18 March 2024

What is a Cyber Security Engineer?

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Computer geeks assemble! Just kidding. But really assemble – there’s potential to embark on a fruitful career and earn some big bucks.

If winning the great battle of the firewall vs a nasty virus sounds like you, a career in cyber security engineering could be the path for you. As a cyber security engineer, you’ll protect a system from all manner of attacks. 

Read on to find out all about cybersecurity engineering and how you can land yourself a role.

What does a cyber security engineer do?

Cyber security engineers ensure that a company’s security system is in tip-top shape by designing, developing and implementing secure network solutions to prevent cyber attacks, hacking, malware and anything that can drastically affect the company.

You might think that once a network is secured and running that’s where the magic ends. Nope, it’s just the beginning.

As a cyber security engineer, you’ll have a variety of daily tasks to get on with. These include,

  • Protect systems against unauthorised access or modification
  • Monitor networks for security breaches
  • Investigate security breaches and unauthorised access
  • Implement enhancements and updates to current systems
  • Update a company incident report
  • Reviewing and updating privacy policies 
  • Conduct security assessments.

FUN FACT: Brain, the first PC virus, was created by two brothers in 1986 who were tired of people making bootleg copies of their program, so they replaced the program with the virus.

What industries can you work in?

One of the best parts of being a cybersecurity engineer is that you’re in demand.

In 2023, it was estimated that 4 million extra cyber security workers were needed to meet the needs of employers, according to Station X.

That being said, you can work in any industry you choose. So whether that’s entertainment, healthcare or education – there’s a role waiting for you. Other industries on the hunt for talented cybersecurity engineers include:

  • Agriculture
  • Construction
  • Engineering
  • Financial services
  • Hospitality
  • Insurance
  • Retail.

What qualifications do you need to be a cyber security engineer?

Luckily for you, there are a number of ways to get your cyber security career.

You’ll find that many employers opt for experience and keenness over professional qualifications. That does not, in any way, mean that your degree is a waste of time. Some requirements include;

  • At least three years of cyber security experience
  • Knowledge of C, C++, Python or Python
  • Proven understanding of next-generation firewalls
  • Experience in using various operating systems.

If an employer does want a degree qualification, they’ll require you to have a degree in cyber security or similar (computer science, computer engineering, information assurance, information technology).

Don’t think you have all the experience you need? Don’t worry. If you’re still at uni, the best way to get the experience you need is through a placement or internship.

Luckily for you, there are loads of companies across various industries looking for the next generation of cybersecurity engineers. Some of these companies (all of which also happen to be on our Best Student Employers 2024 table 💅) include,

Work experience whilst you’re at university is the perfect opportunity to develop skills you’ve picked up during your lectures and lab time as well as pick up new technical skills employers crave.
There are also opportunities for graduates!

Find out more about IT opportunities for students including placements internships and graduate roles!

What skills does a cyber security engineer need?

There are loads of skills you’ll need to become a cyber security engineer. These are a mix of both hard and soft skills, let’s have a look at what some of these are.

Data management. This is probably one of the most important skills you’ll have. As a cyber security engineer, you’ll handle lots of very sensitive data. You’ll need to have an extensive knowledge of ways to store data securely.

Communication. Written and verbal communication skills will be paramount in this role. You’ll work in a team and will often have to present your findings and justifications to managers and key company stakeholders.
Programming. You’ll need to know the various programs that are needed for cyber security. These can include…

Bash, Perl, PowerShell, Python and SQL.

Passion. Employers want to see that the people they hire have a willingness to learn and improve skills throughout their employment. It also helps if you care about the work you are doing. That easily will show in your technical knowledge and how you do the job.
Risk assessment. Identifying when and where things might go wrong with programs and systems is a gold skill to have. It’s also great for when you’re weighing up the pros and cons of bringing in new tech.Problem-solving. As a cyber security engineer, problem-solving will make up 99% of your role. So you’ll need to be a pro. Everything from troubleshooting issues with a network to dealing with an actual cyber attack, you’ll be the one to help fix that.
Networking. It’s super important for a cyber security engineer to have an in-depth knowledge of how computers communicate. You’ll have an understanding of aspects of networking such as…

Access control, Email security, Firewalls and Network segmentation.
Adaptability. Technology is ever-changing, so you’ll need to be able to learn new systems and ways of doing things. Adaptability is also knowing how to grow in your role, learn new skills and move with new policies and ways of working.
Operating systems. You’ll need to know everything there is about all operating systems out there, including…

Android, Linux, Microsoft Windows, iOS and macOS.
Presentation skills. You might have to give presentations to key stakeholders and even the rest of the company. Whether that’s to pitch a new product, or present findings in meetings.

Not sure how to show your skills in an application? Look no further, we have a blog for that! Read 5 Simple Ways to Show off Your Skills in an Application.

How much does a cyber security engineer earn?

You’ll be very glad to know that cyber security engineers are paid pretty well.

As a junior, you could earn a healthy starting salary of between £24,000 and £39,000 per year. That’ll only increase as you move up the career ladder.

If you become a senior cyber engineer, you could earn between £54,000 and £83,000 per year.

Do you think you’re ready to launch your career as a cybersecurity engineer?