Information security analysts perform essential work for companies by keeping them safe from cyber threats of all varieties. From intentional cyber attacks to system failures caused by extreme weather or other incidents, there are numerous risks facing companies’ digital resources and data, at a time when this infrastructure and information are more valuable than ever.
Becoming an information security analyst is a way to put yourself at the heart of this important, high-priority activity. Creating and executing companies’ digital security strategies are tasks that will remain relevant for years to come, with the ever-changing threat landscape forcing businesses to never compromise or become complacent.
But what does it take to build the skill set and educational background hiring managers will look for in an information security analyst? What type of salary and duties are normal for people in these roles? What type of degree program should you seek out if you want to embark on this career path? By answering these questions and more, you can learn all about how to become an information security analyst.
Why Become an Information Security Analyst?
As with any role, it’s important to ask why being an information security analyst is so appealing. One clear answer is that if you love the type of problem-solving work that goes into addressing IT problems and improving systems, the everyday work of an information security analyst can be highly rewarding. Taking on the challenge of counteracting new risk factors, recommending security improvements, and building better infrastructure can make a great contrast to repetitive or undemanding work.
There are other practical reasons to gravitate toward information security analyst roles. For instance, the potential to work for a wide variety of organizations across sectors and regions can be an exciting idea, as can the ability to earn a respectable salary.
Companies Hiring Information Security Analysts
One of the most promising signs for information security analyst job security over the long term is that every company, government agency, or other organization potentially needs these employees. Protecting sensitive network resources and staying safe from data loss are universal values for businesses in today’s highly digital climate, and not even the disruption accompanying the global pandemic could dampen this need: With offices finding new, remote ways to work, the nature of cyber risk has changed, delivering new responsibilities and tasks for cyber security personnel.
While every business has a need for information security analysts, some organization types are especially susceptible to issues, and thus their requirements are especially pressing. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, banks and financial organizations need strong protection against cyber attacks and security breaches. Large corporations of all kinds, especially financial firms, are bound by tight regulations requiring them to take appropriate security measures regarding both internal and customer data.
The BLS adds that there is growing need for cyber security in health care. The rise of electronic medical records has enabled a revolution in patient information sharing, allowing for better treatment options. Creating sufficient network security to protect these records, however, must be a high priority and will likely lead to continued strong hiring and employment among health care data security experts. The most recent BLS projections predict 32% employment growth for information security analysts between 2018 and 2028, compared to 5% across all professions nationwide.
Salaries for Information Security Analysts
As you may expect for a profession with such widespread applicability and demand, you have the potential to earn a strong salary in information security analyst work. PayScale reports the average annual pay for an information security analyst is $71,977 as of July 2020. The top 10% of these professionals make more than $109,000 a year. The average for an entry-level information security analyst is relatively high for a newcomer, at $58,917.
Earning a high salary as an information security analyst may mean going where the action is: PayScale notes pay for these positions is 18% higher than the national average in Washington, D.C., 14% above the mean in Boston, and 12% higher in New York. While these can be expensive metro areas to live in, the demand for security work among government agencies, tech startups, and other top employers can provide valuable job security and pay incentives.
If you want to enhance your earning potential further and take on greater responsibility, you can use an information security analyst role to prepare yourself for advancement in the IT department. The BLS notes analysts can become chief security officers with enough experience, or make a move out of the security space for a different kind of computer and information systems manager job.
How Do You Become an Information Security Analyst?
If you’ve fixed your sights on an information security analyst job, it’s time to consider the ways to build the necessary experience and background to take on the role. This will likely involve both your professional history and higher education, with hiring managers needing well-qualified candidates to take on their important data security tasks.
The BLS points out a bachelor’s degree-level education is the standard for entry-level information security analysts, and your major should relate to the type of security work you would be performing upon assuming the role. Whether you choose to go on to a master’s degree education or enter the job market right away, you should select your program carefully.
Professional experience is also an important part of the equation, showing potential employers you have already performed work in a computer-related field. To ensure that these two types of experience don’t conflict with one another, you can enroll in an online degree program to build both simultaneously, staying up to date on the academic side of information security while doing practical tasks in this same vein in your full-time job.
Your key objective in both your work and education is to build the unique list of skills that are so important in information security jobs. This entails technical knowledge, industry-specific best practices and the type of interpersonal soft skills that will help an IT team pull together.
The Information Security Analyst Skill Set
The abilities that make a good information security analyst reflect the importance of these professionals’ work. The Balance specifies that this includes problem-solving skills, allowing you to resolve issues completely but also quickly, keeping operations on track. Analysts should have a working knowledge of security standards and regulations to obey, as well as an understanding of the latest threats emerging to cause problems for businesses.
The technical skills associated with information security analyst work include installing and maintaining protective solutions, ensuring data is adequately defended against not just cyber attacks but also loss due to an event such as major infrastructure damage in a natural disaster. The Balance adds that information security analysts should be able to comprehend risk and interpret testing results when working on a variety of computer systems.
These technical abilities are must-haves in information security because a mistake or oversight could lead to a threat going undetected and causing damage to essential data. To join the ranks of the IT security department, however, you should also possess valuable soft skills that will help you be understood. PayScale recommends having customer service aptitude — even if you never deal with people outside of your organization, you will have to work closely with non-security personnel on keeping their resources safe, potentially taking on a project management role.
Professional Experience for Information Security Analysts
Becoming an information security analyst may be an early stop on the overall arc of your career, but hiring managers will likely want you to have other experience in a related occupation before choosing you for such a position. The BLS suggests it is helpful to build experience in a non-security IT role. You can build familiarity with contemporary technology in such a role and learn how to manage particular kinds of infrastructure.
One of the benefits of working in IT before moving to cyber security is that you can seek out knowledge on the types of problems you intend to solve as an information security analyst. The BLS gave the example of performing database administrator work as a precursor to taking a database security role, or serving as a systems analyst before applying for a systems security position.
While you may choose to achieve professional certification in the information security field as a resume-builder, it is worth acknowledging that there is no single universal mark of security expertise. The BLS names Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP) certification as a general-purpose credential for professionals in the field, while The Balance suggests receiving a certificate from the International Information Systems Security Certification Consortium (ICS2).
Degree Programs for Information Security Analysts
In addition to building work experience and studying for certification, pursuing a degree related to information systems can be an essential part of preparing for a security career path. As the BLS notes, a bachelor’s degree in such a subject is a widely accepted minimum for employment.
If you don’t have a bachelor’s degree in a technological field and are already working full time, you have options for earning your diploma. For instance, the online Bachelor of Science in Information Systems program from the University of Alabama at Birmingham’s Collat School of Business introduces the essential, ever-evolving concepts behind IT operations. Due to the online nature of the program, you can enroll on your own schedule, completing courses and assignments when you have the time and receiving the same kind of in-depth, expert-guided instruction you would get in on-campus education.
An online BSIS diploma attests that you have learned up-to-date information about systems analysis, management processes, database management, programming, and even related business concepts such as financial management, marketing, and operations. The expert faculty keep their curriculum constantly updated and forward-looking to ensure the skills students receive are not just comprehensive but also reflect the practicalities of using and securing today’s IT infrastructure.
Enrolling in this degree program is a way to change the focus of your career. If you are interested in building a skill set suited to information security analyst work, you can begin taking these online courses while simultaneously building professional experience in an entry-level role related to the field.
Visit the online BSIS program page to learn more and determine your next steps.