What’s the real average salary for a cybersecurity engineer? Well, a quick Google search might be able to do the trick. But on the first page of results, you’ll see numbers ranging between $78,368 to $210,000. Wow. That’s a pretty sizable range — and likely isn’t the most accurate. Let’s dive a little deeper.
The guise of an average salary is super misleading. There are major outliers that skew data like crazy. Let’s be real — a cybersecurity engineer based out of Charlotte, North Carolina is not going to make anywhere near the salary someone with the same job role makes in San Francisco, California. The costs of living just don’t add up — plain and simple.
We’ve done it before with Information Security Analysts and Data Center Technicians. And we’re going to do it again this time for Cybersecurity Engineers, one of the most in-demand IT security roles on the market now. So let’s get some honest salaries, and go through how you can earn those (realistic) big bucks.
What’s a Cybersecurity Engineer?
First, let’s quickly define the role of cybersecurity engineer. They are usually tasked with using an engineering approach to design and implement security systems customized to fix vulnerabilities. The position is usually described as intermediate-level, with security analysts and security admins typically getting bumped up to engineers. Cybersecurity engineers can grow into security architects, consultants, and even chief information security officers (CISOs).
Unlike analysts, who are primarily concerned with monitoring and tracking threats, the cybersecurity engineer is called upon to develop security policies, mitigate vulnerabilities, investigate breaches, and respond to incidents.
We scoured Glassdoor, Indeed, and local job boards to compile as much data about cybersecurity engineer salaries in larger, but not massive, metropolitan areas. We capped the population at one million.
We aren’t looking at this data through rose-colored glasses. Here’s our most honest look at IT security salaries across the United States.
Cybersecurity Engineer Salaries
|New York, NY
|San Jose, CA
|Council Bluffs, IA
|Salt Lake City, UT
Although the real numbers aren’t as high as the ones in that first Google search, being a cybersecurity engineer can provide a six-figure income. There are a variety of skills that go along with getting hired for a cybersecurity engineer role.
You need to have the technical skills to get in the door. An ability to maintain systems, identify vulnerabilities, track issues, and improve automation is key to earning a cybersecurity engineer role. Whether you achieve this knowledge through certifications, a degree, or hands-on experience, you need to build a technical foundation to take on the threats you’ll face as a cybersecurity engineer.
You’re also going to need to communicate complex ideas quickly and simply, so soft skills are crucial in any cybersecurity role. Active listening, presentation, and communication skills are all crucial for anyone entering this field.
Certs To Get You Started
Certifications boost your hireability potential. They are beneficial when you have little corporate experience, but need to demonstrate strong knowledge of a subject. Certifications are also beneficial even if you have years of experience. They’ll keep your security knowledge current, and demonstrate your commitment to keeping up on current infosec trends.
CompTIA’s Security+ is one of several certifications that’s in demand. It covers common-sense security procedures and skills, giving you the foundation to protect information and networks. It’s technically an entry-level cert and is a great first step toward InfoSec mastery. But don’t consider it a cakewalk.
Another entry-level certification, the GSEC: SANS GIAC Security Essentials cert is designed to show you are ready for hands-on security roles. The Security Essentials is made up of one exam, and though it is pricier than Security+, it continues to builds on your foundation for a cybersecurity engineer role.
Cisco’s CCNA Security certification is a logical next step toward infosec certification mastery. Cisco provides security products to a significant number of enterprise organizations. So their security certification track helps IT pros fully embrace and understand their solutions. When you earn your CCNA Security certification, you demonstrate you know how to secure Cisco networking products.
After earning your CCNA Security, the next level would be your CCNP Security. This is a more advanced, professional-level certification that’s great for pros who live, eat, and breathe Cisco.
This cert is a bonafide beast when it comes to certifications that go hand in hand with a cybersecurity engineer role. The (ISC)2 CISSP requires five years of cumulative, paid, full-time work experience in the field. It also requires specific experience in two domains of the (ISC)2 CISSP Common Body of Knowledge. The certification is designed to ensure learners have the knowledge and technical skills needed to develop, guide, and manage security standards, policies, and procedures. It’s the cream of the crop when it comes to certs that prove your mettle as a true infosec professional.
Engineer Your Way to the Big Bucks
A 2017 study from the Center for Cyber Safety and Education forecasts a 1.8 million cybersecurity worker shortage by 2022. There’s an urgency to attract more motivated people into cybersecurity and to train them — fast. Keeping current on current cybersecurity know-how will benefit you in the long run — both professionally and financially. Even with us removing our rose-colored glasses, the “real” salaries are pretty lucrative.