When considering top career paths — ones with a promising future and powerful earning potential — the information technology field always stands out. Today’s businesses, nonprofits and government agencies run on a backbone of solid technology, so the professionals working in IT have a central role in their respective organizations, provided they can keep up with the steady march of new systems and solutions.
IT security is an especially indispensable branch of technology, as the need to prevent data loss and mitigate cyberattacks is constant. By working toward a role in information security, you can set yourself up for a challenging yet fulfilling and in-demand career.
The people responsible for protecting their organizations’ networks and endpoints against cyberthreats of all kinds are information security analysts. To take on such a position, you will have to prove to hiring managers that you can keep one step ahead of potential attackers, both now and in the future, as systems and threats evolve.
The rewards for achieving the necessary levels of job experience and education can be impressive, as organizations’ need for competent information security analysts incentivizes them to offer competitive salaries and reliable employment.
You can start investigating the information security analyst career by taking a close look at what these professionals do and what they earn, then tracing the path to becoming a strong candidate. Though IT security is demanding, it may end up being the perfect field for you.
What Is an Information Security Analyst?
Information security analysts are the frontline representatives of companies’ efforts to protect their systems and networks. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics explains that information security analysts are tasked with both creating defense strategies and putting them into action. Enacting this combination of theory and practice demands a deep and varied skill set.
The BLS notes that since the threat of cyberattacks is rising in urgency, organizations are becoming more dependent on their information security teams. U.S. News & World Report concurred, adding that industries such as health care and finance are leaning more heavily on their security personnel, as is the U.S. government.
While defending against cyberattacks should be a main focus of information security analysts’ efforts, the BLS states that these professionals are also tasked with creating disaster recovery strategies. These plans go beyond dealing with cybercriminals — companies should be able to protect their information no matter why their systems go offline. A fire, hurricane, or other destructive event may prove just as harmful to a data center as a hacking incident, and therefore information security analysts should plan for such a contingency.
Information security analyst is typically a busy position. No element of a company’s data recovery plan or security strategy should be handled passively. Instead, analysts have to constantly test and improve their efforts to make sure the organization keeps pace with the myriad threats that may disrupt operations.
Day-to-Day Information Security Analyst Responsibilities
Being an information security analyst means taking on a variety of roles. Despite the stereotype of IT as an introverted field, these employees commonly work both within their own teams and in collaboration with the rest of the company.
The day-to-day routine of an information security analyst depends on what is happening at that time. If there is no active security threat, there are plenty of other tasks to keep the IT team busy.
PayScale explained that information security analysts are responsible for making scheduled updates to office technologies. Whether this means patching old systems or migrating to new systems altogether, analysts must ensure the technologies in place are not introducing security liabilities, while also preventing unnecessary downtime.
Another duty for the information security analyst team is to perform constant data analysis, reviewing the performance of the company’s security tools and making strategic improvements. Even the best systems can have vulnerabilities, so analysts must be unafraid to take a critical eye to their own work. PayScale notes that IT security professionals must maintain documentation of known and emerging risk factors and incidents, helping them respond.
More overarching research into threats and technologies is accompanied by constant testing of endpoint and network security systems. The BLS explains that this includes periodic penetration testing, during which security analysts simulate the latest attack types to determine the readiness of their firewalls and other tools to deal with hackers.
Some of the duties of the information security analyst team are more interpersonal than purely technological, placing importance on soft skills such as communication and collaboration. The BLS reports that this includes making recommendations to top leadership regarding new security practices and deployments. Whether the relevant stakeholder is the leader of the IT department or belongs to the company’s C-suite, analysts must be skilled at expressing their opinions to ensure their suggestions are taken.
In addition to helping leaders make good technological investments, information security analysts work with employees at all levels in the organization. This may mean explaining a new security tool to an end user or describing the workflow that goes into protecting their endpoints and networks during everyday activities.
The Balance reports that formalized staff training is another of the important roles of an information security analyst. This means imparting best practices of information management to cut security threats off at their source and reduce the risk of human error. When all employees in an organization are using technology optimally, an information security analyst’s job becomes simpler.
What Is the Average Information Security Analyst Salary?
Considering the long list of day-to-day duties assigned to information security analysts, it’s not surprising that these professionals have strong earning power. Companies are entrusting a highly important factor — the resilience of critical infrastructure — to their information security analysts, and it makes sense to pay top dollar to work with the best candidates for these roles.
For professionals who have put in the hours to build their skills through work experience and education, the reward can be a role with strong job security and the potential for further advancement, along with impressive salary estimates.
According to the BLS, the median salary for information security analysts in the United States is $103,590 based on data collected in May 2020.
A six-figure average base salary for a job with no master’s degree requirement, sometimes attainable with five or fewer years of experience, is impressive. The number clearly demonstrates the importance of security professionals to their organizations and the priority companies are putting on hiring for these roles.
The information field is the highest-paying industry, the BLS reports. Information security analysts working in these pure-technology settings can earn a median $107,310 salary in the United States. Following next is the finance and insurance sector at a salary of $106,430. Also offering above-average pay is the computer systems design field, at $104,820.
Information security analysts who remain in the occupation and work their way up to higher pay can earn even more than these already-impressive figures. The BLS adds that the top 10% of professionals in these roles make more than $163,300 annually.
Earning this level of salary comes with heightened demands and responsibilities, with the BLS adding that it’s normal for information security analysts to be on call outside of work hours, to provide emergency backup and coverage if something goes wrong with the organization’s technology. Furthermore, some employees in these roles work more than a 40-hour workweek to keep their companies running smoothly.
How Strong Are Information Security Analysts’ Job Security and Promotion Opportunities?
Despite the demands placed upon their time and expertise to keep companies running smoothly, information security analysts tend to be relatively happy and satisfied with their work. According to U.S. News & World Report, information security analyst is the No. 4 best technology job, No. 10 STEM job, and No. 15 overall job in its ranking system.
Respondents to the U.S. News survey said the job is “above average” when rating whether they feel capable of handling its stress. This means that despite the heavy responsibilities of managing a security system, the professionals in these positions are up to the task. Furthermore, they also feel the upward mobility of information security analyst roles is above average.
The one area where respondents sounded a note of caution was flexibility — it can be tricky to set up alternative work schedules or take extensive time away from a role as mission-critical as security analysis.
As for hiring opportunities and job security, the BLS data contains good news for hopeful information security analysts. Between 2019 and 2029, the number of job openings is expected to increase by 31%. This is a clear sign of the rising demand for IT personnel as technology evolves. Open positions across all occupations are forecast to rise just 4% by comparison.
There are a few promotion paths that can lead experienced information security analysts to greater responsibility within their respective organizations. PayScale reports that the most common advancement opportunities for information security analysts include jobs as information security engineers and information security managers.
Analysts who have become information security managers can pursue further advancement paths to become chief information security officers or directors of computing, networking, and IT security. Rising to these leadership positions can be a natural fit for analysts, considering that the day-to-day duties of their job titles already included interpersonal communications and training duties, alongside the more technology-driven aspects of security.
How Do You Become an Information Security Analyst?
One of the most exciting traits of information security analyst work is the fact that these roles do not always demand a master’s degree or decade-long tenure in the IT space to get started. With that said, there are rigorous demands for potential applicants regarding both technical knowledge and soft skills.
If you are hoping to get started as an information security analyst, you can begin building your expertise immediately, in terms of both the intermediate roles you apply for and the educational opportunities you pursue. This learning process is all in service of building the ideal information security skill set.
While there are several skills involved with becoming an effective information security analyst, they roughly break down into two categories. First, these professionals must master the technological systems and solutions they will be tasked with defending, understanding potential vulnerabilities and resolutions. They also need to grasp the soft skills necessary to become strong team players and quick-thinking problem-solvers.
Specific abilities to work on include:
- A deep understanding of established and emerging cyber threats. Due to the fast-moving nature of hackers’ competition with security providers, it’s important to pursue continuing education.
- Expertise with firewalls, network architecture, and software. Today’s organizations use a huge variety of technology tools. As the person tasked with defending all of them, information security analysts should possess a broad understanding of their operations.
- Creative problem-solving abilities and adaptability. Responding to threats and getting ahead of potential issues means being able to quickly process new information and develop novel solutions.
- Personal development and training acumen. When information security analysts can impart information to their colleagues, they can ensure their strategies are followed and make data security a core organizational value.
These abilities can be built through professional experience or degree programs that directly target information security positions.
While the information security sector does not have a single type of accreditation with universally understood value, there are certificates you can pursue to demonstrate your familiarity with the core skills of the profession.
For example, the BLS cites Certified Information Systems Security Professional as a general-purpose accreditation that can provide validation and corroboration of security skills. The Information Systems Security Certification Consortium’s certificate program also targets the whole IT field, The Balance notes. Either of these, or one of the more skill-targeted certificates available, could help you stand out to hiring managers.
Job Experience Requirements
Due to the wide-ranging technological know-how needed to excel as an information security analyst, it’s common to build experience in other aspects of IT before taking on such a role. The BLS reports that it’s normal for database administrators to move into database security, and systems analysts to take up systems security. Your previous path in entry-level IT roles can shape your future in security.
The Balance notes that when companies are committed to hiring employees with high-level internet and information security experience, they may want candidates who have completed professional training programs dealing with network security and related concepts.
While information security analyst is not an entry-level position, it’s one some professionals reach in under five years in the industry, provided they have spent that time building knowledge and expertise relating to the complex work they will have to perform.
While a master’s degree is not a typical requirement to get started as an information security analyst, hiring managers do tend to look for candidates who have earned a bachelor’s degree in a related subject.
A bachelor’s degree with a technological focus demonstrates to employers that an applicant has made strides to understand the latest solutions and systems along with the related best practices. If you’ve already begun your professional career and don’t have such a degree, you can seek out an online program from an accredited school, allowing you to take highly specialized courses while working full time.
Learning About Security in an Online Bachelor of Science in Information Systems Program
The University of Alabama at Birmingham’s Collat School of Business offers an online Bachelor of Science in Information Systems program that can prepare you for highly technical roles, including information security analyst. The curriculum, designed by experienced faculty members with deep ties to the IT field, is constantly updated to reflect the moving-target nature of cyber security best practices.
Information Security Management, an elective course, is perhaps the most important part of this program for aspiring information security analysts, as it deals directly with the principles these professionals rely on in their day-to-day work. Policy creation, risk management, security auditing, and post-breach recovery are a few of the core concepts taught in this course.
Other courses, such as Systems Analysis and Introduction to Database Management Systems, are designed to help participants broaden their understanding of every solution within the IT department. By building your experience with these tools, you can react more confidently when assigned to upgrade, protect, or manage them in a real-world context.
Studying for a bachelor’s degree 100% online is a way to build your educational foundation while remaining active in the professional sphere. This multifaceted approach to consolidating your experience could help you aim for the goal of attaining an information security analyst role, along with the accompanying salary and advancement potential.
When you select the Collat School of Business for your online degree, you gain access to a university accredited by the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business and staffed by full-time expert faculty members. The quality of instruction in the 100% online courses mirrors the experience of learning on campus and helps graduates move into their careers with a deep, reliable knowledge of cutting-edge organizational technology.
To discover more details about the online Bachelor of Science in Information Systems and determine whether this is the right educational path for your career, you can visit the program page.