Security Software Developer Career Overview


Updated October 18, 2023

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What is a security software developer? How do you pursue this field, and what do their job prospects look like? Explore these details with this complete career guide. is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.

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Security software developers create computer applications that protect systems and networks. Specifically, they design, test, implement, and manage programs that safeguard against cyberattacks and other unauthorized breaches.

Some employers use "security software engineer" as an alternate term. However, insiders note small but important differences between developers and engineers. Security software developer jobs typically focus on customized or smaller-scale solutions. Meanwhile, security software engineers usually lead projects for larger and more diverse user bases.

Developers typically work with teams in office-based or remote settings. Most hold at least a bachelor's degree. Some use endorsements like the (ISC)2 certified secure software lifecycle professional credential to verify their skills.

This guide explains a security software developer's job description and covers the steps required to enter the career. Explore salary trends, job outlooks, and related computer science specializations.

History of Security Software Developers

The history of security software developers aligns with the emergence of cybersecurity as a computer science discipline. In the 1970s, computer researcher Bob Thomas created the first computer worm, known as Creeper. Programmer Ray Tomlinson responded with Reaper, which "chased" Creeper and eliminated it from infected machines. Tomlinson's Reaper is now recognized as the first antivirus program in computing history.

Commercial forms of antivirus software first appeared in the 1980s and grew in popularity during the 1990s, when the internet became widely available. Security software became increasingly important during the 2000s as computer threats continued to emerge. The security software developer profession matured during this period, fueling the growth of a global cybersecurity industry now valued in the hundreds of billions of dollars.

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Similar Specializations and Career Paths

Several other computer science specializations involve skills and job objectives similar to security software developers. Examples include security software engineers, security administrators, and security auditors.

Security software engineers have the proficiencies of developers but apply them on a broader scale. When creating software, engineers typically occupy senior leadership roles within teams. Their pay rates reflect their elevated standing. According to Payscale data from July 2023, software engineers earn about 20% more on average than software developers.

Security administrators deploy the tools created by security software engineers and developers. The role involves active network monitoring and security policy development, among other key activities.

Security auditors perform comprehensive assessments of organizations' security needs and policies. The position requires advanced knowledge of software tools to protect systems and networks from intrusions.

The following table summarizes key details related to these similar career paths:

Similar Career Paths
Career Description Required Education Required Experience Median/Average Annual Salary
Security Software Engineer
  • Lead the development, testing, and refinement of security software packages across the lifecycle
  • Assess organizational security needs and develop strategies for meeting them
  • Manage software development teams and communicate with non-technical managers and executives
  • A specialized bachelor's degree in software development or engineering
  • Optional certifications may support career development and advancement
3-5 years, depending on education and the nature of previous professional experience $99,260
Security Administrator
  • Manage and oversee day-to-day organizational system or network security needs
  • Apply expertise and insights to organizational cybersecurity policy development
  • Bachelor's degree in computer or information science
  • Optional certifications may enhance employment and advancement prospects
3-5 years, depending on education and experience $80,600
Security Auditor
  • Perform comprehensive assessments of organizational security strategies, practices, and tools
  • Identify gaps in existing security approaches
  • Propose solutions for closing existing security gaps
  • Bachelor's degree in computer science or cybersecurity
  • Some employers prefer or require certification
3-5 years, depending on education, certification, and experience $102,600
Source: BLS, Payscale

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What Does a Security Software Developer Do?

These developers use programming, troubleshooting, debugging, and other skills to build security-oriented computer applications. This software may protect desktop systems, mobile devices, or both. Security software plays a crucial role in safeguarding sensitive data and protecting online infrastructure from malicious actors.

Some security software developer jobs involve creating general-use programs and applications for consumer markets. Others build custom solutions for clients or employers. In either case, developers typically work in teams headed by senior engineers or lead developers.

Candidates must have several soft and hard skills to succeed in security software development. The sections below explore the core proficiencies and competencies these professionals use to perform their job duties.

Key Soft Skills for Security Software Developers

  • Time Management

    A security software developer's job description often involves meeting tight deadlines. Excellent time management skills help professionals extract the greatest possible value and productivity from their time.

  • Communication

    Developers work in teams, making interpersonal communication skills essential. In some cases, developers may also interface with non-technical staff. Thus, they can also benefit from the ability to explain complex computer science concepts in lay terms.

  • A Collaborative Mindset

    The team-oriented nature of software development also makes collaboration essential. Developers may interact and work with project managers, marketing staff, and other non-technical teams.

  • Creative Problem-Solving

    Professionals often encounter unexpected challenges while working through the software development lifecycle. A patient approach to problem-solving helps them find timely and efficient solutions.

Key Hard Skills for Security Software Developers

  • Programming Languages

    Cybersecurity frequently draws on programming languages, including C, Java and JavaScript, PHP, PowerShell, Python, and SQL. Knowledge of additional languages may help, depending on the specific role.

  • Algorithms and Data Structures

    Software development and programming depend on knowledge of algorithms and data structures. Algorithms define the processes computer programs use to carry out specific tasks. Data structures help developers organize, store, and access the data and information they need to build specialized computer programs.

  • Debugging

    The security software development process sometimes relies on trial and error. The term "debugging" refers to identifying and correcting errors in a program's design or functionality.

  • Cloud Security

    Businesses and organizations increasingly rely on internet-based computing clouds for data storage and application services, making advanced cloud security knowledge an important skill for security-oriented developers.

A Day in the Life of a Security Software Developer

Software developers often begin their days with meetings to track progress toward specific goals. Development teams frequently attack big projects by breaking them down into smaller tasks. After meetings, developers engage with technical tasks. Depending on your stage in the software development lifecycle, these may include:

  • Writing code
  • Running tests
  • Troubleshooting and debugging

A developer's duties can also deviate from this general structure, depending on their employer's needs. For a more detailed look at a day in the life of a security software developer, follow this link:

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Security Software Developer Salary and Career Outlook

Software developers often qualify for entry-level roles on development teams with a bachelor's degree. Many advance through experience, professional certification, and additional education. However, hard skills tend to matter more to employers than formal credentials.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) includes security software developers in its general category of software developers, quality assurance analysts, and testers. This class of computer science professionals appears poised to benefit from strong labor market demand — BLS projections indicate a job growth rate of 25% from 2021-2031.

Payscale tracks salary data specific to security software developer jobs and reports a range of $53,000-$111,000 from the bottom 10% to the top 10% of earners.


Annual Average Base Salary

Source: Payscale

How to Become a Security Software Developer

Completing non-degree college programs, software developer bootcamps, and computer science associate degrees can lead to entry-level development jobs. To advance, you may need to build a broader and more complete suite of skills. You can gain these skills through experience, targeted development programs, and higher-level degrees.

Many cybersecurity and software development professionals supplement their education with professional certifications. The following links explain training, qualification, and career development paths in greater detail:

Resources for Security Software Developers

IEEE Computer Society

The IEEE Computer Society offers conferences, professional development programs, and publications covering the cutting edge of computer science. Students who join can receive discounted memberships and explore scholarships.


This nonprofit organization brands itself as "the world's leading cybersecurity organization." It is best known for its training and universally respected certification programs. (ISC)2 boasts more than 300,000 members.

Association for Women in Computing

Women have historically been underrepresented in computer science and other technical professions. AWC has worked to bridge that gap through training and networking since 1978.

Association for the Advancement of Artificial Intelligence

AI is expected to increasingly affect cybersecurity in the years and decades ahead. This scientific society is specifically dedicated to responsible AI governance and technological development.

Learn More About Security Software Developers

How to Become a Security Software Developer

How to Become a Security Software Developer

Salary and Career Outlook for Security Software Developers

Salary and Career Outlook for Security Software Developers

Day in the Life of a Security Software Developer

Day in the Life of a Security Software Developer

Certifications for Security Software Developers

Certifications for Security Software Developers

FAQ About Security Software Developer Jobs

Can a software developer work in cybersecurity?

Yes. Skills such as programming, coding, and testing transfer well between these disciplines. Cybersecurity teams often deploy general and custom-built software and computer applications when safeguarding data.

What is the job description of a security software developer?

Security software developer jobs focus on building, testing, debugging, and deploying cybersecurity programs and applications. They typically function in teams under lead developers or security software engineers.

What skills do you need to be a security software developer?

Important hard skills include knowledge of multiple programming languages, algorithms and data structures, and cloud security. Key soft skills include teamwork, communication, creativity, and problem-solving.

What are the types of software security?

Software security specifically refers to built-in features designed to prevent unauthorized people from exploiting vulnerabilities in applications. It differs from security software, which includes tools like firewalls, data encryption, and various anti-malware programs.

Last reviewed June 22, 2023.

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