The modern world depends on cyber security. No company, not even the U.S. government, is invulnerable to cyber-attack. As the Internet of Things evolves, our homes, vehicles, and personal lives are also at risk from cyber-hackers. Staying ahead of cyber-criminals is imperative. A cyber security career involves creating secure software while identifying and preventing potential security issues.
These security professionals require expertise in both computer programming and cyber security. Their workplaces or clients depend on their expertise to keep their data safe and any threat at bay. Cyber security jobs command a good salary because the system relies on their ability to protect it.
Becoming a cyber security developer requires education, but technical skills are paramount. It’s also a career with a high job satisfaction rating. While these jobs come with a good salary, cyber security developers can take great pride in the critical importance of the work they do.
What is a Cyber Security Software Developer?
Also known as security software engineers or security developers, cyber security developers write computer programs focused on identification and resolution of security issues. Along with software design, they implement and test their organization’s software and develop strategies to avoid potential threats. They are responsible for designing software solutions and conducting troubleshooting, debugging, and remedying any flaws.
Steps to Become a Cyber Security Software Developer:
Obtain a bachelor’s degree in a computer-related field. This may be, not only in a computer science field but may also include fields such as mathematics or electrical engineering. While not every cyber security developer job requires a bachelor’s degree, the majority of them do. If already working in the IT field, you may transition into cyber security over time. Potential cyber security developers must have extensive knowledge of Windows, Linux, and Unix operating systems. You should learn as many relevant programming languages as possible including ASM, C, C++, Java, and PHP. Other necessities include knowledge of relational databases such as SQL and SQL Lite; TCP/IP networking protocols; IP security domains; python in HTML, CSS, KVM, and VMare hypervisors.
There are no entry level jobs in cyber security per se. This means that starting at the entry-level in a related IT field and transitioning into cyber security is definitely an option. Such positions include systems or database administrator, network or computer software engineer, web developer or administrator, and IT technician. A thorough understanding of technology is essential. Learn as much about cyber security as possible while working in related fields with the goal of working in software development. The transition to a cyber security role may take about five years, although much depends upon the individual. You can expect to spend up to two years in testing and auditing positions and at least three years in a software developer position before qualifying as a cyber security developer for most employers.
While there are no entry-level cyber security jobs, there are such positions in software development. By getting certifications and attending online boot camps, it may be possible to enter the software development field and then pursue an education specifically in cyber security. You can do this either via a formal college program or by obtaining more advanced certifications focusing on cyber security. As with other jobs in the tech field, the employer may pay for this training. You can also attend cyber security conferences either in person or virtually and look into what certifications the top employers require and go about getting them.
You should spend as much of your spare time as possible educating yourself. While education and certifications are important, they do not substitute for the kind of skills you pick up by constantly improving your abilities. Not all cyber security skills are taught in college or via certification. Some you learn via trial and error. You may also want to look into cyber security subsets, such as cyber sales and cyber law. The cyber security career path is diverse. Pick out a cyber security tool and become an expert in it.
The next step is to obtain additional training and certifications. Employers often prefer employees with specialization, especially at the management level. One of the best such certifications is the Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP). Individuals with this top security certification earn an average of $115,000 annually. The CISSP covers a great deal of content and the exam is rigorous. Other elite security certifications include Certified Encryption Specialist (CEP), ESGIAC Security Expert (GSE) Certification, EC-Council Certified Ethical Hacker (CEH), CompTIA Security+, and Mile2 Certified Penetration Testing Engineer and Digital Forensics. Companies place a great value on these certifications. In addition, you can attend as many cyber security conferences as possible for both learning and networking purposes.
You can advance even further in your career by focusing on project management. This is a necessity for most top-level jobs, as the career trajectory will increasingly concentrate on management of various projects. Certifications needed at this level may include CompTIA Advanced Security Professional (CASP) and other high-level options. Depending on the company, you may need a graduate degree to advance into management or a significant level of experience. Still, most project managers in this field possess a bachelor’s degree and not a master’s degree.
What Does a Cyber Security Software Developer Do?
A cyber security developer must stay one step ahead of hackers and protect the network from those planning to infiltrate and attack. Their work prevents data and identity theft, service losses, and the installation of malware.
Cyber security developers design and implement security software. With their team, on which they play a leading role, they develop strategies to combat bad actors. Problem solving is an integral part of their work. Documenting the life cycle of the software is also a critical part of the job.
They may perform penetration testing and other forms of testing to determine where vulnerabilities exist. They use ethical hacking to try to attack network systems deliberately to detect vulnerabilities. They may use or develop tools are developed to deter hacking, including traffic analysis software, software for malware detection, and antivirus and intrusion detection applications. They may create firewalls. Daily tasks may include performing security assessments on web and mobile apps.
Cyber security developers may work in an office or remotely. Work is most often performed as part of a team.
Cyber Security Software Developer Skills to Acquire
Cyber security developers require not only a technical background, but strong problem-solving skills.
Other critical skills include knowledge of:
- Security across numerous platforms
- Security incident handling and response
- Security information and event management (SIEM)
- Analytics and intelligence gathering capabilities
- Knowledge of intrusion detection and prevention systems
- Multi-factor authentication
- Data management protection
- Threat modeling
- Reverse engineering
- Digital forensic tools
- Identity and access management best practices
- Application development security
- Anomaly detection
- Disaster recovery planning
- Legal boundaries
While these hard skills are necessary to perform the job, the candidate must also possess the soft skills suitable for success in this career.
Such soft skills include:
- Ability to see the big picture
- Ability to stay calm and focused
- Ability to work under pressure
- Analytical mindset
- Attention to detail
- Good listening ability
- Good written and oral communication skills
- High ethical standards
- Leadership qualities
- Passion for professional growth and learning
- Team player
- Willing to adapt to change
Many cyber security developers branch out from other information technology positions. The most obvious is software developer, but those working in computer networking, risk analysis, security intelligence, or as systems engineers can transition to this new career path relatively easily. IT professionals should always upgrade their skills, and if starting in a similar position, getting cyber security certification can lead to a job in the field.
If you do not have a bachelor’s degree, earn an associate degree and try to get a job that may eventually lead to cyber security work. With enough experience at a lower level, you may receive the opportunity to advance into a cyber security position even without a more advanced degree.
There are cyber security developers without a college background. While many organizations require candidates to have a degree, there are those more interested in expertise than formal education. If hacking is a passion and you want to put your skills to good use, you might pursue a career as a cyber security developer based on ability. Smaller companies may prove more willing to take a chance on a person with no credentials but obvious talent. From there, you might move up the ladder, though regular upgrading of skills is always necessary.
Cyber Security Software Developer Career & Salary
Where Might You Work?
Cyber security developers can work virtually anywhere there are computer systems. Many work for the government at the local, state, or federal level. Government jobs often require a security clearance which can take months to procure. Private companies employ many cyber security developers. While large companies may hire cyber security developers, smaller companies may use the services of cyber security consultants.
Cyber security consultants own their businesses or work for a cyber consulting firm. This is an option for those with an entrepreneurial bent. Tasks will depend on the particular client’s needs.
Overall software developer jobs are expected to grow by 22% by the end of the decade. This is much faster growth than average. As the demand for computer software increases, so does the need for cyber security. At any given time, there are approximately 500,000 jobs open in the cyber security field in the U.S.
The average salary of a software developer is $72,000 annually, but those with more experience earn $107,000 annually or more. More demand should lead to higher salaries in the future. Employers are likely to pay for further training in various skill areas. Cyber security consists of many sub-specialties, and these will continue to evolve. Depending on the sub-specialty, job growth over the next five years may total as much as 164%. These skills come with salary premiums ranging from $5,000 to $15,000 or more annually.
Fortunately for those in the tech security field, there is a lot of fluidity between jobs. A cyber security developer may start out in another position and transition into that role or another complementary field. In the industry, these are referred to as “feeder jobs”. There are opportunities to learn and move into higher, more demanding jobs with great responsibilities.
- Security Analyst:
This is a fairly common position for transitioning into work as a cyber security developer, as many of the same skills sets are needed. An entry-level security analyst earns an average of $69,000 per year, with senior analysts earning $100,000 or more.
- Security Architect:
This position involves leading the project to plan and design the security system. A cyber security developer generally reports to someone in this role. The average salary for a security architect is $124,000, and ranges between $85,000 at the entry level to $166,000 or more for senior security architects.
- Security Engineer:
Those in this job hold responsibility for the development of solutions for increasing security for all systems and projects. The average salary for a security engineer is $93,000, and ranges from $64,000 to $137,000 and up from entry-level to senior jobs.
- Software Engineer:
Working with software designers, this key role requires developing the methods by which software functions work. The salary for a software engineer ranges between $77,000 for those just entering the field to $144,000 or more for senior engineers.
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Advancing from Here
A cyber security developer is considered a mid-range position. After gaining experience and additional certifications, the individual may advance to becoming a security architect or a security software architect.
Those wishing to advance may want to earn a graduate degree in cyber security. With a master’s degree in the field of computer science or software engineering, such professionals may run a company’s cyber security department or become Chief Technology Officer (CTO) or Chief Information Security Officer (CISO).
A CTO manages a company or organization’s technological needs as well as its tech research and development. The average salary for this position is $159,000. A CISO is in charge of developing information security policies and procedures for their company or organization. They manage the teams of IT professionals dealing with security issues and threats. CISOs may earn between $160-$170,000 or more annually.
Computer Career Paths