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How to Become a Network Security Engineer

According to a report from tech giant Cisco, there are an estimated 1 million unfilled network security jobs worldwide. Furthermore, Cybersecurity Ventures, a publisher focusing on the cyber economy, anticipates 3.5 million jobs in the field by 2021. Data is an extremely valuable asset in many industries, including banking, retail and healthcare. As cyber criminals become increasingly sophisticated in their techniques, the need for network security engineers who know how to protect data will continue to grow.

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What Does a Network Security Engineer Do?

Charged with maintaining the integrity of an organization’s data, a network security engineer continuously monitors the network for security breaches, carries out simulated attacks to identify vulnerabilities and develops security protocols to thwart potential threats.

Those interested in becoming network security engineers are well-served by developing skills related to securing data, such as installing firewalls and data encryption programs that protect sensitive information.

Steps to Becoming a Network Security Engineer

Step 1: Earn a Bachelor’s Degree

Most positions in network security require at least a bachelor’s degree, preferably in a computer-related field such as computer science or programming. Through management information systems (MIS) programs, for example, graduates can learn about emerging technologies and other information that could prove useful in becoming a network security engineer.

Degrees in other fields can also serve as stepping-stones to careers in network security. For example, through offerings like online business administration programs, students can study the differences among businesses and organizations in the public, private, and nonprofit sectors. The foundational business knowledge gained can allow graduates to apply general knowledge to more specialized fields. In addition, understanding the various organizational structures can lead to deeper understanding of what types of data each generates and how data protection needs differ.

Step 2: Earn a Master’s Degree (Optional)

Some employers may prefer that candidates hold a master’s degree, which can be helpful in preparing graduates for pursuing leadership positions. One example is an online master’s in software development, which helps graduates learn versatile skills that may be applicable for multiple career paths. Skills covered include developing and building upon programming skills; mastering databases and cloud environments; and designing and creating accessible interfaces. The curriculum is wide-ranging and highly specialized.

The 30-hour degree program, which can be completed online in as little as 12 months, includes these courses:

  • Intro to programming.
  • Database principles.
  • User interface design.
  • Data structures.
  • Object-oriented software architecture.

Another master’s degree option — and one that provides career specificity — is Maryville University’s online master’s in cyber security program. Students can take advantage of the Maryville Virtual Lab and train remotely from practically anywhere in the world and on any online device. The curriculum is designed to teach techniques that can prepare students to pursue careers as a network security engineers.

Courses in the online master’s in cyber security degree program include:

  • Mobile device hacking and forensics.
  • Incident handling and breaches.
  • Forensic examination and analysis.
  • Controls for effective cyber defense.

Step 3: Build On-the-Job Experience

Beyond education, on-the-job experience and the initiative to advance one’s own skill set goes a long way toward standing out in a crowd.

During an interview with Forbes, Sean Tierney, the head of cyber intelligence for network security firm Infoblox, said that one of the best ways to become marketable as a network security engineer is to become fluent in other computer-related fields. “For example, become a master of the fundamentals of data networks,” he said, “or an expert with administering multiple operating systems or become proficient with multiple scripting languages, like Python and Bash.”

Other steps that can help in boosting career advancement include:

  • Legitimizing network security skills through certification, like the Certified Information Systems Security Professional certification.
  • Showing initiative to stay current with trends affecting large amounts of data.
  • Gaining a basic level of experience through an internship or similar on-the-job experience.

What Skills Does a Network Security Engineer Need?

Talents and skills best suited for careers in network security include:

  • Analytical skills for thoroughly examining computer systems and networks and for identifying vulnerabilities.
  • An attention to detail that prevents stealthy cyber attacks.
  • Resourcefulness or ingenuity for anticipating security risks and implementing new ways to neutralize them.
  • Problem-solving skills for quickly uncovering and fixing network flaws.

Network Security Engineer Salaries and Job Outlook

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects a 28 percent growth rate in network security engineers jobs through 2026. Computer security journal CSO reports that one reason driving the strong demand is a growing understanding of the importance of data security.

As for compensation, the field of network security generally rewards experience with higher pay. PayScale confirms the follow sliding pay scale for network security engineers:

  • Five years of experience: $80,000.
  • Six to 10 years of experience: $97,000.
  • Eleven to 20 years of experience: $116,000.
  • More than 20 years of experience: $129,000.

Education and training in network security may also provide pathways to other network security jobs offering higher levels of compensation, such as lead software security engineer, chief information security officer and others.

Start Your Journey Today to becoming a Network Security Engineer with Maryville Online

These days, computers are part of nearly every aspect of our lives. To help develop the cyber security and software development experts of the future, Maryville University offers a host of online computer science degree programs. Students can complete these courses online and have more flexibility to fit education into their busy schedules. The online master’s in software development degree program in particular helps students deepen their understanding of software design and application development. There’s no application fee, no previous experience required, and can be completed in as little as one year.


Maryville University’s online bachelor’s in management information systems

Maryville University’s online bachelor’s in business administration

Maryville University’s online master’s in cyber security

Maryville University’s online master’s in software development

Bureau of Labor Statistics






Cybersecurity Ventures