One of the most sought-after careers in information security is the cybersecurity engineer role, and for good reason. Information security professionals who find themselves in this position get to use a broad information security skill set, help organizations secure their information environments from hackers and get a firsthand opportunity to further develop their skill set on the job. What may be even more attractive is the pay that this role earns.
This article will detail cybersecurity engineer salaries and explore different factors that will help determine how much this role can earn. Its goal is to serve as a general guide for the cybersecurity engineer salary landscape in 2019. However, this article is not a guarantee of how much you yourself may earn working in this role.
The role of cybersecurity engineer
Before you examine anything properly, you must first define the universe you are examining. Cybersecurity engineers are information security professionals tasked with protecting computer, information, and networking systems from cyberattacks, hacking, and persistent threats. This role may go by another name depending on the organization, including IT/IS security engineer.
There are also other cybersecurity engineer roles with a specific focus, including that of application security engineer, which may allow for a higher pay scale — but more on this point later.
Cybersecurity engineer requirements
To work as a cybersecurity engineer, you need to meet certain requirements, although these are not set in stone. First, you will need to earn a Bachelor of Science degree — preferably one in computer information systems, computer science, information technology or a related field. Next, you will need to have five to ten years of information security experience. These requirements may vary from organization to organization and will have a noticeable impact on your salary, which will be explored later.
Cybersecurity engineer salary
As mentioned earlier, salary is one of the biggest pros of working as a cybersecurity engineer and according to PayScale, the numbers prove it. As a national average, cybersecurity engineers can expect to earn a median income of $93,815. This figure is more than double the median income of the national average wage, which is $47,060. While a cybersecurity engineer’s salary may not make you as wealthy as the tech elite in Silicon Valley, you will be living comfortably.
What’s even better is that this figure is only the national average for all cybersecurity engineers, and it is not the ceiling by any means. Cybersecurity engineers at the mid-career level can expect to earn $96,629. Experienced cybersecurity engineers earn $114,454, while those in the late stage of their career will take home an impressive $127,588. You will clearly not be living paycheck-to-paycheck.
There are other factors that affect your cybersecurity engineer salary apart from the number of years of experience you have. Below are the main factors that will increase your salary for this role.
One of the most important factors determining how much you will earn is your skill level, or in other words, how valuable you will be perceived to be by the organization. While five to ten years of information security experience is generally expected, not all experience is the same.
Candidates that have five years of high-level information security experience will probably be more useful as cybersecurity engineers than a candidate with the same number of years in a role that was less skill-intensive. This value is most often expressed with a better salary.
While most organizations require a bachelor’s degree, some require a master’s degree. This will give your cybersecurity engineer salary a healthy boost, because organizations generally demand a master’s degree when there is a greater demand for higher-level or specialized skills.
Another great way to ensure you get paid more than the national average is to earn cybersecurity engineer certifications (if you have not done so already). While there are no statistics that measure how much specific certifications will boost your pay, most relevant certifications should help you snag a better salary. Some examples of relevant cybersecurity engineer certifications include Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP), Certified Ethical Hacking (CEH) and GIAC®️ Security Essentials (GSEC).
As a rule of thumb, having a specialized skill set will help you earn more, and the cybersecurity engineer role is no exception. This does alter the job title you will hold, but this name change is due to the heavy use of said specialized skills.
As some food for thought, consider this. According to ZipRecruiter, application security engineers can expect an average salary of $131,956 — about 50% more than the national average for cybersecurity engineers!
Specific metropolitan area
Investing in your career with skills, education and certifications is not the only way to increase your pay as a cybersecurity engineer. What would you say if I told you that there is a more down-to-earth factor at play here? Well, there is — the city that you live in. This can have a significant impact on your cybersecurity engineer salary and the numbers go the distance in proving this point.
Below are some examples of the average salaries in some popular metropolitan areas in the United States:
National average: $93,815
San Francisco, California: $125,712
New York City, New York: $122,898
Washington, District of Columbia: $104,134
Charlotte, North Carolina: $100,382
San Diego, California: $97,568
Atlanta, Georgia: $91,939
As you can see, metropolitan area can have a significant impact on your cybersecurity engineer strategy. In some cases, you may earn less than the national average, as was demonstrated by Atlanta. Takeaway: Aim for San Francisco or NYC.
The role of cybersecurity engineer is currently one of the hottest in the information security field. Organizations are increasingly demanding this role to be in their rosters because of the value they give organizations.
While cybersecurity engineers are expected to have a high median salary out of the box, the proverbial buck does not stop there. Applying other factors to your career — including more education, more certifications and moving to a big city — will help you get paid significantly more than the national average for this already high pay rate. Without a doubt, cybersecurity engineers get paid well, and they get paid even better if make the right moves.