Most information security analyst jobs require specific training, skills, and job experience. With the right qualifications, education, and talents, anybody can become an information security analyst.
You may be wondering: What is information security analysis? It is an incredibly important field in today’s business environment, since most organizations rely heavily on information systems in their daily work. Information security analysts work to secure information networks and systems in many different types of organizations. They protect computer networks by monitoring for and responding to threats.
This page provides guidance on how to become an information security analyst. Below you can also explore information on information security analyst careers, salaries, educational requirements, professional resources, and daily job responsibilities.
What Does an Information Security Analyst Do?
Information security analysts protect computer networks at companies, nonprofits, and government agencies. They work in computer systems design services, as well as in finance, insurance, and administration support services. To become an information security analyst, individuals typically need a bachelor’s degree in information technology or another computer-related major. Employers sometimes prefer candidates who hold a master’s degree.
Information security analysts oversee computer network systems to stave off potential security breaches. They maintain systems by updating software and recommending security updates to management. Information security analysts also work one on one with employees to help them understand new programs and hardware. With the growing prevalence of hackers, more companies need information security analysts.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects 32% employment growth in the field of information security analysis from 2018-2028, much faster than average. This guide covers how to become an information security analyst, what you can potentially earn, and how to advance your career.
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KEY HARD SKILLS
Hard skills are teachable, specific technical skills that a person needs to excel in a particular line of work. For a computer programmer, for example, the ability to code in a variety of computer languages qualifies as an essential hard skill. Below you can learn about important hard skills of information security analysts.
- Tableau Software: Tableau Software, a business intelligence and analytics software program, helps information security analysts understand their data and allows them to share content. Some information security analyst degrees include courses on this data visualization software, or graduates can take Tableau certification courses.
- Cybersecurity: Cybersecurity requires a fundamental skill set that applies to all information security analysts. Every company needs a cybersecurity expert who understands risk management and mitigation. Information security analysts with solid cybersecurity skills often hold certifications such as CompTIA security+, certified ethical hacker, and certified information systems security professional. They must also have a background in IT fundamentals and coding.
- Network Security Management: Network security management involves implementing strategies to improve the security of a company’s interconnected computer systems. Proper management involves consistently testing new security software and responding promptly to potential risks. Network security managers oversee teams of IT specialists and analysts. These professionals must translate computer-related problems to upper management.
- Security Testing and Auditing: Information security analysts perform security testing and audits to identify vulnerabilities in the infrastructure of computer networks. These analysts conduct these processes as preventative measures to determine the strength of the IT system’s defenses and expose and resolve any weaknesses.
- IT Security and Infrastructure: Information security analysts must know how to navigate their company’s IT infrastructure, including firewalls and routers. They monitor the computer system’s infrastructure and traffic on a continual basis to find security breaches and potential risks. Information security analysts provide solutions, such as configuring security tools, when vulnerabilities threaten IT security and computer infrastructure.
- Project Management: Information security analysts need excellent project management skills to help them stay organized. Project management skills include overseeing teams who collect data and monitoring systems to identify security threats. A successful information security analyst needs solid communication skills to see projects through from inception to completion.
- Security Risk Management: An information security analyst must monitor activity and determine the difference between permissible and impermissible risks. Through security risk management, these analysts can identify high- and low-level security risks. These professionals then create strategies to effectively address these threats.
KEY SOFT SKILLS
Most jobs, even highly technical positions, require great soft skills. Well-honed soft skills are essential for any person who needs to work with others and communicate effectively. Strong computer, problem-solving, communication, and analytical abilities can help students pursue a career as an information security analyst.
- Analytical Thinking: Information security analysts need to meticulously analyze their organization’s computer networks and systems on a regular basis. They need strong attention to detail and analytical skills in order to spot weak points, evaluate possible threats, and determine the most appropriate security measures to implement.
- Communication Skills: Professionals across industries need strong communication skills to collaborate with coworkers and explain their ideas clearly in person and in writing. Information security analysts must possess the skills to effectively describe technical issues to their fellow information technology workers and to non-technical employees.
- Problem-solving: Many computer-related occupations require strong problem-solving skills, whether for software engineering, information technology management, or computer systems design. As part of their daily responsibilities, cybersecurity workers need to quickly and proactively identify security issues and address problems.
What does an information security analyst do every day? The daily tasks of a cybersecurity worker vary depending on their specialty and employer. Information security analysts at banks typically work to secure financial transactions, while those working at technology companies may spend time protecting sensitive user data.
Wherever they work, information security analysts use their network security, critical thinking, and analysis skills to detect security breaches, test current security measures, install software, and plan for possible cyber attacks.
Can anyone be an information security analyst?
Most information security analyst jobs require specific training, skills, and job experience. With the right qualifications, education, and talents, anybody can become an information security analyst.
What education do I need to be an information security analyst?
Information security analyst education requirements typically include a bachelor’s degree in a field such as information assurance, information technology, or computer science.
How long does it take to become an information security analyst?
It takes approximately four years to earn an information security bachelor’s degree and begin looking for a job. Some employers require related work experience or an MBA.
How much does an information security analyst make?
The mean information security analyst salary is $102,470 per year. Salary depends on factors such as professional experience, industry, and location.
What do entry-level information security analysts do?
Early career information security analysts plan penetration tests, research developments in information security, recommend new security measures, and install new firewalls and encryption programs.
Information Security Analyst Salary Information
Information security analysts enjoy high salaries, even when compared with other computer and information technology professionals. According to the BLS, the national median salary for computer occupations is $86,320, while the median pay for information security analysts is close to $100,000.
Many factors can affect an information security analyst’s yearly pay. The BLS reports that the top 10% of information security analysts earn at least $156,580 per year, while the top 25% of earners take home more than $126,870 annually. Variations in income among information security analysts can be attributed to an analyst’s geographic location, on-the-job experience, and employer.
The top paying industries for cybersecurity analysts include pharmaceutical and medicine manufacturing, legal services, and electronic component manufacturing, where these professionals earned mean annual salaries of $131,150, $120,580, and $117,870, respectively, as of May 2018. The highest paying states for the occupation are New York, New Jersey, and Washington, D.C.
INFORMATION SECURITY ANALYSTS BY JOB LEVEL
|Entry Level (0-12 Months)||$59,073|
|Early Career (1-4 Years)||$66,372|
|Mid-Career (5-9 Years)||$81,351|
|Experienced (10-19 Years)||$92,546|
How to Become an Information Security Analyst
EARN YOUR DEGREE
To work in the field, graduates typically need a minimum of a bachelor’s degree in computer science or another computer-related field. Graduates do not necessarily need to hold a degree specializing in information security analysis, and certain entry-level jobs only require an associate degree or certification. While graduates can find work with a bachelor’s degree, an advanced information security analyst degree can help graduates land management positions with more responsibility and higher salaries.
Most employers prefer hiring information security analysts who have some relevant IT work experience. For new graduates, this can pose a challenge. Those with less work experience can customize their resumes or CVs to highlight their skills rather than their limited work experience. Furthermore, many bachelor’s programs provide students with internship opportunities where they can gain valuable work experience. Some programs feature internships built into the programs, requiring students to complete field work for class credit. In addition to internships, graduates can obtain certifications and take continuing professional education courses to enhance their resumes.
Earning certifications can bolster a graduate’s resume. Employers often indicate the specific certifications that they prefer an information security analyst candidate to have, but employers do not always require these certifications. Many employers see certifications as a bonus rather than a prerequisite.
Graduates can stand out by earning certifications in specialty areas. Students can find these certifications online through professional organizations. Popular certifications employers look for include the certified information systems security professional, certified ethical hacker, certified information security manager, certified information systems auditor, and GIAC certified intrusion analyst certification.
Certifications boost an information security analyst’s salary potential and employment opportunities, since employers value specialized training. To learn about more certifications available to information security analysts, visit the International Information Systems Security Certification Consortium, known as (ISC)².
Types of Careers in Information Security Analysis
Information security analyst online courses help graduates pursue a variety of high-paying careers in the information technology sector. Many factors — such as desired industry, location, education, and experience — can affect the types of jobs an information security degree-holder can pursue.
Information security bachelor’s programs equip students with the skills they need to land a job in database administration, computer programming, and software development. An advanced degree or more experience in the field boosts job opportunities and may lead to a more senior-level job in IT management or computer systems design. The median yearly salary for information security analysts is $98,350 per year, and a master’s degree may increase an analyst’s earning potential.
CAREERS FOR INFORMATION SECURITY ANALYSIS GRADUATES
Database administrators typically need a bachelor’s degree in a field related to information technology. These professionals manage, secure, and organize data for their organization.
Computer programmers use coding languages such as C++, Java, and Python to create new applications and update existing ones. They typically need at least an associate degree to find work in the field.
Computer and Information Systems Manager
Computer and information systems managers need a bachelor’s degree and at least five years of work experience. They oversee an organization’s computer operations and supervise employees such as information security analysts.
These professionals generally need a bachelor’s degree in computer science, software engineering, or a similar field. They design and develop new applications and operating systems.
Computer Network Architect
Most employers require computer network architects to hold a bachelor’s degree and significant experience in network administration. They plan, build, and maintain computer networks such as intranets and local area networks.
Where Can I Work as an Information Security Analyst?
Information security analysts find employment in many different industries. Large corporations and small startups alike demand skilled information security workers, and some cybersecurity professionals even work as independent contractors. Read on to learn about the locations and settings where information security analysts work.
Cities and towns across the U.S. vary in terms of job availability and earning potential for information security professionals. Areas with many computer systems design or finance firms may have an elevated need for cybersecurity analysts. Moreover, areas with high living costs tend to pay workers more.
According to data from the BLS, Virginia, Texas, California, and New York employ the most information security analysts. Some of the best-paying states for information security analysts are Washington, New Mexico, Massachusetts, and Virginia.
|STATES WITH THE HIGHEST EMPLOYMENT LEVEL OF INFORMATION SECURITY ANALYSTS (APPLICATIONS)||NUMBER OF INFORMATION SECURITY ANALYSTS (APPLICATIONS) EMPLOYED|
|TOP PAYING STATES FOR INFORMATION SECURITY ANALYSTS||ANNUAL MEAN WAGE|
|District of Columbia||$118,080|
Information security analysts find work in organizations of all sizes, from the smallest technology startups to the largest multinational enterprises. Some analysts may prefer the personal atmosphere of a small company, while others may wish to take advantage of the vast resources of a big corporation.
Likewise, the approximately 112,000 information security analysts in the country can find employment in many different industries. Graduates should consider their interests and career goals when choosing an industry.
|INDUSTRIES WITH THE HIGHEST LEVEL OF EMPLOYMENT FOR INFORMATION SECURITY ANALYSTS||NUMBER OF INFORMATION SECURITY ANALYSTS (APPLICATIONS) EMPLOYED|
|Computer Systems Design and Related Services||28,410|
|Finance and Insurance||18,810|
|Management of Companies and Enterprises||10,670|
|Administrative and Support Services||6,560|
|TOP-PAYING INDUSTRIES FOR INFORMATION SECURITY ANALYSTS (APPLICATIONS)||ANNUAL MEAN WAGE|
|Pharmaceutical and Medicine Manufacturing||$132,130|
|Wholesale Electronic Markets and Agents and Brokers||$130,800|
|Semiconductor and Other Electronic Component Manufacturing||$123,340|
Chinmayee Paunikar is a Cybersecurity Analyst at Fractional CISO. She assists in developing and managing cybersecurity programs for companies. Chinmayee has helped multiple companies achieve their SOC 2 compliance goals. She also performs vulnerability assessments and quantitative risk assessments for organizations. Additionally, she writes security policies and procedures for companies.
Chinmayee has passed the Systems Security Certified Practitioner (SSCP) exam (waiting for approval by (ISC)²) and is also a Cisco Certified Network Associate (CCNA). Chinmayee received a Master of Science degree in computer engineering from New York University and a bachelor’s degree in electronics engineering from the University of Mumbai.
Why did you decide to pursue information security analysis?
I took a course in Network Security with the aim to improve my skills and knowledge in network design and architecture. I realized that solutions to network security problems weren’t always “network” related. Numerous things have to go right for a network to be secure. That prompted me to study and work on other aspects of the field.
Apart from the skills I gained, I learned that solutions to every problem are unique. That keeps you on your toes. You won’t run out of problems to address or skills to learn.
There are also a surprisingly large number of things that go on under the cybersecurity covers providing a variety of areas for you to focus on. You could specialize in network security, penetration testing, compliance and governance, risk analysis, application security, operations, incident management and many more aspects of data security.
Lastly, the career prospects and compensation are also a great motivator.
What are the biggest challenges of working as an information security analyst?
Communicating risks to clients properly is perhaps the most challenging part of the job, as this also involves bursting people’s bubbles about their security, and sometimes they don’t take it well. That is definitely a skill to acquire and work on.
Another thing about security is that it is inconvenient, and we don’t want to disrupt productivity with our suggested changes to technology and processes. Things get rolled out slowly, and there is nothing you can do about it except hope and pray that nothing goes wrong in the meantime. So, it is important to plan and prioritize such changes.
The most rewarding aspects?
Knowing that your work has a real-world impact — you are helping protect individuals and businesses. You’re fighting the good fight against the bad actors that are out there wanting to profit off people’s data and wanting to disrupt businesses. I’m always working for a purpose. Things are constantly evolving, and we need to stay ahead of the criminals. It does not feel like I’m doing archaic or unnecessary work.
I feel good that we are adding value for our clients so they can focus on their business.
Was it challenging to find a job in the field?
Given that cybersecurity is in the news all the time as breach after breach hit the headlines, people are getting more and more aware of the importance of security. Companies need and want cybersecurity help. So, there are a lot of jobs in the government and private sector, even entry-level. Companies are willing to get in junior candidates with little or no experience and train them.
Focusing on information security as your primary role, you can qualify for a number of related positions in operations and maintenance, protection and defense, or investigation to name a few. It doesn’t look like the need for information security professionals is going to decrease anytime soon. And the best part is that no matter where you live, your cybersecurity skills will be needed.
What kind of job settings have you worked in?
I have worked as an intern at a small firm that provided strategic consulting and Information Technology (IT) services to government, industry, non-profits, and academia. At my current job, I work as a consultant with various small- to mid-sized companies in the education, manufacturing, and high-tech space solving all cybersecurity challenges they do or might face.
What did your career trajectory look like?
I earned a bachelor’s degree in electronics engineering. During this time, I also was an R&D intern at two organizations working on their product. My next step was getting a master’s degree in computer engineering. This is when I focused on developing my information security skills. I went on to get a network associate certification from Cisco (CCNA). I spent half a year as a cybersecurity analyst intern, soon after which I joined my current organization to work as a cybersecurity analyst. I have been here for almost a year and a half and recently passed the Systems Security Certified Practitioner (SSCP) exam by (ISC)².
How do you organize, plan, and prioritize your work?
I normally have a to-do list for the week and day. It depends on the deliverables that I have at hand. Usually, it helps to break it down into smaller tasks to be completed one after the other. If a new task pops up, I add it to my list and adapt the order in which I do things. I also find it helpful to time box some activities in order to not spend a lot of time on it and focus on doing things that would create more value.
Sometimes things come up that are truly urgent like investigative activities, or answering customer questions. Then I have to drop everything and work on that. Once that’s done, I go back to checking things off my to-do list.
Advice for newcomers to the profession?
Work on translating your analysis and solutions for a less technical, more business-oriented audience.
The information security field requires constant learning, so be prepared. Don’t be afraid to expand into areas that are not strictly security-related.
Read the cybersecurity news. You can learn a lot from other people’s mistakes.
What are some of the best ways you gained experience outside of primary education?
Playing around with network and security tools like Wireshark, Nmap, Nessus, and Burp Suite. Trying these tools on your home network is the cheapest, easiest way to get comfortable using those tools.
Get certified. You’ll be forced to dig into the topics, giving you a solid understanding. Certifications will also add to your credibility as an information security professional. Sign up for hackathons. They are a great learning opportunity and usually don’t require a lot of background knowledge. Besides, it looks great on a resume.
What direction do you see your career path trending in?
I have successfully transitioned from being an electronics engineer to a cybersecurity analyst. The field of cybersecurity is constantly evolving and will become more important as more and more data is collected and will need protection. The beauty of this field is that it is needed everywhere. This will result in a lot of exciting opportunities that I hope to take advantage of.
Continuing Education for Information Security Analysts
In many job fields, especially highly technical professions, it is crucial to stay appraised of the latest industry trends, research, and tools. The best information security analysts keep building new skills and knowledge long after they graduate from a bachelor’s or master’s program.
Through training programs and information security analyst schools, entry-level, mid-career, and senior-level analysts can develop the marketable skills they need to perform at a high level. For example, Global Information Assurance Certification (GIAC) offers training in areas including cyber defense, penetration testing, and incident response. CompTIA boasts self-directed and instructor-led continuing education opportunities for IT professionals.
- Global Information Assurance Certification GIAC boasts over 30 cybersecurity certification paths in areas such as management, auditing, software, and administration. Candidates complete preparation courses and take an exam to become certified. Credentials range from beginner to advanced.
- EC-Council More than 200,000 information security workers have pursued certification through EC-Council. The organization offers training across fields such as ethical hacking, forensic investigation, penetration testing, and encryption.
- CompTIA CompTIA offers certification and training programs in core IT skills, infrastructure, cybersecurity, and project management. Candidates may complete training in various formats, including through videos and through instructor-led classes.
- Center for Internet Security CIS, a nonprofit that seeks to protect public and private organizations from cyber attacks, offers access to informative newsletters, videos, webinars, case studies, and whitepapers.
How Do I Find a Job in Information Security Analysis?
You should begin searching for jobs before you graduate from an information security bachelor’s program to take advantage of all the career resources your university has to offer. College career centers can often help you land a summer internship, which may turn into a full-time analyst position after graduation.
Professional organizations offer networking opportunities and conferences that allow aspiring information security analysts to establish connections with experienced professionals. Additionally, keep in mind that you can expand your job options by participating in professional development programs.
FEDERAL INFORMATION SYSTEMS SECURITY EDUCATORS' ASSOCIATION
Founded in 1987, FISSEA helps federal government bodies train and educate their information systems security workers. The organization aims to build information security knowledge among federal workers.
INTERNATIONAL ASSOCIATION FOR CRYPTOLOGIC RESEARCH
This nonprofit scientific organization aims to promote research in cryptology and similar disciplines. Through the IACR website, information security analysts can access publications and a job board.
CYBER, SPACE, & INTELLIGENCE ASSOCIATION
Cyber, Space, & Intelligence Association fosters collaboration and communication among security experts in government and the private sector. It offers helpful resources and tips on pursuing a career in cybersecurity.
THE SANS INSTITUTE
Established in 1989, this organization reaches over 30,000 security professionals annually through its training programs. Through the SANS Institute, information security workers can pursue certification and access free research reports.
Professional Resources for Information Security Analysts
Professional organizations provide immensely valuable tools for information security students, young professionals, and seasoned industry veterans alike. Members of professional organizations gain access to a wealth of resources and events that can help them grow their career and stay up to date on their profession. For example, information security associations may keep members informed through newsletters, research, and continuing education courses. They may help professionals develop through networking events, job boards, and scholarships for further education.
- (ISC)² Over 140,000 members take advantage of this organization's certification and education opportunities. The association also offers a magazine, scholarships, cybersecurity research, webinars, and news updates.
- Information Systems Security Association ISSA supports information security workers through education, networking opportunities, and advocacy efforts. The organization boasts scholarships, a journal, web conferences, a job board, and local chapter events.
- Information Systems Audit and Control Association Founded in 1969, ISACA joins 140,000 security professionals worldwide. It develops and sets best practices for information systems workers. Members benefit from training, education, certifications, research insights, and a conference.
- CompTIA CompTIA offers both professional and student memberships. Student members may take advantage of awards, scholarships, and advice on career development. Professional members can pursue discounted certifications and continuing education programs.
- IEEE Computer Society This organization supports technology professionals through international conferences, an extensive digital resource library, academic publications, and career development webinars. It boasts a special technical community dedicated to cybersecurity.
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