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How To Become a Junior Cybersecurity Analyst

12 minute read | April 22, 2024
Maria Muntean

Written by:
Maria Muntean

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The cybersecurity job market is full of opportunities, even for those just starting out. Companies are ramping up their defense against cyber threats, and they’re always looking for fresh talent. This surge in demand means that if you’re considering a career in cybersecurity, now might just be the perfect time to jump in.

Whether you’re fresh out of school or looking to pivot your career, here’s a thorough roadmap to help you land that first role. We’ll share tips on developing your skills, finding ways to gain real-world experience, and browsing through all the courses and certifications you need. Read on!

How To Become A Junior Cybersecurity Analyst: An Eight-Step Guide

Here’s your step-by-step guide to landing your first job as a junior cybersecurity analyst.

  • Meet the educational requirements

  • Become proficient in the essential skills

  • Build practical experience

  • Develop your portfolio (and GitHub profile)

  • Pursue a relevant certification 

  • Remember: Your network is your net worth

  • Consider an internship to get a foot in the door

  • Work toward the role you want

Meet the educational requirements

The first step to becoming a junior cybersecurity analyst is to make sure you have some relevant education under your belt.

One common path is pursuing a university degree in a relevant field such as computer science, information technology, or cybersecurity. Although not compulsory, many employers prefer candidates with a BA degree, which takes about four years to complete. 

Some roles may also accept candidates with an associate degree or relevant certifications in lieu of a bachelor’s degree. If you’re ambitious, you can also pursue a master’s in cybersecurity, opening up more career growth opportunities.

If you prefer a more hands-on and flexible approach, you can go the self-taught route. If you’re motivated enough, you sure can’t fail this way; there are plenty of resources online, from paid courses and cybersecurity bootcamps.

Paid courses from reputable platforms or participation in intensive bootcamps provide a structured learning approach within a shorter timeframe than traditional degree programs.

Become proficient in the essential skills

Aspiring cybersecurity analysts need to hone specific skills to successfully land their first job, regardless of whether they learn those skills from a formal degree or an alternative learning path. Let’s explore both the technical and soft skills needed.

Technical skills

To make it as a junior cybersecurity analyst, you’ll need to develop proficiency in a range of technical skills, including but not limited to:

  • Familiarity with cybersecurity tools and technologies like SIEM (Security Information and Event Management) systems, firewalls, and intrusion detection/prevention systems (IDS/IPS);
  • Understanding of cryptography principles (authentication, data integrity, etc.) and encryption algorithms;
  • Knowledge of programming languages such as Python, Java, or PowerShell;
  • Understanding of networking protocols and concepts (TCP/IP, DNS, DHCP);
  • Experience in operating systems such as Windows, Linux, and MacOS;
  • Experience with cloud computing platforms and security best practices;
  • Proficiency in incident response and handling techniques;
  • Knowledge of database management systems and SQL;
  • Ability to conduct vulnerability assessments;
  • Ability to perform penetration testing;

Soft skills

Besides technical expertise, a junior cybersecurity analyst also requires a range of interpersonal skills to communicate and collaborate in a team environment effectively:

  • Ethical mindset and commitment to maintaining confidentiality and integrity in all aspects of the job;
  • Adaptability and willingness to learn new technologies and methodologies;
  • Ability to work well under pressure and prioritize tasks effectively;
  • Excellent communication skills, both written and verbal;
  • Attention to detail and strong problem-solving skills;
  • Knowledge of resource management concepts;
  • Strong analytical and critical thinking abilities;
  • Project-management skills.

Build practical experience

Compared to seasoned cybersecurity professionals, juniors must work up the ladder by having at least some practical experience. 

But how do you build that experience?

  • Explore open-source and your own projects. Open source refers to software or its source code that is freely available for anyone to use, change, or distribute. For instance, open-source projects are great avenues for junior cybersecurity analysts to explore. You can work on security tools and frameworks and explore vulnerability research or threat intelligence feeds. Being part of an open-source project and community allows you to get hands-on experience by analyzing code, identifying security vulnerabilities, and building novel solutions. When you feel more comfortable, you can start developing your own projects. To get started, identify areas of interest or specific cybersecurity challenges you’d like to address. For example, you can develop a network monitoring tool using Python and Scapy and gain insights into network traffic analysis and anomaly detection. At the same time, you can create a simple encryption application using cryptographic algorithms like AES or RSA, which can give you hands-on experience in data encryption and decryption. Some open-source platforms to explore include:
    • GitHub (the biggest one)
    • GitLab
    • Bitbucket
    • SourceForge
    • GitBucket
  • Participate in hackathons. Hackathons are events where participants – often working in teams – collaborate to solve specific problems or challenges within a set timeframe. These vary widely in focus and scope, but cybersecurity often involves challenges related to identifying vulnerabilities, enterprise-wide systems, or responding to simulated cyber attacks. Examples of popular hackathons in cybersecurity include DEF CON CTF, HackTheBox challenges, and the National Collegiate Cyber Defense Competition (NCCDC). To participate in one of these, research them through official websites and register for them. You’ll be presented with a series of challenges to tackle within a designated time frame, often ranging from a few hours to several days. Projects can include developing innovative tools or techniques or devising strategies for defending against cyber threats.
  • Pursue volunteer or freelance work. Volunteering opportunities and freelance work are two other options that help you build practical experience. Through volunteering, you can contribute your skills and knowledge to meaningful causes. Non-profits, community groups, and educational institutions usually seek volunteer candidates. On the other hand, freelancing is often more challenging than volunteering and a different ball game overall. It requires a more established reputation and network within the industry. If you start with volunteering first, you’ll have enough experience to gradually transition into freelancing by showing off your capabilities, portfolio, and networking skills. On top of that, there’s no cap on how much you can earn by freelancing, given that you have the skills to build a roster of clients.

Develop your portfolio (and GitHub profile)

As mentioned above, GitHub is an excellent platform for junior cybersecurity analysts to showcase their skills and collaborate on projects.

Getting started on GitHub is relatively straightforward. 

  • First, create an account on the platform and familiarize yourself with its features, such as repositories, branches, and pull requests. 
  • Next, explore existing cybersecurity projects and repositories to understand the types of contributions you can make and the coding standards followed by the community. 

When contributing to projects, make sure your code is well-documented, adheres to best practices, and addresses specific issues or enhancements.

But GitHub can also be a common trap to fall into analysis paralysis and perfectionism, so find ways to avoid that. Instead of becoming overwhelmed by the sheer volume of projects and repositories available, focus on identifying a few key areas of interest or projects. Set realistic goals for your contributions and gradually expand your involvement as you gain confidence and experience. 

Every contribution, however small, adds a bit of value to your portfolio.

When it comes to portfolios, while hosting yours on GitHub is a great idea, many employers and recruiters prefer to review a standalone portfolio that provides additional context and customization beyond what GitHub offers. It should include a brief introduction about yourself, your educational background, relevant certifications, and a showcase of your projects, including detailed descriptions, screenshots, and links to GitHub repositories or live demos. 

Pursue a relevant certification 

Another strategic move you can make towards becoming a cybersecurity analyst is to pursue a relevant certification proven to increase your marketability in the field.

Cybersecurity certifications can provide tangible evidence of your expertise in specific areas of cybersecurity. For example, Springboard’s Cybersecurity Bootcamp is a structured training program that covers essential cybersecurity topics, hands-on projects, and even mentorship from industry experts.

But of course, there are paid and free certifications. When deciding whether or not to allocate any budget towards a certification, weigh the pros and cons of each option.

While free certifications offer accessibility and flexibility, paid certifications often provide more thorough training materials, personalized support, and industry recognition. They’re also more likely to provide additional perks, such as job placement assistance or access to exclusive networking opportunities.

Remember: Your network is your net worth

While having the right skills and experience is a good first step, having a network you can count on significantly accelerates your cybersecurity career growth.

Here’s how you can cultivate a supportive network.

  • Leverage LinkedIn. LinkedIn is a powerful platform for building professional relationships within the cybersecurity community. Be intentional with your LinkedIn approach, whether connecting with industry professionals, engaging with relevant content, or participating in group discussions. It’s very easy to get distracted and procrastinate on this platform. Developing a personal brand and regularly posting content can boost your visibility and credibility, and even simple actions like reaching out to peers and expressing interest in collaborating on projects can strengthen your network. Use LinkedIn’s advanced search filters to identify and connect with cybersecurity professionals with similar interests, expertise, or career goals. Be proactive in networking, and don’t hesitate to initiate conversations or explore potential collaboration opportunities with other juniors.
  • Join online cybersecurity communities. These are all great places to ask questions, seek advice, and engage in discussions. You can even share your projects and build in public. Some of these communities and platforms, like Cybrary or Peerlyst, also offer webinars and resources made for cybersecurity professionals. Here are a few communities you can join as a junior cybersecurity analyst:
    • Reddit’s r/cybersecurity subreddit
    • Stack Exchange’s Information Security Community
    • Cybersecurity Forum on Discord
    • Cybersecurity Insiders
    • Cybrary
    • Peerlyst
  • Attend conferences and events. At the beginning of your career, you should attend a cybersecurity conference at least once, whether online or in person. Events like RSA Conference, Black Hat, and DEF CON are all great opportunities to participate in workshops, presentations, and networking sessions. If you don’t have the resources yet to attend such a conference, research regional and local cybersecurity meetups, seminars, or hackathons. They are also great places to connect with like-minded people.
  • Consider an internship to get a foot in the door. During a cybersecurity internship, you can expect to learn various hands-on tasks, such as assisting with security assessments, conducting vulnerability scans, analyzing threat intelligence data, and participating in incident response activities. As an intern, you’ll be able to shadow experienced cybersecurity professionals. Typically, a job offers less training than an internship, as your employer expects you already to know the ins and outs of the industry. In the long run, having an internship as part of your resume can show recruiters you have the practical experience and necessary exposure to industry best practices to land the job. While volunteering and working on personal projects are valuable in their own right, internships are a combination of the two, as you also get paid and get to work on hands-on projects. Even better, you can also build relationships with potential employers and secure future employment opportunities or recommendations.

Work toward the role you want

To land your dream job as a cybersecurity analyst, you need to be proactive and diligent. Here’s how to position yourself as a strong candidate in the industry.

  • Create a strong resume. A strong cybersecurity resume convinces your employer that you’re worth calling for an interview. Highlight your relevant skills, such as network security, threat detection, incident response, or penetration testing. Use action verbs and quantify your achievements whenever possible to demonstrate your work’s impact, such as “Implemented security measures that reduced network vulnerabilities by 30%.” Make sure you’re thorough with your experience and education sections. To strengthen your credentials, include any relevant certifications, such as CompTIA Security+, Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP), or Certified Ethical Hacker (CEH). Each time you apply for a new job, re-check your resume and cover letter and make sure they’re both tailored to the specific job you’re applying for. At this stage, you don’t want to be generic.
  • Optimize your LinkedIn profile. LinkedIn is a tricky one—for some, it matters a lot, and others don’t even look at it when they receive your application. However, for many, it’s your first impression on potential employers and recruiters, so trying to make it stand out is essential. Craft a compelling headline that reflects your professional identity, such as “Cybersecurity Analyst | CISSP | Network Security Specialist.” In the “about” section, summarize your experience, skills, and career goals, emphasizing your passion for cybersecurity and commitment to continuous learning. Include relevant keywords and skills in your profile to enhance your visibility in recruiters’ searches. You can now add links to your featured section, so showcase your projects and contributions by adding links to your portfolio, GitHub repositories, or personal websites.
  • Keep on applying for relevant jobs (it’s a numbers game). Persistence is key to success. Keep applying for relevant jobs on various platforms such as LinkedIn, Indeed, and company career pages. Customize your resume and cover letter for each application to highlight your fit for the specific role and company culture. While rejection may be disheartening, remember that it’s a numbers game, and each application brings you one step closer to your goal. Seek feedback from mentors, peers, or industry professionals to continuously improve your application materials and interview skills. 

What Does A Junior Cybersecurity Analyst Do?

A junior cybersecurity analyst safeguards an organization’s digital infrastructure from cyber threats.

Their responsibilities include monitoring and analyzing security alerts and logs, identifying potential security incidents or vulnerabilities, and responding to security breaches or incidents as part of incident response efforts.

Junior analysts often assist in conducting security assessments, vulnerability scans, and penetration tests to identify weaknesses in systems and networks and contribute to developing and implementing security policies and procedures. 

How Much Does A Junior Cybersecurity Analyst Earn?

Junior cybersecurity analysts earn an average of $124,142 yearly.

What Does The Career Path Of A Junior Cybersecurity Analyst Look Like?

Once you get enough experience as a junior cybersecurity analyst, you can advance to roles such as senior cybersecurity analyst, where you take on more complex responsibilities and contribute to strategic initiatives such as security architecture design, security risk assessment, and security awareness training.

Beyond senior roles, you can advance into managerial or leadership positions, such as cybersecurity manager, director of cybersecurity, or chief information security officer (CISO). In these positions, professionals are responsible for setting the strategic direction of the organization’s cybersecurity program and managing teams and budgets.

Becoming A Junior Cybersecurity Analyst: Real-Life Examples To Learn From

Here are two examples from cybersecurity analysts who successfully landed their first roles and their advice on how you can be successful.

Example 1

In his YouTube video, Gerald talks about the various roles within cybersecurity analysis and how to land your first role as a junior. 

What he emphasizes most is paying attention to the different job titles advertised on platforms like LinkedIn and tailoring your resume and skills depending on them, but being flexible and aware that as a candidate, you probably don’t need to master all listed skills to qualify. 

For example, he discusses the importance of junior cybersecurity analysts monitoring potential attacks, investigating incidents, and collaborating efficiently with other security teams.He also addresses the financial and professional aspects of becoming a cybersecurity or SOC analyst, noting that entry-level positions in cybersecurity are competitively compensated, with salaries ranging from $70k to over $100k annually.

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Example 2

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John Good shares his day-to-day life as a junior cybersecurity analyst. He shares his journey to securing his first role in the field, including the qualifications that helped him get there: certifications like Network+, Security+, CCNA, and a Bachelor’s degree in Business Administration, with ongoing studies towards a Master’s in Information Assurance. The video outlines typical entry-level tasks, such as creating diagrams and documentation, reviewing audit logs, and analyzing network and system activity.

The YouTuber further advises viewers on the significance of learning about approval workflows and procedures and becoming acquainted with the organization’s environment – which is especially useful for beginners. He believes that small teams can offer more opportunities for development because of the necessity for multitasking and the limited number of employees.

The main takeaway? Know your worth in the job market, and browse platforms like Glassdoor for salary research to negotiate fair compensation.

FAQs About Becoming a Junior Cybersecurity Analyst

We answer your most frequently asked questions.

Is Cybersecurity A Good Career?

Yes. It’s a promising and lucrative career path because of its increasing demand for skilled professionals, attractive salary prospects, and growth opportunities.

Can You Become A Junior Cybersecurity Analyst Without A Degree?

While a degree can enhance your prospects and potentially open up more doors, you can become a junior cybersecurity analyst through self-study, relevant certifications, and practical experience.

How Long Does It Take To Become A Junior Cybersecurity Analyst?

The timeline varies depending on individual circumstances, but it may take several months to two years to acquire the necessary skills, knowledge, and experience to qualify for an entry-level position.

Since you’re here…
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About Maria Muntean

Maria-Cristina is a content marketer with 7 years of experience in SEO and content strategy for SaaS and technology brands. She holds an MA thesis on the effects of emotions in written and video content. She loves to spend time near the ocean and watch horror movies.