You’ve decided that your career path should be in software development. It is a broad category and you may find that you need to narrow your focus before settling on one of the many computer science programs available.  

If you have whittled the decision down to cyber security vs. software engineering, this guide can help you to choose the one that is right for you. 

What Is Cybersecurity? 

What Is Cybersecurity?

Cybersecurity refers to the practice of protecting computer networks, data, and mobile devices from being accessed by unauthorized people or organizations. This is a mighty task, and its importance grows as more of our daily activities involve connected networks. 

It involves software development, penetration testing, the construction of firewalls, and other protections from malware. It also includes the use of digital forensics to determine when and how an attack took place. 

Cybersecurity requires the constant monitoring of computer systems for vulnerabilities and the continuous updating of technology and techniques. Hackers are driven and creative people, and if there is a way into a given computer system, they will likely find it. 

Cybersecurity requires that the people who do it be just as driven to prevent the attacks. They must be skilled at a form of ethical hacking as they attempt to thwart the advances of cybercriminals. 

What Is Software Engineering?

What Is Software Engineering?

Software engineering, also known as software architecture, involves analyzing specific needs and creating the tools required to build the software to meet those needs. This requires extensive knowledge of software design, computer programming languages, such as python and java, as well as the operating systems—like UNIX and Linux—they work with. 

Unlike software developers who create the software from existing frameworks, software engineers must create the frameworks on which new software can be built. 

Cybersecurity vs. Software Engineering: Roles and Responsibilities 

Cybersecurity vs. Software Engineering: Roles and Responsibilities

To fully understand the difference between these two types of software development occupations, you need to know exactly what is expected from those who work in either of them. Here is a brief synopsis of the roles and responsibilities of each.

What Does a Cybersecurity Engineer Do? 

Cyber security engineers, also known as cybersecurity analysts, are responsible for creating and implementing plans and security protocols to protect the integrity of computer networks and mobile devices from malware, hacking, or other intrusions. They are also responsible for creating the software and updating computer hardware to implement these plans. 

Information security analysts must also constantly monitor the network for vulnerabilities and signs of a security breach. They are also tasked with creating an incident response plan that will rapidly respond to any cyberattack and help to minimize the damage caused by it.  

While they may indeed spend part of their workday as a security software developer, they need to be able to do much more than that. They have to be able to get into the mind of a hacker and become an ethical hacker to be able to keep them at bay. 

Cybersecurity professionals also have to be able to communicate the plans and protocols they have created to the entire workforce through training and written instructions. Everyone has a role to play in preventing security issues in the workplace and it is the cyber security engineer’s job to let everyone know exactly what that role is. 

What Does a Software Engineer Do? 

Software engineering is a broad category, containing many related fields. Those that work in it are known by many names, including computer programmers and software developers. While every employer may have a slightly different take on just what they want a software engineer to do, some responsibilities are universal. 

Software engineers are responsible for the building, maintenance, evaluation, and testing of new software. They must have a deep understanding of information systems, information technology, programming languages, and the mathematics and algorithms used to create usable software. 

In some cases, these computer scientists may be asked to build software to run computer networks or devices. In others, they may be asked to create the apps that run on these systems.  

Cybersecurity vs. Software Engineering: Skills and Qualifications 

Cybersecurity vs. Software Engineering: Skills and Qualifications

There is some overlap in the skills and qualifications required for these two occupations, but the more specific your training and experience the better your chances of landing a job. 

What Are the Requirements to Become a Cybersecurity Engineer? 

  • A Bachelor’s degree or beyond in computer science, information technology, or a related field, and/or be a Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP) 
  • Experience with cyberattack detection and response 
  • Experience with digital forensics
  • Proven ability to build and maintain firewalls
  • Knowledgeable in the use of many computer programming languages including C++, Ruby, Python, and Java
  • Knowledgeable in hacking techniques and technology and up to date on current trends in cybersecurity 

What Are the Requirements To Become a Software Engineer?

  • Strong ability and ample experience in engineering, computer science, and mathematics
  • Experience in software development
  • Proven programming experience using many different programming languages
  • Experience using tools and techniques of software development
  • Be a team player with strong interpersonal skills 
  • Able to communicate difficult ideas and concepts clearly when speaking or writing 
  • Creative and adept at problem-solving 
  • A deep and comprehensive understanding of concepts and ideas related to computer science
  • Skilled and experienced with coding 

Cybersecurity vs. Software Engineering: Salary

Salaries for the same position can vary a great deal depending on the experience of the employee, the geographical location of the position, and many other factors. Still, it is possible to see which of these two careers is likely to offer you more in compensation based on averages. 

What Does a Cybersecurity Engineer Earn? 

According to Indeed.com, the average salary for those employed in cybersecurity across the United States range from $49,522 for a security officer to $134,254 for a software security architect. 

What Does a Software Engineer Earn? 

According to Indeed.com, the average salary for those employed in software engineering fields range from $50,394 for software developers to $111,340 for software engineers. 

Cybersecurity vs. Software Engineering: Career Path 

Cybersecurity vs. Software Engineering: Career Path

Most career paths start broad and get narrow as your skills become more specialized. There are many different niches to specialize in for both of these occupations. Here are some of the best choices for both.

What Are the Best Jobs for a Cybersecurity Engineer?

Cybersecurity Analyst

Cybersecurity analysts are responsible for developing, evaluating, and implementing security plans to prevent breaches or other cyberattacks. They are also tasked with discovering such an intrusion and creating and enacting plans to minimize the damage. 

The basic skills and qualifications for this job include: 

  • Analytical and critical thinking 
  • Creative problem solving 
  • Detail-oriented 
  • Competitive spirit 
  • In-depth knowledge of intrusion protection techniques 
  • Very experienced with security protocols, database administration, and network and server management 

According to Payscale.com, the median yearly salary for a cyber security analyst is $76,678

Cybersecurity Engineer

Cybersecurity engineers are responsible for maintaining the security of IT systems and networks to keep the data contained in them safe from viruses, hackers, and other forms of cyberattack. Generally, they are employed by large corporations or by security firms that are hired by other companies to protect their networks. 

The basic skills and qualifications for this job include: 

  • Experienced with various operating systems
  • Experience with database platforms 
  • Creative problem solving 
  • Being a self-starter 
  • Detail-oriented 
  • Experienced in investigating and reviewing security breach incidents 
  • In-depth knowledge of anti-virus and anti-spyware software 
  • Familiar with various encryption techniques 

According to Payscale.com, the median yearly salary for cyber security engineers is $96,901

Cybersecurity Manager/Administrator 

Cybersecurity managers/administrators are responsible for keeping a network safe through the supervision of personnel. They must have in-depth knowledge of the hardware and software that keep the network secure and the ability to lead the rest of the IT team. This is a senior-level position and requires experience with cyber security and team management. 

The basic skills and qualifications for this job include: 

  • Experience with firewalls
  • Able to use common security protocols such as IPSec, SSL, SMTP. DNS, and HTTP 
  • Understanding of proxy servers, packet shapers, and load balancers and how they work together to prevent intrusions 
  • Deep knowledge of protocols, operating systems, networks, and other aspects of IT  
  • Able to communicate and delegate 
  • Leadership qualities 

According to Glassdoor, the average salary for cyber security managers is $123,000

Cybersecurity Consultant 

Cyber security consultants are frequently freelance or outsourced positions. The title covers a wide variety of jobs, depending largely on what their client needs them to do. In general, they provide network security advice, testing, analysis, and upgrading. They are frequently called in after a cyberattack has happened to help repair the damage and prevent it from happening again. 

The basic skills and qualifications for this job include: 

  • In-depth understanding of IT security measures and protocols 
  • In-depth understanding of the methods and techniques used by those who commit cybercrimes 
  • Experience with intrusion testing 
  • Experience finding and repairing the damage done by cyberattacks 
  • Must be a self-starter 
  • Effective problem solver 
  • Capable of seeing both the whole picture and every minute detail of it 
  • Able to work alone 
  • Must be able to communicate complex IT security concepts to people without an IT background 

Information Security Analyst

Cybersecurity analysts are tasked with continuously monitoring the network for vulnerabilities or signs of intrusion. They are responsible for developing and implementing security updates and protocols. They must also be able to conduct tests to find a weakness in the system and then develop techniques and/or software to strengthen them. 

The basic skills and qualifications for this job include: 

  • Experience providing IT support 
  • Thorough knowledge of server and network system management and the security protocols that protect them 
  • Knowledge of and experience with intrusion detection systems 
  • Organized and detail-oriented 
  • Effective problem solver 
  • Analytical and critical thinker 

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the median salary for information security analysts is $103,590 and they predict a 33% growth in the number of available jobs over the next 10 years. 

What Are the Best Jobs for a Software Engineer?

What Are the Best Jobs for a Software Engineer?

System Engineer 

System engineers are responsible for the development of systems that meet a specific need. They must be proficient in the many different disciplines, languages, operating systems, and software that may be needed to bring a project from conception to completion. They must be able to develop, test, and maintain all systems required to complete the project. 

The basic skills and qualifications for this job include: 

  • Basic understanding of engineering principles and techniques 
  • Deep understanding of the methods used to create and manage complex systems 
  • Able to manage both the project and the team that is working on it. 
  • Able to use databases and SQL
  • Understanding of system testing protocols and techniques 

According to payscale.com, the median annual salary for a system engineer is $80,300.

Full Stack Engineer 

Full stack engineers build both the front, or user side, and back of websites and applications. They are responsible for the development of web applications and the software to run them. They must also be able to test and improve upon their own, and others, work. 

The basic skill and qualifications for this job include: 

  • Strong coding skills 
  • Able to use both front side and back side coding languages 
  • Able to design applications by structuring code, separating files, and configuring databases 
  • Adept at project management from start to finish 
  • Able to work independently and as part of a team at different points in the application building process 
  • Strong written and oral communication skills 

According to Indeed.com, the median yearly salary for full stack engineers is $106,334

Software Engineer

Software engineers are responsible for the building and implementation of software designed to meet an employer’s or client’s specific needs. They start the process by discussing what exactly the project is supposed to accomplish and then creating a software system to meet that need. 

The basic skills and qualifications for this job include: 

  • Deep understanding of what it takes to develop, build, and deploy applications from the ground up 
  • Proficient with multiple coding languages and methods 
  • Experience with database design and data modeling 
  • Understanding of and experience with software development lifecycle processes (SDLC) 
  • Understanding of content management systems 
  • Proficient at service-oriented architecture (SOA) 
  • Must be able to handle high levels of stress and the pressure of tight deadlines 

According to Indeed.com, the median yearly salary for a software engineer is $113,660. This occupation is expected to grow by 22% through 2030.

IT Security Specialist 

IT security specialists are responsible for the security of a company’s computer network and systems. They must create and implement plans and strategies to protect data from hackers or other cybercriminals. 

They are also responsible for designing software to repair the damage done by an intrusion and to prevent it from happening again. They are usually employed by large companies as part of an IT security team. 

The basic skills and qualifications for this job include: 

  • In-depth experience with the tools of IT security, including anti-virus software, content filtering, and firewalls
  • Experience creating security standards and protocols from research to development and implementation 
  • Experience with system administration that uses multiple applications and platforms 
  • Experience with coding and able to recognize malicious code 
  • Able to communicate complex information to peers and management that may have no IT experience 

According to payscale.com, the average starting salary for IT security specialists is $76,821

Cloud Engineer 

Cloud engineers are responsible for the creation and implementation of applications, protocols, and plans that will work with or within the network’s cloud storage. They are frequently required to create training protocols for the non-technical teams who still need to understand how to safely store and retrieve data from the cloud. 

The basic skills and qualifications for this job include: 

  • Able to create roadmaps that take into account the storage capacity and security of the network’s cloud 
  • Be a problem solver 
  • Able to lead  
  • Able to communicate clearly with all levels of employees from entry-level to upper management 
  • Experienced with IT engineering 
  • Fluent in multiple programming and computing languages 
  • Able to create, develop, and implement infrastructure for the cloud as well as applications and platforms to work within it 

Comparably.com reports the median annual salary for cloud engineers at $185,000. 

Cybersecurity vs. Software Engineering: How To Get a Job

Cybersecurity vs. Software Engineering: How to Get a Job

Knowing how much you are likely to make in a particular job is a great start, but before you can start getting paid, you must land the job. Here are a few tips that may help. 

How Do You Land a Job in Cybersecurity?

According to Burning Glass Technologies, over 88% of employers looking for cyber security professionals require at least a Bachelor’s degree in IT security or a related field. They are also required to have three years of experience working in cybersecurity. 

Some will accept a Master’s degree with little or no professional experience. So, your first step to becoming a cyber security professional is to enroll in an accredited college. 

Once you have earned your degree, it is time to prove to your potential employers what you can do. On-the-job experience is important, but sometimes hard to achieve. You may need to take an entry-level position to bulk up your resume. 

Certifications are also a good way to attract the attention of potential employers. Consider getting the Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP) or become a Certified Chief Information Security Officer (CISO) or any of the many other trade certifications available. 

How Do You Land a Job in Software Engineering?

Many entry-level software engineering positions do not require a college education, but they will want to see some evidence that you know how to do the job. Create a portfolio of some of your more impressive projects. In a best-case scenario, these are on-the-job projects, but if this is your first attempt at getting hired in the field, then a degree or personal projects are acceptable. 

Software engineering is a very broad category. To better your chances of landing the job you want, decide which niche you enjoy working in and cater your experience and portfolio towards it. 

Networking is an invaluable tool when searching for employment in software engineering. Make use of the networking sites and create a few real-life contacts to use as references. These links and referrals may be enough to get your foot in the door. 

Which Career Is Best for You? 

Cyber Security vs. Software Engineering: Which Career Is Best for You

It is hard to predict exactly which career path is the best before you get a chance to work in the field. However, it may be relatively easy to figure out which careers are not right for you based on your personality and character traits. The following are rough guidelines intended to give you some insight into which type of job best suits your personality. 

You Should Consider Cyber Security if…

  • You intend to get a 4-year college degree or beyond 
  • You can handle high anxiety workdays 
  • You can communicate clearly both verbally and orally 
  • You enjoy solving puzzles 
  • You can both uber-focus and multi-task 

You Should Consider Software Engineering if…

  • You like to learn things hands-on 
  • You have a genuine interest in computers and how they work 
  • You are a self-starter 
  • You can work as well in a team as you can by yourself 
  • You are creative and innovative 

Cybersecurity vs. Software Engineering FAQs 

Is Cybersecurity Harder Than Software Engineering?

It is difficult to say that one is more difficult than the other without determining the parameters for that. If you are someone that has the desire to get a college degree, then going into cyber security would be easy for you. 

However, if you are a hands-on learner and have no interest in spending four or more years earning degrees, then cyber security would be a difficult field for you. 

Is There More Math in Cybersecurity or Software Engineering?

Working in either of these careers requires a strong understanding of mathematics. Both careers will require you to have a basic understanding of how algorithms work and how to use them to achieve your goals. 

How Do You Gain Expertise in These Fields?

There’s a whole range of e-learning courses at your disposal. For example, Springboard’s 1:1 mentoring-led, project-driven Cybersecurity Career Track and Software Engineering Career Track courses are industry-focused online learning programs, designed to prepare you for a meaningful and successful career in these technologies.

Learn more about Springboard’s Career Track courses here.