Before we learn about the money, let’s get this question out of the way:
What Does a Security Engineer Do?
A security engineer is a “white-hat hacker”, i.e., an IT professional who analyzes computer systems and computer networks to ensure they are running securely. This involves proactive analysis and understanding of possible security threats and attack vectors and designing the system to minimize the exposure to these threats.
Security Engineer Skills and Qualifications
Security Engineers should have at least a bachelor’s degree in computer science or a related field.
You need to understand networking, computer security systems, databases, HTTP, and web protocols, as well as an intimate understanding of distributed systems.
In particular, here are some crucial qualifications that are relevant as a Security Engineer:
- Bachelor of Science in Computer Science or a related field
- 5+ years of work experience as a System Security Engineer or a related position
- 3+ years of work experience in development, operation, and maintenance of real-world security systems
- Knowledge of operating systems
- Knowledge of distributed systems
- Knowledge of databases and database security
- Knowledge of computer networks, networking technologies, network security
- Knowledge of network monitoring solutions
- Knowledge of anti-virus filters, content filtering, firewalls, authentication systems, and intrusion detection systems
- Knowledge of security protocols, cryptographic algorithms, and principles
- Critical thinking
- Ability to solve complex problems
Annual Income Security Engineer (US)
💬 Question: How much does a Security Engineer in the US make per year?
The average annual income of a Security Engineer in the United States is between $75,732 and $144,874, with an average of $108,851 and a statistical median of $105,928 per year.
This data is based on our meta-study of ten (10) salary aggregators sources such as Glassdoor, ZipRecruiter, and PayScale.
This is the most comprehensive salary meta-study of security engineer income in the world, to the best of my knowledge!
Let’s have a look at the hourly rate of Security Engineers next!
Security Engineers are well-paid on freelancing platforms such as Upwork or Fiverr.
- Related Article: What’s the best freelancing platform?
If you decide to go the route as a freelance Security Engineer, you can expect to make between $30 and $150 per hour on Upwork (source). Assuming an annual workload of 2000 hours, you can expect to make between $60,000 and $300,000 per year.
⚡ Note: Do you want to create your own thriving coding business online? Feel free to check out our freelance developer course — the world’s #1 best-selling freelance developer course that specifically shows you how to succeed on Upwork and Fiverr!
But is there enough demand? Let’s have a look at Google trends to find out how interest evolves over time (source):
Learning Path, Skills, and Education Requirements
Do you want to become a Security Engineer? Here’s a step-by-step learning path I’d propose to get started with Security :
- Step 1: Introduction to Computer Science (~40 hours)
- Step 2: Introduction to Computer Networks (~40 hours)
- Step 2: Introduction to Algorithms (~40 hours)
- Step 3: Introduction to Security (~20 hours)
- Step 4: Introduction to Security (Free Video Courses) (~10 hours)
You can find many additional computer science courses on the Finxter Computer Science Academy (flatrate model).
But don’t wait too long to acquire practical experience!
Even if you have little skills, it’s best to get started as a freelance developer and learn as you work on real projects for clients — earning income as you learn and gaining motivation through real-world feedback.
🚀 Tip: An excellent start to turbo-charge your freelancing career (earning more in less time) is our Finxter Freelancer Course. The goal of the course is to pay for itself!
You can find more job descriptions for coders, programmers, and computer scientists in our detailed overview guide:
Related Income of Professional Developers
The following statistic shows the self-reported income from 9,649 US-based professional developers (source).
💡 The average annual income of professional developers in the US is between $70,000 and $177,500 for various programming languages.
Question: What is your current total compensation (salary, bonuses, and perks, before taxes and deductions)? Please enter a whole number in the box below, without any punctuation. If you are paid hourly, please estimate an equivalent weekly, monthly, or yearly salary. (source)
The following statistic compares the self-reported income from 46,693 professional programmers as conducted by StackOverflow.
💡 The average annual income of professional developers worldwide (US and non-US) is between $33,000 and $95,000 for various programming languages.
Here’s a screenshot of a more detailed overview of each programming language considered in the report:
Here’s what different database professionals earn:
Here’s an overview of different cloud solutions experts:
Here’s what professionals in web frameworks earn:
There are many other interesting frameworks—that pay well!
Look at those tools:
Okay, but what do you need to do to get there? What are the skill requirements and qualifications to make you become a professional developer in the area you desire?
Let’s find out next!
General Qualifications of Professionals
StackOverflow performs an annual survey asking professionals, coders, developers, researchers, and engineers various questions about their background and job satisfaction on their website.
Interestingly, when aggregating the data of the developers’ educational background, a good three quarters have an academic background.
Here’s the question asked by StackOverflow (source):
Which of the following best describes the highest level of formal education that you’ve completed?
However, if you don’t have a formal degree, don’t fear! Many of the respondents with degrees don’t have a degree in their field—so it may not be of much value for their coding careers anyways.
Also, about one out of four don’t have a formal degree and still succeeds in their field! You certainly don’t need a degree if you’re committed to your own success!
Freelancing vs Employment Status
The percentage of freelance developers increases steadily. The fraction of freelance developers has already reached 11.21%!
This indicates that more and more work will be done in a more flexible work environment—and fewer and fewer companies and clients want to hire inflexible talent.
Here are the stats from the StackOverflow developer survey (source):
Do you want to become a professional freelance developer and earn some money on the side or as your primary source of income?
Resource: Check out our freelance developer course—it’s the best freelance developer course in the world with the highest student success rate in the industry!
Other Programming Languages Used by Professional Developers
The StackOverflow developer survey collected 58000 responses about the following question (source):
Which programming, scripting, and markup languages have you done extensive development work in over the past year, and which do you want to work in over the next year?
These are the languages you want to focus on when starting out as a coder:
And don’t worry—if you feel stuck or struggle with a nasty bug. We all go through it. Here’s what SO survey respondents and professional developers do when they’re stuck:
What do you do when you get stuck on a problem? Select all that apply. (source)
To get started with some of the fundamentals and industry concepts, feel free to check out these articles:
- Freelance Developer – How to Code From Home and Earn Six Figures [Industry Report]
- How to Become a Python Freelancer—and Earn $1,000 on the Side? [A Step-by-Step Tutorial]
- How Adam Earns $5000 per Month as a Python Freelancer on Upwork [Month 4]
- Computer Security Wikipedia
- Learn Security Engineering Google
Where to Go From Here?
Enough theory. Let’s get some practice!
Coders get paid six figures and more because they can solve problems more effectively using machine intelligence and automation.
To become more successful in coding, solve more real problems for real people. That’s how you polish the skills you really need in practice. After all, what’s the use of learning theory that nobody ever needs?
You build high-value coding skills by working on practical coding projects!
Do you want to stop learning with toy projects and focus on practical code projects that earn you money and solve real problems for people?
🚀 If your answer is YES!, consider becoming a Python freelance developer! It’s the best way of approaching the task of improving your Python skills—even if you are a complete beginner.
If you just want to learn about the freelancing opportunity, feel free to watch my free webinar “How to Build Your High-Income Skill Python” and learn how I grew my coding business online and how you can, too—from the comfort of your own home.
 The figure was generated using the following code snippet:
import matplotlib.pyplot as plt import numpy as np import math data = [111691, 120708, 100165, 119946, 138822, 95953, 144874, 75732, 90120, 90500] labels = ['Glassdoor.com', 'ZipRecruiter.com', 'Zippia.com', 'Talent.com', 'Salary.com', 'PayScale.com', 'Builtin.com', 'Indeed.com', 'Comparably.com', 'SalaryExplorer.com'] median = np.median(data) average = np.average(data) print(median, average) n = len(data) plt.plot(range(n), [median] * n, color='black', label='Median: $' + str(int(median))) plt.plot(range(n), [average] * n, '--', color='red', label='Average: $' + str(int(average))) plt.bar(range(len(data)), data) plt.xticks(range(len(data)), labels, rotation='vertical', position = (0,0.45), color='white', weight='bold') plt.ylabel('Average Income ($)') plt.title('Security Engineer Annual Income - by Finxter') plt.legend() plt.show()
While working as a researcher in distributed systems, Dr. Christian Mayer found his love for teaching computer science students.
To help students reach higher levels of Python success, he founded the programming education website Finxter.com. He’s author of the popular programming book Python One-Liners (NoStarch 2020), coauthor of the Coffee Break Python series of self-published books, computer science enthusiast, freelancer, and owner of one of the top 10 largest Python blogs worldwide.
His passions are writing, reading, and coding. But his greatest passion is to serve aspiring coders through Finxter and help them to boost their skills. You can join his free email academy here.