What does it take to be a security engineer?

Cyber security roles can offer interesting and rewarding careers, especially if you decide to become a security engineer. But what does the job entail and how do you make yourself the perfect candidate to land this computer science role?

In the rapidly-evolving technology landscape, an organisation’s network can never be too secure from cyber attack. That’s where security engineering comes in. These highly skilled cyber security specialists are responsible for designing systems and networks that can handle just about anything, from malicious attacks and cyber threats to internal security breaches and natural disasters.

Cyber security engineers scrutinise networks, making sure that each is secure, but also identifying any vulnerabilities or security issues that could become a problem in the future. Without these information security experts, companies would be left exposed to phishing, spyware, malware, cloud security and a plethora of other cyber security risks.

What is a security engineer?

Humans depend on the internet more than we think and businesses are no exception to that. This reliance comes with risks, mainly in the form of security threats when the networks and systems used are not secured. It’s the role of security professionals to ensure cyber threats do not compromise security systems and cause problems.

Cyber security engineering is focused on creating secure systems and designing networks that are resilient to malicious attacks, as well as any other potential cause of outages such as natural disasters. As tech continues to evolve and businesses shift to heavily remote operations, hackers are always looking for new ways to expose vulnerabilities they can exploit. The security engineer is there to ensure these kinds of actions aren’t successful.

They may work with an ethical hacker to help expose any risks and vulnerabilities. Ethical hacking allows an information security engineer to understand where potential attacks could be targeted without any damage being done. A certified ethical hacker will use the same techniques as a malicious one would for maximum visibility over a potential security breach.

What does a cyber security engineer do?

Cyber security is an expansive industry. The demand for technology is constantly growing and, as such, the need for improved defences against malicious third parties is always following. Because the sector is so broad, security engineers will often find varying duties in job descriptions, but the basic principles of this cyber security specialist are the same.

The exact responsibilities of this role differ between positions, however, largely depending on what kind of organisation the IT professional is at. A security engineer working within the government will be dealing with significantly different requirements to another expert working in fintech, for example.

Moreover, a software engineer at a less-sizeable firm is likely to be working with a smaller team than someone in cyber engineering at a large company.

However, when looking for security engineer roles, there are certain duties almost every job will demand. These often include:

  • Protecting computer systems, networks and confidential data against cyber attacks
  • Actively scanning for areas of weakness, proactively amending vulnerabilities
  • Conducting investigations to highlight abnormal activities
  • Developing company-wide security guidelines
  • Recommending the most appropriate security measures to senior leaders
  • Working out where and when to request information from other departments
  • Overseeing network security to ensure evolving threats are minimised

How do you become a security engineer?

Like any field of work, becoming a cyber security engineer depends on your skills, experience and academic background. There are many opportunities for entry-level jobs, so with time spent working in the IT sector or a degree in a field related to cyber security, you should be able to land a position within a few years of your career.

If you can’t find a security engineer job at the start of your career, don’t be discouraged. Generally, professionals will work for two to four years before transitioning into this role. The position demands an extensive understanding of IT principles and applications, so gaining that experience first is paramount.

Work experience is a great route into cyber security roles, offering all-round hands-on education in the real world. Whether it’s volunteering or pursuing personal projects, it’s worth thinking about extending your knowledge and learning from your peers. Eventually, you can work your way to becoming a senior cyber security engineer.
Usually, cyber security engineers hold at least a bachelor’s degree in a field related to cyber security, such as information security or computer engineering. Having an academic qualification means recruiters can see you’ve got the basic set of skills required to work with cutting-edge tech and keep up with developments in cyber security.

Security engineers need to be comfortable analysing large volumes of data and programming languages, as well as identifying anomalies within networks and general weak points. Moreover, these experts are responsible for translating complex jargon into easy-to-understand information for decision-makers within their companies, so interpersonal skills and the ability to simplify concepts are essential requirements.

Some of the key skills all security engineers will need to develop and demonstrate include:

  • Comprehensive knowledge of code, especially recognising and removing malicious code such as malware or viruses
  • Understanding of computer forensics and security flaw procedures
  • The ability to identify and evaluate security risks
  • Keeping updated on the latest trends and best practices in cyber security
  • Knowledge of creating and implementing security protocols, procedures and guidelines

Are security engineers in demand?

Security engineers are highly sought-after. As organisations continue to turn to technology as the backbone of their operations, the demand for cyber security specialists, including engineers, will only rise. This means a cyber security engineer salary could be particularly lucrative, especially as your experience grows.

The volume of job openings for security engineers far exceeds the number of professionals in many areas, including the UK. Because the supply does not meet the demand for these experts, it’s a market that favours job seekers rather than employers. As such, there’s no better time than right now to start looking for your next job in cyber security.

Security engineer jobs in the UK

Security engineers need to draw upon a strong bank of experience and knowledge to perform the role effectively. However, it’s a rewarding career that’s in high demand across many sectors. Furthermore, as the reliance upon technology increases among businesses, the need for security engineers will only continue to grow.

Why pursue a career in security engineering?

Like many careers within cyber security, there are two compelling reasons why being a security engineer is appealing to many professionals. Firstly, there’s little to no unemployment in the field. The demand for highly skilled experts far outweighs the number of individuals seeking opportunities.

Secondly, security engineering is a stable career path with very competitive compensation packages. There’s always room to grow further and you’ll constantly learn new skills, gain fresh experiences and find new challenges.

What is the income of a security engineer?

The average salary for a security engineer in the UK sits at just above £50,000 per year, although, when just looking at mid-level positions, it’s approximately £70,000. This real value you can expect will fluctuate based on the specific job, location and company you’re interested in. Even at the entry-level end of the spectrum, professionals can take home roughly £42,000 and the most senior security engineers can earn over £100,000 per year.

What industries do cyber security engineers work in?

According to the Cyber security skills in the UK labour market 2022: findings report, 51 per cent of businesses in the UK are facing a basic skills gap, meaning the people responsible for cyber security within them lack the confidence to action the basic tasks outlined in the Cyber Essentials scheme.

With over half of the companies in the country lacking adequate cyber security personnel, it may not come as a surprise that security engineers span a wide array of sectors, including finance, healthcare, technology, manufacturing and government. You could end up working as a cyber security analyst in a sector you’d never imagined needed such cyber security professionals.

How to find security engineer jobs in the United Kingdom

Some 35 per cent of all online cyber security job postings in 2021 were for security engineers. The market for these network security engineer jobs is great for professionals looking to make the next step in their career and, if you already have experience in cyber security or IT, broadening your skill set will help you stand out to the most appealing employers on the market.

Start your search for cyber security engineer jobs by heading to a specialised online jobs board like CyberSecurityJobsite.com. Just by uploading your CV, recruiters can view your credentials and reach out to you about new opportunities. Also, check out one of our Cyber Security EXPOs to gain first-hand experience with highly reputed companies and professionals within the industry.

Take a look at the latest cyber security engineer vacancies to find the latest opportunities available to you.