What is a Security Analyst?
A security analyst is responsible for keeping an organization’s sensitive and proprietary information secure. This is a vital role that involves identifying and correcting defects and flaws found in the company’s programs, applications, security systems, and more. It is also the duty of the security analyst to recommend ways to improve the business's overall security and communicate the specific measures to be taken.
Steps to Becoming a Security Analyst
To become a security analyst you will need at least a bachelor’s degree in a computer-related area. However, the only way you would be able to get your foot in the door with a bachelor’s is if someone with a higher degree doesn’t apply for the same position, as many employers will most likely choose the one with more education or experience. There are some steps that you can take to improve your chances, though.
Adding important credentials to your portfolio is a major plus, as it says a lot about your commitment to advancing your career. Having some experience can also help out a lot; therefore, you should consider an internship while earning a degree.
Steps to Take:
Step 1: Earn a bachelor's degree in cybersecurity, information technology, computer science, or a related field
Step 2: Complete an internship to obtain experience in a computer related field
Step 3: Gain special credentials by obtaining certification
Step 4: Pursue an entry-level position in general IT or security
Step 1: Earn Your Degree
Although there are some cybersecurity positions that you may obtain with an associate’s degree, most employers of security analysts desire a bachelor’s degree in computer science and information technology, computer or software engineering, information assurance, or a related area.
The curriculum for a bachelor’s degree in computer science is basically the same as for a bachelor’s degree in cybersecurity. Both programs start with a foundation in database applications, programming, and statistics then move on to topics that are more advanced including cryptography, artificial intelligence, and ethical hacking.
In a cybersecurity degree program, students will study various methods used for information systems and data protection. They are also trained in business and technical skills, including system administration, database applications, and data recovery. Coursework focuses on digital forensics, criminal psychology, and policy analysis to fully understand IT security.
Upon earning their bachelor’s degree, graduates qualify for entry-level positions as computer forensic analysts, cyber security analysts, or information security analysts.
Step 2: Complete an internship
While studying to earn your bachelor’s degree, you can also be working part-time as an intern. This has many benefits for your career; it helps you to get work experience, gain industry connections, have your questions answered by an industry professional, learn first-hand by working with experts in the field, and you can make some extra cash, too.
Although you may be able to fill a position without experience, it is always better to have some, as many employers won’t hire candidates without at least a little experience. Speak to your schools' career counselor for help in gaining internship employment. They can direct you to the many rewarding opportunities for your interest.
Step 3: Gain credentials with certification
Earning certification can be both costly and time-consuming. For example, the CompTIA Security+ certification costs roughly $320 for the exam and anywhere from $750 to $1,700 for the GSEC exam, but are well worth it considering that the credentials you will obtain will help you stand out from the competition and will allow you to negotiate a higher starting salary.
Moreover, if you are already employed, your employer may pay for the exam costs since you will be more of a value to them with the knowledge and experience you will gain by obtaining credentials. It is also important to keep your knowledge up-to-date. Many certifications require recertification after so many years in the field of cybersecurity. For instance, CISSP and Security+ require recertification.
Some of the Certifications available for Cybersecurity Professionals are:
- Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP)
- Certified Information Security Manager (CISM)
- GIAC Security Essentials (GSEC)
- GIAC Penetration Tester (GPEN)
- Certified Ethical Hacker (CEH)
- CompTIA Security+
- EC-Council Certified Security Analyst (ECSA)
Step 4: Find a Position
Once you have all of the above, including a bachelor’s degree in a computer related field, some experienced acquired through an internship program (along with hands-on training), and certifications of your choosing, you can begin applying for jobs as a security analyst. Or if your school has a good job placement program you may already have a job all lined up for you just waiting for you to graduate or at least have some promising interviews set up.
As part of a government or military agency, you will need security clearances in order to work with classified information. There are various agencies that issue both facility and personnel security clearances, however, the majority of them are issued by the “Department of Defense” (DOD).
Additionally, paperwork and procedures depend on each clearance type. The clearance process can take three months to one year and does not start until you are hired for employment and receive a conditional employment opportunity. You will first have to submit clearance documents and then commit to a background check investigation.
What Does a Security Analyst do?
As the numbers of cyber-attacks continue to rise, the responsibilities of a system analyst will also increase. Security analysts strategically develop and carry out plans that include which security measures to take to protect a company’s computer systems and networks from unauthorized access. To do this the security analyst will secure both on-premise and online infrastructures while weaving through data and metrics to filter out suspicious activities as well as mitigating risks before security breaches occur.
If and when a security breach takes place, the security analyst will take his place on the front line in an effort to counter the attack and secure the system. It is also their duty to evaluate the efficiency of the security policies and measures in place then generate reports for business managers and IT administrators. They also make the changes necessary to make the network more secure and may even develop training modules and programs to educate users and staff of security protocols.
Other responsibilities may include:
- Conducting risk analysis and vulnerability testing through security assessments
- Monitoring security access
- Performing security audits, both internal and external
- Updating the company’s disaster recovery and incident response plans
- Identifying the root cause of breaches by analyzing security
- Collaborating with third-party vendors to reach security clearance then verifying access
Security Analyst Skills to Acquire
Skills are important in cybersecurity as you will have to be one step ahead of hackers who are also very highly skilled. Some of the more important skills to acquire are:
- Communication Skills
Security analyst professionals need strong written and verbal skills in order to communicate clearly and concisely with staff, employers, network administrators, executives, clients, law enforcement, legal professionals, public relations staff, and more.
- Capable of working in a Team Environment
The ability to be able to get along and work well with others is a required skill for practically any profession, but it is especially important for professionals in cybersecurity as they must be able to work with a team regularly to establish secure systems and networks.
- Integrity and Discretion
Working in the cybersecurity field requires honesty and sensitivity to security issues. In order to be able to tackle those issues, it is important that staff members respect and trust your judgment, so they won't be reluctant to carry out your directions and accomplish the goals you set as a team leader.
- Organizational and Problem-Solving Skills
With so much going on all around you and a sheer mass of data involved with system security it is important to stay on top of things by improving your Organizational and Problem-Solving Skills.
- Programming Skills
Having keen programming skills in both systems and networking are imperative to security analysts who work with numerous programming tools and scripts regularly to develop and analyze security programs that work against breaches and cyber-attacks.
- Understanding of Security Principles
You must have a thorough understanding of security principles such as confidentiality, access control, privacy, and more in order to be able to create systems that are less vulnerable to attacks and failures.
- Risk Analysis
You will need a strong knowledge of analytical principles to be able to access the security needs of clients and staff as it is your responsibility to secure their systems and networks.
- Network Protocols
Security analysts must possess an in-depth knowledge not only of common network protocols, but of how they work, their similarities, and what they are for.
- Malicious Codes
Another must-have is a complete understanding of malicious codes, the risks associated with each, and how they are propagated, as this is what are usually used in cyber-attacks.
If you are anxious to start your career in cybersecurity, but still don’t have what it takes to earn cybersecurity certification, then you can take another path as an associate of (ISC) designation. This alternative path may be the best way for aspiring cybersecurity professionals to fast track their career and immediately earn a badge to prove their knowledge.
The Associate of ISC program allows candidates, who don’t have the required experience, to jump right into an entry-level position, by taking and passing any one of four certification exams to earn an Associate of ISC certification that you can use to work until you obtain full certification.
This certification will also award you with resources to learn, grow, and help you thrive during your productive journey.
Career and Salary
Where Might You Work?
New cyber threats consistently threaten organizations, both big and small, of all industries worldwide. Fortunately, the more cyber-attacks that pour in, the higher the demand is for cybersecurity experts. Therefore, security analysts can find themselves working for many different establishments, as every organization is a potential target for hackers, but especially big corporations and government agencies, hospitals, and banks.
In 2017 Information Security Analysts earned a median salary of $95,510 where the 25% lowest-paid earned $72,130 and the 25% highest-paid earned $123,180.
Potential Career Paths
There are a wide variety of opportunities for security analysts as there is much more involved with combating cyber-attacks. Here are some potential career paths that a security analyst can take:
Chief Information Security Officer
A chief information security officer (CISO) is generally a mid-level executive position. These professionals work with higher-level management to evaluate and determine cybersecurity needs. They are also responsible for overseeing the general operations of an organization's IT security sector and directing, coordinating, and planning all data security, network, and computer needs of the company and staff.
Forensic Computer Analyst
The forensic computer analyst is like a cybersecurity world detective as they search through computers to find and review information that may be evidence involved in a cyber incident.
Their duties include identifying vulnerabilities by utilizing special skills, programs, and tools to recover data from hard drives, external drives, or other storage devices that may have been damaged or destroyed.
Information Security Analyst
An Information Security Analyst (ISA) protects an organization's computer network and systems from attacks by developing and executing plans or taking other measures that include installing programs for use with firewalls and data encryption.
In addition, ISAs helps develop and implement methods and plans for systems and data recovery following a cyber-attack.
IT Security Engineer
Security engineering involves designing security systems and taking a specialized approach to counter cybersecurity and other potential issues.
They are also responsible for performing security checks to identify possible vulnerabilities, systems maintenance to keep everything running smooth, keeping logs, and designing automation scripts to track incidents.
Security Analyst Careers Salaries
|Computer Forensics Expert||$41,400||$87,000||$100,100|
**Salary info provided by PayScale
The demand for professionals in the cyber security field is high now, yet is expected to get even higher as these professionals will be needed to help develop innovative solutions for system security. A report by Burning Glass Technologies, a job analytics firm, found cybersecurity job opening posts have grown three times faster than openings posted for cybersecurity professionals or IT jobs overall, and are taking home 9% more income than their IT counterparts.
According to Cisco Systems, Inc., there is a shortage of cybersecurity experts, especially those skilled in data science, resulting in many computer science professionals, particularly in IT fields, taking notice and eyeing the field of cybersecurity. Still, professionals that outpace security analysts are currently hard to find.
In addition, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) Projects that between 2016 and 2026, employment growth for security analysts will rise 28.5%, which should result in 28,500 new job openings. Another projection noted by the BLS is a 37% job growth for security analysts from 2012 to 2022 compared to an 11% growth for all occupations and 18% for all computer related jobs.
Find Security Analyst Jobs Near You
Advancing from Here
One way to advance from here is to earn a graduate degree in cybersecurity. To meet this goal, some employers may offer tuition reimbursement, as employees will be more of a benefit to a company after earning higher-education.
Assuming you already have a bachelor’s degree, it can take one to two years to earn a master’s degree, which provides advanced electronic infrastructures and instruction in countermeasures and various techniques to protect computers and network systems from attack.
Even though you’ve already obtained certain certifications, there’s no reason why you shouldn’t earn more, yet there are many reasons why you should
- You will gain more knowledge in other areas of the industry
- It proves you are committed to continuing your education and acing your craft
- Your portfolio will look all the more appealing to prospective employers
- Get ahead of your competition
- Earn more income
- Gain more experience
- Meet more individuals in your industry
After you have been working for several years as a security analyst, you can hone your skills in cryptography, engineering, auditing, and more. Other higher level positions you can one day enter include the following:
- Security Engineer
- Security Consultant
- Security Architect
- Security Manager
- Security Administrator
- Forensics Expert
From these positions, you can work your way up to the C-Suite and become a:
- Chief Information Officer (CIO)
- Chief Security Officer (CSO)
- Chief Information Security Officer (CISO)
- Security Director