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Security Engineer Skills And Responsibilities

Updated: Jun 30

Security Engineers have always made good money. Given the importance of security in the digital world, it’s no wonder that they continue to be some of the highest-paid IT professionals in the world even today.

Job description and responsibilities of a security engineer 2023

As of 2023, salaries for security engineers start at around $60,000 annually. But that’s for freshers. Add a few years of experience and you’re looking at an average of $80,000. Right certifications will take you to the median of $118,000.

The right skillset, coupled with experience and certifications will take you to around $200,000 quite easily. In fact, on our job board, we see annual salaries over $250,000 quite regularly.

So, what are the skills you need to become a security engineer and what are the responsibilities of a security engineer in 2023?

That’s what we’ll look at in this blog. Let’s get right into it.

The job description of a security engineer

What is a security engineer?

Security engineers are in charge of building security systems. This means that they implement security controls in order to protect the company’s data.

It doesn’t stop there, of course. You’ll have to test and monitor systems, manage incidents, develop security policies, conduct audits, and keep yourself abreast of the latest developments in cyber security.

The roles and responsibilities of a security engineer:

Designing Secure Network Systems and Infrastructures

One of the core responsibilities of a Security Engineer is designing secure network systems and infrastructures - a task that forms the foundation of any robust cybersecurity strategy.

This process involves developing an in-depth understanding of the organization's technology stack, identifying potential vulnerabilities, and architecting systems to counter cyber threats effectively.

This begins with a thorough assessment of an organization's network infrastructure. Security Engineers must understand the complexities of the existing setup - servers, devices, and applications - and the way they interact with one another.

This granular insight into the system landscape enables the engineer to pinpoint potential weak spots and craft strategies to reinforce them.

Next, a Security Engineer will design a security infrastructure that protects these systems without hindering productivity.

This involves determining the most suitable security controls - firewalls, encryption protocols, intrusion detection systems, and more - and configuring them optimally.

It also includes determining access controls and authentication protocols to ensure that only authorized personnel can access sensitive data.

Testing and monitoring system defenses

When it comes to security, vigilance is the key to survival. For a Security Engineer, testing and monitoring system defenses are paramount duties that ensure an organization's digital fortifications remain impenetrable.

Security Engineers routinely perform testing to validate the strength of system defenses. This involves conducting penetration testing or "ethical hacking," where they simulate attacks to assess how well the system can withstand them.

These tests uncover vulnerabilities and provide actionable insights to reinforce weak points, thereby enhancing the system's overall security.

Beyond active testing, Security Engineers also monitor system defenses continually. They use advanced security tools to track and analyze network traffic, detect unusual activity, and identify potential threats.

This constant surveillance enables them to spot attempted intrusions and respond swiftly, often neutralizing threats before they can cause substantial damage.

Moreover, monitoring provides valuable data over time, helping engineers identify patterns, predict potential attack vectors, and refine defense strategies accordingly.

This iterative process of monitoring, learning, and adapting is what keeps an organization's security posture robust and dynamic.

Responding to network security breaches

A key aspect of a Security Engineer's role is a swift and effective response to network security breaches. Despite the most stringent security measures, breaches can occur, and when they do, it's the Security Engineer's duty to minimize the impact and prevent future incidents.

The initial phase of response involves detection and assessment. Security Engineers must quickly identify the breach, understand its scale, and determine the type of threat involved.

Rapid detection and accurate assessment are critical to limiting the damage and taking appropriate corrective actions.

The containment phase follows, where the security engineer works to isolate affected systems and stop the spread of the breach. This process helps safeguard unaffected areas of the network and prevents further data loss or disruption.

The recovery phase involves eliminating the threat from the system, restoring operations to normal, and possibly strengthening security measures based on the insights gained from the breach.

Forensic analysis may be conducted to understand the breach's root cause, which informs future defense strategies.

Lastly, Security Engineers document the incident, detailing the breach, its impact, the response, and lessons learned. This record serves as a vital resource for refining the organization's incident response plan and enhancing overall network security.

Developing organization-wide best practices for IT security

Security Engineers develop best practices based on an in-depth understanding of the organization's network, its unique threats, and the industry's regulatory requirements.

They consider factors such as the type of data handled by the organization, user access levels, hardware and software in use, and current cybersecurity trends.

The goal is to create an environment where security is ingrained in the organization's DNA, where every individual understands their role in maintaining cybersecurity.

These best practices can range from password policies, data handling procedures, and safe browsing practices, to more advanced measures like using secure network connections and regularly updating and patching software.

Security Engineers also play a crucial role in disseminating these best practices, often conducting regular training sessions to ensure that all employees are aware of their responsibilities in preserving cybersecurity.

Creating and implementing security policies and protocols

Creating and implementing security policies and protocols ensures that there is a structured and uniform approach to managing cybersecurity risks across the organization.

These policies and protocols serve as a guidebook that defines how the organization, its employees, and its systems handle, store, and secure sensitive data.

They set out the expectations for appropriate behavior, delineate responsibilities, and detail procedures for common security-related tasks.

Creating these guidelines requires a comprehensive understanding of the organization's IT environment, its business objectives, potential threats, regulatory requirements, and industry best practices.

The Security Engineer uses this knowledge to craft policies that are relevant, realistic, and robust.

These may include protocols for data encryption, guidelines for password management, procedures for dealing with security incidents, rules for access controls, policies for network security, and more.

Once created, these policies must be communicated and enforced across the organization, often involving training sessions, policy reviews, and audits.

Conducting regular system audits

Regular system audits are an essential duty of a Security Engineer, acting as a health check that gauges the effectiveness of an organization's cybersecurity measures.

Through these audits, Security Engineers assess the efficiency and adequacy of the security controls in place.

They check if security policies and protocols are being followed if the systems are updated with the latest patches, and if there are any new vulnerabilities that have not been addressed.

The audit process often includes steps such as reviewing firewall configurations, examining access controls, verifying data encryption standards, testing backup systems, and even conducting penetration testing to identify potential weak points.

These system audits provide a wealth of information that helps maintain the integrity and robustness of an organization's cybersecurity infrastructure.

They highlight areas that need improvement, confirm the areas that are functioning well, and enable Security Engineers to make informed decisions about where to focus their efforts.

Additionally, regular audits ensure that an organization remains compliant with the myriad of regulations and standards that govern data security in various industries.

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Who hires security engineers?

It used to be that IT jobs were quite restricted to the IT industry. If you were a computer science engineer, you would, in all probability, be hired by an IT company.

Thanks to the speed at which IT has become a part of every other industry, that’s not the case anymore. It’s the same with Security Engineers. You can expect to work in a wide variety of industries.


This one’s quite obvious, of course. Tech companies handle incredible amounts of sensitive data, which makes security a top priority. Security engineers in this sector protect intellectual property, safeguard customer data, and secure networks and databases against potential threats.

Financial Services:

The finance sector deals with critical data related to financial transactions, making it a prime target for cybercriminals.

Security engineers are tasked with safeguarding digital assets, customer information, and transaction data. They also ensure compliance with financial regulations such as the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS).

Healthcare Industry:

With the digitization of health records and the advent of telemedicine, the healthcare sector is increasingly susceptible to cyber threats.

Security engineers in this field protect sensitive patient data, secure healthcare technologies, and ensure compliance with regulations such as the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA).

Government Agencies:

Protecting citizen data and national security information is paramount in the public sector. Security engineers in government roles work to secure critical infrastructure and state secrets, often collaborating with law enforcement to combat domestic and international threats.


With the rise of online shopping, retail companies are responsible for safeguarding customer transaction data. Security engineers in this industry focus on protecting data and preventing breaches that could result in financial loss and reputational damage.

For context, Home Depot got hacked in 2014. It was the self-checkout system that they targeted. Home Depot had to pay around $200 Million in fines and the case is still going on today. It invited a whole series of investigations into the company. Never a good thing.

Education Sector:

This isn’t just about school libraries. If there’s one industry where IT is just ubiquitous, it’s education. You can read books online, kids use computers to study, school tablets are everywhere, tests are taken online, psychiatric evaluations are done online — the list goes on and on and on.

Educational institutions now house vast amounts of personal data of students, faculty, and staff, as well as intellectual property. Security engineers help protect these digital assets and comply with laws such as the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA).

Telecommunication Industry:

In an industry that forms the backbone of digital communication, security engineers work to ensure the secure transmission of data over networks, protecting systems from breaches that could disrupt services and compromise user data.

Manufacturing Industry:

As modern manufacturing becomes increasingly digitized and connected (Industry 4.0), the need for security engineers rises. They protect sensitive data, Intellectual Property (IP), and Operational Technology (OT) from cyber threats.

Energy Sector:

The energy industry's increasing reliance on smart grids and Internet of Things (IoT) devices opens it to cyber threats. Security engineers work to secure these systems, protecting the critical infrastructure that societies heavily depend on.

Transportation Industry:

As transportation systems become more digital and connected, they become more vulnerable to cyber-attacks. Security engineers in this sector work to secure systems and protect sensitive data, ensuring the reliability and safety of transportation services.

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Important Security Engineer Skills in 2023

Expertise in Security Tools and Products

Cybersecurity is an industry that moves fast. That’s because cyber threats are never the same for an extended duration. The type of attacks, the modes of attacks, the tools used to attack, the origins of cyber attacks — they’re constantly changing.

Being a security engineer requires adaptability. This means that you need to be very good at using security tools and products. Here are a few important ones:

  • Intrusion Detection Systems (IDS) and Intrusion Prevention Systems (IPS): Tools such as Snort, Suricata, and Cisco's FirePOWER provide real-time monitoring and proactive defense mechanisms against potential cyber threats.

  • Security Information and Event Management (SIEM): Platforms like Splunk, LogRhythm, and IBM QRadar are essential for gathering and analyzing security data, detecting anomalies, and providing actionable insights for threat mitigation.

  • Firewall and Network Security: Proficiency in configuring and managing firewalls like Palo Alto Networks, Check Point, and Fortinet, and network security appliances is crucial for protecting the network perimeter.

  • Vulnerability Assessment and Penetration Testing (VAPT) Tools: Mastery of tools like Nessus, Qualys, and Metasploit facilitates conducting thorough security audits, identifying vulnerabilities, and testing defenses.

  • Encryption Technologies: Familiarity with encryption tools and products like VeraCrypt, OpenSSL, and BitLocker ensures the secure transmission and storage of sensitive data.

  • Identity and Access Management (IAM): Knowledge of IAM tools like Okta and Microsoft Active Directory is crucial for managing user access, ensuring only authorized individuals can access specific network resources.

Proficiency in programming languages

Python is pretty much the most popular, useful language here. The fact that it’s simple, flexible, and has power libraries means that security engineers use it all the time.

Some of the benefits of Python for security engineers are listed below:

  • Automation and Scripting: Python enables Security Engineers to automate repetitive tasks, like log analysis, network scanning, or system updates. Automating these tasks increases efficiency and allows engineers to focus on more complex security issues.

  • Security Tool Development: Python's extensive libraries and easy syntax make it an ideal language for developing custom security tools. Engineers can write scripts for custom intrusion detection systems, vulnerability scanners, or penetration testing tools.

  • Data Analysis: Python's powerful data analysis libraries like Pandas and NumPy can process large volumes of log data or network traffic data, providing valuable insights into potential security threats or anomalies.

  • Exploit Development: Python is also used in exploit development, allowing Security Engineers to test their system defenses and understand how attackers might exploit system vulnerabilities.

  • Incident Response: During a security incident, Python scripts can be used for quick data gathering, system remediation, or analysis of the breach.

If you’re thinking of becoming a security engineer, Python is a must-have skill.

Experience with cloud security and virtualization

As more organizations migrate their operations to the cloud, a Security Engineer's experience with cloud security and virtualization is a skill that can't be overlooked.

Cloud Security:

An understanding of cloud infrastructure (IaaS), platform (PaaS), and software (SaaS) security is vital. Security Engineers need to know how to protect data and applications that reside in the cloud, ensuring they're secure from cyber threats.

They should be familiar with different cloud service models, shared responsibility models, and cloud-specific vulnerabilities.

This includes experience with security features of leading cloud platforms like AWS, Azure, and Google Cloud, such as their identity and access management tools, data encryption methods, and network security controls.

Virtualization Security:

Virtualization, whether it's of server, network, or storage, poses unique security challenges.

Security Engineers must understand how to secure virtual environments, which includes securing virtual machines, protecting hypervisors, managing virtual networks, and implementing security controls in a virtualized infrastructure.

They need to be familiar with tools and strategies that provide visibility into virtual environments and protect against threats.

Cloud Compliance and Governance:

Security Engineers should be aware of various cloud compliance requirements (like GDPR, CCPA, and HIPAA) and how to implement governance strategies in the cloud. This involves setting up cloud security policies, managing cloud access, and regularly auditing cloud security.

Incident Response in Cloud:

Experience in handling security incidents in cloud environments is essential. This includes detecting breaches, responding to incidents, and understanding how to recover in a cloud context.

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Knowledge of Cybersecurity Frameworks

Compliance and adherence to various frameworks is a huge part of a security engineer’s job. This means that security engineers have to be well-versed in the most important ones.

NIST Cybersecurity Framework:

Developed by NIST, this framework provides a set of best practices, standards, and guidelines that organizations can apply to improve their cybersecurity posture.

It consists of five core functions - Identify, Protect, Detect, Respond, and Recover - providing a strategic view of the lifecycle of an organization’s management of cybersecurity risk.

A Security Engineer with a firm grasp of the NIST framework can effectively assess and improve an organization's ability to prevent, detect, and respond to cyber-attacks.

ISO 27001:

This international standard outlines the specifications for an information security management system (ISMS). It helps organizations manage their security practices in one place, consistently and cost-effectively.

Security Engineers familiar with ISO 27001 can help ensure that robust security controls are in place and that the organization meets its legal obligations.

Other Frameworks:

Knowledge of other frameworks, such as the CIS (Center for Internet Security) Critical Security Controls for effective cyber defense, or PCI DSS (Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard) for companies that handle cardholder data, is also beneficial.

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Understanding of Ethical Hacking and Penetration Testing

Ethical hacking:

Also known as white-hat hacking, this involves legally breaking into systems to discover potential exploits and vulnerabilities that a malicious hacker could use.

Ethical hackers use the same techniques as their malicious counterparts but with the intent to secure, not harm, the systems.

A Security Engineer with expertise in ethical hacking can identify vulnerabilities before they can be exploited, allowing the organization to preemptively strengthen its defenses.

Penetration Testing

This is a specific method of ethical hacking that involves simulating cyber attacks on a computer system, network, or web application to evaluate its security.

The tester often uses various tools and techniques to attempt to exploit security vulnerabilities. Penetration testing helps Security Engineers identify security flaws and validate existing security measures.

Incident Response and Remediation:

Understanding ethical hacking and penetration testing isn't only about finding vulnerabilities.

It's also about knowing how to respond effectively to these findings, which includes patching vulnerabilities, improving security controls, and, if necessary, changing organizational processes.

Legal and Ethical Implications:

Security Engineers should understand the legal and ethical boundaries in which ethical hacking and penetration testing operate. This ensures that all testing is conducted responsibly and professionally.

Security Engineer education and qualifications

Bachelor’s Degree in Computer Science, Cybersecurity, or Related Fields:

This is the common starting point for many Security Engineers. These degree programs provide an understanding of computing systems, programming languages, data structures, and algorithms.

Cybersecurity-focused degrees also cover critical areas like cryptography, network security, and information assurance.

Master’s Degree in Cybersecurity or Information Security:

While not always required, a master's degree can provide a more specialized knowledge base and may give a competitive edge in the job market. Such programs delve deeper into topics like threat management, secure software design, and security governance.


There are quite a few industry-standard certifications that security engineers can pursue. These certifications are usually designed for professionals with some degree of experience.

The advantage of these certifications is that they are usually recognized around the world and companies are willing to pay quite a lot to professionals who have these certifications.

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Certifications for security engineers:

Certifications are super important in cyber security. There are quite a few professionals who come from non cyber security backgrounds. Also, the security for each company is quite different. So, there’s no real way to understand how good a security engineer is.

That’s why certifications are so prevalent in the industry. They help standardize the industry. Some of the more important certifications are listed below.

Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP):

Offered by (ISC)², CISSP is a globally recognized advanced-level certification. It confirms a candidate's ability to design, implement, and manage a best-in-class cybersecurity program.

It covers eight domains of information security, making it comprehensive and ideal for experienced and ambitious security professionals.

Certified Information Security Manager (CISM):

Offered by ISACA, CISM is aimed at management and focuses on the governance of information security. It's recognized worldwide as a leading credential for the management of an enterprise’s information security.

CompTIA Security+:

This certification is a globally recognized credential that validates baseline cybersecurity skills. It covers core security functions and is a springboard for a career in security. It's often the first certification that aspiring Security Engineers obtain.

Certified Ethical Hacker (CEH):

Offered by EC-Council, CEH certification validates a professional's knowledge of how to find weaknesses and vulnerabilities in systems using the same tools and techniques as malicious hackers, but in a lawful manner.

Certified Cloud Security Professional (CCSP):

Another certification from (ISC)², the CCSP is a global credential that represents the highest standard for cloud security expertise. It validates advanced technical skills and knowledge to design, manage and secure data, applications, and infrastructure in the cloud.

Offensive Security Certified Professional (OSCP):

OSCP is a hands-on and well-respected certification that demonstrates a professional's ability to identify vulnerabilities, create and modify exploit code, and successfully compromise vulnerable systems in a controlled and legal environment.

SANS/GIAC Certifications:

The Global Information Assurance Certification (GIAC), provided by SANS, offers more than 30 security certifications across different levels and specialties. These certifications are known for their practical focus and rigor.

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The career path for security engineers


The journey typically starts with a Bachelor's degree in Computer Science, Information Technology, Cybersecurity, or a related field.

This lays the groundwork for computing systems, programming languages, and data structures. Some may further pursue a Master's degree in Cybersecurity or a related field for more specialized knowledge.

Entry-Level Roles:

Graduates often enter the field in roles such as Network Administrator, Systems Administrator, or IT Analyst. These roles provide practical experience in managing and supporting IT infrastructure and systems.


While gaining practical experience, it's useful to earn industry-recognized certifications like CompTIA Security+, Certified Ethical Hacker (CEH), or Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP). These certifications validate a professional's cybersecurity knowledge and skills.

Security Engineer:

Once you have the necessary experience and credentials, professionals can transition to the role of Security Engineer. In this role, you’ll design, implement, and maintain secure systems and networks, monitor for security breaches, conduct system audits, and develop organization-wide security policies.

Senior Roles:

With substantial experience and a proven track record, Security Engineers can move into senior roles like Security Architect, where they design complex security systems and strategies.

Security Manager, where they oversee an organization's security program; or Chief Information Security Officer (CISO), where they assume the highest level of cybersecurity responsibilities within an organization.


Some Security Engineers choose to specialize in specific areas of cybersecurity, such as cloud security, network security, or incident response. These specialized roles often require additional certifications, like Certified Cloud Security Professional (CCSP) for cloud security.

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Pair the right skills and certifications with some experience, and being a security engineer turns into a very lucrative position.

If you’re already in the industry and looking for security engineer jobs, check out Simple Job Listings. We only list remote jobs, most of these jobs pay amazingly well, and a significant number of jobs that we list aren’t posted anywhere else.

Visit Simple Job Listings and find amazing remote security engineer jobs. Good luck!

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