Security Analyst Career Overview
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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 network infrastructures. As the world increasingly relies on technology and digital interfaces to store and share information, security analysts enjoy higher demand.
Security analysts may work in the public sector, as freelance consultants, or for businesses and corporations. Typically, these professionals hold at least a bachelor’s degree in their field; however, some employers seek for analysts with master’s degrees.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), information security analysts earn a median annual salary of $99,730 — more than double the national median wage for all occupations. On this page, we explore this growing industry, covering topics like how to become a security analyst and frequently asked questions about the career.
What Does a Security Analyst Do?
As the job title implies, security serves as security analysts’ primary goal. These analysts aim to identify weaknesses in networks’ security systems, patch or respond to issues, and prevent future breaches from occurring. Security analysts may use various software, including programs designed to encrypt and protect data, to increase and strengthen the security of digital data.
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.
As evidenced by recent data breaches in major companies, security analysts play crucial roles within these structures. 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. For example, entry-level security analysts may assume lower-level roles in IT teams, 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.
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 should possess 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 Java or C++, benefits security analysts. This knowledge allows professionals to understand encoded threats and write 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 greatly depending on the specific position. They 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 and employers, but they generally include responding to hacks or network insecurities and working to prevent new ones. On a typical day, a security analyst may meet and connect with other IT professionals at their workplace to collaborate on efforts to protect data and network infrastructure.
The following list details a few common security analyst responsibilities:
Security Analyst Main Responsibilities
- Monitor Networks
- Security analysts must stay informed of all activity taking place within the networks they work to protect. They must pay attention to incoming code, identify negative activity, and respond to it accordingly.
- Manage Software
- Security analysts install, manage, and update software on the systems and networks they monitor. They ensure all software used on the network has adequate security measures in place.
- Analysts may compile ongoing reports about the safety of the networks they work on. These reports often document security issues, along with measures the analyst took in response.
- Develop Security Plans
- Security analysts for companies and businesses may thoroughly analyze their organizations’ networks, providing suggestions and best practices for employees and users to maintain data security.
- Security analysts typically research new trends and advances in security and information technology to stay updated on software, potential threats, and best practices for network security.
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Security Analyst Salary
Like many other tech professionals, security analysts tend to earn strong wages. Even the lowest-earning 10% of information security analysts earned a median annual wage of $57,810 as of May 2019, according to the BLS; those in the 90th percentile took home $158,860 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 New York, where their annual mean wage was $121,750 as of May 2019. New Jersey trailed closely behind, at $121,570.
Education and experience also impact salary. A bachelor’s degree serves as the typical minimum requirement for security analysts; however, some employers may seek analysts with master’s degrees, which may afford higher salaries. Experience level can also influence earnings, as outlined in the chart below.
Average Annual Salary Of Security Analysts By Experience, 2020
|Entry Level||Early Career||Midcareer||Experienced|
Where Can I Work as a Security Analyst?
Security analysts enjoy plenty of mobility, as jobs in the field cover many geographic areas, industries, and employers. Where analysts choose to work can impact their earning potential, as can the types of roles they take on. Security analysts work in all sectors, including computer and software engineering, management, and finance. This section introduces the industries and employers that commonly employ security analysts, plus which cities offer the highest salaries.
Where you live can impact your career and earning potential. For instance, smaller, more rural towns might feature fewer job opportunities in the tech and IT fields, while more metropolitan and suburban areas offer more positions in these fields.
Even if a city boasts higher-than-average salaries for security analysts, the cost of living in that city may outweigh the higher pay. For example, New York pays the highest median salary for information security analysts, according to the BLS, but the cost of living in the state is nearly 40% higher than the national average, according to the World Population Review.
The table below outlines the top-paying metropolitan areas for security analysts.
Top-Paying Cities for Security Analysts, 2019
|Top-Paying Cities||Average Annual Wage|
|New York, NY||$127,850|
Your industry can also impact the daily tasks and duties you perform in your career. Different industries require different responsibilities, and they may require security analysts to work alongside different types of professionals.
Most security analysts work in the computer and information technology industries. The next-largest group of security analysts works in finance and management. Other security analysts work in administrative roles. All kinds of companies and organizations employ security analysts and other IT professionals, so these administrative roles vary by employer.
Employers and industry can impact earning potential, as well; certain industries and jobs may offer higher salaries and more advancement opportunities than others.
- Northrup Grumman
- Northrup Grumman specializes in designing and creating technology for the aerospace, land, sea, and cyber industries. In the cyber field, Northrup Grumman develops cyber infrastructure, provides security and training, and offers cybersecurity support for military branches. Security analysts may work in cyber-related roles at this growing company.
- Dell Technologies designs electronics and digital products, including computers, laptops, gaming systems, software, workstations, and servers. Dell employs security analysts to assist in the design and development of new programs and products, and to protect the company’s own servers and data.
- A global company with hubs around the United States, Accenture provides consulting and management services in a variety of professions and industries. Accenture employs security analysts to provide these digital consulting services and help plan and implement programs and software for clients.
How to Become a Security Analyst
The process of becoming a security analyst may look slightly different from person to person; however, some standards and requirements remain universal. Typically, security analysts must hold a bachelor’s degree in information security or a related field. However, some security analysts learn the necessary skills on their own, or through online “bootcamps,” which offer crash courses and workshops in coding and security. These workshops often lead to certifications.
How long it takes to become a security analyst depends on your chosen educational path. The steps below offer an example pathway to starting your career.
Steps to Becoming a Security Analyst
- Earn a Degree: A bachelor’s degree serves as the standard minimum education requirement for security analysts. However, some employers seek applicants with a graduate education. Research your industry of choice to determine which degree level you should pursue. Common areas of study include cybersecurity, information security, computer programming, and related fields.
- Get Certified in Specialty Areas: Many security analysts hold certifications in IT fields, including operating systems, coding languages, and software. You may earn certain certifications as part of your undergraduate or graduate program or after you graduate.
- Gain Field Experience: Aspiring security analysts should gain experience working in security analysis and closely related fields. This experience bolsters your resume and helps you stand out to future employers.
Security Analyst Requirements
Becoming a security analyst typically involves meeting some specific requirements, like education, certification, and experience requirements. The sections below explain these requirements in further detail.
Education Requirements For Security Analysts
Aspiring security analysts typically pursue studies in fields closely related to security analysis, such as cybersecurity, computer science, information technology, systems analysis, or software development. These majors often allow learners to specialize in security analysis.
Other education options exist for this field, as well. For instance, many computer professionals learn new scripts, codes, programs, and platforms on their own. A recent survey of computer programmers found that 85.5% of respondents reported teaching themselves a new tool, framework, or coding language without taking an actual course.
The same survey reported that 45% of respondents earned bachelor’s degrees, with the vast majority pursuing majors in computer science, computer engineering, or software engineering. Some analysts may pursue master’s and doctoral degrees in cybersecurity. Graduate degrees can lead to higher salary potential and more advanced roles in the IT field.
Employers often seek candidates with specific educational backgrounds, which may determine whether you self-teach or earn a degree. Research your areas of interest to see which credentials those employers prefer.
Learn more about available certificates and degrees through the links below.
License And Certification Requirements For Security Analysts
- CompTIA Security+ This certification indicates foundational skills in cybersecurity and qualifies holders for intermediate careers in the field. The 90-credit certifying exam covers topics like threats and vulnerabilities, risk management, architecture and design, and cryptography.
- Certified Information Systems Security Professional The CISSP indicates expertise in designing, building, and implementing security systems. Topics on the certifying exam include security and risk management, communication and network security, security operations, and software development security.
- Certified Information Security Manager This certification, offered by the Information Systems Audit and Control Administration, indicates expertise in areas including risk management, program development, incident management, and information security.
Earning certifications in various programs, software, and operating systems can help you stand out to employers. Some popular certifications for security analysts include:
Required Experience For Security Analysts
Before becoming a security analyst, candidates often earn experience in the field, which may include academic courses and cybersecurity internships. Experience provides aspiring security analysts with useful knowledge and skills prior to entering the job market.
As previously discussed, some analysts pursue knowledge and skills through self-teaching, or through bootcamps and workshops that hone skills in limited timeframes. Some employers specifically seek candidates with accredited academic experience, while others may accept candidates with self-taught skills.
Either way, gaining experience in the field can increase earning potential and help candidates stand out to employers.
The Security Analyst Job Hunt
The rapidly expanding tech industry has made way for thousands of lucrative careers for qualified, skilled professionals. Job fairs, professional organizations, annual conferences, and online boards help job-seekers find leads on available positions in security analysis. The following list outlines several online job boards for security analysts.
This online job board offers resources for those seeking jobs in cybersecurity, including online job listings, virtual and in-person career fairs, and news and advice for job-seekers and employers.
This website provides straightforward, easy-to-navigate listings of available cybersecurity jobs around the world. Users can search by location, job title or keyword, and company.
NinjaJobs, a community-run job-posting platform, posts jobs in fields like information security management, security product development, and digital forensics.
This website offers an easily searchable database of jobs in tech. Users can search by keyword or location. They can also create profiles and upload resumes for easy applying.
Security Analyst Upward Mobility
Security analysts enjoy opportunities for upward mobility. As you work longer in security analysis and gain more experience and knowledge, you qualify for higher positions and more advanced roles, like the ones outlined below.
CHIEF INFORMATION SECURITY OFFICER
Chief information security officers oversee security teams within companies and organizations. These professionals manage all security and IT issues alongside other IT professionals. Generally, they have a bachelor’s degree and extensive experience in the field.
Security engineers create and implement security systems to protect companies and organizations’ private data and systems. Their duties closely mirror those of security analysts, but at more advanced levels. They typically possess at least 1-5 years of experience in the field, and they sometimes hold an advanced degree.
Security Analyst FAQs
How long does it take to become a security analyst?
The time it takes to become a security analyst varies, but a bachelor’s degree, the typical entry-level education requirement for the job, takes about four years of full-time study to complete.
What degree is needed to be a security analyst?
Typically, security analysts hold a bachelor’s degree at minimum. However, some employers may seek candidates with graduate degrees or advanced certifications.
How much does a security analyst make?
According to the BLS, information security analysts earn an annual median wage approaching $100,000 as of May 2019. However, salary can vary based on a variety of factors, including workplace, education, and experience.
What requirements are there to become a security analyst?
Requirements vary depending on specific job and employer, but they generally include some level of formal education, certifications, and some experience in the field.
Is security analyst a good job?
Yes, this industry continues to rapidly grow and expand, creating a demand for qualified professionals. Many jobs in this industry offer competitive salaries and room for upward mobility.
Professional Organizations for Security Analysts
- Information Systems Security Association 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.
- (ISC)² Founded in 1988, this international nonprofit offers a variety of certifications and professional development programs in cybersecurity. Members also gain access to networking opportunities.
- Internet Security Alliance 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.
- Center for Internet Security This nonprofit organization aims to make the internet safer for all users. It offers a variety of membership options for both individuals and businesses. The website also offers a job board.
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Find the right education path to take advantage of this fast-growing industry and join the front-lines on technology and security.