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Skills Required to Become a Cyber Security Engineer

Posted on 
November 2, 2021
|
by 
Team Interview Kickstart

With over 3.5 million cyber security positions opening up in 2021 (according to Cyber Security Ventures) and the exciting futures they offer, a career in cyber security is undoubtedly worth pursuing. When the top tech companies set out to hire cyber security engineers, they want only the best. 

This is because the role of a cyber security software engineer comes with the responsibility of ensuring that the systems and products that the company is built on remain safe from data breaches and attacks. These roles require a unique set of skills that can be honed with practice during your cyber security engineering interview prep.

If you are preparing for a cyber security engineering interview, check out our technical interview checklist, interview questions page, and salary negotiation e-book to get interview-ready! 

Having trained over 9,000 software engineers, software developers, and engineering managers, we know what it takes to crack the toughest tech interviews. Since 2014, Interview Kickstart alums have been landing lucrative offers from FAANG and Tier-1 tech companies, with an average salary hike of 49%. The highest ever offer received by an IK alum is a whopping $933,000!

At IK, you get the unique opportunity to learn from expert instructors who are hiring managers and tech leads at Google, Facebook, Apple, and other top Silicon Valley tech companies.

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So, what do you need to become a cyber security engineer? In this article, we will cover:

  • What is cyber security?
  • What does a cyber security engineer do?
  • Levels of cyber security engineers at FAANG companies
  • How to become a cyber security engineer
  • What skills does a cyber security engineer need to have?
  • What is the average salary of a cyber security engineer?
  • What is a cyber security engineer’s career path?

What Is Cyber Security?

Cyber security in a tech company involves regular testing and monitoring of security systems to ensure that they are updated and functioning smoothly. They primarily protect data from data breaches and cyberattacks. Cyber security engineers help in protecting organizational databases, confidential or sensitive information, financial information, and the organization’s reputation in many ways.

What Does a Cyber Security Engineer Do?

The responsibilities of a cyber security engineer can sometimes overlap with that of a security analyst, who is tasked to protect sensitive data of the company. The roles and responsibilities of a cyber security engineer include:

  • Designing and implementing systems that prevent and minimize security risks for the company’s infrastructure and data.
  • Coding, primarily using C++, Python, PHP/Hack, Golang, and Java.
  • Conducting design and code reviews.
  • Analyzing and improving scalability, efficiency, and stability for the assigned product area or systems.
  • Identifying and driving changes required for the assigned product area, codebase, or systems.
  • Interfacing with other teams; incorporating innovations.

Levels of Cyber Security Engineers at FAANG Companies

The skills required for cyber security engineers also vary with the position level you are interviewing for. Typically, there are three levels: 

  1. Entry-level cyber security engineers: Cyber security engineers who are just starting in the field. You may need little or no work experience in cyber security for this level.
  2. Junior cyber security engineers: Engineers with some experience working with cyber security.
  3. Senior cyber security engineers: Engineers with considerable experience working with cyber security.

Types of Cyber Security Engineers

The role of a cyber security engineer differs depending on the type of role an aspirant is applying for.  Some of the types of cyber security engineers are: 

  1. IT security engineer
  2. Network security engineer
  3. Information security engineer
  4. Information assurance engineer
  5. Information systems security engineer

How to Become a Cyber Security Engineer

Below are some of the cyber security engineer education requirements and qualifications that recruiters at FAANG companies look for when hiring cyber security engineers. To become a cyber security engineer, you meet these minimum qualification criteria. See below:

  • B.S. in computer science or a related field; or equivalent work experience
  • Experience designing and implementing back-end security-enhancing features
  • Experience building large-scale distributed systems
  • Four or more years of software development experience on average. This may vary from company to company
  • Technical depth in at least one of the following areas: Authentication, authorization, applied cryptography, key management systems, and public key infrastructure

Preferred Qualifications to Become a  Cyber Security Engineer

Listed below are some additional qualifications that could enhance your chances of becoming a cyber security engineer at a top tech company: 

  • A master's degree in computer science or a related field.
  • Incorporate security aspects during the conceptualization stage of system design.
  • Build systems that can be scaled up to serve billions of users.
  • Build software solutions to real-life problems. 
  • Be leaders; manage projects and prioritize requirements, tasks, deadlines, and deliverables.
  • Bring in new ideas about artificial intelligence, distributed computing, information retrieval, large-scale system design, networking and data storage, natural language processing, security, and UI design and mobile

What Skills Does a Cyber Security Engineer Need to Have?

The core skills required to become a cyber security engineer are: 

Programming

Python, Golang, Java, Javascript, C, C++, SQL, Assembly, Powershell, Ruby, PHP, Shell Scripting. Experts recommend starting with Python as it is the most commonly used programming language, and it is used by some of the biggest organizations like Reddit, Google, and NASA.

Networking

Subnetting, routing protocols, Voice over IP(VoIP), DNS, Virtual Private Networks (VPN), encryption techniques and technologies, secure network architectures, and network security technologies such as encryption and firewalls.

Database Platforms

Cyber security revolves around protecting data. This is why cyber security engineers require extensive knowledge about data structuring, storage, and dissemination. 

Knowledge of Operating Systems

It is vital to know operating systems inside out to be able to diagnose and resolve their vulnerabilities. According to experts, here are the top skills most FAANG companies look for in a cyber security engineer are:

  • Foundational Coding: C++, Python, PHP/Hack, Golang, and Java
  • Data science
  • Data structures
  • System design and software architecture
  • Web application and browser security
  • Network protocols
  • Security assessment
  • Security protocols
  • Penetration testing
  • Authentication and access control
  • Applied cryptography
  • Incident response and forensics
  • Binary analysis
  • Project management
  • Team management

Cyber Security Certifications

There are many cyber security certifications to choose from. You can always get certified in more than one. In fact, more knowledge of security tools will increase your likeability for the cyber security position. You should consider getting the following certifications to increase your chances of getting hired as a cyber security engineer:

  • CCNP Security: Cisco Certified Network Professional Security
  • CEH v10: Certified Ethical Hacker
  • CISA: Certified Information Systems Auditor
  • GIAC: Web Application Penetration Tester
  • GSEC/GCIH/GCIA: GIAC Security Certifications
  • CISSP: Certified Information Systems Security Professional

Cyber Security Engineer Soft Skills

Here are some soft skills for cyber security engineers and senior cyber security engineers that will give you an advantage in the behavioral interview rounds:

  • Ability to work in high-risk environments
  • Exceptionally creative problem-solving skills
  • Ability to gauge potential cyber security threats
  • Ability to work within and across teams
  • Excellent written and verbal communication skills
  • Willingness to learn and improve
  • Strong leadership skills (for senior cyber security roles)

You can use your experience and projects to shine a light on these aspects of your skills during the interview.

What Is the Average Salary of a Cyber Security Engineer?

According to Payscale, the average base salary for a cyber security engineer ranges from $67,000 to $139,000 per year. It is a fixed component, and it is paid to the engineer irrespective of their or the company’s performance.

The average bonus offered is $1,000 to $6,000 per annum. It usually varies for engineers even in the same salary band. The total average compensation of a cyber security engineer in the United States is $66,000 to $143,000 per year.

Want to learn how to negotiate a higher salary package? Experts and ex-recruiters from FAANG+ companies at Interview Kickstart will teach you how to leverage your skills to up your negotiating power. Sign up for Interview Kickstart’s FREE webinar to learn more!

What Is a Cyber Security Engineer’s Career Path?

The cyber security engineering career path depends on the kind of projects you have been a part of and the kind of projects you choose to work on. It also depends on your knowledge of security tools and security certifications. As the security needs of a tech company are constantly changing, the role of a cyber security engineer is also in the process of transforming. Cyber security engineers often come from a variety of backgrounds and may have started their cyber security role at different points in their careers.

In a FAANG+ company, a cyber security engineer career progression can look something like this: 

Cyber Security Engineer I Cyber Security Engineer II → Senior Cyber Security Engineer → Staff Cyber Security Engineer → Senior Staff Cyber Security Engineer → Principal Cyber Security Engineer

With cyber security engineering skills, you can set out on any of the following career paths:

  • Security architects: They design, build, and implement complex network and computer security structures for the organization.
  • Security consultants: They are responsible for assessing cybersecurity risks, problems, and solutions for different companies. They also suggest measures to protect and secure the company’s physical capital and data. 
  • Penetration tester (ethical hackers): They use a series of tools to simulate real-life cyber attacks, identify vulnerable areas, and help companies improve their security position.
  • Chief information security officers (CISOs): CISOs are responsible for building and leading cyber security teams and overseeing all aspects of a company’s security.

How to Crack a Cyber Security Engineer Interview

A typical cyber security engineer interview at FAANG+ companies includes:

To crack a cyber security engineer interview at any of the FAANG companies, you need to perform well in the coding as well as the behavioral interview. 

Cyber Security Engineer Mock Interviews

Experts recommend practicing at least 30+ mock interviews before you sit for the actual interview. It will boost your confidence and prepare you for all kinds of possible scenarios one can possibly face in the actual interview. At Interview Kickstart, you can practice mock interviews with experts and hiring managers from FAANG companies. Their precious feedback will go a long way in honing your interviewing skills.

Join IK’s Cyber Security Engineering Masterclass

If you need help with your cyber security engineer interview prep, consider joining Interview Kickstart’s Security Engineering Interview Coursethe first-of-its-kind, domain-specific tech interview prep program designed specifically for cyber security engineers.

IK is the gold standard in tech interview prep. Our programs include a comprehensive curriculum, unmatched teaching methods, FAANG+ instructors, and career coaching to help you nail your next tech interview!

FAQs About Cyber Security Engineer Skills

Q. Which cyber security certification is needed to get a cyber security engineer job?
A. To increase your chances of getting hired as a cyber security engineer, the following certifications:

  • CCNP Security: Cisco Certified Network Professional Security
  • CISA: Certified Information Systems Auditor
  • CEH v10: Certified Ethical Hacker
  • GIAC: Web Application Penetration Tester
  • GSEC / GCIH / GCIA: GIAC Security Certifications
  • CISSP: Certified Information Systems Security Professional

Q. What is the minimum experience required for cyber security engineer jobs?
You need at least 3+ years of experience in cyber security to get considered for the role of a cyber security engineer.
Q. How much do cyber security engineers make in the US?
A. The total average compensation of a cyber security engineer in the United States is $66,000 to $143,000 per year.

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