How to Become an Information Security Analyst
Here are five common steps to consider if you’re interested in pursuing a career as an information security analyst:
- Earn a bachelor’s degree.
- Learn important cybersecurity skills.
- Consider certification.
- Get your first entry-level information security analyst job.
- Earn a master’s degree in information systems or an MBA.
Becoming an Information Security Analyst
Wondering how to become an information security analyst? Individuals entering the workforce typically earn a bachelor’s degree in a field such as computer science or information assurance. Otherwise, they can pursue a degree in a related discipline like math or science. Some universities offer a more tailored degree—a Bachelor of Science in information systems management—to aspiring professionals.
Want to learn more about how to become an information security analyst? Another viable pathway is to pursue a master’s in information systems—in person or online—to help advance your career in IT. This type of program allows you to pair academic courses rooted in IT with experience designed to help develop business acumen. Online MBA programs equip students with similar knowledge and have the added benefit of allowing them to complete their coursework from any location and, in some cases, on their own schedule. Graduate programs also offer a chance to branch your knowledge into unique focus areas like cybersecurity or business.
You can earn a master’s degree online in as few as 12 months. Some colleges and universities offer evening and weekend classes and don’t require you to take the Graduate Record Examination (GRE) or the Graduate Management Admission Test (GMAT).
Your master’s in information systems may give you a competitive advantage in the job market. Some employers might prefer candidates with advanced degrees to fill higher positions such as chief information security officer or network architect.
Conversely, some companies may accept an equivalent level of professional on-the-job experience in place of a college degree. Your employment prospects could improve if you have background or expertise in areas noted in the job description. For example, certain firms may want candidates experienced in reviewing computer security breaches and forensic investigations or exporting log and event data after security incidents. They may also want candidates familiar with emerging technologies, practices and programming languages such as Python.
Information Security Analyst Job Description
What is an information security analyst? Job descriptions for information security analysts can be varied and quite technical. An information security analyst relies on intrusion detection systems (IDS) to watch for and investigate security breaches of their organization’s network, preparing corresponding security breach assessment reports when necessary. They’ll research and stay up to date on cutting-edge IT security trends, then install and use the latest security enhancements and tools to protect their organization’s sensitive information.
Information security analysts also conduct penetration testing on the network to look for vulnerabilities, recommend enhancements to management or senior IT staff and develop and refresh security standards for the organization. Finally, these analysts will help users who need assistance installing new security products and understanding critical security procedures.
An information security analyst job description may include some or all of the responsibilities described above. As you search for an information security analyst job, be sure to compare your skills and experience with the requirements for your desired role and determine how to up your competencies where applicable.
What Do Information Security Analysts Do?
Are you wondering what information security analysts do? Simply put, the job of an information security analyst is to anticipate, monitor and investigate breaches to an organization’s computer networks and systems. These analysts install firewalls and encryption programs that defend information systems against intruders and unauthorized users. They also update software and advise senior information technology (IT) staff on how to enhance security and handle potential emergencies.
Information Security Analyst Skills
When it comes to information security analyst skills, these professionals combine hard and soft skills to get their work done.
Information security analysts will often have to match their wits with tricky and increasingly sophisticated cybercriminals as they monitor networks for suspicious traffic. Having strong problem-solving skills, being highly analytical and staying organized may help information security analysts accomplish this task efficiently. These analysts are expected to keep pace with rapidly evolving advances in software and data networking to help ensure their success. They are trained to become technologically savvy and remain curious, seeking new and improved approaches to organizational cybersecurity.
You can think of an information security analyst as a detective—keenly observant, dogged about chasing clues and able to remain calm under pressure. In the midst of an organizational network breach, the information security analyst is able to leverage their skills to quickly identify and stomp out any issues afflicting the network.
Information Security Analyst Salary
The Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) tracks cybercrime complaints in the United States. According to its Internet Crime Report 2020 [PDF, 2.7MB], there were 791,790 cybercrime complaints to the IC3 in 2020, up 69% from 2019. The proliferation of cybercrimes is creating demand for information security analysts.
The United States is expected to add 47,100 information security analyst positions—a gain of 33%—between 2020 and 2030, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). That’s nearly three times the growth rate for computer occupations and more than four times the rate of increase for all jobs.
The growing demand for information security analysts may mean you can enjoy job security, but this isn’t the only factor to consider when deciding to obtain an advanced degree in this field: There’s also financial compensation. The median annual information security analyst salary in 2020 was $103,590, according to the BLS. That means half the workers earned more and half earned less. Experienced or senior information security analysts may expect to earn even more.
Salaries for information security analysts also vary by industry. The median salary for information security analysts in the information industry was $107,310 in 2020. Those who worked in administrative and support services earned less, median annual income of $99,860.
Information Security Analyst Certification
There are numerous information security analyst certifications available to improve your core skills, learn about the latest software and networking technology or branch into niches. These might be particularly useful if you are interested in advancing to intermediate positions after you’ve been working for some time. Employers may not necessarily require a specific certification, but your chosen certification is indicative of your competency in a specialty area.
Some common certifications include:
- Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP): This is a widely recognized credential for general knowledge in information security. It’s issued by the International Information System Security Certification Consortium (ISC)2.
- Certified Information Systems Auditor (CISA): This credential is used around the world by audit control, assurance and security professionals as an indicator of their capabilities. It’s issued by the Information Systems Audit and Control Association (ISACA).
- Certified Information Security Manager (CISM): This credential is for people looking to design, manage and assess an organization’s entire information security system. The CISM certification is issued by ISACA.
- Certified Reverse Engineering Analyst (CREA): This credential is for people who want to develop advanced skills to combat malware attacks, where hackers install malicious software on their targets’ devices to steal data or personal information. It’s provided by the InfoSec Institute.
- Certified Ethical Hacker (CEH): This international credential teaches you how to expose network flaws and vulnerabilities, just like a hacker would. It’s issued by the U.S.-based International Council of Electronic Commerce Consultants (EC-Council).
- GIAC Certified Intrusion Analyst (GCIA): This certification instructs how to monitor and analyze network traffic to flag intrusions. It also teaches candidates how to read and interpret traffic-related log files. This certification is one of many Global Information Assurance Certifications available.
Similar Career Options
- Computer and information research scientist
- Computer systems analyst
- Computer programmer
- Computer support specialist
- Software developer
- Database administrator
- Computer network architect
- Network systems administrator
- Web developer
To become an information security analyst, you typically need at least a bachelor’s degree in computer science, information assurance, programming or something similar. Employers may desire job applicants who’ve earned a graduate degree with a focus on information systems and previous experience in a similar position.
The median annual wage for information security analysts in 2020 was $103,590, according to the BLS. Half of the analysts polled earned more than that, while half earned less. The lowest 10% of information security analysts earned less than $60,060, whereas the highest 10% earned more than $163,300.
There are a number of similarities between information security analysts and cybersecurity analysts. But where cybersecurity analysts work to protect organizations and their data from hackers and cybercrimes, the role of an information security analyst is generally broader, potentially affording them a wider variety of roles to fill.
Last updated: November 2021