Cyber Security vs Software Engineering: The Difference?

Are you trying to decide on career between cyber security vs software engineering?

In this article we’ll compare the difference between these two fields of study and help you decide which is right for your future career path.

My Opinion…

If you’re trying to decide between a career in cyber security vs. software engineering, there are pros and cons to either industry.

At the end of the day, the only truly important question to ask yourself is where your passion lies!

If you already have a degree in software engineering or are contemplating it, then you’re most likely technical in nature.

So, if you enjoy building software systems, then software engineering is probably your best bet.

However, if you’re interested in taking it a step further and understanding how the security piece works, then I suggest you go ahead and get your software engineering degree then either a) take the few extra courses to get a minor or major in cyber security or b) obtain security certifications when you’re ready.


Builds a foundation. Software engineering gives you a solid foundation for software and its ability to enable interoperability between different devices, which of course is the basis for cyber security. By getting your software engineering degree, you’ll already have the background knowledge.

Easier to switch. Trying to move into software engineering with a cyber security background is much more difficult if you ever decide to change your mind. Software engineers by their very trade are required to learn extensive amounts of coding skills which isn’t as necessary for cyber security professionals. By doing it the way I suggest, you’ll have the best of both worlds and can choose from a variety of careers.

Career options. With some experience, you won’t have to worry about being denied a career in cyber security and will most likely know the lingo to give you the advantage over others.

Cyber Security Vs Software Engineering: Overview

The first thing to understand is that software engineering is a field of study and a job title (software engineer) whereas cyber security is a field with many different job titles and responsibilities.

What Is Cyber Security?

Cyber security is an umbrella term that encompasses different types of activities.

The goal is to protect the IT infrastructure from unauthorized access or harm to ensure an organization’s data remains secure.

These activities also cover non-technical measures such as policy development, awareness raising campaigns, and training programs for employees.

What Is Software Engineering?

Software engineering is a field in which you develop and maintain software systems.

As a software engineer, your role is to understand user requirements, design software architecture, and implement code to create functional and efficient software products.

In this profession, you’ll work on problem-solving, system design, and the selection of appropriate technologies to achieve desired outcomes.

Your role as a software engineer involves not only writing code, but also testing, debugging, and improving the software over time to ensure its reliability, efficiency, and usability.

Cyber Security Vs Software Engineering Salary

According to PayScale, the average software engineer salary is $89k and ranges between $64k to $130k.

The average cyber security engineer salary is $98k and ranges between $69k to $139k.

As previously mentioned, software engineering is a field and title whereas cyber security is a field with many different roles and salary ranges; however, for simplicity the salary range listed is that of cyber security engineer.

But the difference in those numbers isn’t just about the skill sets of the jobs themselves.

There are other factors at play that make one career path more lucrative than another.

For example, if you’re a software engineer working at a small company, learn to negotiate a better pay with your boss.

They probably value you more than they would an employee at a larger firm.

What about looking for a job as a cyber security professional at a smaller company where there are fewer employees?

It may be hard to find one because there’s less demand for those skills outside of larger companies that have teams dedicated specifically to this type of work.

What Are the Responsibilities of a Software Engineer?

Software Engineers work on a wide range of projects, including operating systems and applications for mobile devices or desktop computers.

They focus on building specific parts of an application, such as performance monitoring or error handling.

Requirements Gathering. Before the implementation of any software architecture, engineers must determine the products usage, technical and non-technical requirements, as well as understand the limitations of the environment in which the software will operate. This can be a whole field unto itself commonly known as requirements engineering.

Design. Once the requirements have been well established, software engineers work to create a model of the software architecture. The design will represent how the software will function within the major components and subcomponents of the system and how it will facilitate the interaction between those components. The design process is complex and is intended to identify functionality and system vulnerabilities.

Development and Maintenance. After the design of the system architecture is complete, coding and testing of the system software begins. During this phase of the software development life cycle vulnerabilities and new features are continuously being identified.

Deployment. Deployment activities such as beta testing, client release, and production release require technical scrutiny as the product is now public facing and will elicit extensive customer feedback regarding any software bugs or features in the beginning. Therefore, it’s important for the software engineer to aid the management team in overseeing software deployment and provide immediate technical response and updates.

Technical Writing. Being able to develop technical documentation is a must! The documentation supports other development teams in cross-collaboration efforts and is maintained as a record for future design and development activities. Technical documentation should communicate clearly to all team members, and clients, the technical concepts and details about the software architecture and how it functions.

What Can You Do with a Degree in Cyber Security?

If you’re considering a degree in cyber security, you’re not alone; the field is growing at an astonishing rate.

But what do you do as a cyber security professional?

And how do you know if this is the right career path for you?

Let’s look at a few jobs in the industry and what they require.

Jr. Cyber Security Engineer

A cyber security engineer is usually responsible for designing and implementing cyber security measures that protect information systems, networks, and data against criminal or malicious activities.

In addition to these tasks, they also perform other general IT functions such as system security administration and maintenance.

Junior engineers are expected to have knowledge of basic cyber security concepts and functions.

You must apply this knowledge in real-world situations to solve problems and create new solutions for organizations that need your help.

Cyber Security Analyst

A cyber security analyst is responsible for analyzing the network infrastructure which involves monitoring everything from traffic patterns to user activity, identifying and reporting upon potential threats, and proposing solutions to those threats.

Security analysts are expected to learn how to operate network security scanning and monitoring tools.

They analyze data breaches to determine how they happened and how to prevent similar breaches in the future.

Senior cyber security analysts train other employees on how to protect their data and prevent data breaches.

Computer Forensics Analyst

A computer forensics analyst is a person who is trained to collect, examine, and preserve digital evidence from a computer system.

They are responsible for investigating a cyber-attack or other crime that involves computers.

The analyst will use software tools and techniques on the system to determine who was involved in the crime, and how it happened.

A forensic analyst works with different types of software tools to recover data from various types of storage media.

They must also have excellent communication skills since they’re often called upon to present their findings in court as an expert witness.

A computer forensic analyst works with law enforcement agencies and private organizations that need help investigating cyber-crimes or other incidents involving computers.

Network Security Administrator

A network security administrator is a person who is responsible for implementing and managing policies and procedures to ensure the security of computer networks and their users.

The network security administrator typically works closely with system administrators and other IT staff to ensure that all aspects of the network are secure.

Is Cyber Security Harder Than Software Engineering?

Are you trying to decide which field is more challenging between cyber security and software engineering?

It’s important to remember that the level of challenge depends on your skills.

In cyber security, you’ll be protecting systems, networks, and data from digital attacks.

You must understand various security tools, techniques, and protocols.

It’s also important to have a deep understanding of how attackers think and operate.

It’s often considered more dynamic and fast-paced, as threats and vulnerabilities are constantly evolving. You’ll need to stay up-to-date with the latest trends and technologies. However, that doesn’t mean it’s hard to learn cyber security.

On the other hand, software engineering involves designing, developing, and maintaining software applications.

In this field, you’ll need expertise in programming languages, data structures, algorithms, and software development methodologies.

While software engineering also evolves, the pace of change is generally slower compared to cyber security.

The engineer’s focus is more on building and improving software applications.

Both fields require strong problem-solving skills, but the nature of the problems you’ll face differs.

As a cyber security professional, you’ll often deal with unknown threats and vulnerabilities.

As a software engineer, you’ll work on well-defined problems related to software design, development, and maintenance.

When it comes to job stability, both fields are in high demand.

Cyber security offers more stability due to the increasing number of cyber threats and the ongoing need for skilled professionals.

In either situation, the salary is usually commensurate with the level of effort.

What Can You Do After Getting a Software Engineering Degree?

Of course, software engineer is the most obvious option for someone with this degree, but it’s also one of the best ones if you’re looking for a career that provides stability and growth opportunities.

Software engineers are in high demand but take a look at several alternatives to software engineering jobs:

  • Data Engineer
  • Data Scientist
  • Database Administrator
  • Front or Back-End Engineer
  • Full-Stack Web Engineer
  • Game or Graphics Engineer
  • Machine Learning Engineer
  • Quality Assurance Engineer
  • Software Architect
  • Systems Engineer
  • Technical Lead or Manager
  • Test Engineer

Can a Software Engineer Work in Cyber Security?

Absolutely! Software engineers make great candidates for positions in cyber security.

They have experience with coding, testing, and building complex systems.

These are all skills which are essential to cyber security.
In fact, there are many software engineers who’ve made the transition to cyber security.

If you’re interested in making this shift yourself, here are four things you should know:

It’s Not That Difficult. As long you remain on the technical side of the house, you’ll find that it’s not that different from what you’re already doing. Now, if you choose to move into a different field entirely, expect to encounter a significant learning curve. However, it shouldn’t be as difficult with a software engineering background.

No Additional Degree Needed. If you’re looking at cyber security as a career path but don’t want to go back to school, try online courses. Though these programs aren’t always recognized by employers mainly because they haven’t been accredited yet, that still shouldn’t stop you from your professional growth.

Just Get Certified. You’ll want to obtain security certifications from organizations like ISACA and CompTIA. They offer training programs specifically designed for professionals interested in moving into this field. While it’s true that many cyber security roles require a degree or certification, it is possible to enter the field without either.

You Have the Advantage! You’ll want to keep your eyes out for open positions at companies that already have teams of cyber security experts on staff. These companies will often be happy to hire someone with experience in software engineering who wants to make the switch.

Which One Is Better Software Engineering or Cyber Security?

Software engineering and cyber security are two different fields with two different focuses.

Cyber security is a branch of computer science that deals with the protection of information systems and networks while software engineering is the process through which software is created, enhanced, and maintained.

Both work with software, but each has its own set of goals. As a software engineers have an end-product in mind when they begin their work: a finished program that accomplishes whatever task it was designed for.

Cyber security experts, on the other hand, are concerned with protecting systems from intruders and malware before any damage is done—which means they need to think about different aspects of computer security to protect against threats as early as possible in their development cycle.

Security has no end-product and is a continuous improvement process.

Both fields require extensive training, but each has its own unique challenges and rewards.

If you’re interested in working in either field, it’s important to know what those differences are before making any career decisions!

Looking to upgrade your career?
View our listing of cybersecurity jobs!

Interested in More…

Learn the difference between cyber security and network security?
Ways to Work in Cyber Security Without a Degree!

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