What is a network security engineer? Network security roles and responsibilities focus on protecting an organization’s computer networks from cyberattacks, breaches, and similar activities. Network security experts are in high demand: The US Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) reported a 62% annual rise in cyberattacks between 2021 and 2022. As such, employers in nearly every sector are looking to fill network security roles.
Read on to learn more about what is a network security engineer, network security roles and responsibilities, and career paths for network security engineers.
What Roles Are There in Network Security?
Companies invest heavily in cybersecurity software and processes to protect organizational information from network breaches. If you plan to work in network security, your job title may be some variation on either “network security engineer” or “network security architect.”
Network Security Engineer
A network security engineer is responsible for every aspect of data safety in a network, ensuring there are minimum vulnerabilities by adopting and integrating the latest technology to prevent malicious attacks. A network security engineer job description often includes:
Making sure system backups are running in case of a security attack
Implementing network security blueprints prepared by security architects
Managing information and data access
Maintaining and updating firewalls and testing the organization’s network and systems
The role of a network security engineer, also potentially called a network architect or cybersecurity engineer, involves a wide range of expertise. A network security engineer’s average annual salary is $128,441, with entry-level earnings starting around $90,421. As a network security engineer, you are expected to have a deep understanding of your company’s security products and how they work together.
Network Security Architect
A network security architect, also known as a security architect, analyzes and designs the safety protocols implemented in a network. As a security architect, you’ll map out your organization’s information security structure and identify areas where access authorization is needed. The network security roles and responsibilities for security architects include:
Building blueprints, models, and strategies to strengthen the security of networks
Testing existing safety systems and protocols
Monitoring and improving identity security across a computer system
Simulating cyberattacks to determine vulnerabilities within existing systems
The average annual salary of a network security architect is $132,332, while entry-level roles usually start around $95,717. A network security engineer and architect work together to ensure a security system is strong enough to prevent cyberattacks. Their roles and responsibilities share similarities and together provide a well-rounded system to protect an organization’s data.
What Are the Responsibilities of a Network Security Engineer?
So, we’ve got a high level view of what network security roles and responsibilities are – now how does that translate into the work itself? Let’s take a closer look at the network security engineer job description and what a network engineer does in their day-to-day life.
Network maintenance — Ensure computer networks operate seamlessly and adapt organizational network security to suit the company’s changing capacity. Through network maintenance, network engineers reduce downtime and disruptions while making certain all systems and computers run successfully.
Network security — Deal with cyberattacks. Network engineers identify the most effective systems and preventive protocols to handle cyberattacks, malware, and viruses, and monitor networks for any suspicious activity.
Cyber security analysis — Simulate cyberattacks and conduct penetration testing. Network engineers analyze the vulnerabilities in an organization’s network by identifying threat patterns and possibilities for a security breach.
Cyber security processes implementation — Set up processes that mitigate and hasten recovery from cyberattacks, including emergency response protocols.
While the key network security roles and responsibilities remain similar across multiple organizations, particular industries or sectors may influence the types of risks you handle as a network security professional. For example, health care organizations will have different legal security considerations from financial institutions. An ecommerce marketplace will face different security threats compared to a university’s network. If you are drawn to a particular sector, it’s likely you’ll find a variety of cybersecurity roles within the field’s respective employers, and can develop a set of network security engineer skills specific to that industry.
Employers for Network Security Roles
With an ever-increasing digitalized workplace, the demand for network security professionals increases significantly every year. When deciding on the type of network security role you want to pursue, you can aim to be employed by an organization or operate as an independent freelancer.
If you choose to work as a network security engineer in a for-profit company, you may become a member of a larger IT team. Your duties often involve maintaining the organization’s network security including regular maintenance, updating system processes, and collaborating on projects with colleagues.
Working in organizations can help you gain valuable experience and understand an organization’s network infrastructure in more detail. You also have access to career development opportunities and the chance to make connections with professionals in your field, which could be useful as you progress in your career.
Compared to being a salaried employee, freelancing as a network engineer offers you more freedom in both your working style and the type of projects you take on. Freelancing comes with more risks than a salaried position, since you are running a one-person business, which may expand in the future based on how you plan to offer your services.
Maintaining a brand presence and networking through professional platforms is crucial to expand your client base as a freelancer. With competitive pricing, time management, and marketing activities, you can begin a successful freelancing career as a network engineering professional.
Now that you know what is a network security engineer, let’s take a look at what you need to do to become one.
How Do I Get a Job in Network Security?
Employers looking to hire network security engineers often look for applicants with a STEM-related degree with a concentration in network security, along with soft skills such as communication, adaptability, and problem-solving. It is also important to have a thorough understanding of networks, familiarity with or awareness of the latest technology, in-depth programming knowledge, and customer relations skills.
Most jobs in network security require a bachelor’s degree. The degree covers the core theoretical knowledge and technical skills needed to demonstrate to your employers that you are capable of handling security for the organization’s systems.
Curriculum for these degrees usually covers encryption, data protection, building firewalls, safeguarding information systems, and more. During your degree, you may apply for internship and mentorship programs that give you the opportunity to gain hands-on experience with developing code, analyzing network security threats, and finding solutions for real-world problems. Certain university departments may even make an internship a mandatory requirement for completing your degree.
A bachelor’s degree qualifies you to apply for entry-level positions in many roles. You can even choose to pursue a master’s degree, such as a computer science master’s degree, allowing you to apply for more high-ranking positions in the network security field.
Here are some Shorelight universities offering degrees with a concentration in network security:
At the Samuel Ginn College of Engineering at Auburn University, students can pursue a Bachelor of Science in Computer Science or a Master of Science in Computer Science and Software Engineering. Programs are designed to cover subjects such as computer science, database systems, and computer networks while offering hands-on learning opportunities with a variety of computer systems, tools, and techniques.
University of Dayton
Ranked #127 nationally in the US by U.S. News & World Report, the University of Dayton offers both a Bachelor of Science and a Master of Science in Computer Engineering through its College of Arts and Sciences and College of Engineering. As a National Center of Academic Excellence in Cyber Defense, UDayton offers students the chance to participate in industry learning projects and learn from experts in the field.
Roosevelt University’s College of Arts and Sciences offers a Master of Science in Cyber Security and Information Assurance. The program is taught by expert faculty dedicated to providing an individualized learning experience on key areas of cyber security. Roosevelt is equipped with state-of-art-lab facilities for students to conduct high-end research and explore innovative solutions in network security.
While your degree can help you build the foundational skills required for a network security career, employers also look for communication and leadership skills to determine whether you are a good fit for the role and company.
As a network security professional, developing a comprehensive skill set can give you a competitive edge and allows you to stand out to employers or potential clients. Some of the most important skills to have as a network security professional include:
Adaptability — Configure your theoretical knowledge and soft skills to complicated real-world scenarios.
Communication — Clearly explain network security threats and safety protocols to both technical and non-technical coworkers and employers, along with effective prevention strategies.
Programming languages — Demonstrate a broad understanding of programming languages such as Java, Python, Perl, and C++.
Time management — Prioritize duties and tasks within agreed-upon schedules.
As a network security professional, you are responsible for ensuring an organization’s network security and protection systems are well-defended. It is important to be prepared for a variety of challenging network security roles and responsibilities, while also showcasing creative solutions to complex network security problems.
If you are ready to take the next step towards a lucrative network security career, a Shorelight advisor can assist you in selecting an ideal program that suits your goals. From application assistance, choosing your university, building career development plans, and more, a Shorelight education counselor can help you begin your journey into the network security industry!
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