Ethical Hacker Vs. Software Engineer

Though both ethical hackers and software engineers are knowledgeable in computer code, their overall goals are dissimilar, as are their salaries and career outlooks. We'll examine both careers and highlight the duties related to each.

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Comparing Ethical Hackers to Software Engineers

These information technology professionals have much in common when it comes to the computer literacy they require, but ethical hackers pinpoint issues with the coding that should keep personal or sensitive information protected. Software engineers are a bit more diverse in their focuses, developing a variety of programs and applications.

Job Title Educational Requirements Median Salary (2017)* Job Growth (2016-2026)**
Ethical Hackers Bachelor's Degree $78,263 (for certified ethical hackers) 28% (for all information security analysts)
Software Engineers Bachelor's Degree $81,510 24% (for all software developers)

Sources: *PayScale, **U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Responsibilities of Ethical Hackers vs. Software Engineers

Companies hire ethical hackers and software engineers to design complex computer systems and imbue them with safety features. Both may be hired as independent contractors or as employees of a computer development company, and both typically work on teams. Ethical hackers, however, do not build a computer program from the ground up, as software engineers do. Rather, they attempt to find issues with the security of an established network.

Ethical Hackers

To safeguard information stored in cyberspace, ethical hackers use similar techniques as harmful hackers do. Because of the nature of their work, ethical hackers should gain certification from the International Council of E-Commerce Consultants. They perform tests, both simulated and real-life, to penetrate the security around a computer network. These systems may belong to banks, insurance companies, telephone companies, or even government agencies. As they attempt to protect networks and seek instances of security breaches, they also come up with a plan to recover information that is stolen.

Job responsibilities of an ethical hacker include:

  • Preventing instances of identity theft by encrypting data
  • Installing necessary firewalls to prevent hacking when they find a hole in the security
  • Writing detailed reports about a harmful hacking incident, including any information about the people involved
  • Educating network users about safe Internet practices

Software Engineers

To first determine what a user or client will need, software engineers study how much data is used, what current technology is in place, and the work processes that occur in the office. They may also meet with stakeholders to learn the specifications of the software they need. With their knowledge of computer languages, such as C++, Java, and XML, these professionals can work for software publishers or for companies that make video games. They also design software, cloud services, operating systems, and the system interfaces people work with on a daily basis.

Job responsibilities of a software engineer include:

  • Developing charts and other visuals to show programmers the code needed to actually build the software
  • Establishing the necessary level of security for the software based on its intended use
  • Servicing the software and rewriting the code to get rid of any bugs
  • Recommending and developing software updates

Related Careers

If you think a career as an ethical hacker sounds exciting, you may want to also research a position as a computer information systems manager, since both work to keep a company connected. Of course, if a job as a software engineer seems interesting, you could look into a position as a computer scientist, as both develop new technology.

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