How to Become a Cybersecurity Analyst [Complete Guide]

A cybersecurity analyst, also known as an information security analyst, specializes in the security of networks and IT infrastructure.  The role of cybersecurity analyst has a relatively broad job description, offering great opportunities for individuals looking to enter the cybersecurity industry and branch out into various cyber-related career paths.

According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, cybersecurity analysts earn an average salary of around $100,000 per year, making a cybersecurity career well-compensated, especially for those with years of experience. Many entry-level workers begin their careers as an analyst to grow into other roles.

To help potential candidates enter this evolving and attractive job market and better understand the role of a cybersecurity analyst, this post addresses the following points:

  • The current job market
  • The role of a cybersecurity analyst in more detail
  • The traits of an ideal candidate
  • The qualifications or experience required

Learn why cybersecurity is increasingly important in today’s world.

Cybersecurity Analyst Job Market

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) states that the median annual cybersecurity analyst salary was $102,600 per year in 2021. In 2021, there were roughly 163,000 cybersecurity analyst jobs. It’s projected that by 2031, an estimated 56,500 new cybersecurity analyst roles will open up, representing a nearly 35% project growth rate.

The average growth rate for most occupations lies around 5%, which makes the predicted job growth for cyber analysts far higher than the average. As a rapidly growing and expanding field, the job outlook is good, making now an excellent time for interested parties to get the training and experience to help them find cybersecurity analyst roles.

The demand for cybersecurity analysts also corresponds to the increasing frequency of cyberattacks. Analysts are responsible for responding to cyberattacks and data breaches, assisting in preventing cyberattacks, protecting sensitive information, and helping reduce network vulnerabilities.

Learn more about other cybersecurity fields here.

The Role of a Cybersecurity Analyst

What does a cybersecurity analyst do?

Duties and Responsibilities

While monitoring and protecting a client’s IT infrastructure, a cybersecurity analyst will typically handle the following duties:

Work Environment

Most cybersecurity analysts can expect to work full-time in an existing IT department, working with other IT professionals, such as network administrators and computer system analysts. Due to the need for round-the-clock security, employers may ask some cybersecurity analysts to be on standby in case of a data breach or other security-related emergencies during non-working hours.

More than a quarter of new cybersecurity analysts were employed in computer systems design and related industries. The finance & insurance, and information sectors each employed about 15% of the cybersecurity analyst market. The remaining positions were typically in management, administrative, or support service roles.

Advancing within the role of cybersecurity analyst is possible through team leadership or specialization into another cybersecurity field, such as cryptography, ethical hacking, artificial intelligence, or penetration testing. A common move that many analysts make is toward a computer and information systems management position, such as a chief security officer (CSO).

What Skills Does a Cybersecurity Analyst Need?

Cybersecurity analysts need a thorough understanding of the following:

  • The current threat landscape, including cybercriminal behavior and psychology
  • Knowledge of the most cybercrime methods
  • General IT infrastructure knowledge
  • How to monitor and evaluate threats to the network
  • How to improve network security
  • Basic coding knowledge

In addition to the technical skills required to perform these tasks, a cybersecurity analyst will need excellent soft skills for a successful cybersecurity career.

  • Communication & Empathy - Must-have skills include teaching, public speaking, and collaborating. The ability to explain complex concepts and discuss information security systems and procedures with others can set a candidate apart. In many cases, analysts must explain to their colleagues, system users, and management the nuances of the field. Each is likely to have different expectations, needs, and challenges.
  • Analytical Skills - Not only will it be necessary to implement software, strategies, and systems, clients and businesses will expect cybersecurity analysts to evaluate the existing IT infrastructure. A company will expect its cybersecurity analyst to help perform security audits and risk assessments. If there is a data breach, the cybersecurity analyst will be instrumental in identifying, isolating, and remediating the issue.
  • Problem-Solving Skills - Since there are various ways to approach IT security issues, cybersecurity analysts with creativity and robust problem-solving skills may be most effective at improving systems, fixing vulnerabilities, and tightening security. Businesses of all sizes will appreciate cost-effective solutions that provide fast results without compromising security. Delivering this may require significant patience, determination, and problem-solving ability.
  • Creativity - Cybersecurity analysts may encounter many differences between systems, procedures, data protection requirements, and management styles. Optimizing IT infrastructure can be a combination of art and science. A cybersecurity analyst is likely to benefit from being able to think laterally to find new ways to improve security.
  • Attention to Detail - Problems like out-of-date access credentials, incorrect permissions, and server misconfiguration lead to many data breaches. The solutions to problems like these involve monitoring, verification, and attention to detail. Minor changes in performance can also indicate cyber threats or other security issues that need action, so attention to detail will be key in this respect.
  • Teamwork - Cybersecurity analysts are likely to be working as part of an IT department, potentially working closely with a network administrator. The role, therefore, should suit people with the desire and ability to work with others.
  • Self-Motivation - Anyone wishing to become a cybersecurity analyst would benefit from a genuine passion for the field. Continual professional development is required to stay ahead of cyber attackers and keep a client’s infrastructure secure, making the most of new technologies and protecting the firm and its data from the latest threats.
  • Ability to Work Under Pressure - If there is a data breach, all eyes will be on the cybersecurity analysts. They will need to work quickly and efficiently with other team members to identify, contain, and repair the damage. If a breach occurs, the confidential data of clients, customers, and business partners will be at risk, as will the business’s reputation. The company may risk significant penalties from regulatory bodies if a breach is not contained or detected in time.
  • Organizational Skills - A cybersecurity analyst oversees many factors crucial to the firm’s security. To manage their duties, including completing the required reporting to keep executives and teammates in the loop, stellar organizational skills are essential.
  • Reliability - A company’s reputation may depend on the work of its cybersecurity analyst. A data breach that could have been prevented  can cost a business dearly in terms of reputation and money swallowed by regulatory fines.

A firm’s cybersecurity analyst needs to demonstrate that they take reputation seriously, which means prioritizing punctuality and fast response times, following through on assigned tasks, and communicating security issues quickly and clearly.

What Background is Required for Cybersecurity Analyst Positions?

Within the cybersecurity field, cybersecurity analysts are generally entry-level roles, with some exceptions. Additionally, many cybersecurity specializations also exist, and requirements may differ from company to company and role to role.

Education

Most job roles prefer a potential cybersecurity analyst candidate to have a bachelor’s degree in cybersecurity or another related field, such as information technology, computer science, or programming. If the candidate does not have a degree involving computing or information technology, employers may accept a qualification in a similar field, such as math or engineering.

An advantage of pursuing a degree compared to other cybersecurity career paths is that some degrees offer internships, which can help future cybersecurity analysts gain valuable real-world job experience while developing their technical skills and know-how in class.

A bachelor’s degree is typically required for many jobs in IT at the entry-level, including software developers, network administrators, computer programmers, and computer information systems managers. A master's degree or another advanced degree can take people in these fields even further.

Experience

While employers may prefer to hire a cybersecurity analyst with an educational background or professional cybersecurity certification, a candidate with on-site, hands-on experience is also typically accepted.

A candidate can work as a cybersecurity analyst with fewer than five years of experience in a related field. Experience in network and computer systems administration can be beneficial. Those with experience plus at least one qualification demonstrate an attractive combination of theoretical knowledge and practical cybersecurity skills.

Certification

Someone without formal education or experience can still become a cybersecurity analyst with the right cybersecurity certifications. Cybersecurity certification can help prospective cybersecurity analysts learn the fundamentals, familiarizing them with the critical aspects of information systems and how to secure them.

Developing basic information technology skills will be essential. Entry-level cybersecurity analysts must be able to perform some system and web application administration.

Basic proficiency in scripting, coding, and programming languages, including SQL, Python, JavaScript, PHP, C, and C++, is also an invaluable skill to have in the cybersecurity industry. Candidates should also be comfortable working with various operating systems (OS), including but not limited to Linux, Windows, MacOS, Android, and iOS.

The most common professional certifications and cybersecurity certificates include the following:

  • CompTIA Security+
  • CompTIA CYSA+
  • CompTIA Network+
  • Certified Ethical Hacker (CEH)
  • Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP)
  • Certified Information Systems Auditor (CISA)
  • Certified Information Security Manager (CISM)
  • GIAC Information Security Fundamentals (GISF)/GIAC Security Essentials; Certification (GSEC)
  • GIAC Certified Incident Handler (GCIH)
  • Systems Security Certified Practitioner (SSCP)

Cybersecurity Bootcamps

While some cybersecurity professionals learn the necessary skills by studying on their own, cybersecurity bootcamps can help people improve their skills and gain certificates quickly with professional instruction. Bootcamps are typically short, intense training courses that prepare people for entry-level cybersecurity roles, although more advanced bootcamps also exist. Additionally, certificates are also awarded upon completion of the bootcamp as well.

You can typically find bootcamps offered through academic institutions or independent training companies. Cybersecurity bootcamps offer the following benefits:

  • More flexibility than university-based degrees, ideal for those who wish to work and study at the same time
  • Students can follow structured course schedules to fulfill the course requirements quickly
  • Cheaper than university degrees
  • Curriculums are created by cybersecurity experts, making them relevant and current
  • Individuals can update or refresh existing skills and experience
  • Many cybersecurity courses offer virtual practice labs and real-world simulations, helping students gain experience in skills such as penetration testing
  • Multiple opportunities to network with other aspiring IT professionals at events or connect with a mentor
  • Able to create a portfolio or project that candidates can use to demonstrate their abilities to a potential employer
  • Some employers may prefer security certifications to bachelor’s degrees due to their specialization, practical skill requirements, and on-hands experience

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