How To Become a Cyber Security Analyst [2022 Career Guide]
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With so much of our information being stored and transferred online, cybersecurity involves more than just protecting our information from hackers. Of course, part of the job does involve preventing hacking, phishing, and other kinds of attacks. But cybersecurity, as a field, has grown to encompass much more, including the study of communication networks from a security perspective, analyzing vulnerabilities in both software and hardware, and developing policies for how data is handled and transferred on the Internet.
Because of its growing importance, the job prospects for cybersecurity professionals have skyrocketed. There’s expected to be an employment growth of 33% between 2020 and 2030, which is a significantly higher rate than for other occupations. The US Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that there will be 16,300 new cybersecurity job openings every year in this decade.
So if you’ve been considering a career in cybersecurity, you’re at the right place at the right time. The field is already booming, and will only continue to grow over the next few years. In this post, we’ll tell you everything you need to know to chart out your career in cybersecurity.
What Is a Cybersecurity Analyst?
Cybersecurity analysts—sometimes called information security analysts—build and analyze IT security infrastructures. They’re tasked with supervising a company’s systems and networks, with the goal of pre-empting and preventing security attacks.
Attacks on security systems have become more sophisticated in recent years. Hackers can leverage seemingly innocuous information to gain unauthorized access, steal online identities, and intercept messages. Cybersecurity analysts have to keep evolving so that they can build systems that minimize potential threats.
What Does a Cybersecurity Analyst Do?
A cybersecurity analyst is on the front line of a company’s cybersecurity efforts. They ensure that any software or hardware used by the company is only accessible to the people who have the right authorizations.
When you work for a small company, your cybersecurity job might involve a variety of tasks, ranging from penetration testing to real-time threat detection and writing policies. The larger the organization, the more specialized the roles become.
Here are the most common tasks associated with a job in cybersecurity:
- Analyzing existing systems and networks to gauge their security capabilities
- Developing encryption protocols and installing firewalls to improve a company’s security framework
- Monitoring traffic on company networks and detecting threats in real-time
- Creating incident logs and producing reports when there are major security incidents
- Patching any vulnerabilities that are detected in a network
- Conducting risk analyses, penetration tests, and other cyber threat detection processes regularly
Steps To Become a Cybersecurity Analyst
Earn a Degree
You’ll most likely need a college degree to land a job as a cybersecurity analyst.
Some colleges now offer specialized degrees in cybersecurity, but you don’t necessarily need one of those to land a job in the industry. A degree in any computer science or software engineering discipline is sufficient, though it helps if you’ve taken some security-focused classes as part of your degree.
Learn Cybersecurity Fundamentals
If you don’t have a degree in cybersecurity, you will need to learn the fundamentals. There are publications like the United States Cybersecurity Magazine which you can read to familiarize yourself with what’s happening in the industry. You should also follow more general tech news so you are aware of how cybersecurity issues are handled at big companies.
Acquire Cybersecurity Skills
Cybersecurity traverses disciplines like programming, policy, and networks, so you’ll need to gain a wide range of skills to learn all the cybersecurity fundamentals. Here are some of the most important skills you need to acquire.
It’s important for cybersecurity analysts to learn how to code. The first reason is that you’ll need some engineering chops to build security applications yourself. Learning to code can also teach you how to prevent security flaws in your code.
Software and Systems
As a cybersecurity analyst, your job is to ensure that all of your systems are secure. This means that you need to know about every piece of software used across the company, who has access to it, and what purpose it’s used for. It helps to have an understanding of IT, so you can take stock of all of the processes and systems at play in your organization.
Cybersecurity analysts need to know how communication works over networks like Local Area Networks (LAN) and Virtual Private Networks (VPN). They also need to be adept at detecting and eliminating network security threats.
What you do when you detect a security attack is called incident response. This includes the systems and protocols that cybersecurity analysts use to respond to phishing, ransomware, and Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attacks.
Unless there is an explicit requirement to make it public, data that a company produces needs to be kept secure. Cybersecurity analysts study systems that handle data and enforce regulations regarding the ways in which data is transferred. This requires an understanding of computational systems, data processing tools, and organizational hierarchies.
Intelligence Gathering and Analytical Skills
Cybersecurity analysts proactively pursue information on potential security threats. It isn’t enough to respond to attacks; you have to be able to preempt and prevent them as much as possible. So cybersecurity analysts have to gather intelligence and analyze it to determine the level of threat.
Communication is a key skill for cybersecurity analysts. They need to describe security policies in laymen’s terms. Collaborating, critical thinking, and leadership are some of the other soft skills that can come in handy too.
Work on Projects
Front-end developers can build websites and data analysts can leverage public datasets, but can cybersecurity analysts work on their own projects? They can, especially if they’re just starting out in the field.
For example, consider bug bounties, which are rewards offered to those who find vulnerabilities in websites or apps. There are various bug bounty programs online and anyone can participate. Once you have the requisite skills, you can take part in these and produce reports on your findings.
You can also build password strength checkers, keyloggers (only as a project, remember), and even RFID blockers if you want to dabble in cybersecurity.
Find a Mentor
Unsure if you’re on the right track? The easiest way to know is to find a mentor. If you already work in a company, you can approach someone in the security department to be your mentor. It’s a lot easier to make the request if you’re already friends with this person.
If you don’t yet know anyone in the industry, you can connect with cybersecurity professionals on LinkedIn. If you’re able to find someone who might be a good mentor, then reach out to them and see if they would be open to the arrangement. Not everyone wants to be a mentor, so this can take a few tries. Be patient and keep working on your own skills in the meantime.
Get Certified or Complete a Course
Doing a cybersecurity course is a great way to fast-track your progress. Having an instructor and peers can enrich your learning experience. Make sure to choose a well-reviewed course that covers the specific areas that you’re interested in.
You can also take cybersecurity certifications to gain skills in an area of the field or learn how to use a specific tool. If you’re thinking about applying to a particular company, look through their job descriptions to see if they require a particular certification.
Create a Killer Portfolio
When you’re at the beginning of your cybersecurity career, collate your own projects into a portfolio that you can show to recruiters once you start applying for jobs.
When creating a portfolio, mention the specific problem-solving approaches and tools you used in each project. This gives recruiters an insight into your approach to cybersecurity.
When you’re trying to break into the field, it helps to know other cybersecurity analysts. They can talk you through developments in the field, and tell you what the job is actually like. You should also network with hiring managers so that you’re aware of open positions.
How Much Can You Make as a Cybersecurity Analyst?
Entry-Level Cybersecurity Analyst
The average salary of an entry-level cybersecurity analyst is $72,000 in the United States.
MId-Level Cybersecurity Analyst
Cybersecurity analysts who have between 5 and 9 years of experience in the industry make an average annual salary of $89,000.
Senior Cybersecurity Analyst Salary
What’s the Best Cybersecurity Role for You?
Jobs in cybersecurity have become more differentiated and specialized over time. There are a wide variety of roles you can take on in the cybersecurity industry. Let’s look at what’s entailed in each of those jobs so you can make an informed choice about which one is best for you.
This is the most common and far-ranging job that you can land in cybersecurity. A cybersecurity analyst studies a company’s network and data infrastructure to identify ways to make them more secure. They monitor the system to spot suspicious logins, identity theft attempts, and data protection issues. This is a great career for someone just entering the field who wants to get a high-level view of its functioning.
Systems engineers working in cybersecurity use their analytical knowledge to recommend security measures. While other professionals in this field may look at networks or data, systems engineers look at the framework. Their work involves technological interventions and security policy recommendations that can enhance organizational security.
Penetration testers run experiments to expose flaws in the systems that organizations use. The goal is to identify faults in a security system before hackers can. Testers are given the authorization to hack into systems and produce reports on their findings. If you’ve always been fascinated by ethical hacking skills, then this is the job for you.
The titles “vulnerability analyst” and “penetration tester” might sound like the same role, but there are a few differences between the two. Vulnerability analysts check for known vulnerabilities in a system. Penetration testers, on the other hand, look for all possible weaknesses that there might be in a system.
After detecting vulnerabilities, analysts recommend mitigation strategies. They might also devise vulnerability management policies for organizations.
Network engineers bring expertise in building and supervising networks to cybersecurity. They have a deep understanding of network architectures and their potential security shortcomings. You should consider a career as a network engineer if you enjoy a hands-on engineering approach to network cybersecurity.
Chief Information Security Officer
This is a senior role is reserved for experienced cybersecurity professionals. The Chief Information Security Officer sets the security standards for an organization. They also set the security benchmarks for systems and enact processes that other employees must adhere to.
Cybersecurity Analyst FAQs
Can You Become a Cybersecurity Analyst With No Experience?
It helps to have a degree in computer science or a software field to land a cybersecurity analyst job. That said, individuals who have completed courses in cybersecurity, or who have a significant number of projects under their belt, do have a shot at a cybersecurity job with no prior experience.
What Is the Difference Between a Cybersecurity Analyst and a Cybercrime Investigator?
Cybersecurity analysts keep a company’s IT and network systems safe without focusing on the legality of the actions of malicious actors. Cybercrime investigators conduct inquiries into illegal activities online.
Is It Hard To Become a Cybersecurity Analyst?
It’s not hard to pick up the skills required to be a cybersecurity analyst. There are various bootcamp programs and professional certifications that you can take to quickly pick up skills in the area. The most important thing to do is find a mentor and constantly network among professionals in the field so that you’re aware of new positions when they open up. Having said that, see here, what factors make cybersecurity hard to learn.
Is cybersecurity the right career for you?
According to Cybersecurity Ventures, the cybersecurity industry is expected to have 3.5 million high-paying, unfilled jobs this year. With Springboard’s comprehensive Cyber Security Career Track, you’ll work 1:1 with an industry-mentor to learn key aspects of information technology, security software, security auditing, and finding and fixing malicious code. Learning units include subject-expert approved resources, application-based mini-projects, hands-on labs, and career-search-related coursework.
The course will culminate in a multi-part capstone project that you can highlight on your resume for prospective employers or use to demonstrate your technical knowledge in your job interview. The learning materials will also help prepare you to pass the globally-recognized CompTIA Security+ certification so you stand out when applying for cybersecurity roles.
Learn more about Springboard’s Cyber Security Career Track here.