Get into Cybersecurity: Your Systems Engineer Experience Can Earn You a Cybersecurity Job

by Eileen Ristau Tauchman | Oct 29, 2018
From Systems Engineer to Cybersecurity

Updated with new data from CyberSeek in November 2018.

As a systems engineer, you are skilled in implementing new systems, fixing errors in existing systems and improving performance through hardware upgrades. These skills are so interchangeable that they can help lead you toward a career in cybersecurity.

If you currently work in networking, software development, systems engineering, financial and risk analysis, or security intelligence, you’re in luck because CyberSeek has outlined cybersecurity career pathways that begin with these roles, known as feeder roles. Feeder roles are stepping stones into certain cybersecurity jobs because of the similarities in skill requirements and significant skill overlap with multiple core cybersecurity roles.

This article is the third in a series about how to get into cybersecurity from these roles and will focus on how to get into cybersecurity from systems engineering.

Choose Your Own Cybersecurity Career

There are many opportunities for IT pros to start and advance their careers within cybersecurity. CyberSeek’s interactive career pathway shows key jobs within cybersecurity, common transition opportunities between them and detailed information about the salaries, credentials and skillsets associated with each role.

These core cybersecurity roles are the most commonly requested job categories across the cybersecurity ecosystem. They are classified as entry level, mid-level or advanced level based upon the experience, education levels and credentials requested by employers.

The Skills Needed for Cybersecurity

Your experience as a systems engineer gives you certain transferrable skills that can help you begin a career in cybersecurity as a cybersecurity specialist, cybersecurity analyst, cybersecurity engineer, security architect and many more.

The CyberSeek pathway showing the systems engineer feeder role
Click the image to go to the interactive pathway.

Learn About the Other CyberSeek Pathways and Feeder Roles

There are more than 260,000 open jobs in the United States in the systems engineering feeder role, and the following skills show that you have what it takes to transition into a cybersecurity role:

  • Cryptography
  • Network scanners
  • Information assurance
  • Security operations
  • Risk assessment
  • Risk management

These are the skills that workers in this feeder role will most likely need to develop to prepare for roles in cybersecurity.

Cybersecurity Degree Requirements

  • 9 percent do not require a bachelor’s degree
  • 67 percent require a bachelor’s degree
  • 24 percent require a graduate degree

Cybersecurity Experience Levels

All of this information is good to keep in mind while you are exploring a career in cybersecurity. Now let’s get a little more specific – what cybersecurity experience level is right for you? We’ve filtered through the information provided by CyberSeek by career level.

Entry-Level Cybersecurity Roles

Entry-level cybersecurity jobs require these skills the most, according to CyberSeek:

  • Information security
  • Information systems
  • Network security
  • Linux

The four entry-level cybersecurity job roles – cybersecurity specialist/technician, cybercrime analyst/investigator, incident analyst/responder and IT auditor – list information security as a top skill requested. If you are experienced in information security, then you already have the foundation for an entry-level cybersecurity career.

IT certifications can validate the skills you have and demonstrate to employers that you can do the job. CompTIA Security+, Certified Information Security Manager (CISM) and Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP) can be a good place to start in the entry-level category.

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CompTIA Security+ is the only one that assesses baseline cybersecurity skills through performance-based questions. It emphasizes hands-on practical skills, preparing security professionals to problem solve a wider variety of issues. If you don’t already have CompTIA Security+, consider the benefits it could bring to your career.

Entry-level cybersecurity roles in this track have an average salary of $86,250, so know that this is a fair salary if you transition into a cybersecurity role.

Mid-Level Cybersecurity Roles

If you’re further along in a systems engineering career and are looking to transition into cybersecurity, in addition to the skills listed in the entry-level category, being skilled in vulnerability assessment is highly desirable.

In addition to the certifications mentioned in the entry-level category, many mid-level job listings request GIAC and Certified Information Systems Auditor (CISA). In recent years, CompTIA has also released mid-level cybersecurity certifications that are becoming more popular: CompTIA Cybersecurity Analyst (CySA+) and CompTIA PenTest+.

The degree requirements for mid-level jobs are higher than those of entry-level jobs. An average of 73 percent of job listings in the mid-level systems engineering track require a bachelor’s degree, and an average of 19 percent require a graduate degree. When it comes to bachelor’s degrees, employers may not require a cybersecurity degree specifically. Another degree – whether technical, like computer science, or non-technical, like history – may be accepted if you have the right skills and experience.

Mid-level cybersecurity jobs that require degrees also command a higher salary. You can earn an average salary of $87,000 a year in a mid-level cybersecurity role.

Advanced-Level Cybersecurity Roles

If you’re a highly experienced systems engineer, you should consider one of the advanced-level cybersecurity roles – cybersecurity engineer and cybersecurity architect.

CyberSeek identified these five skills as most required for advanced-level cybersecurity roles:

  • Information security
  • Network security
  • Cisco
  • Cryptography
  • Project management

Like the other categories, information security still reigns supreme. Project management is another important skill to add to your repertoire, because as you move up the cybersecurity ladder, managing projects and project teams will become a larger part of your role. CompTIA Project+ can validate your IT project management skills, and as an added bonus, it’s one of the top 10 highest-paying IT certifications.

Another fun fact: the most requested certifications at the advanced level are the same as mid-level:

  • GIAC
  • Certified Information Systems Auditor (CISA)
  • Certified Information Security Manager (CISM)

The knowledge and skills that these certifications validate are common in both mid-level and advanced-level job roles, so earning these certifications can prove to employers that you have the knowledge it takes to be successful in your job.

CompTIA also has an advanced cybersecurity certification that can help you in your career: CompTIA Advanced Security Practitioner (CASP). CASP is a great option for cybersecurity professionals who want to want to continue working directly with cybersecurity technology and rather than moving into a management role.

The majority of job postings in the advanced-level track require higher education:

  • 68 percent require a bachelor’s degree
  • 25 percent require a graduate degree

But again, with higher education comes higher salary: the average salary for advanced-level cybersecurity job roles is $118,500.

As you can see, transitioning to a career in cybersecurity from systems engineering is not a crazy move. The skills you’ve developed in systems engineering have prepared you for this change, and CyberSeek can help you stay up to date on the skills and certifications needed to succeed in a cybersecurity career.

Check out the CompTIA Cybersecurity Career Pathway to see how CompTIA certifications can help you get into cybersecurity and advance your cybersecurity career.

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