Cyber risk analysts have some of the highest paying jobs on the market these days. Companies and governments need qualified professionals to assess their computer systems and determine how at risk they are of attack, and they’re willing to pay for it.
There are always new opportunities available in the cyber security field for qualified individuals. Following the information outlined here, you will gain the knowledge necessary to pursue a cyber security risk analyst career.
Cyber security is a rewarding field for those willing to put the work in. If that’s you, then you could be one of the few people skilled enough to protect our modern world from the digital threats it faces.
What Is a Cybersecurity Risk Analyst?
Cyber risk analysts have the critical responsibility of planning and executing security protocols for computer systems, networks, and servers. They are the people who design, update, and maintain the digital security systems companies and government use.
Steps to Become a Cyber Risk Analyst:
In general, these are the steps most people who wish to become a cyber risk analyst take to work in their desired job in the field.
Step 1: Earn a bachelor’s degree in computer science, cyber security, information technology, or another related field.
Step 2: Intern at a cyber security firm to gain relevant experience.
Step 3: Complete the special certifications required to work in the field.
Step 4: Gain an entry-level position as a security admin, network admin, or systems admin.
Step 5: Apply for mid-level cyber security consultant positions.
Step 1: Bachelor’s Degree
Although some positions in the cyber security risk analyst field only require an associate degree or equivalent certifications, most employers prefer candidates who have a bachelor’s degree, at least. You should have a degree in computer science, cyber security risk analyst, IT, data science, or another relevant field.
The course load for any of these degrees is fairly similar in the early stages. You will study foundations in computer and data science, statistics, coding, and programming. However, the course work diverges in the later phases of the degrees. A cyber security risk analyst focuses more on things like ethical hacking, artificial intelligence, and cryptography, while computer science might home in on software engineering and database systems implementation.
Step 2: Internship
Internships are among the best ways to get experience in cyber security jobs before organizations hire you to do the work. An internship often occurs during or directly after completing your bachelor’s degree. There are many benefits an internship can provide. You gain industry connections, valuable work experience, mentorship, and an insider perspective on what the job entails.
Although some firms hire without previous work experience, an internship can set you above the competition. Firms are always looking for candidates who are not completely clueless, and an internship is a great way to showcase that you already have some knowledge of what the job requires.
Step 3: Certifications
Employers often require cyber risk analysts to hold at least one cyber security risk analyst certification, maybe more. These are often expensive, so it might be that you’re already in an entry-level systems admin position, and your employer pays for you to complete the courses. In this case, you can switch steps three and four on this list.
The most common certifications that cyber risk analysts hold are the CompTia Security+ cert and the GSEC cert, both of which cost hundreds of dollars to complete.
However, there are many other certifications that you can complete, including:
- Certified Ethical Hacker (CEH)
- Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP)
- GIAC Penetration Tester (GPEN)
- EC-Council Certified Security Analyst (ECSA)
Step 4: Entry-Level Position
Cyber risk analyst is a mid to high-level position in the cyber security risk analyst field. In order to get to that level, you need to put in the work in a lower position. Cyber risk analysts often start as a system, network, or security admin for a firm or government authority before climbing the career ladder.
Using the connections you’ve made in your internship or through your job-placement program at your university, you will likely have a few avenues to an entry-level position. There are also plenty of job sites that regularly post availability for cyber security professionals. However, the best way to advance your career is by taking advantage of the relationships you’ve fostered to get to this point.
Step 5: Apply for Cyber Risk Analyst Positions
Once you have the necessary experience and certification under your belt, it’s time to apply for the mid-level cyber risk analyst positions you’ve been dreaming of. At this point, you will likely have a direct connection in the industry to apply through. If not, you can use your experience as leverage in interviews with various firms or government agencies.
It’s important to keep in mind that there may be conflicts of interest or security clearance issues that may crop up in the application process, depending on your work background. If you plan to work for a government agency, the DoD (Department of Defense) will likely give you a background check and a subsequent security clearance. Some employers may exclude you based on their risk assessment, but there are always other companies out there.
What Does a Cyber Risk Analyst Do?
The different tasks cyber risk analysts might be in charge of will vary depending on what company they work for and what the nature of their role is in the organization.
However, a typical day for them will most likely involve:
- Performing security audits:
This is, providing a security analysis of the internal and external security measures in place for an information system, essential to evaluating and addressing potential weaknesses and vulnerabilities.
- Monitoring user access:
Computer networks often have hundreds of users that have access to it at any given time. Cyber risk analysts evaluate users’ password strength, which users have access to different system areas, and track irregular login data that may indicate a breach.
- Investigating security breaches:
Cyber security consultants are the main party responsible for investigating and identifying the cause of a computer system’s security breaches. Once they find the breach, they must repair or upgrade the security system to prevent a similar breach from happening in the future.
- Prepare failsafe measures:
If a security breach succeeds, cyber risk analysts have to have backups in place to save and secure data from further interruption. This can include setting up backup servers to recover data and protocols for other employees to follow.
- Vet third-party vendors and contractors:
Companies often have outside help to set up and manage various departments. Cyber security risk analyst experts have to thoroughly vet them to ensure that they meet security and regulatory standards as they work on and off-site. This can also include assessing the contractor’s information security protocols to ensure they are up to the standards necessary to protect your employer’s data as they utilize it.
Cyber Risk Analyst Skills to Acquire
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics lists many of the skills and qualities a cyber risk analyst needs to complete their job. In addition to hard skills provided by education and certification, applicants need to demonstrate that they have the soft skills listed below.
- Critical analysis:
Cyber risk analysts need to critically analyze established and newly developed computer systems and networks. You can’t take anything at complete face value and must be able to assess how a network or system can be compromised or improved.
- Attention to detail:
Because computer systems are incredibly intricate and complex, a cyber risk analyst needs to have an eye for small details. A hacker can exploit even the smallest line of code in a security breach, so you need to be able to spot potential issues and avenues for improvement that aren’t obvious to anyone else.
The cyber security field is constantly changing, both from a defensive and offensive standpoint. You have to keep up to date with new methods and technologies for cyber security risk analyst and be able to implement them in creative ways that will keep the competition guessing.
- Exceptional problem-solving:
A cyber risk analyst’s entire job is based on problem-solving. You have to combine all of the previous qualities listed here and implement them to tackle the various obstacles you’ll encounter on the job. Because there are so many different things that can go wrong, you have to be able to adapt and implement problem-solving strategies on the fly.
Although the pathway listed earlier in the article is often the best way to get a job as a cyber security engineer, it isn’t the only way to get the job. People often gain special skills in other fields of work that also apply to the cyber security industry. If you work in a similar field, such as IT or computer programming, you may have already learned what’s necessary to make the switch into digital application security.
Military service members can also possess the abilities required for cyber security risk analyst. Every branch of the military has cyber security professionals protecting the country’s data, offering members training opportunities to advance into the field. Military service is a viable alternative to the traditional college pathway to employment, and the military will often pay for additional schooling and certifications.
However, you almost always need some sort of degree to be a competitive applicant. If you have an associate’s degree, completing certifications may be enough to open up opportunities for advancement as a cyber security professional.
Also, it never hurts to express interest in the cyber security risk analyst field to your current employer. They may be willing to help provide training and counseling for you to develop into the position. In-house promotion is a great way for companies to ensure the quality of their applicants and keep recruitment costs down in the long run.
Cyber Risk Analyst Career & Salary
Cyber risk analysts have various career paths and annual wages depending on their position and what company or government agency they work for. In general, cyber security professionals earn far above what the average American takes in every year due to the special skills the field requires and how important the position is to companies’ everyday operations.
Where Might You Work?
Cyber risk analysts work in almost every industry imaginable. Because nearly every industry in the modern age relies on IT to keep their operations running, companies need cyber security professionals to protect their data from competitors, among other threats.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics lists the departments where the most cyber security professionals work in private companies and government agencies:
- Computer systems design - 26%
- Finance and insurance - 18%
- Company and enterprise management - 9%
- IT - 8%
- Administration - 6%
Cyber risk analysts often work with other IT professionals such as network security administrators, software engineers, electrical engineers, and computer systems analysts, among others. You’ll find that your job requires you to adapt to different techniques of computer system analysis depending on who you work with at the time.
Cyber risk analysts benefit from a great career outlook, no matter where they work. The field is growing every year, and the BLS projects an estimated 31% growth from 2019 to 2029. That’s much higher than almost every other industry they measured, meaning there will be plenty of cyber security jobs available over the next decade.
The median salary for cyber security analysts was just under $100,000 in 2019. The lowest 10% of professionals in the industry earned less than $58,000, while the highest 10% earned over $158,000. Even at an entry-level position, you can earn far more and have better benefits than the average American worker.
If you take an entry or mid-level position in a company or government agency in cyber security risk analyst, coupled with the fact that you are good at what you’re doing, you will most likely have plenty of room for upward mobility. You can go from doing the grunt work on the ground level to managing an entire company's security operations within a few years of time. The key to your career growth is never getting complacent; to always being on the lookout for new skills and new ways to approach problems.
As a cyber risk analyst, there are quite a few jobs you can hold. From entry-level to top-management positions, a career in cyber security risk analyst can take you across astoundingly different industries and departments.
Also, having a degree in cyber security doesn’t mean it restricts you from working in that field alone. There are plenty of employers who need the special skills possessed by a cyber security analyst that aren’t necessarily cyber-security oriented.
Some of the jobs you may encounter as a cyber risk analyst include:
Information Security Analyst:
An information security analyst (ISA) has the crucial role of protecting, maintaining, and upgrading a company’s computer systems and networks. They are also responsible for establishing data recovery protocols following a potential cyber-attack or security breach.
Penetration testers play an important role in the cyber security risk analyst landscape. They, with authorization from the organization, attempt to hack into computer networks and systems. They identify the chinks in the digital armor that non-ethical hackers can exploit during a cyber-attack.
System Security Architect:
Security system architects are the ones who establish and maintain an organization’s digital security systems. They customize the individual security policies depending on the needs of the company. Also, they establish the protocols other employees use when accessing the company’s network.
Chief Information Security Officer:
A CISA is in charge of an organization’s IT security department. They are the planner and organizers, directing the employees under them to execute the established security protocols and develop new ones.
Consultants are the cyber security risk analyst field’s freelancers, meeting with different clients to help them establish and maintain their IT security systems. People with this job often help smaller companies who don’t have the resources to have their own IT security department.
Find Cyber Risk Analyst Jobs Near You
Advancing from Here
Once you’ve established yourself as a qualified cyber risk analyst, you may wonder where you go from there. While many people are perfectly happy in the entry or mid-level positions that the job offers, many others want to be at the top of the food chain.
With enough experience, you may be able to start your own agency, consulting other organizations on how to implement cyber security strategies, or developing new techniques and technologies to address new problems in the field. Whatever job you’re in, there’s room for career advancement either in your organization or on greener pastures.
Computer Career Paths