The title of a cybersecurity engineer is far from an entry-level job. This position requires a high level of technical knowledge and an ability to apply it in a professional setting. The cybersecurity engineer is responsible for the protection, integrity, and availability of an organization’s networks or systems. This job role also requires professionals who can anticipate threats against information technology (IT) infrastructure as well as defend against them.
The demand for cybersecurity professionals is high. Currently, there are over 50,000 open job listings requesting a cybersecurity engineer. But what does it take to become one? What skills do you have to master, what certs do you need, and how do you even go about finding the right job opportunity?
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This article aims to help you understand what it takes to become a cybersecurity engineer and how you can find this type of job opportunity. It will include information on:
- What a cybersecurity engineer does (including their responsibilities)
- Skills needed for this role
- Certifications required for this position
- How to find a cybersecurity engineering job and more
Let’s get to it!
Responsibilities of a Cybersecurity Engineer
Before we start outlining all the requirements for this position, we first must familiarize ourselves with what cybersecurity engineers do. The job description of a cybersecurity engineer encompasses many responsibilities, but they can be broken down into four main categories:
- Protecting data from unauthorized access or malicious code by employing firewalls and virus protection software.
- Monitoring network traffic for any acts that may violate IT security policy (like hacking).
- Ensuring that data is backed up and secure. The cybersecurity engineer also handles the recovery of lost or damaged files and the restoration of systems after a disaster.
- The last responsibility for this position is training employees on how to protect their systems from intrusion (both internally and externally). The cybersecurity engineer must be knowledgeable about IT security best practices to train employees appropriately.
This position also requires soft skills such as good problem-solving skills, quick learning, and the ability to multitask effectively in order to do these responsibilities well. The job type is not for those who cannot work independently or take the initiative without guidance from someone else (although certifications can help with this). The cybersecurity engineer must work well in a team environment and have excellent written and verbal communication skills.
Key Technical Skills
What skills do you need to be promoted to a cybersecurity engineer?
To excel in this cybersecurity role, a candidate must be proficient at the following hard skills (also known as technical skills):
The core of cybersecurity is protecting data from unauthorized access or malicious code. The cybersecurity engineer is in charge of protecting the company’s network, systems, and data from various threats that might compromise these assets.
They are responsible for assessing vulnerability to cyberattacks, installing malware protection software like antivirus programs or firewalls, and developing policies for protecting a company’s information. The cybersecurity engineer is also in charge of system recovery, which includes backup and data restoration as well as disaster recovery planning.
This position requires professionals who can mitigate threats against IT infrastructure by anticipating ongoing risks for information security (and defend against them).
A step above information security is network security, which is all about managing the company’s network and ensuring that it cannot be breached. The cybersecurity engineer must ensure it is safe for data to flow in and out of a system while also policing what comes into or out of the company networks.
The cybersecurity engineer will need an understanding of how systems are connected (such as LANs) to develop solutions for monitoring and securing them. They will also need to set up firewalls, configure proxy servers, and edit routing tables to defend the company’s network from outside threats.
Linux is an operating system that has widespread use in the cybersecurity industry. The reasons for this are that Linux is an open-source operating system and has the most kernel development in terms of security. Compared to Windows and MacOS, Linux offers a lot more control and therefore is ideal for securing information and network systems.
The cybersecurity engineer should be familiar with Linux and the system’s command-line tools. They should also know Linux programming and how to debug programs on this operating system.
Information systems are the backbone of any business. The information systems department is where the cybersecurity engineer will find their home because they are responsible for designing and maintaining a company’s IT infrastructure.
The cybersecurity engineer should have knowledge of operating system management (OSM), database administration, data backup strategies, network design and monitoring strategy development, etc., to be able to maintain the company’s IT environment.
Python is a versatile programming language applicable to just about any project within information security, making it an excellent addition to a cybersecurity engineer’s skill set. Automating tasks is critical to success in the industry. Python can help with this by automating system administration tasks or downloading malware from dark websites for analysis without exposing an organization to additional risk.
As a wildly popular skill recently, cryptography represents the art of securing a message or content through an algorithm. The cybersecurity engineer should have the knowledge to develop cryptographic systems, as well as be able to break them open with brute-force attacks. The candidate must also understand how digital signatures work and what they are used for in various contexts.
The most popular cryptography algorithms include AES (Advanced Encryption Standard), RSA (Rivest-Shamir-Adleman algorithm), and SHA (Secure Hash Algorithm).
The cybersecurity engineer should also know about public-key encryption, including PGP/GPG for email communication. They should know the concept of a certificate authority as well as what digital certificates are used for. The company should keep a public key infrastructure in place to get, generate and maintain keys for employees so they can communicate securely with other employees or external parties.
Companies need someone who can help manage projects from the beginning, such as identifying risks and deciding on a strategy, all the way through completion – which includes scheduling resources and implementing any necessary changes along the way.
This person should be able to determine where security needs improvement after completing an assessment of the company’s infrastructure and process the appropriate security controls. The cybersecurity engineer should also be able to identify changes that could affect a project as it moves forward, such as new regulations or vendor relationships.
The candidate should have experience in managing projects through scope creep and unexpected delays. The individual needs strong time management skills so they can keep up with deadlines.
Cybersecurity Engineer Certifications
Which certifications do you need as a cybersecurity engineer?
Industry certifications come in various forms, such as vendor-neutral certifications (e.g., CompTIA Security+, CISSP) and those specific to a particular organization or technology (e.g., Microsoft Certified Solutions Expert). The cybersecurity engineer should have the following set of certs under their belt:
Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP)
The CISSP is one of the most challenging and well-respected certifications in the industry. Passing this exam is often a difficult task that requires months of studying and preparation. The CISSP certification demonstrates a high level of knowledge across all aspects of information security, from technical solutions to risk management with business impact analysis (BIA).
There are currently around 147,000 CISSP certification holders worldwide.
GIAC stands for The Global Information Assurance Certification, and SANS stands for The Sans Institute.
These credentials are awarded by these two organizations in various areas of information security to demonstrate knowledge and competency at a certain level.
You can become ‘silver’ or ‘gold’ certified. ‘Silver’ requires the candidate to pass an exam based on multiple-choice questions. ‘Gold’ is a step further – in addition to the exam, the candidate must also write a research paper on a relevant topic.
When looking at GIAC certs, there are six domains you can specialize in:
- Industrial Control Systems
- Management and Leadership
- Cloud Security Concepts
- Digital Forensics and Incident Response
- Offensive Security Operations
- Cyber Defense
Certified Information Security Manager (CISM)
Provided by the ISACA (Information Systems Audit and Control Association), the CISM is one of the most popular certifications in IT security. The certification requires a candidate to have at least five years of working experience, which should include managing projects or being heavily involved in information security management for an organization for more than three years.
This cert is mainly focused on management, risk, and control. Compared to CISSP, the CISM is a less technical exam, but they are approximately on the same level in terms of difficulty.
CompTIA is a non-profit organization that was founded in 1982 and focused on IT certification. The Security+ exam is the most popular cybersecurity certification, with over 250,000 people holding it worldwide as of 2017.
It requires a candidate to have at least two years of working experience and includes:
- Software security principles and practices.
- Network infrastructure protection, including firewalls and VPNs.
- Cryptography such as SSL/TLS, digital certificates, and authentication protocols.
- Disaster recovery and business continuity planning.
- Threat management such as vulnerability assessment and penetration testing.
Security+ is an internationally recognized IT certification and arguably one of the easiest to obtain from our list.
Certified Information Systems Auditor (CISA)
Another ISACA cert, the CISA, is designed for IT audit and control professionals. The cert is not limited to information security but covers the entire spectrum of auditing principles such as risk assessment, vulnerability analysis, privacy protection, or access management.
CISA is not an easy exam to pass – the candidate must demonstrate mastery of various audit concepts, and it usually takes six months or more for preparation.
What about a college degree?
It is well-known by now that entry-level jobs in IT usually don’t require a college degree. This is because information technology develops at a rapid pace – there is never enough qualified talent in the market.
Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for cybersecurity or advanced-level roles such as that of a cybersecurity manager.
According to statistics, 66% of employers look for at least a Bachelor’s Degree in cybersecurity engineering resumes. 22% of them are in demand for a degree higher than that. The most desired degrees are in computer science, information technology, or engineering.
But do you really have to have a degree? Will having ‘only’ the above-mentioned certifications be enough? This entirely depends on the job and the employer. The best course of action is to mix certifications with a degree – this will increase your chances of becoming successful in cybersecurity recruitment.
Define the Right Job Opportunity
The trick with finding a good cybersecurity engineer job opportunity isn’t to just consider whether you’re qualified enough. You also have to take a moment and think about what type of opportunity would be the perfect fit for you.
- Are you looking to work in a big or a small company?
- What type of benefits would be ideal for you?
- What kind of company culture are you comfortable in?
- Does the commute time concern you? Are you perhaps looking for remote work, or are you even willing to relocate?
- What about the salary range?
These are just some of the things you should be considering when looking for your next job opportunity. The perfect cybersecurity engineer job is out there, but it will take time and effort on your part to find it. And you can’t find it if you first don’t know what it is!
Here are the three most common methods for finding the right job opportunity.
The first is through internal promotion – if you are working for a company, it might have openings that you’re interested in. The second way is networking – talk with people who work at companies that interest you, and see what opportunities they would recommend. The third option involves online searching.
If you’re already working for a cybersecurity company that you like and they do have the position of a cybersecurity engineer, one of the easiest ways to become one would be to get promoted internally.
This requires gaining knowledge and experience as you work your way up the ladder, which can take a long while. The good thing about this method is that you will be working in an environment you already know. The bad thing is the amount of time needed for promotion – sometimes up to ten years!
It’s worth noting that some companies promote their cybersecurity engineers internally only when there are no other options. The reasons for that could include the company culture, benefits and salary.
This is not a very good situation if you’re looking to move up in your career quickly.
Tapping into your professional network is another effective way to find the right job opportunity. You can do this without having to leave your current job. The bad thing about networking as a way of finding opportunities is the time it takes and how competitive it may be, depending on where you are in your professional career.
You will need some patience for this option, but if done consistently over time – then there’s a chance for success. The best way to network is by giving your business card out and talking with people casually about what they do, how their day has been, or even just saying hello.
Don’t be shy – there are no wrong questions! Ask them if they know of any opportunities to work together because this will give a good impression.
Online Job Search
Another common way of finding the right cybersecurity role these days is online job searching. This option is that you will discover many roles, but it might be challenging to target the right one. The other problem with online searching for jobs is that it can also be quite competitive – there are so many opportunities out there!
This means that if you want to apply for something specific and get noticed among all these applications, then you need to make your resume stand out.
The best method for finding the right cybersecurity engineer job opportunity would be to combine the networking and online job search methods. The goal is to have as many people know about you and your skills. The more people are aware of what you’re looking for, the greater chance they will come across a job opening where their company needs someone with your qualifications.
The best advice is to be patient and keep at it because, in the end, this will pay off!
Here is the rundown of everything described in this post:
- The top seven skills you need to master to become a cybersecurity engineer are information security, network security, information systems, Linux, python, cryptography, and project management.
- You should focus on the CISSP, CISM, CISA, SANS/GIAC certifications, and the CompTIA Security+.
- Finally, define the best job opportunity for yourself and go after it through networking and online job searching.
If you’d like some help in this process, don’t hesitate to reach out to CIBR Warriors. We specialize in matching cybersecurity professionals with their ideal job positions and even provide help with resumes, cover letters, and interview preparation.