Since the dawn of the information age, businesses have become increasingly reliant on computer systems and data-sharing technologies to gain a competitive advantage in their industries. Government agencies and nonprofits have also embraced digitization, allowing them to forge stronger connections with the communities they serve. Despite the convenience and efficiency offered by cutting-edge information systems, they come with a high degree of risk — unless the right security measures are put in place.
Information systems security professionals play a key role in modern workplaces by helping organizations anticipate, prevent and respond to cyberattacks. Using their education and experience, they formulate actionable recommendations for protecting sensitive information, designing new security systems and establishing a stronger IT posture.
One of the most impactful roles in this field is that of an information security analyst. This position is only growing in demand as more companies scale up their computing resources. Before pursuing this career, however, aspiring students and mid-career professionals alike should understand how to become an information security analyst, the skills required for the position and where their years of experience can be put to good use.
What Do Information Security Analysts Do?
Information security analysts are responsible for planning and implementing security measures that help protect an organization’s data, networks, applications and systems from cyberattacks. Since every institution relies on a different collection of technologies and management processes, professionals in this role must be adaptable and willing to take on new responsibilities.
A recent study from UK research firm Juniper Research illustrated the scope of the issue, projecting that the global number of connections to the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) would jump from 17.7 billion in 2020 to 36.8 billion by 2025, representing a 107% growth rate. To insulate these internet-connected devices from malicious actors, information security analysts must understand what their core weaknesses are and how they fit into a broader IT security framework.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), information security analysts may be expected to perform the following duties.
- Monitoring private networks for security breaches and suspicious activity
- Conducting systems audits, penetration testing and mock cyberattacks to locate vulnerabilities
- Managing security software, including firewalls, data encryption frameworks and antivirus tools
- Developing new security measures and standards to educate non-technical employees
- Protecting sensitive information from data breaches, identity theft and fraud
- Preparing reports on documented security breaches and the resulting damages
Alongside these responsibilities, information security analysts are constantly researching the latest IT security risks and trends to stay one step ahead of cybercriminals. When new threats are identified, they may be asked to recommend security enhancements or new cybersecurity tools to help close the gap.
Where Do Information Security Analysts Work?
Information security analysts work for companies in every industry that have a digital footprint, from retail and marketing to finance and health care. Their education and experience are invaluable to for-profit companies, nonprofit organizations and government agencies that rely on IT systems to function. According to research from the BLS, the largest employers of information security analysts include:
- Computer systems design and related services (26%)
- Finance and insurance firms (18%)
- Information brokers (10%)
- Management companies and enterprises (9%)
- Administrative and support services (5%)
Although many information systems security professionals are employed in-house, some work for third-party consulting firms. IT security consultants help other companies scale up their cybersecurity programs, optimize their threat detection systems and protect sensitive data from malicious actors, both internal and external.
Steps to Become an Information Security Analyst
Information security becomes increasingly critical with each passing year. As demand for cybersecurity professionals increases, more people are pursuing this career path.
Those exploring how to become an information security analyst should understand that an advanced education and prior work experience are often prerequisites for this role.
At minimum, a prospective information security analyst must possess a bachelor’s degree. This degree might be in computer and information technology, or an adjacent field such as math or engineering. Those interested in advancing their careers and pursuing management and other senior roles should consider pursuing an advanced degree such as a Master of Science in Cybersecurity. Graduate-level education allows professionals to deepen their expertise and can help them stand out in a field that’s primed for growth as security systems and cyberattacks grow more complex and sophisticated.
While there’s no single experience requirement for information security analyst positions, job candidates are expected to be well-versed in the field. It’s common for individuals to gain experience as network and computer systems administrators, which allows them to apply their knowledge and refine their skills in the context of real-world scenarios.
Information Security Analyst Requirements
The right education can help prospective information security analysts establish a foundational base of knowledge, and experience helps them apply that knowledge in a way that can prepare them for positions beyond the entry-level. Combined with the right skill set, these elements can lead to a successful career.
Top Skills for Information Security Analysts
As the role of information security analysts is constantly changing in response to new cyberattacks and evolving security technologies, professionals must continuously hone their skills. Here are a few top skills highlighted by the Occupational Information Network (O*Net) that aspiring security analysts should develop.
- Problem-solving skills: Modern cybercriminals are continuously developing new hacking methods and infiltration techniques to evade organizations’ system and network defenses. For example, the Independent IT-Security Institute registers over 450,000 new malicious programs each day, many of which build on older malware strains. To mitigate these risks, information security analysts must be able to identify complex problems, review security logs and make evidence-based recommendations that lead to long-term solutions.
- Critical thinking: There often isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution to a given cybersecurity challenge. Information security analysts use logic and reasoning to compare different mitigation strategies, paying close attention to the strengths and weaknesses of each proposed solution. After weighing their options, professionals in this role must be able to explain how their recommendations will actively reduce their organization’s vulnerability and prevent cyberattacks.
- Active listening: Information security analysts often work alongside both professionals in the IT department and other stakeholders who may not possess the expertise to understand complex tech problems. To be successful, candidates must be able to give their undivided attention to coworkers, digest the points being made and ask the right follow-up questions. This level of collaboration can help create a more unified IT management framework and locate vulnerabilities that may have gone unnoticed.
- Written and verbal communication: Information security analysts create detailed reports and presentations that are delivered to IT leaders, C-suite executives and other non-technical staff. To ensure their insights and recommendations are clear and digestible, professionals in this role must be able to effectively communicate via a wide range of media. For example, graphs, charts and statistics can add a visual element to highly complex information, making it easier to explain findings and recommended solutions.
Another potentially important step in becoming an information security analyst is earning certifications. Though not always required, professional certification can demonstrate expertise in a specific aspect of information security. This can benefit job applicants when prospective employers are looking for someone able to address a particular issue.
Some of the more popular certifications include:
- CompTIA Security+: This entry-level certification demonstrates that an individual has strong technical skills and knowledge of a wide scope of security-related concepts.
- Certified Ethical Hacker (CEH): This credential certifies an individual’s knowledge of ethical hacking practices, which businesses rely on to detect vulnerabilities in their IT systems.
- Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP): This certification enables individuals to grow their expertise in developing and overseeing an organization’s information security standards, procedures and policies.
- Certified Information Systems Auditor (CISA): Professionals with this certification demonstrate advanced knowledge in core security concepts such as system auditing, governance and maintenance as well as asset protection.
Job Outlook and Salary
Digital transformation continues to be a top concern for business leaders around the world. In fact, one study from software company Foundry revealed that 91% of companies have already adopted a digital-first business strategy or are planning to do so in the near future. This surge in IT investment has created a massive demand for systems analysts, data scientists and information security analysts who understand how to design, deploy and protect complex computer systems.
The BLS reports that employment of information security analysts is projected to grow 33% between 2020 and 2030, which is substantially faster than the 8% growth rate the BLS projects for the U.S. job market as a whole.
As cyberattacks become more frequent and sophisticated, companies will need to develop innovative solutions to prevent data breaches, reduce unplanned downtime and minimize disruption for end users. Information security analysts with the right educational backgrounds, skills and work experiences are well positioned to fill these impactful roles, though anyone from a computer-related field could consider pursuing this career path.
In terms of pay, information security analysts earned a median annual wage of $102,600 in 2021, according to the BLS. The highest 10% of earners — those with years of experience in the field and relevant master’s degrees — took home more than $165,920. Entry-level information security analyst positions typically pay around $61,520 on average.
Starting Down the Information Security Analyst Career Path
If you’re wondering how to become an information security analyst or what a typical career path looks like, it’s important to consider how your education can give you a competitive advantage. While candidates with a bachelor’s degree in a computer-related field can fill these complex roles, most employers prefer applicants who have a master’s degree and years of experience in the field.
The online Master of Science in Cybersecurity from the University of Nevada, Reno, is designed to prepare you for the rigors of an information security analyst career. Students gain both the technical skills and theoretical knowledge to address the ever-evolving cybersecurity landscape. With hands-on courses in Internet Security, Computer Systems Administration and Digital Forensics, you can develop key competencies that modern employers are looking for.
To learn more, explore the cybersecurity degree page or contact an enrollment advisor today.
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Business News Daily, “Best InfoSec and Cybersecurity Certifications of 2022”
Foundry, 2021 Digital Business Executive Summary
Indeed, “How to Become an Information Security Analyst”
Independent IT-Security Institute, Malware
Juniper Research, “Industrial IoT Connections to Reach 37 Billion Globally by 2025, as ‘Smart Factory’ Concept Realised”
O*Net, Information Security Analysts
U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Information Security Analysts