such as Scrum
  • Experience with Windows/Linux operating systems and orchestration tools like Chef and Puppet
  • Familiarity with IPS/IDS, firewalls, cloud security, DDoS and SIEM
  • Strong understanding of IT security principles
  • Knowledge of Authentication, Authorization and Accountability (AAA) standards
  • Excellent project management, organizational, analytical, problem-solving and communication skills
  • B.S degree in information systems or technology, IT security, engineering, computer science or other related field or equivalent work experience

These Would Also Be Nice

  • Experience with cloud platforms like AWS, Azure and Google Cloud
  • Experience with database and data integration methods using SQL, Splunk, MySQL or HQL
  • Experience with continuous integration and continuous delivery (CI/CD), test-driven development (TDD), behavioral-driven development (BDD), DevOps and automation
  • Knowledge of markup languages such as HTML, XML and JSON
  • CEH, CCSP, CISSP or other related certifications

Senior Security Engineer Career Paths: Where To Go From Here

You have obtained 10 years of experience and are ready for a new challenge in your career. With organizations, companies and governments around the world storing data on their networks, cyber attacks are becoming frequent and in some cases harmful. The growth rate of jobs in this field is expected to continue to rise as the increase of information is being placed on the Internet.

Senior Security Engineers may work as a Security Architects where their responsibilities include planning, researching and designing elements of security for a company's network. There's the role of the IT Security Manager who's tasked with overseeing the security of a business's computer systems, as well as work with senior managers to design a security plan, anticipate and detect intrusions, and coordinate daily activities of a team. The position of Director of Security involves maintaining a company's policies, procedures and security of online assets. With the acquired experience, a senior security engineer can delve into the role of a Chief Information Security Officer (CISO) who is responsible for overseeing the information systems and security of a company. This job also ensures that everything is in compliance with policies and regulations.

The positions listed generally require a bachelor's degree with a master's being an employer's preferred choice, such as an MBA in some cases. Managerial and industry certifications along with years of expertise in the field are a must-have on this journey. You will also need to possess not only superb communication skills but be able to work independently, lead effectively and make important decisions for the company as a whole.


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