As companies start to move more data online, it’s no surprise that the need for professionals who can safeguard company data has risen. This is where information security analysts come into play. Not surprisingly, their increasing appeal has led to increasing salaries. But, who are they exactly?
Information security analysts play a critical role in the modern technology-driven company. They are responsible for protecting internal computer networks and systems and company data from data breaches.
So, how does one become an information security analyst?
That’s the question we’re going to answer right now. In the following guide, you’ll find all the information you'll need to decide whether a career as an information security analyst is for you. We've also provided other helpful resources on salaries for information security analysts, training programs, and more.
Information security analysts are a type of cybersecurity engineers. They are specifically tasked to enforce security measures against intrusions to an organization's computer networks and systems.
To do so, they install data encryption software to protect data. Information security analysts also document potential and active threats to an organization's networks.
Information security analysts spend their days testing systems to identify weak spots in an organization's security. Which areas are most vulnerable to hacking? How should these risk areas be addressed?
Ultimately, security analysts ensure a company’s data is kept protected from unauthorized access. This includes both online and on-premise infrastructure.
Part of their job includes generating reports for IT administrators and other members of an organization. These reports contain an evaluation of the effectiveness of a company's existing security policies.
Technically speaking, the responsibilities of information security analysts vary by company. However, they do share similar tasks. Below are some common responsibilities you can expect:
Cybercrimes have been a longstanding concern even before the pandemic. With the economy’s unexpected and accelerated transition to the cloud, virtual security dramatically increased in both volume and reach. Last year, sophisticated hacking activities rose by 273 percent.
The figure is alarming for several reasons. Topping the list is the financial loss arising from the theft of critical data, such as financial, corporate, and customer information. This leads to disruption to daily operations and loss of revenue.
Finally, a security breach, especially when conducted on a large scale, leads to damage to reputation. And it's not surprising why. Customers, partners, and investors give their trust to companies to protect whatever data they provide. A breach, therefore, implicitly signals a company's inability to deliver on its promise of privacy and security.
This makes cybersecurity professionals, including information security analysts, more relevant than ever. Now that we've covered that, it's time to go into a detailed guide of how you can breach (pun intended) into the industry.
Information security analysts may assume varying roles in cyber security. Below are some of them.
Information Security Analyst
Average yearly salary: $73,037
These security specialists run tests for vulnerable areas, and examine the security of company networks and computer systems. This position requires knowledge of computer networking, computer security, and ethical hacking.
The role is ranked the 16th fastest-growing occupation throughout all industries by the US Bureau of Labor Statistics. Information security analysts’ yearly wages start at around $52,000 and can be as high as $111,000.
Average yearly salary: $86,034
A penetration tester’s job is to search for vulnerable areas and potential security risks in a network, application, or system. They pinpoint potential security problems before they occur.
This way, steps can be taken to prevent hacks. While the average salary is $86,034, you can expect anywhere from $58,000 to $139,000 depending on your company, location, and qualifications.
Forensic Computer Analyst
Average yearly salary: $74,367
Forensic computer analysts are the crime scene investigators of the cyber world. They work with law enforcement to gather evidence from computers and technology.
These analysts can provide expert testimony during trials, create technical reports, and compile evidence. Knowledge of forensics software, cryptography, eDiscovery tools, and programming languages is important. Expect to see wages anywhere between $50,000 to $119,000.
Average yearly salary: $93,115
This position is typically for mid-level employees. Responsibilities include building firewalls, researching intrusions, and testing new security software.
To thrive in this role, one must have a strong background in penetration testing, encryption technology, and troubleshooting network systems. While the yearly salary can go as high as $136,000 per year, starting at $63,000 is to be expected.
Below is a brief overview of the skills you’ll need to have to become an information security analyst.
Key Information Security Analyst Technical Skills
Technical skills are skills that you acquire throughout your chosen program. These are developed through education and practice and designed to increase your productivity. Here are the technical skills critical to information security analysts.
Penetration testing is the process of identifying potential threats. You should be able to test networks and systems and put into place preventive measures before any malicious attack occurs.
You should be able to monitor network traffic, detect potential threats, and act to eliminate them swiftly. You should be able to manage a network in case of an attack and ensure that a company’s systems are kept safe.
Computer forensics is the process of preventing a potential attack by analyzing data and security policies. You should be able to analyze potential vulnerabilities in a system and resolve these accordingly. In the case of a breach, you should be capable of conducting forensics to determine how an attacker compromised the system.
Coordinating with your team in the case of an attack is essential to ensuring a company’s data or systems are intact. This will involve implementing plans to respond to any incident.
Cyber Security Planning.
Cyberattacks can happen to any company. This is inevitable even with the presence of qualified analysts. As such, planning for future incidents and creating workflows are important.
Key Information Security Analyst Soft Skills
To be a successful information security analyst, you’ll need to have more than just technical skills. Here are a couple of soft skills you should have:
Cyber security is all about solving problems. Once a vulnerability is spotted, you should be able to plug it quickly to prevent an attack. If an attack happens, you must approach the issue effectively to prevent further attacks from happening.
Attention to Detail.
Prospective attackers will look for any small opening to compromise a system. As a result, you must attend to every nook and cranny of an organization’s networks. Diligence when making changes to any policies or code is also crucial.
As an information security analyst, you should be good at finding information. You should be kept up-to-date about new vulnerabilities and figure out whether your company is susceptible to them. Note that extensive research is a part of writing cyber security policies.
Below are the steps you’ll need to follow to become an information security analyst.
Step 1. Earn Your Credentials
There are many paths you may want to consider when becoming an information security analyst. The path you choose will depend on your needs and preferences. However, the most common routes people take are usually one of the following options: attending a university or a coding bootcamp.
Step 2. Hone Your Security Analyst Skills
Honing your information security analyst skills entails not just developing your technical skills but your soft skills, too. While technical skills get you in the door, soft skills help you thrive and stay. So, make sure to strengthen both areas.
Step 3. Gain Experience
Because the field relies heavily on hands-on activities, most hiring employers favor candidates with practical IT experience. Fortunately, there are numerous internship programs out there that you can tap into.
Step 4. Get Certified
While not necessary, earning a certification can bolster your resume. Certifications will also come in handy when negotiating your salary or employment opportunities.
Southern New Hampshire Southern New Hampshire is a private university with online and on-campus classes. It has a 300-acre campus catering to 3,000 students. Its online programs give 135,000 students access to remote education. In 2020, it was named the “most innovative university in the North.” It was also one of the “nation’s best regional universities” according to US News & World Report.
Students may choose the general cyber security track. They may also add a concentration, whether in data analytics or project management. Students undergo hands-on training via virtual labs with the most current industry tools.
This school serves 50,000 students with more than 400 courses, 31 degree programs, and 75 concentrations. It offers great financial incentives and has flexible programs as 89 percent of its students are part-time. In addition, Strayer University is currently offering a new laptop to any new student joining any of its bachelor’s degree programs, whether in person or online.
The cyber security curriculum covers computer forensic technology, perimeter defense techniques, and network penetration testing. Students are expected to be ready for cyber security certification exams post-program.
For over 25 years, Columbia Southern University has strived to help adult learners use education to advance their careers. The school boasts tuition costs that are less than half that of its competitors. It offers flexible programs that suit any student profile, whether working or not.
A key takeaway from its cyber security program is the ability to analyze legal requirements for information systems security. Students also learn how to classify potential threats in the IT infrastructure and apply the appropriate security practices.
Here is a list of courses commonly covered by bachelor’s degree programs in information security analysis.
Cyber Security and Crime.
This prepares students for fraud, network intrusion, and computer crimes in general.
Cyberwarfare and Application.
It introduces students to social engineering, intrusion detection, and network administrator activity and prevention.
Principles of Digital Forensics.
The course focuses on the procedures of investigative digital forensics and legal knowledge.
IT Ethics and Professionalism.
Students will learn about ethical conduct, philosophy, Internet laws, liability, intellectual property, and more.
Security Application Development.
This course teaches students about asset protection, secure applications, and databases.
This course covers the disaster recovery process and business continuity practices in terms of information security.
IS Security Capstone.
The final capstone project will display a student’s knowledge of disaster recovery, digital forensics, planning, and auditing.
Don't have the time or money to earn a bachelor's degree? Maybe a bootcamp is the right path for you.
Career Karma recognized Flatiron School’s bootcamp as one of the best cybersecurity bootcamps last year. And for good reason. Over 12 weeks, students learn how to handle large-scale and advanced threats to security. The curriculum covers eight foundational courses that include network administration, threat intelligence, and a capstone project.
Not quite ready? Flatiron School offers a preparatory course for the field. Hacking 101: Intro to Cyber Security is just what the name implies. It’s a two-hour prep course that teaches you the basics of the field. It’s for those who want to get a glimpse of a typical day in the life of an IT security professional.
This bootcamp prepares students for two specific cybersecurity roles: security operations center analyst and penetration tester. The module is a combination of lectures and workshops via hands-on cyberattack simulations.
Fullstack Academy’s partner cybersecurity and tech firms attend the live stream presentation of the students’ final projects. An in-house job fair is also held at the end of the bootcamp to help graduates secure jobs as soon as possible.
This newly-launched bootcamp offers a fully online learning experience for aspiring web security professionals. Students gain access to prep materials essential for the Certified Ethical Hacker (CEH) and CISSP certifications. What sets the bootcamp apart is its heavy emphasis on a mentor-led education. Mentors in the program are vetted experts in cybersecurity and can thus provide tips on how to thrive in the field.
If you want to boost your hiring potential, joining information security analyst internship programs is highly recommended. We’ve listed some promising opportunities below.
This government initiative walks students through the cyber security world with guidance from industry experts. The key learning areas include identifying and analyzing malicious code, forensics analysis, and software assurance.
The program will last for 10 weeks and pays approximately $5,800. If selected, some interns may attend DHS’s Cyber Fellows Program.
The premier multinational tech company offers a summer internship program to aspiring cyber security analysts. Chosen interns will be providing support to IBM’s Security Services group in Atlanta, Georgia.
Interns will work on innovation projects that seek to train them on the end-to-end cycle of security analysis. This includes software development, business analysis, and network and security engineering. Knowledge and experience in IT security fundamentals are required, along with a high school diploma or a GED.
As an intern, you’ll provide technical support to McAfee’s field engineers and technicians in diagnosing and troubleshooting computer systems and networks. Students pursuing an education in computer science, software engineering, or information security are eligible for the program.
McAfee is one of the top computer security software companies so participation in this program will surely generate interest among employers. The internship is a three-month program based in Plano, Texas.
Not familiar with any information security analyst certifications? Again, we got you. Check out the most popular ones below.
This certification is awarded by the International Information System Security Certification Consortium, also known as (ISC)². It’s considered one of the highest standards in information security. This is why not just any candidate can sign up.
Candidates must have five years’ worth of paid experience in cyber security analysis to be eligible. They must also demonstrate proficiency in the eight domains of security analysis.
Granted by the prestigious Global Information Assurance Certification body, this is one of the most difficult certifications to obtain. The exam covers three main areas: the fundamentals of traffic analysis, open-source intrusion detection systems, and network traffic forensics. The exam lasts four hours. Candidates who obtain a score of at least 68 percent pass the exam.
This advanced certification is offered by ISACA, a professional association working on information technology governance. As its name implies, CISM is business-oriented. It targets IT security professionals in managerial roles. These include information security managers, security consultants and managers, and security auditors.
Like the CISSP, this certification also requires applicants to have at least five years of work experience in IT security. Holders of CISM have proven knowledge in incident management, security risk management, and program development.
This certification for professionals in the audit control, assurance, and information security fields is globally recognized and highly respected. Certified Information System Auditors have proven that they are experts in auditing, asset protection, acquisition, and service management.
Security analysts have a strong job outlook, even made stronger with the unexpected and accelerated shifts to digital. Job growth projections stand at 31 percent, which is much faster than the average growth rate for all occupations, according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).
Security analysts can find jobs in companies of all sizes. Many of the better roles are available in healthcare, finance, computer companies, and other industries with strict data regulations.
Information security analysts can earn high salaries. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average pay was at $99,730 in 2019. This figure gets lower or higher based on your location.
Also, an information security analyst’s salary depends on experience. Senior information security analysts can earn, on average, almost $115,000 per year. Keep in mind this does not include employee perks or stock options, which may influence how much you earn each year.
Some information security analysts work as freelancers as well, rather than operating in a traditional office space. This work is typically reserved for information security analysts who have extensive industry experience. Freelance jobs can pay thousands for only a few hours of work, making them a great way to make a living.
With the field's promising outlook, choosing to become an information security analyst is an easy decision. If you're a curious person by nature with a knack for decoding problems, then this may be the right path for you.
Good news! Career Karma is here to help you through every step along your journey to becoming an information security analyst. We’ll provide you with free mentorship, access to a community of your peers, and career coaching. These will help you get started on your path to becoming an information security analyst.
We’ll also help you prepare for and get accepted to one of the top cybersecurity bootcamps. So, are you ready to be a part of the next generation of security analysts?