An information security analyst, also known more simply as a security analyst, is someone who helps protect a company’s sensitive and critical data. The role entails staying one step ahead of cyber criminals who are trying to compromise such information.
As an information security analyst, you can find employment in a variety of private companies, as well as governmental and non-governmental organizations. To find work as a security analyst, you will ideally need a Bachelor’s degree in a relevant subject. Most jobs, including entry-level positions, will require this level of education. Additional learning, such as a Master’s degree or certificate, can also put you in a great position to secure the top jobs in the industry.
In this article, we outline exactly what a security analyst does on a day-to-day basis, as well as other information you’ll want to know about, including necessary and helpful qualifications, how to find work, what you can expect to earn, and the best companies hiring for this position.
What is an information security analyst?
An information security analyst will take many steps to protect an organization’s computer network and systems. A core responsibility is to prevent cyber criminals from carrying out attacks that can give them access to a company’s sensitive information. Criminals might want to compromise this data to:
- Carry out identity theft
- Make financial demands
- Gain money from customers’ financial details
- Target users with phishing scams
- Act out motivations like revenge, publicity, and power
Security analysts play a major role in developing a company’s disaster recovery plan. This involves creating a procedure that other IT employees should follow should an emergency situation arise. This plan means the IT department can continue to operate. Aspects of the strategy will include regularly copying and sending data to an off-site location, as well as restoring the IT system back to normal after the disaster.
A security analyst’s job is, therefore, extremely important. Their role is essential in stopping the very worst outcomes from occurring. But their responsibilities are also changing all the time, as they need to stay aware of the latest cyber criminal tricks and know-how. This means they will be motivated to continue expanding their knowledge of IT security and researching the latest advances in cyber security technology.
See also: Cybersecurity jobs overview
What does an information security analyst do?
Security analysts don’t all have the same responsibilities. What you end up doing each day as a security analyst will depend on different factors, such as:
- Your educational level
- Your experience
- The seniority of your role
- Whether your role involves managerial aspects or not
- Your specialization
- The size of the company and IT department
- The company you work for
- The industry that your company belongs to
Nonetheless, as an information security analyst, there are some basic duties you need to be able to carry out. These responsibilities include:
- Monitoring the organization’s networks for any security breaches and investigating a violation when one occurs
- Creating reports that detail security breaches and the extent of damage they caused
- Helping computer users install new security products and procedures, and providing training in how to use them
- Researching the latest IT security trends
- Developing security standards and best practices for the company
- Recommending security enhancements to management and more senior IT staff
- Carrying out penetration testing, which involves simulating a cyber attack and looking for vulnerabilities before a malicious hacker finds them
- Installing and utilizing software, such as firewalls and data protection programs, which help protect sensitive information
There are a number of tools that security analysts can use when engaged in these activities, such as Nmap, Ncat, Metasploit, Nikto, and Wireshark. These will allow an information security analyst to find weaknesses that a cyber criminal could exploit.
What skills are required to become a security analyst?
An information security analyst has a specific role to play in the field of cyber security. For this reason, their skillset and knowledge will be unique. If we consider the regular responsibilities of most security analysts, you can expect to need the following qualities, abilities, and knowledge:
- Analytical skills
- Problem-solving abilities
- Communication skills
- Strong collaboration potential
- IT knowledge
- Experience with intrusion prevention systems and tools
- In-depth understanding of risk management frameworks
- Familiarity with security standards and regulations
- Eagerness to deepen learning about IT and the latest technologies
How to become an information security analyst
If the job description of a security analyst appeals to you, the next thing you’ll want to know about is how to go about obtaining a job in this field. We have formulated a clear, five-step process that will take you from having an interest in this area of cyber security to gaining high-quality positions.
Here’s how to become an information security analyst:
- Write up a plan
- Research degree options
- Consider the benefits of a certification
- Know where to look for work
- Always seek to broaden your learning
Let’s explore each of these steps in greater detail:
1. Write up a plan
For this initial stage, you’ll want to devise a plan describing the different aspects of your ideal career path. This plan should consist of:
- How to gain the necessary skills and knowledge (including what and where to study)
- Whether you want to work for a private firm, governmental body, or NGO
- What industry you want to work in (for example, energy, media, transport, finance, environment, and so on)
- Which area of IT security you want to specialize in (there are several subsets of information security analysts)
We recommend that when drawing up this plan, you focus on a career that closely matches your interests, preferences, personality, and goals. This will ensure that you choose a job that feels personally fulfilling. You can also find out the requirements for any position by contacting a recruiter directly. They will let you know what degrees and qualifications are either necessary or preferred.
2. Research degree options
For most information security analyst positions, you will need a degree in a related subject. A Bachelor’s degree will provide you with the fundamental knowledge base and skillset to get started as a security analyst. Degrees that can help get your foot in the door include:
- Computer science
- Cyber security
- Information security
3. Consider the benefits of a certification
As well as gaining a Bachelor’s degree in an IT-related field, you may want to further expand your understanding of computer and network security. Indeed, for some positions and companies, specific certifications might be required. Before signing up to any of these programs, however, make sure that the qualification you have in mind is definitely necessary for your chosen career path. You want a return on investment, after all. The top security analyst certifications worth looking into are:
- CompTIA’s PenTest+
- ESCA – EC Council Certified Security Analyst
- GIAC’s (Global Information Assurance Certification) GPEN certification
- ESCA – EC Council Certified Security Analyst
- CISM – Certified Information Security Manager
- CompTIA Security+
- CISSP – Certified Information Systems Security Professional
- CISA – Certified Information Security Auditor
4. Know where to look for work
Armed with the necessary qualifications, your next task will be the job hunt. This can be a challenge in itself and may take some time. But you can make the process smoother by knowing where to look for security analyst vacancies. If you have little to no experience, or a basic level of knowledge, you will want to focus on entry-level positions. On the other hand, with some experience or additional education in the field, you will be in a great position to apply for the higher level and better paying jobs.
To find work in governmental organizations, we recommend researching the following resources:
But if you would prefer to work in the commercial sector, there are plenty of fantastic firms hiring information security analysts. Some examples include:
- Lockheed Martin
- U.S. Air Force (USAF)
- Booz, Allen, and Hamilton
- General Dynamics Information Technology Inc
You will also be able to find plenty of security analyst vacancies on the main job boards, such as Monster, ZipRecruiter, Glassdoor, LinkedIn, and Indeed, as well as niche job sites like CyberSecurityJobsite.com and CyberSecJobs.com.
Take a look at the salary section below so you can keep in mind companies that pay particularly well.
5. Always seek to broaden your learning
If you are highly motivated and have ambitious career goals, then you will want to expand your plan beyond an initial job. Of course, by performing well in an entry-level position, you will naturally be considered for pay increases and promotions. However, to achieve specific career goals, you’ll need to be active in your career development and further learning.
You can refine your skillset and technical knowledge in a number of ways, including carrying out independent research, studying a Master’s degree, or taking another relevant course. Many Master’s degrees offer flexibility, for example, by providing evening and weekend classes, and some schools offer entirely online Master’s programs. This makes it easier to fit continued learning around your current lifestyle.
It’s important to discuss your education plans with your employer. After all, it’s quite common for companies to help fund studies if they will benefit your career development and expand what you can offer the organization.
Some reputable online Master’s degrees to consider include:
- UC Berkeley School of Information’s Master of Information and Cybersecurity (MICS)
- University of Delaware’s Master of Science in Cybersecurity
- Syracuse University’s M.S. in Cybersecurity
Information security analyst salary
Before embarking on a career as an information security analyst, you’ll likely want to consider your earning potential. You will be glad to know that security analysts, including those in entry-level positions, typically enjoy an attractive pay package.
The average salary of security analysts easily makes the investment of time, money, and effort into studies well worth it. The reason salaries tend to be high is that, as a security analyst, you will be trusted to protect sensitive and critical data. Staff and clients rely on you to avoid major interruptions at work.
A reliable resource for checking salaries is PayScale, according to which:
- The average salary of an information security analyst is $72,836.
- The range of pay for an information security analyst is $51,000–$110,000.
There is also data showing how you might expect to see your salary increase over time:
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With the right kind of education, experience, and drive, you’ll be able to aim for the best-paid and most secure security analyst positions. Additional information from PayScale illustrates that the top employers for information security analysts pay the following average salaries:
- Lockheed Martin: $91,924
- U.S. Air Force (USAF): $60,678
- Booz, Allen, and Hamilton: $79,385
- General Dynamics Information Technology Inc: $81,921
- TraceSecurity: $55,326