What Is a Security Architect (and How Do I Become One)?

Written by Coursera Staff • Updated on

Learn about the role a security architect plays and the qualifications, experience and skills needed to become one.

[Featured image] A security architect in a black sweater and glasses stands in an open office holding a tablet.

Security architecture refers to the overall security system required to protect an organisation from security threats. As a security architect, it’s your job to design, build, and maintain your company’s security system. It’s a critical advanced-level role on nearly any cybersecurity team.

Whether you’re just getting started in cybersecurity or already have experience working in the field, setting your sights on a security architect role could be a rewarding career goal to work toward.

What does a security architect do?

A security architect plays a critical management role within an organisation’s information technology (IT) or cybersecurity department. In this role, you’re tasked with keeping your organisation safe from digital threats. Let’s take a closer look at what the job entails.

Tasks and responsibilities

The day-to-day tasks of a security architect will vary depending on the industry, size of the company, and the current state of the company’s security infrastructure. Here are some tasks you might perform in this role:

  • Designing and updating overall security strategy

  • Budgeting for new security software or hardware

  • Managing security improvement projects

  • Overseeing security testing strategy, including vulnerability scanning and penetration testing

  • Performing regular threat analysis to keep up-to-date on the current security landscape

  • Managing a cybersecurity team

  • Ensuring compliance with applicable laws and regulations

Security architect skills

In this advanced-level role, many security architects have had years to develop a set of skills needed to be effective on the job. Even if you’re new to cybersecurity, you may already possess some of these technical and workplace skills from an earlier career, or through your degree. Technical skills refer to specialized knowledge that pertain to a particular role, while workplace skills represent how you approach work. 

The following examples are taken from real security architect job listings on LinkedIn.

Security architect technical skills

  • Cloud security: With many organisations working in the cloud, you’ll need to understand best practices for keeping cloud environments secure.

  • Network security: You’ll balance business and security requirements to ensure an organisation’s network is both safe and functional.

  • Software development and DevSecOps: Experience in software development can empower you to more effectively implement security principles into the development process.

  • Identity and access management: It may be your job to protect data from unauthorised access while making that data accessible to those who need it.

  • Scripting language: The ability to write code in Python or PowerShell to automate tasks helps you work more efficiently.

  • Linux, Windows, and Mac operating systems: Depending on your organisation, you may need to address security concerns unique to each operating system.

Security architect workplace skills

  • Collaboration: Security architects often work with company stakeholders to ensure the security infrastructure addresses business needs. 

  • Mentoring and coaching: You may be tasked with managing a security team or training new cybersecurity professionals.

  • Written and verbal communication: As a driver of security policy, you’ll often need to document your work and communicate complex topics to colleagues with non-technical backgrounds.

  • Problem solving: Maintaining an organisation’s security means staying one step ahead of hackers and other threats. 

  • Project management: Understanding project management can help you oversee the implementation of new security products, procedures, or technologies.

  • Integrity: As a high-level security professional, you may have access to the same sensitive information you’ve been hired to protect. Furthermore, others might look to you for what is or is not acceptable behaviour.

Security architect vs. security engineer: What’s the difference?

A security architect creates the vision for a company’s security systems. It’s then the job of the security engineer to figure out how to implement that vision. If a security architect decides to add a new security tool to the infrastructure, the security engineer would be responsible for installing and configuring it. 


Why pursue a career in security architecture

Working as a security architect means taking a more strategic role on your organisation’s cybersecurity team. If you enjoy working with others to solve complex problems and don’t mind taking a step back from hands-on technical work, a career in security architecture could be a good fit.

Security architect salary

Security architects are often among the highest-paid members of a cybersecurity team. The average base salary for a security architect in the UK is £76,498, according to Glassdoor (April 2023). Your salary will depend on your company, location, and experience, among other factors.

Job outlook

The demand for cybersecurity jobs in the UK has increased and is set to continue to grow with a rise of 58 per cent in roles in the last year. In many industries and areas in the UK, job openings have proven to be hard to fill due to a talent gap. Forty-four per cent of companies choose to outsource cybersecurity responsibilities due to not being able to find candidates with the right skills [1].

Security architect career paths

Security architect is considered an advanced-level role within cybersecurity. Depending on your career goals, you might choose to pursue the management side of security in a larger company and team and work toward an executive security role.

You may also choose to specialise by further developing your security skills in a niche like cloud, network, or application security.  

How to become a security architect

Successful security architects are able to take a high-level view of an organisation’s security needs and craft solutions to meet those needs. Becoming a security architect often means developing your security and leadership skills whilst gaining experience working with information security. If this sounds like a career for you, here’s an outline of how to get there.

1. Start with an entry-level cybersecurity job.

Most security architects move into the role after gaining several years of experience working in cybersecurity. Browse some job listings on LinkedIn, and you might see requirements ranging from three to eight years of working in information security. Entry-level roles and their UK average annual base salaries include:

  • Cybersecurity analyst: £39,552

  • IT auditor: £49,243

  • Security specialist: £49,704

  • Incident responder: £30,092

*Average salary data sourced from Glassdoor as of April 2023

After gaining a year or two of experience, you might move into roles like penetration tester, cybersecurity consultant, or security engineer on your professional path toward becoming a security architect.

2. Consider a degree.

To have a good chance of securing a role as a security architect, you will need at least an undergraduate degree, with many employers asking for a postgraduate degree. Whilst it is possible to get your first job in cybersecurity without a degree, having one could open up more opportunities for advancement and make you a more competitive candidate in your job search.

By earning a degree in computer science, cybersecurity, information technology, or a related field, you can build some of the foundational IT and security skills recruiters are looking for.

3. Develop your cybersecurity skills.

If you’ve worked in IT before, you may already have some of the technical skills needed to become a security architect. But even if you’re completely new to cybersecurity, you can start developing these skills through online courses, bootcamps, or cybersecurity degree programs.

4. Get qualified.

Another way to gain new skills (and validate those skills to hiring managers) is to earn a cybersecurity qualification or certification. Some certifications that might prove beneficial to aspiring security architects include:

  • Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP) covers fundamental elements of the entire cybersecurity field, from security and risk management to communication and network security. 

  • Certified Information Security Manager (CISM) is an advanced certification that shows that you have the knowledge and experience to manage an enterprise information security program. 

  • Certified Ethical Hacker (CEH) is a qualification that demonstrates your knowledge of reviewing computer systems’ security by looking for weaknesses and vulnerabilities. 

Get started in cybersecurity

Learn job-ready skills in cybersecurity with the Google Cybersecurity Professional Certificate on Coursera. Get hands-on experience with industry tools and examine real-world case studies, all at your own pace. Upon completion, you’ll have a certificate for your resume and be prepared to explore job titles like security analyst, SOC (security operations center) analyst, and more. 

Frequently asked questions (FAQ)

Article sources

  1. Ipsos. “Cyber Security Skills in the UK Labour Market 2022, https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/1072767/Cyber_security_skills_in_the_UK_labour_market_2022_-_findings_report.pdf. “ Accessed November 1, 2022.

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