Statista reports that the current global cybersecurity market is worth an estimated $239 billion. With the industry growing rapidly and organizations investing more in data security than ever before, now is the time to consider a career as a cybersecurity professional.
Information security analysts play a vital role in preventing data breaches and cyberattacks, which are an increasing global threat. While salaries vary depending on several factors, such as education and location, the average salary of an analyst in the United States is approximately $73,221 per year.
Keep reading to learn more about what an information security analyst does, how to become one, and how they differ from other security professional roles.
The information security analyst, sometimes called a data security analyst, works to protect an organization’s computer systems and networks by monitoring and preventing potential cyberattacks, ransomware attacks, and data breaches. In other words, they’re like the information security guards of the cybersecurity industry, ensuring that all information is only accessible to the right people at the right time.
Information security analysts protect an organization’s data and information by analyzing a network to identify weaknesses, then installing firewalls, data encryption programs, and other security protocols to ward off threats. Analysts are also responsible for remaining current on virus reports, training employees on information safeguarding procedures, and staying on top of industry regulatory requirements.
In some cases, information security analysts are tasked with planning for various other threats, such as extreme weather. They’re also responsible for documenting security tests and emergency policies while also creating recovery plans in case information is somehow compromised.
While there is no formally prescribed career path for the information security analyst, most in the field follow the same basic steps:
Security analysts generally earn a bachelor’s degree in computer science, computer programming, information assurance, information security, or a related field. While a bachelor’s degree is sufficient for most employers, some prefer applicants with an MBA in information systems or a similar degree.
In some cases, applicants may only need an associate’s degree or no degree to secure a job in cybersecurity. However, employers often prefer applicants with the right training, on-the-job experience, and certifications.
Like many professionals in fields related to IT, cybersecurity professionals typically need certifications. Some of the more popular certifications include:
CISSP (Certified Information Systems Security Professional): Demonstrates that a professional can design, install, and manage a cybersecurity program.
SSCP (Systems Security Certified Practitioner): Designates that a professional can implement and monitor an IT infrastructure using best practices.
CEH (Certified Ethical Hacker): Verifies that a professional can assess weaknesses and identify vulnerabilities within a system. You know, like a hacker.
Since cybersecurity is an ever-evolving field, one of the most effective ways a security analyst can advance in their career is through on-the-job experience. This can include internships early in one’s career. Experience in remote security management can also be a valuable skill in today’s atmosphere. With experience, analysts can develop the analytical, problem-solving, and communication skills that are critical to becoming an effective security analyst.
To move into a senior analyst role, you’ll need to demonstrate proficiency in several areas, namely risk assessment, procedure management, and leadership. A good senior analyst should be able to not only implement and maintain security measures but also communicate security needs and risks to ensure everyone is on the same page.
According to Payscale, the average salary of an information security analyst is $73,221 per year, with compensation ranging between $61,000 and $106,000, depending on seniority. Here’s how the salary breaks:
Junior information security analyst salary: $61,000-$68,000
Mid-level information security analyst salary: $68,000-$98,000
Senior information security analyst salary: $98,000-$106,000
Of course, analyst salaries vary based on location, education, size of the organization, and other factors. Prospective analysts who want to raise their earning potential should invest in higher education, specialized security training, and certifications.
Some people confuse the roles of information security analyst and cybersecurity analyst. While the two may sound similar, they have very different focuses. An information security analyst takes a holistic approach to the confidentiality and integrity of an organization’s information from every angle, while a cybersecurity analyst prevents unauthorized access primarily from online sources.
Here’s a rundown of some of the more popular roles within cybersecurity and how they differ from each other:
Application security engineer: Create, implement, and maintain an organization’s computer applications and software.
Network security engineer: Configure, deploy, and monitor an organization’s network- and security-related hardware and software.
Security engineer: Ensure an organization’s products and systems are secure while also analyzing workflows and anticipating future problems.
IT security specialist: Analyze an organization’s security measures to understand past breaches and determine how to prevent future breaches.
Penetration tester: Help organizations identify and fix various security vulnerabilities (also called a pen tester).
The first step to becoming a security analyst is understanding what career opportunities exist. There are a variety of cybersecurity jobs under the security analysis umbrella, many of which require specialized training and certification. Knowing what kind of work you’d like to do might allow you to plan your training ahead of time.
Next, investing in education is key to becoming an information security analyst. While most analysts have a bachelor’s degree or higher, some earn only an associate’s degree. With the right certification and training, such as military training, many security professionals can get entry-level positions in the cybersecurity field and work their way up to information security analyst positions.
From there, prospective information systems analysts should invest in certification and training to stay on top of the latest trends and regulations within information security. Both entry-level and mid-career analysts require some level of certification, as do various specialized jobs within the field.
A professional network can also help you stay informed of upcoming security career opportunities and trends. You can build your network through your certification courses, networking events, professional conferences, and more. You never know when a chat about whether or not “Die Hard” is a Christmas movie could be your ticket to your next cybersecurity career opportunity.
If you’re interested in becoming an information security analyst, tune in to PDQ’s YouTube channel and blog to stay on top of the latest in all things IT, including industry trends, job opportunities, and security tips and tricks.
Part writer, part sysadmin fangirl, Meredith gets her kicks diving into the depths of IT lore. When she's not spending quality time behind a computer screen, she's probably curled up under a blanket, silently contemplating the efficacy of napping.