As application-based cybercrime continues to escalate nationally and worldwide, application security engineers are increasingly in demand across organizations in a wide range of industries.
What is an application security engineer? As a type of security engineer, these professionals are responsible for designing, implementing, and maintaining the security of a company’s applications to safeguard against potential cyberattacks.
Ready to learn more about this career? This guide answers all your application security engineer career questions!
What Does an Application Security Engineer Do?
Application security engineers identify and mitigate security weaknesses of the applications developed and deployed in an organization. They are also responsible for the proper implementation and configuration of security measures and controls to protect a company’s applications — such as authentication, encryption, and authorization — and testing applications to ensure they are free from security loopholes.
“The application security engineer must implement technical controls to execute corporate usage policies for applications,” says cybersecurity adviser Thomas M. Stone, managing partner of TargetProof, who advises clients on a broad range of security technologies. “Additionally, they advise on the vulnerabilities to systems, and the implications if unmitigated. They do this often through application threat modeling, vulnerability scanning, and penetration testing. On the technology side, they must adhere to any regulations that mandate the protection and maintenance of the application.”
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Other common tasks include:
- Identifying security vulnerabilities and determining solutions to fix them
- Reviewing system services and noticing problems in applications
- Performing software updates
- Setting up firewalls
- Running encryption programs within applications
- Scanning and testing applications
>>MORE: Learn about the cybersecurity career path.
Application Security Engineer vs. Cloud Security Engineer
While application security engineers and cloud security engineers are both responsible for protecting a company’s sensitive information from cyberattacks, these two job titles have slightly different professional focuses.
Application security engineers primarily focus on securing applications. In contrast, cloud or network security engineers concentrate on securing the underlying infrastructure that supports those applications, according to Percy Grunwald, a full-stack software engineer and Hosting Data co-founder with over six years of experience delivering and maintaining applications on the web.
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“Application security focuses on securing the applications that run on different platforms, including cloud-based and on-premise environments,” Grunwald explains. “Cloud security, on the other hand, is concerned with securing the cloud infrastructure, including the data and resources stored in the cloud.”
Application Security Engineer Salary and Job Outlook
Salary.com reports that application security engineers can make more than $140,000 per year in salary alone and more than $150,000 per year with pay plus bonus. Glassdoor estimates that those with zero to one year of experience can have a salary range between $92,000 and $138,000, while application security engineer salaries for those with more than 15 years of experience have a range of $127,000 to $195,00 per year. Other Glassdoor application security engineer salary estimates are:
|Years of Experience||Salary|
|1-3||$90,000 – $135,000|
|4-6||$97,000 – $148,000|
|7-9||$103,000 – $156,000|
|10-14||$117,000 – $179,000|
Stone notes that application security engineers can make as much as $220,000 a year — and adds that they can also make significant income via crowdsourcing platforms. “If the application security engineer can find new vulnerabilities, there are numerous crowdsource platforms for this skill offering very large payouts,” he says.
Grunwald explains that while the salary range varies depending on several factors, such as experience, location, and organization, the overall job outlook for this career is excellent. “With the increasing number of cyberthreats and the growing importance of cybersecurity, the demand for application security engineers is expected to increase significantly in the coming years,” he says.
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The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) agrees. Job growth for information security analysts — a job category that includes application security engineers — is expected to increase by 32% in the United States between 2022 and 2032.
This percentage equates to approximately 16,800 new job openings for information security analysts each year over the decade.
Application Security Engineer Skills
Most IT roles require a combination of hard skills and soft skills — and the same is true for application security engineers.
“To be a successful application security engineer, you will need to have excellent technical skills in a variety of areas including network security, system architecture, cryptology, and software development,” says Harman Singh, managing consultant at Cyphere, a cybersecurity services company that helps organizations in the U.S. and UK protect their data assets.
This role also requires the ability to maintain technical documentation, perform application penetration testing and vulnerability scanning, and test running code and source code.
Other hard skills essential to this role include:
- A solid understanding of web and mobile application security
- Programming skills and knowledge of programming languages
- Familiarity with security testing tools
- Expertise about common threats and attacks
- Understanding of security protocols and standards
- Threat modeling and analysis
- Database and cloud encryption
- Malware experience
- Familiarity with ethical hacking
- Understanding of automation enablement
- Coding knowledge
- Familiarity with the software development life cycle
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A number of specific soft skills are also crucial for this role.
“You will need strong communication and problem-solving skills, an eye for detail, and the ability to think on your feet,” says Singh. For example, when it comes to communication, application security engineers need to be able to let other team members know about what types of security flaws they find.
Application security engineers often need to collaborate with others in technical roles, such as developers, so good teamwork skills are essential. A high comfort level with a changing playing field also helps since application requirements often change and technologies continuously evolve.
Here are some other soft skills for application security engineers:
- Creative thinking for out-of-the-box thinking about system and application risks
- Quick learning on the job
- Curiosity and interest in new ideas to keep your skill sets fresh
- The ability to juggle multiple deadlines simultaneously
- The ability to stay up to date on the latest security trends and technologies
How to Become an Application Security Engineer
According to Singh, it helps to have a combination of education, certifications, and tech experience to start an application security engineer career. “First and foremost, you should get a degree in computer science or a related field,” he advises. “You may also want to look into getting Certified Information Security Manager (CISM) or Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP) certifications. Additionally, you should look for experience in software development, network security, and system architecture.”
Certifications and industry training can make all the difference when starting your career — no matter your degree. These are some of the most popular certifications.
Certified Application Security Engineer (CASE)
The hands-on CASE course helps software professionals learn how to create security applications, including planning, creating, deploying, and testing. It also includes training on robust application design, secure requirement gathering, and handling security issues in post-development application development phases.
Certified Information Security Manager (CISM)
The CISM certification assures employers that you can proactively assess risks, respond to cyberattacks, and implement governance procedures. It requires demonstrating your understanding of information security from a technical and business standpoint.
Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP)
This certification is one of the most popular for application security managers and verifies that its holder can design and implement cybersecurity programs. To earn this certification, you must pass an exam on skills including security and risk management, security assessment and testing, identity and access management, and communication and network security.
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Certified Secure Software Lifecycle Professional (CSSLP)
The CSSLP helps you improve your ability to incorporate security practices into the different phases of the software development lifecycle. This certification tests you on secure software testing; secure software lifecycle management; secure software architecture and design; and secure software deployment, operations, and maintenance.
Certified Ethical Hacker (CEH)
Just as it sounds, this certification helps you learn to think like a hacker to outsmart cybercriminals in your role as an application security engineer. The idea behind the certification is to help you learn to penetrate your own computer or a device you have permission to hack to learn how to take preventive measures and determine if specific vulnerabilities exist.
Secure Your Future
Becoming an application security engineer is just one of the careers in technology you can pursue. But if you aren’t sure if it’s the right one for you, enroll in one of our virtual job simulations in another field, like software engineering, and find the career you’re meant for.
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