The Expert’s Guide on How to Become a Cyber Security Analyst
Earning a cybersecurity degree, certification, or another valid diploma opens the door to many job opportunities. When you are at the beginning of your career journey, your preferences may be targeted at the cyber security analyst profession since that’s an excellent place to build your skills and make significant progress.
Cyber security analyst jobs are in high demand lately, and that’s because companies need a skillful employee who’d protect the security and integrity of their data from cyber threats that are quite common today.
If you’re considering a cyber security analyst career, have a look at the following list of skills, requirements, education, responsibilities, and other prerequisites you are expected to complete to get a job at the cybersecurity branch.
What Does a Cyber Security Analyst Do?
Job advertisements you see every day either on the Internet or newspaper usually provide an information security analyst job description like this:
“Our company is looking for a qualified, reliable, and responsible person who will provide vulnerability analysis, cybersecurity awareness administration, and participate in security-related initiatives to help bring the overall company’s cybersecurity to the next level.”
Since such descriptions don’t reveal much, employers usually leave separate lists of required skills and education, responsibilities, and duties employees are expected to meet.
All the requirements for cyber security analyst position depend on a company’s preferences and needs, but generally speaking, a cyber analyst is responsible for:
- Securing the company’s data: A cyber analyst will have to analyze all the security policies and protocols and do a detailed audit to determine whether there are any weaknesses inside the company’s or agency’s security system.
- Anticipating potential flaws in the future: During the analysis, you should pay attention to possible flaws that could affect the system’s privacy and come up with plans and strategies to prevent them from penetrating the network.
- Performing analysis reviews: Many companies will require a daily report about vulnerability and antivirus scan results and findings regarding security incidents, including breaches and weak spots.
- Assessing new technologies: You may need to come up with new technologies to protect the systems – customized and innovative software is not an easy target for cybercriminals, and they will find it challenging to encounter your domain. Also, you’ll need to ensure your new security measures fit the company’s budget.
- Installing encryption: The organization may ask you to encrypt data transmissions and protect it from being exposed to hackers and other unauthorized sources. That means that you should develop plans to safeguard the confidentiality, integrity, and data availability.
- Verifying the clearances: If you work for the government, you’ll be responsible for verifying the contractors’ clearances and determining whether they follow the regulations listed in federal acts. Besides, you may need to audit all the contractors you hire to write code.
What are the Skills That a Cybersecurity Analyst Should Have?
It is assumed that information security analysts should possess the mix of so-called “hard and soft skills.” As you may assume, hard skills refer to the ability to apply technical knowledge to practical situations, while soft skills require the implication of creative thinking and valuable strategies.
Let’s break them down into sections:
The main task of a cyber security analyst is to detect and prevent cyberattacks from jeopardizing the company’s data privacy, which means that you primarily need some technical skills in order to become qualified for such a position.
Consider the following hard skills:
- Penetration tests: You should be able to perform penetration tests to exploit the weaknesses of your network architecture and determine the degree to which the malicious attack can access the data.
- Vulnerability scans: As for vulnerability scans, they are mostly automated, and they check the vulnerabilities in the system and report potential breaches.
- DLP implementation: DLP (Data Loss Prevention) software detects potential data breaches and prevents them by monitoring, detecting, and blocking critical information. As a cybersecurity analyst, you should know how to implement such software.
- Familiarity with computer networks: You’re expected to be familiar with the fundamentals of computer networks, routing and switching, and protocols such as IP (Internet Protocol) and TCP (Transmission Control Protocol).
- Firewall settings: Firewall is the essential security tool, and you should have specific skills and knowledge regarding its settings, updates, and IDS/IPS (Intrusion Detection Systems/Intrusion Prevention Systems) parts of network infrastructure.
- Expertise in Windows, Linux, and UNIX: The knowledge of these operating systems is required for most IT security analyst positions.
- Knowledge of common programming languages: It’s essential to know how to write codes in C, C++, C#, Java, or PHP.
- Advanced skills in cloud computing: Cloud computing is present in almost every company today, which is why they seek a professional who’s able to manage the vital data stored in the cloud.
- Knowledge of SaaS models: SaaS (Software as a Service) is a key model in cloud computing, where a third-party provider hosts apps and makes them available to customers over the Internet. Accordingly, a company needs someone to monitor access and protect the data.
- Security Information and Event Management (SIEM) implementation: By implementing the SIEM software, you provide advanced data security – the SIEM will collect security data from network devices and servers, and store, normalize, aggregate, and apply analytics to that data to detect threats and investigate all the alerts found.
Apart from hard skills, which are mandatory, a successful cybersecurity analyst should have writing, teaching, and public speaking skills.
Sometimes, your job duties may require you to draft policies, talk about issues and findings with the upper management, and provide a cyber security analyst training to the newcomers who need to become familiar with the working environment.
Accordingly, you should expose the other parts of your personality, which may reflect in:
- Analytical thinking: As an analytical thinker, you should be able to evaluate data, systems, and networks to determine how current threats and defenses translate into risks for the company.
- A sense for details: Paying attention to details is crucial for performing cybersecurity analyst duties. That being said, you should be ready to report and evaluate all the issues you find, no matter if it’s about a minor anomaly or something more severe.
- Innovations and creative thinking: Cyber analysts should always think about new methods and approaches to information security risks to protect the organization’s systems and networks.
- Problem-solving skills: In addition to the previous ability, security analysts should think creatively to address and solve problems in the most efficient way possible.
- Critical thinking: Information security analysts should also be critical thinkers, which means that they should observe the particular problem from various perspectives that would give them a broader range of solutions.
As you can see, the job of cyber security analyst lies not only in preventing, detecting, and solving the problem but also in their readiness to deliver a valuable piece of information to the organization inside which they work.
That said, a successful cyber analyst aims to help the organization see what’s going on and what measures it should take.
How to Become a Cyber Security Analyst?
If you want to become a cyber security analyst, you must be curious about what kind of certificate, certification, or degree you may need in addition to the skills mentioned above. Sometimes, when you run into a cyber security analyst job description provided by an employer, you may see the following requirements that a candidate must meet:
You’ll hardly find a company that employs candidates with no previous experience – most of them require at least 1-5 years of professional background, and that depends on the company’s size, purposes, and security needs.
Now, you must be wondering how to gain experience when you don’t have the opportunity to express your skills and knowledge to real-life situations?
Here are some useful tips:
- Get hired in an entry-level IT position: Some IT jobs, including IT technician, Network Administrator, Computer Programmer, and more, can be a springboard to cybersecurity jobs you can do in the future. Still, before applying for certain positions, make sure they’ll provide you with valuable security-related experience.
- Consider self-learning: Self-learning is one of the most recommended tactics that help you get experience. That said, you can teach yourself to code, create an open-source project, participate in cybersecurity contests and training games, and look for vulnerabilities in sites with bug bounties, documenting your work and findings.
- Go through a guided training: eLearning is quite popular and available, which means that you should take advantage of free online cybersecurity courses provided by tons of universities worldwide. Additionally, you can offer to help your professor or your employer with security-related tasks and earn their trust.
- Volunteer and connect with other people: It’s recommended to join LinkedIn groups and connect with people in your branch, with whom you can share opinions, ideas, experiences, and tips. Besides, volunteering at IT and cybersecurity conferences, non-profit organizations, and charities is always a plus.
- Read useful blogs: The Internet is rich in useful and high-quality blogs about IT and security, and such pages can provide you with valuable information, tips, and news in cybersecurity.
Necessary Degrees and Certifications
Still, organizations tend to hire cyber security analysts who have only gone through courses or training, as well as those who possess one of the valid cyber security certifications, including CEH (Certified Ethical Hacker), CISSP (Certified Information Systems Security Professional), and more.
Certifications are excellent for those who want to upgrade their skills and boost their resume, but an employer does not always require them. Besides, you can’t earn some certifications unless you have several years of professional experience, which is why you should read the requirements before applying.
However, the best cyber security analyst certification you can have is CompTIA Cybersecurity Analyst (CySA+), which is mainly aimed at professionals who want to gain the following skills:
- Successfully perform data analysis and interpret the results in order to identify threats, vulnerabilities, and risks.
- Configure and use the tools designed for threat detection.
- Ensure the safety and protection of the applications and systems found inside the organization.
What is the Average Cyber Security Analyst Salary?
After you’ve seen long lists of requirements and skills needed for performing the job of the cyber analyst, you must’ve asked yourself, How much does a cyber security analyst make then?
There is no exact answer here since the average income depends on location, education degree, years of experience, and some extracurricular skills. Still, we’ll try to give you some insights into the salary you may expect depending on your expertise level:
Entry-Level Cyber Security Analyst
Most companies that seek a cyber security analyst for entry level jobs offer a training program where graduate students can learn the latest security analyst skills, as well as the possibility to work with a mentor, which would help them gain more knowledge of security solutions.
Accordingly, employees will have an opportunity to work and learn at the same time, which is an excellent base for their future career development. As for the entry level cyber security analyst salary, you can expect from $38.8k to $138k per year.
Junior Cyber Security Analyst
The job of a Junior cyber security analyst brings a bit more responsibilities than the entry-level position, and that’s because “Juniors” are expected to show more advanced knowledge and skills regarding network security concepts and technologies, including firewalls, IDS/IPS, proxy servers, access control systems, and web apps firewalls.
Therefore, the Junior cyber security analyst salary varies from $75.2k to $148k annually.
Senior Cyber Security Analyst
Senior cyber security analysts are usually hired by the government and the Department of Defense (DoD), and they are expected to perform duties regarding secure software engineering, software assurance, IT hardware, and networks and security systems in general.
Since these professionals usually have more than 10 years of work experience, a Bachelor of Science in electrical engineering and computer science, and a Ph.D., we can say that the senior cyber security analyst salary goes from $99.4k to $191k per year.
What are the 5 Essential Things You Should List On Your Resume?
A well-written resume can increase your chances of getting a job, regardless of the position you’re applying for. Still, speaking of cyber security analyst jobs, you shouldn’t forget to include the following things in your CV:
1. A College Degree
Even though a college degree isn’t always necessary for cyber security jobs, you should mention it. Employers are aware of the fact that the faculty provides you with a variety of writing, communicative, business, and project management skills, which they will certainly appreciate.
Besides, the candidates who have at least a bachelor’s degree have more chances to get hired than those who don’t.
2. Relevant Work Experience
You are advised to list any previous experience regarding IT and cybersecurity, no matter if it’s based on actual work, internships, volunteering, or participation in seminars and conferences.
3. Hard and Soft Skills
As we’ve already mentioned, both hard and soft skills are vital for a cyber security analyst position, which is why you should list them as you apply for the job.
You’re also advised to include the foreign languages you speak and possession of a driver’s license, especially if you’re applying for the job at the multinational organization or the one that involves frequent travels.
4. Professional Cyber Security and IT Certifications
If you have an IT or cyber security certification, the employer will be glad to give you an opportunity to work in their company.
Still, don’t forget to back these qualifications up with some actual work experience.
You should list all the awards, scholarships, and training courses that brought you a certain prize, certificate, or other achievements.
However, don’t mention the irrelevant awards that have nothing to do with a job you’re trying to get since they probably won’t impress the employers.
Verdict – A Cyber Security Analyst Job is Ubiquitous
Like many other cybersecurity positions, this one is also in high demand. However, you should focus on constant self-learning, skills building, and gaining experience since that’s the only way to ensure a stable, prosperous, and lifelong career.
If you ever get bored of working as a cyber security analyst, you can always transfer to the positions of a data security analyst, information system security analyst, or IT security analyst – therefore, the world is yours!