How to become a cybersecurity architect
Cybersecurity architects play an indispensable role in protecting a company’s networks, data and sensitive information from thieves and outsiders. If you’re a high-achieving cybersecurity professional who enjoys leading security teams and designing complex security systems, then a career as a cybersecurity architect may be perfect for you.
Cybersecurity is a rapidly growing field with excellent opportunities for career growth and leadership. Information security skills are consistently in high demand among employers, and cybersecurity architects can look forward to a competitive salary.
This article is here to give you a crash course on what it’s like to be a cybersecurity architect and how to get started in this exciting career field.
What is a cybersecurity architect?
What exactly does a cybersecurity architect do? For the most part, cybersecurity architects are responsible for creating and maintaining corporate security structures and ensuring that they function as designed. As high-level leaders, they also supervise security teams and have a hand in creating security-related policies and procedures.
Cybersecurity architects are corporate leaders with a hacker mindset, constantly predicting and outmaneuvering cybercriminals looking for exploits. The security systems you design will foil potential attacks like malware, denial of service attacks, and hacker intrusions.
At some companies, the role of cybersecurity architect may go by other common job titles like security architect, information security architect, senior security architect or IT security architect. Although the name might be different, the core duties of the job are essentially going to be the same.
Cybersecurity architect career path
Keep in mind that cybersecurity architect is a senior position. If you’re new to the information security field, you’ll have to work your way up through entry- and mid-level positions first. While there’s no hard-and-fast number for how many years of experience you need, you should plan on gaining at least five years of related work history prior to becoming a cybersecurity architect.
Cybersecurity architects often start off in one of the following careers:
- Security administrator
- Cybersecurity specialist/technician
- System administrator
- Network administrator
After gaining a few years of entry-level experience, you can then move up to one of the following mid-level positions:
- Security analyst
- Security engineer
- Penetration & vulnerability tester
- Security consultant
Any of these positions will provide you with the training and expertise you need to become a cybersecurity architect. To map out your career trajectory, check out the CyberSeek Career Pathways tool; this interactive tool will fill you in on the steps you need to take before becoming a high-ranking cybersecurity architect.
There are certain skills cybersecurity architects should have in their repertoire. While the exact skills will vary a bit from company to company, there are specific key areas that all cybersecurity architects should be knowledgeable about.
As general as this term sounds, cybersecurity architects should be experts in information security as it relates to their company’s technology solutions. You’ll be responsible for building robust security architectures from the ground up, starting with the research and planning phase all the way through implementation and ongoing maintenance. One of your primary goals is to ensure the security structures are functioning as planned by performing tests and upgrades. This requires a broad, expert-level understanding of information security.
Another major responsibility of cybersecurity architects is protecting your company’s computer networks from external threats. You should be knowledgeable about network infrastructure as it relates to approving and reviewing the installation of routers, firewalls and VPN technologies.
You’ll also play a role in establishing requirements for virtual private networks (VPNs), local area networks (LANs) and wide area networks (WANs), firewalls, routers and related network devices.
Cybersecurity architects should have a strong understanding of cryptography and encryption technology to ensure that sensitive information and communications are kept secret from unauthorized users.
You will need to understand your company’s security architecture inside and out, both its strengths and weaknesses. Cybercriminals are constantly crawling through your networks looking for exploits, so you’ll want to find those weaknesses and shore them up before they’re discovered by thieves.
You’ll lead tasks like vulnerability testing, security assessments and risk analyses. To ensure the strength and effectiveness of corporate security systems, you’ll also spearhead efforts to regularly update and upgrade them.
Since cybersecurity architect is a senior-level role, you will also be responsible for higher-level leadership duties like project and personnel management. You’ll need to be organized and deadline-focused enough to handle major projects like creating and implementing corporate security policies and procedures.
As a cybersecurity leader, you will also be tasked with providing training and technical supervision to a security team. Being an effective leader means having strong communication and interpersonal skills on top of your expert-level technical training.
Cybersecurity architects are high-level professionals, and the majority of them have college degrees. Of recent job postings, 69% require a bachelor’s degree and an additional 27% would like job applicants to have a graduate degree.
In the past, it was common for people to break into information security without a college education, but today, only 2% of job listings accept a sub-bachelor’s degree education level. Numbers don’t lie: If you want to become a cybersecurity architect, you’ll need a college degree. Degrees in computer science, business information systems and information technology will give you the academic preparation you need to succeed as a cybersecurity professional.
In a fast-paced, highly technical field like information security, certifications are a great way to learn new skills as well as update skills you’ve learned in the past. The following certifications are excellent springboards for getting started as a cybersecurity architect:
- CompTIA Security+
- CEH (Certified Ethical Hacker)
- CISM (Certified Information Security Manager)
- GIAC®️ (GCIA/GSEC/GCIH)
- CISA (Certified Information Systems Auditor)
- Information Systems Certification
In the last few minutes, we’ve covered some of the skills, education, certifications and experience you will need to successfully tackle the role of cybersecurity architect.
So what do you think? Can you picture an exciting career as a cybersecurity architect in your future? If you think this is the perfect career for you, you can get started by picking up a couple of important certifications. The certifications mentioned above will teach you some of the technical knowledge you need to become a successful cybersecurity architect, in addition to proving to employers that you’re the right fit for the job.
Ready to get started? Check out some of Infosec’s resources to learn how you can pass your certification exams with flying colors!