A cybersecurity analyst, also known as an information security analyst, encompasses many roles within the security field. The duties and obligations associated with this position can differ based on factors like industry and company size. However, a cybersecurity analyst's primary responsibility is to monitor and assess security threats to computer systems and networks.
Another critical facet of the cybersecurity analyst's role involves developing proactive security strategies, including deploying specialized and up-to-date hardware and software solutions. Information security analysts are also tasked with creating security-related audit assessments and implementing continuous monitoring systems.
The job responsibilities of a security analyst encompass a broad spectrum of tasks, from controlling access to files and managing credentials to maintaining firewalls and ensuring network updates are current. They may also engage in proactive efforts to identify vulnerabilities and weaknesses in systems through ethical hacking practices.
Four steps to becoming a security analyst
Research: The encouraging news is that the landscape of opportunities and the diversity of roles falling within the cybersecurity analyst domain continues to evolve. This means there are abundant career prospects for cybersecurity professionals who position themselves strategically. To embark on a cybersecurity analyst career journey, the first step is to identify the type of work you wish to pursue and then align it with the necessary educational and certification requirements. Even entry-level security analyst positions may demand specialized training, so it's wise to plan accordingly.
Education: According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), most cybersecurity analysts hold a bachelor's degree in cybersecurity or a closely related field, such as mathematics, computer science, or engineering. However, in certain cases, individuals with an associate degree and relevant training or background, such as military service, can secure entry-level cybersecurity positions in the private sector. Cyberseek's data reveals that 12 percent of employed analysts have an associate degree, 71 percent possess a bachelor's degree, and 17 percent hold a master's degree.
Certification: What sets cybersecurity apart from other professions is the prevalence of certification requirements for many jobs at entry and mid-career levels. These certifications demonstrate proficiency in specific skills and are crucial for career planning in cybersecurity. It's essential to pay attention to the certifications required for various roles within the field, including:
- Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP)
- SANS/GIAC Certification (Various)
- Certified Information Systems Auditor (CISA)
- CompTIA Security+
- Certified Information Security Manager (CISM)
Network: Establishing a professional network is vital to becoming a security analyst. A network aligned with a specific career path will help you stay informed about the latest trends and opportunities in the cybersecurity domain.
What is a security analyst or an information security analyst?
Security analysts operate within a broad spectrum of computer and information networks. They can be found in various domains, from corporate databases and banking networks to office and military intelligence systems. Security analysts are essential wherever computers store, share, or utilize substantial amounts of data.
A proficient security analyst typically possesses an advanced understanding of hardware and software and expertise in data storage and management.
The foremost cybersecurity threats confronting information technology networks, regardless of their scale, encompass ransomware attacks, social engineering attacks, and the theft or compromise of sensitive information from within an organization or company. Consequently, cybersecurity analysts must be well-prepared to address diverse threats and diligently assess security vulnerabilities both within and outside their organizations.
Analyst skills and experience
The cybersecurity skills and expertise demanded can vary significantly across different job roles. Some job listings for security analysts seek individuals with specific skills, such as managing proprietary networks, providing employee training, or conducting penetration testing on an organization's digital assets.
For students and early career professionals, an effective strategy to discern the most valuable and marketable job skills involves studying a variety of job descriptions across different types of employers. This research can reveal emerging trends and show how existing skills and experiences align with job opportunities. A deep understanding of the current job market can also inform decisions regarding pursuing specific security certifications and degrees.
Despite the diversity in cybersecurity analyst roles, certain characteristics and skills are common to the profession:
- Programming Experience: Given that cybersecurity analysts are responsible for safeguarding digital infrastructure, it is logical that they should possess a foundational level of programming knowledge and familiarity with essential programming languages like C, C++, PHP, Perl, and Java.
- Analytical: Security analysts deal with data from various sources, necessitating the ability to synthesize information from multiple inputs to make informed decisions.
- Detail-Oriented: Much of the work undertaken by cybersecurity analysts involves scrutinizing small details, such as lines of code or network commands, which can have significant implications.
- Forward-Thinking: Security analysts must anticipate future developments based on current data and trends, allowing them to make security recommendations aligned with potential threats.
According to data from Cyberseek, the top skills currently in demand in the cybersecurity field include:
- Information security
- Information systems
- Network security
- Threat analysis
- Security operations
- Vulnerability assessment
- Project management
- Intrusion detection
Additionally, future projected skills in cybersecurity encompass:
- Public cloud security
- Comprehensive software security
- Threat hunting
- Security information and event management (SIEM)
- Threat intelligence and response
What do cybersecurity analysts do?
A security analyst in an organization or company often assumes a multifaceted role, comparable to donning several hats. They embody aspects of law enforcement officers, systems designers, policymakers, and educators.
While security analysts are sometimes likened to the first responders of the digital realm, being frequently called upon to address and mitigate security incidents, the reality is that the majority of cybersecurity analysts dedicate their time to tasks such as crafting policies and procedures, scrutinizing industry best practices, and imparting training to employees within the organization.
Ideally, a security analyst operates proactively to thwart security breaches before they occur. This proactive stance could involve continuously updating systems and software to fortify defenses or actively seeking vulnerabilities by testing firewalls, searching for loopholes in computer code, and evaluating the security of operating systems. In essence, they function as the guardians of digital assets, working diligently to ensure the integrity and resilience of the organization's cybersecurity posture.
Security analyst job description
A brief exploration of numerous security analyst job listings reveals a wide spectrum of available positions, encompassing entry-level roles and more advanced security and threat mitigation positions.
While specific job requirements and qualifications can vary significantly, the California Employment Development Department has outlined some fundamental expectations for cybersecurity analyst roles, including:
- Encrypting data transmissions and establishing and maintaining firewalls to safeguard sensitive information.
- Devising strategies and technologies to shield computer data and files from unintended tampering or destruction, including protection against malware and other potential attack vectors.
- Formulating plans and protocols for addressing data breaches and cyberattacks.
- Staying abreast of the latest attack methods and devising countermeasures to safeguard against them.
- Monitoring computer software and user activity to fortify network and organizational security.
- Conducting regular risk assessments to ensure compliance with security best practices.
- Engaging with staff members and providing training to enhance awareness of security threats, empowering individual users and teams to bolster information security.
Common job titles associated with this role include:
- Security analyst
- Information security analyst
- Information technology security analyst
- Security operations analyst
- Compliance Analyst
Outlook for cybersecurity analysts
With the ongoing digital transformation sweeping across industries and sectors, the demand for security analysts remains steady. Traditionally, traditional cybersecurity analysts primarily served in specialized sectors tied to critical segments of the economy, such as the military, finance, banking, and the oil and gas industries.
However, the landscape has evolved, and today, even consumer-oriented companies and everyday brands are enlisting the services of cybersecurity analysts to fortify their organizational defenses. The demand for highly skilled cybersecurity professionals has become so pronounced that the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) anticipates a remarkable 36 percent growth in employment opportunities for cybersecurity experts by 2024.
This projected rate of job expansion surpasses the growth rate in many other sectors of the economy, and it is expected to persist in the coming years as more companies and organizations recognize the imperative need to invest in cybersecurity positions to safeguard their digital assets and operations.
How much do cybersecurity and information security analysts make?
In addition to the appeal of engaging and dynamic work, the increasing abundance of career openings, and the diverse avenues available for acquiring the necessary skills, embarking on a career as a security analyst can also yield substantial earning potential.
As of 2023, according to ZipRecruiter, the average annual salary for a cybersecurity analyst stands at $99,628, with a salary range spanning from $41,500 to $146,000. Professionals with additional training, experience, and educational qualifications can anticipate higher earnings.
If you're interested in exploring more career opportunities within the cybersecurity field, consider perusing the cyber careers guide for further insights.
Frequently asked questions
What is a cybersecurity analyst?
A cybersecurity analyst is a skilled expert tasked with safeguarding an organization's computer systems and networks against cyber threats. Their duties encompass vigilant network monitoring to detect security breaches, recognizing potential risks, and formulating protective measures to preserve the integrity of the organization's data and technology infrastructure.
What does a cybersecurity analyst do?
The role of cybersecurity analysts revolves around shielding an organization's computer systems and networks against cyberattacks. To excel in this profession, they require a robust blend of technical and analytical prowess, complemented by exceptional communication and interpersonal abilities. Additionally, their effectiveness is paramount to staying well-informed about the most recent cyber threats and security developments.
How do I start a cybersecurity analyst career?
Acquire the fundamentals of cybersecurity by pursuing a degree in a closely aligned field, such as mathematics, computer science, or engineering. Conduct thorough industry research and attain relevant certification.
What is the outlook for cybersecurity analysts?
As stated by the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, the employment rate for information security analysts is projected to surge by 35 percent through 2031. This surge in demand is attributed to the ongoing digital transformation across various industries and sectors, underscoring the sustained need for security analysts.
What are important skills and/or experiences needed?
Cybersecurity analysts need robust technical acumen, encompassing proficiency in programming languages, operating systems, and network protocols. Their role also demands analytical and problem-solving abilities to detect and resolve security concerns. Furthermore, effective communication skills are essential for seamless collaboration with fellow members of the organization's security team.