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Security analysts monitor, prevent, and stop attacks on private data. These digital professionals create and implement firewalls and software systems to protect data and networks. As the world increasingly relies on technology and digital interfaces to store and share information, cybersecurity analyst and related positions may enjoy higher demand.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), information security analysts earn a median annual salary of $103,590.

Information security analysts may work in the public sector, as freelance consultants, or for businesses and corporations. These professionals hold at least a bachelor's degree in their field; however, some employers seek cybersecurity analysts with master's degrees.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), information security analysts earn a median annual salary of $103,590. On this overview page, we explore this growing industry, covering topics like what an information security analyst does and frequently asked questions about IT security careers.

History of Cybersecurity Analysts

The need to protect computers began before the creation of the internet, during the 1960s. Organizations began using passwords to protect their computers from others that might be able to use the machines.

In the 1970s, after the creation of the Advanced Research Projects Agency Network (ARPANET), Bob Thomas, a researcher, created a small program that was able to travel through a network while leaving a trail. He named the program CREEPER.

The inventor of email, Ray Tomlinson, upgraded CREEPER to be self-replicating. This created the first worm – and the first instance of a virus. To heal the system, Tomlinson then made a program to hunt and delete CREEPER. He named it REAPER, now known as the first antivirus software.

Thomas and Tomlinson's work revealed weaknesses within the ARPANET, and similar systems. Many companies and governments at the time were creating networks by linking their computers via telephone lines. Protecting these networks became a priority.

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Similar Specializations and Career Paths

Information security is an umbrella with many specific careers underneath. As technology has progressed, that umbrella has expanded. Information security encompasses all of data security, while cybersecurity refers to protecting data from cybercrime.

Most security analysts have at least a bachelor's degree in computer science, cybersecurity, computer information systems, or a related field. Employers also seek candidates with field experience.

Additional certifications may be necessary. Certifications validate the necessary skills required for the position, depending on the field. According to the BLS, as of May 2020 the top-paying industries for information security analysts are mail-order houses and information services.

Specializations and Career Paths
Career Description Required Education Required Experience Average Annual Salary
Chief Information Security Officer Oversees all information security for the entire company At minimum a bachelor’s degree in cybersecurity or related field. A master’s degree can also help with gaining employment. Several years of experience across many related positions are required for this position. $166,940
Security Consultants Ensure internet security for individuals and corporations At minimum a bachelor’s degree in a niche area. A graduate degree may help candidates earn a higher salary Experience plus intensive training bootcamps may make a candidate more desirable for a security consultant role. $85,865
Security Administrator Oversees issues related to IT security and safety Entry-level positions require a bachelor’s degree in information technology or a related field. Experience plus intensive training may allow candidates to qualify for high paying positions. $67,659
Security Auditor Conducts auditors of computer security systems Most employees prefer bachelor’s degrees in computer science, information technology, or a related field. 3-5 years of experience $70,263
Security Architect Anticipate potential threats and develop systems to preempt them. At minimum a bachelor’s degree in information technology, computer science, or a related field. Most experience is gained during completion of an undergraduate program (a.k.a. Hacker experience) $126,019

Source: Payscale

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What Does an Information Security Analyst Do?

As the job title implies, security is security analysts' primary goal. Analysts aim to identify weaknesses in networks' security systems, patch or respond to issues, and prevent future breaches. Security analysts may use various software, including programs designed to encrypt and protect data, to increase and strengthen security.

Within larger companies and organizations, security analysts may work with teams of network, information technology (IT), and computer specialists. They often work with these other professionals to design security protocols and systems, and to protect company data from hacks and breaches.

Security analysts play crucial roles within their companies. They empower businesses and organizations to better protect customer and user data, in turn maintaining the integrity and reputation of those organizations.

Security analysts may take on new roles as they advance within the field.

Traditionally, security analysts were known for working with businesses related to vulnerable sectors of the economy, such as the military, oil and gas companies, and banks. Other companies now hire security analysts to help protect their assets.

Security analysts may take on new roles as they advance within the field. For example, entry-level security analysts may assume lower-level IT security jobs, helping users navigate new systems and installing new software. More experienced analysts may design and implement entire security systems and firewalls, overseeing teams of security and IT professionals.

An IT security analyst may do anything from managing files and credentials to hacking systems to discover weaknesses. Growing in an information security analyst role may require a consistent commitment to improving.

Key Soft Skills for Security Analysts

Critical Thinking

Security analysts must possess strong critical thinking skills to work through complex coding and software troubleshooting issues.

Collaboration

Security analysts often work within larger teams of IT professionals, so they need strong skills in teamwork and collaboration.

Communication

Working in technology requires both verbal and written communication skills. Security analysts must be able to clearly explain their work to people without tech backgrounds.

Learning

Jobs in security analysis require a willingness to continually learn, as the field continually changes. Security analysts must demonstrate adaptability and the ability to grow with their field.

Key Hard Skills for Security Analysts

Networking

Security analysts need expertise in diverse systems and networks. They need broad knowledge of various elements of network systems, along with how each element can impact security.

Scripting

A working knowledge of computer scripts, like Python or C++, benefits security analysts. This knowledge allows professionals to understand encoded threats and rewrite software.

Hacking

Security analysts must understand hacking processes to block and prevent cyberattacks. Ethical hacking certifications help prepare analysts to understand threats and protect systems.

Operating Systems

Analysts must be able to work on all types of operating systems and platforms, including iOS, Windows, and Linux.

A Day in the Life of a Security Analyst

The typical day for a security analyst can vary depending on the needs of the position. Both cybersecurity analysts and information security analysts may begin their day by looking over reports from the previous day or shift, including checking for any new threats and identifying malware that may have infiltrated the system.

Security analysts may also prepare for and respond to system breaches or attacks. These processes might differ between workplaces, but they generally include responding to hacks or network insecurities and working to prevent new ones. On a typical day, a security analyst may connect with other IT professionals at their workplace to collaborate on data and network protection efforts.

Salary and Career Outlook for Information Security Analysts

Like many other tech professionals, most security analysts tend to earn strong wages. Even the lowest-earning 10% of information security analysts earned a median annual wage of $60,060 as of May 2020, according to the BLS; those in the highest 10% took home $163,300 per year. Keep in mind that these numbers reflect analyst salaries in a variety of industries and roles, working at all experience levels.

Several factors may influence earning potential, such as location. BLS data reports that information security analysts earned the highest wages in California, where their annual mean wage was $125,990 as of May 2020. New York trails closely behind, at $125,920.

Education and experience also impact salary. A bachelor's degree often serves as the minimum requirement for security analysts; however, some employers may seek analysts with master's degrees, which may generate higher salaries.

Career Salary Potential for Security Analysts

Median Annual Salary: $103,590

Source: BLS

Becoming a Security Analyst

The process of becoming a security analyst may look slightly different from person to person, and even between specializations. However, some standards and requirements are universal. Security analysts often need a bachelor's degree in cybersecurity or a related field.

Some security analysts learn the necessary skills on their own, or through bootcamps which offer crash courses and workshops in coding and security. These workshops often lead to certificates. Earning individual certifications is also valuable.

How long becoming a security analyst takes depends on your chosen educational path. The links below offer resources for getting started in your career as an security analyst, including the degree programs you may want to explore.

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Professional Organizations for Security Analysts

Below is a list of professional organizations within the information security field. These organizations may be a great source for networking, and many of them provide information and assistance with preparation for certifications.

The ISSA is a nonprofit organization for cybersecurity professionals around the world. It aims to improve the profession and promote effective systems and practices. Members gain access to chapter meetings and educational programs.

Founded in 1988, this international nonprofit offers a variety of certifications and professional development programs in cybersecurity. Members gain access to networking opportunities.

This nonprofit organization aims to make the internet safer for all users. It offers a variety of membership options for both individuals and businesses.

This organization emphasizes the intersection between technology, public policy, and economics. The alliance advocates for cybersecurity policies and aims to create awareness for best practices in cybersecurity.

This is a nonprofit organization with the mission to reach those from underrepresented communities that are interested in cybersecurity.

Learn More About Security Analysts

For more information about how to become a security analyst, check out the links below.

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How to Become a Security Analyst

This links to more detailed information about how to become a security analyst including college and additional certifications.

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Salary and Career Outlook for Security Analysts

This links to a discussion of the salary expectations and overall career outlook for security analysts.

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Certifications for Security Analysts

This links to additional information about the certifications that may be required to gain employment as a security analyst.

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Day in the Life of a Security Analyst

This links to a typical day in the life of a security analyst based on interviews with individuals that work in the field.

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Frequently Asked Questions About Cybersecurity Analysts

What does an information security analyst do?

An information security analyst monitors computer infrastructure and networks in order to protect them from threats. Their duties may encompass maintaining file access and credentials and finding weaknesses in a current system.

Are IT security jobs stressful?

The stress of the IT security job depends on the company. IT security careers can have above average stress levels and limited flexibility.

Is the role of security analyst considered an IT job?

Most security analysts work within the IT department of a company or organization.

What degree do you need to become a cybersecurity analyst?

Typically, most security analysts hold a bachelor's degree at minimum. However, some employers may seek candidates with graduate degrees or advanced certifications.

Reviewed by: Monali Mirel Chuatico

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In 2019, Monali Mirel Chuatico graduated with her bachelor's in computer science, which gave her the foundation that she needed to excel in roles such as a data engineer, front-end developer, UX designer, and computer science instructor.

Monali is currently a data engineer at Mission Lane. As a data analytics captain at a nonprofit called COOP Careers, Monali helps new grads and young professionals overcome underemployment by teaching them data analytics tools and mentoring them on their professional development journey.

Monali Mirel Chuatico is a paid member of the Red Ventures Education freelance review network.

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