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How to get a job as a security engineer: skills, qualifications, responsibilities and salary

Scott Carey | Aug. 26, 2016
The UK has a growing skills gap for security engineers, here's what you need to know about the sector

In a world where a teenager can remotely steal customers' bank and personal details and cause millions of pounds worth of damage to telecoms giant TalkTalk from his bedroom, the role of the security engineer has never been more important.

The risk of financial and reputational damage caused by a data breach has led to greater demand for security engineers, and a growing skills gap.

A Global Information Security Workforce Study cited by former Chancellor George Osborne in a speech in November predicts a 1.5 million employee shortage in the sector by 2020. "We will never succeed in keeping Britain safe in cyberspace unless we have more people with the cyber skills that we need," Osborne told the Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ).

However, with a growing skills gap comes greater opportunity for a fulfilling and lucrative career as a security engineer. Here's what you need to know.

What is a security engineer?

Typical responsibilities for a security engineer will include installing and maintaining hardware and software (firewalls, antivirus, intrusion detection) to reduce security risks within an organisation, information security, penetration testing of these systems and ensuring staff are up to date with the latest security procedures.

Andrew Rogoyski vice president of cyber security services at UK IT outsourcing company CGI says that the security engineer role is about "building and maintaining IT security solutions that help organisations stay protected against cyber threats." This differs from a security analyst, who is concerned with "organisational awareness, governance and policy and risk management".

Security engineer jobs: skills and qualifications

In terms of qualifications, employers will expect a bachelor's degree in a technical subject, such as computer science, cyber security, mathematics, engineering or science.

Sites like HackerRank allow candidates to show off their skills regardless of formal qualifications though, and companies are starting to cast their net wider as the skills gap grows. Trevor Halstead, product specialist in Talent Services at open source cyber security training portal Cybrary said to Computerworld UK: "If IT and security talent can prove they are proficient in the skillsets you are looking for, then what's holding you back from hiring them?"

Experience in network security is beneficial, and certification with industry standard technologies like Juniper, Blue Coat, Checkpoint, Palo Alto Networks, Cisco IOS or Sophos Enterprise Portal would be a bonus. There are also a range of internationally recognised certifications from organisations such as CompTIA and (ISC).

Security engineer jobs: Salary expectations

Recruitment startup Hired's Mind The Skills Gap report shows that security engineers have seen the highest rise in salary offer over the past 18 months in the UK, with the salary offers rising by 31 percent in that time.


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