How To Become an Application Security Engineer?

Wondering how to become an application security engineer? If so, you’ve come to the right place!

Today’s article will describe the role and let you see if becoming an application security engineer is right for you!

So, What Is Application Security and Why Is It Important?

Why application security is important?

Well, think about all the apps we use every day, from chatting with friends to checking our bank account. What about using “Google Sign-In” for every website?

We trust these apps with a lot of personal information.

But you’re not alone. Most, if not all, apps online are connected to something else online. This means that a vulnerability in one app affects the security of others, especially if they share information.

And all it takes is someone with malicious intentions to get their hands on that info. Not a good situation.

For businesses, having strong application security is a must. If a breach leads to user information being leaked, they’re in a lot of trouble. Not only will they spend money to fix the issue, but they’ll also have to reimburse users for any financial loss and pay exorbitant government penalties.

Unfortunately, the damage to their reputation is the worst part. Users will trust them less leading to lost revenue.

Application security, or “App Sec” as some people like to call it, is the practice of reducing software vulnerabilities within applications.

The whole point is to make sure apps are built to run as expected. Otherwise, it’s these weaknesses that lead to service disruptions, system sabotage, and stolen personal and financial information.

However, there’s some confusion on the matter. People often associate application security with just secure coding.

Yes, secure coding is important as it involves fixing security weaknesses in the software. But there’s so much more than that.

Because you’re developing a software, security has to be baked into the entire SDLC (software development life cycle) of the product. I’ll try to summarize what AppSec engineering typically involves:

1. Secure Coding Practices

Personnel: Software Developers and Application Security Engineers

As we already mentioned, you’ve got to write code in a way that’s resistant to vulnerabilities. This includes following guidelines and best practices to avoid common security issues such as injection flaws, cross-site scripting (XSS), and insecure authentication.

2. Threat Modeling

Personnel: Security Architects and Application Security Engineers

You’re not coding all day; you’ll also analyze applications to identify potential threats and vulnerabilities early in the design phase. This process helps prioritize security measures based on the potential impact of identified threats.

3. Vulnerability Assessment and Penetration Testing (VAPT)

Personnel: Security Analysts, Penetration Testers, and Application Security Engineers

You’ll scan and test applications for vulnerabilities regularly. Vulnerability assessments help identify potential weaknesses, while penetration testing actively exploits vulnerabilities to determine their impact.

4. Security Audits and Reviews

Personnel: Security Auditors, Code Reviewers, and Application Security Engineers

For an App Sec Engineer, expect to conduct formal security audits and code reviews to ensure compliance with security standards and policies. This involves both automated tools and manual inspection of the code and architecture.

5. Patch Management

Personnel: IT/System Administrators and Application Developers

Admins and developers are expected to keep software up to date with the latest security patches and updates. Regularly updating applications and their dependencies is crucial for protecting against known vulnerabilities.

6. Authentication and Authorization

Personnel: Software Developers and Security Architects

Developers and architects must ensure that applications have robust authentication mechanisms. Obviously, it’s important to verify user identities and proper authorization controls to limit access.

7. Data Protection and Encryption

Personnel: Data Security Specialists/Engineers and Database Administrators

Though vital to all aspects of cybersecurity, measures should be implemented to protect sensitive data through encryption, secure key management, and data masking techniques.

8. Incident Response

Personnel: Incident Response Team and SOC Analysts

This is mostly applicable if you’re part of the incident response teams; however, prepare to respond to security incidents effectively. Have a plan in place to detect, respond to, and recover from security breaches.

9. Compliance with Regulations and Standards

Personnel: Compliance Officers/Managers and Security Analysts

Application security also involves compliance with relevant security regulations and standards, such as GDPR, HIPAA, or PCI-DSS. Many regions have strict data protection laws, and failing to secure applications will lead to legal penalties for businesses.

What Is Application Security Engineer as a Role

If you’re wondering what an application security engineer does all day, here’s what a typical day might look like for you.

You’d start your day by checking your email and any security scan alerts to see if there’s anything urgent you need to deal with. If there’s a big problem, like a security breach in your app, you’ll focus on that first.

No morning is complete without having a quick meeting with your team to talk about status updates. Here everyone talks about what they’re working on and any security issues they’ve encountered or are dealing with.

Once that’s over, it’s time to get into the bulk of your job.

You’re obviously not doing this alone. Whether it’s an existing app or a new one, your day will include working with the design, development, and security teams to ensure that code is being actively updated or integrated into the product to mitigate security risks.

AppSec engineers are typically more senior level roles which means you’ll oversee junior level developers. As such, you’ll need the patience to coach them on security best practices.

If you’re performing application security testing, you’ll utilize special tools designed to find any weak spots. As part of the testing process, you’ll spend time looking at the app’s code to ensure it was written securely. If you find anything that looks off, you figure out how to fix it.

At the end of the day, you’ll review what you did, update any reports, and maybe set up tasks for the next day.

What Is the Average Application Security Engineer Salary?

According to, application security engineers are paid about $109,000 while most make between $96,000 and $121,000.

Now according to ZipRecruiter, the average application security engineer salary is about $138,000 with most professionals ranging between $118,000 and $157,000.

Similarly, Indeed reports that the average salary for an application security engineer is also roughly $138,000., with the highest figure, reports that the average application security engineer salary is $143,000 per year and that entry level positions start at $120,000 per year. They also claim that the most experienced workers make up to $182,000 per year.

With these salary ranges, the average application security salary you can expect is about $132,000 depending on factors such as location, experience, skillset, etc.

What Application Security Certification Can I Take?

Let’s explore what certifications for application security engineers are available to jumpstart your career:

Certified Application Security Engineer (CASE) by EC-Council

Focus: The CASE certification zeroes in on securing applications throughout their development and lifecycle. It covers secure coding practices, identifies common vulnerabilities in web and mobile applications, and teaches you how to develop secure application designs.

Benefit: As an application security engineer, having the CASE certification demonstrates your hands-on knowledge in application security and secure coding, making you adept at writing code that’s resistant to attacks from the outset.

Certified Secure Software Lifecycle Professional (CSSLP) by ISC2

Focus: CSSLP certification is all about integrating security practices into each phase of the software development lifecycle (SDLC). It encompasses risk management, secure software design, implementation, and testing, as well as dealing with supply chain and vendor security.

Benefit: Holding a CSSLP certification proves that you understand how to bake security into the DNA of the software development process, ensuring that applications are secure by design, which is a critical competency for application security engineers.

GIAC Certified Web Application Defender (GWEB) by GIAC

Focus: GWEB certification provides expertise in defending web applications and securing web application technologies. It addresses security issues such as cross-site scripting, SQL injection, and session hijacking, among others.

Benefit: Earning the GWEB certifies your knowledge to protect web applications against attacks. This is crucial for AppSec engineers tasked with safeguarding web applications.

Offensive Security Web Expert (OSWE) by OffSec

Focus: The OSWE certification is a deep dive into finding and exploiting vulnerabilities in web applications through hands-on testing and code review. It emphasizes understanding the source code to identify security flaws.

Benefit: For an application security engineer, the OSWE certification showcases your expertise in offensive security tactics specific to web applications. The ability to think like an attacker makes you better able to defend applications by understanding how vulnerabilities can be exploited.

Certified DevSecOps Professional (CDP) by Practical DevSecOps

Focus: The CDP certification from Practical DevSecOps focuses on incorporating security practices into DevOps. It covers automating security checks in the CI/CD pipeline, using Infrastructure as Code (IaC) for security, and integrating security tools into the development process.

Benefit: With this certification, you show your skills in blending security seamlessly with rapid development and deployment practices. For an application security engineer, it means ensuring security measures keep pace with continuous delivery, a valuable skill in modern, agile environments.

Offensive Security Web Assessor (OSWA) by OffSec

Focus: By completing the OSWA certification, you gain the knowledge to thoroughly assess web applications and databases, manually uncover and exploit vulnerabilities, move beyond basic cross-site scripting attacks to compromise other users, and exploit various templating engines to achieve remote code execution.

Benefits: The OSWA certification and the WEB-200 course teaches you the basics of web app assessments using Kali Linux. You’ll learn to uncover and exploit common web vulnerabilities and extract sensitive data from applications, thus being equipped with the skills for conducting detailed web app security assessments.

How To Become an Application Security Engineer?

If you’re truly interested in how to learn application security, here’s an application security roadmap:

Become a Software Developer

Sorry to burst your bubble, but if you haven’t figured it out by now, application security isn’t an entry-level role. Learn the foundation first, then move into security. That means, before doing anything else on this list, gain a few years of experience as a software/application developer. And though it’s not 100% required, it’ll make your life so much easier. Over time you’ll begin to understand how code is supposed to operate and how it’s not supposed to operate (i.e. vulnerabilities).

Learn Secure Coding Practices

After you gain that developer experience, you can dive into secure coding techniques for different programming languages. Understand how to write code that’s resistant to common security vulnerabilities.

Resources: OWASP resources, secure coding guidelines from major programming languages.

Specialize in Application Security Testing Tools and Techniques

Get hands-on experience with application security tools such as static application security testing (SAST), dynamic application security testing (DAST), and interactive application security testing (IAST) tools.

Practice: Use these tools on personal or open-source projects to identify and remediate vulnerabilities.

Earn an Application Security Certificate

Focus on obtaining certifications directly related to application security, such as the ones I listed above.

Engage in Real-World Security Testing

Take part in bug bounty programs or ethical hacking projects specifically targeting web and mobile applications to learn to identify and exploit vulnerabilities.

Platforms: HackerOne, Bugcrowd for bug bounty programs.

Master Application Threat Modeling

Learn how to perform threat modeling for applications to identify potential security issues before they become real problems. Understand the methodologies like STRIDE or PASTA.

Resources: OWASP Threat Modeling resources.

Understand DevSecOps Integration

Learn how to integrate security practices within the DevOps process, particularly how CI/CD pipelines can include automated security checks.

Tools & Practices: Familiarize yourself with integrating security tools into CI/CD pipelines and using infrastructure as code (IaC) securely.

Participate in Application Security Communities

Join specific forums, mailing lists, and groups focused on application security. Attend Meetup groups, BSides events, webinars, and conferences dedicated to application security to stay on top of emerging trends and connect with other professionals.

Application Security Useful Links

Here are some random application security resources I was able to pull together. Check them out (we’re not getting paid for them):

She Hacks Purple or We Hack Purple
OWASP Top 10
OWASP Project Juice Shop
OWASP Application Security Verification Standard
AppSec Engineer
Portswigger or Burp Suite
OAuth 2.0 Threat Model and Security Considerations


How to become an application security engineer?

First, build a solid base in software development to understand app mechanics and potential security flaws.

Next, master secure coding to prevent common vulnerabilities and familiarize yourself with SAST, DAST, and IAST tools for identifying security gaps. Also, keep up with threat modeling and DevSecOps to integrate security from the start.

Certifications like CASE, CSSLP, and GWEB will prove your skills and deepen your knowledge, and don’t just stick to theory; apply what you’ve learned in real-world settings through bug bounty programs.

Finally, join the app security community to stay on top of trends and connect with peers. Short and sweet, that’s your roadmap to diving into application security engineering.

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

What Do You Think?

How did you become an application security engineer?

Did any of the above advice work for you?

Tell us about your experience in the comments below!

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