How to Become a Cyber Security Analyst: Requirements & Job Description
Cyber security analysts are digital protectors. They ward off hackers, preserve consumer information and otherwise ensure that confidential data stays, well, confidential. In a world that’s becoming increasingly reliant on digital structures, their work has never been more crucial — or in-demand.
Cyber security is a high-growth industry that offers nearly endless opportunities for advancement. Wondering how to become a cyber security analyst? Don’t worry; we have you covered.
In this article, we’ll address everything you need to know about the cyber security field, its job prospects and roles. We’ll also cover the five steps needed to become a cyber security analyst:
Let’s get started!
What Does a Cyber Security Analyst Do? The Essential Job Description
Here’s a quick cyber security analyst job description — in simple terms, cyber security analysts are IT professionals who specialize in keeping confidential, personal and proprietary information safe and secure. They can find jobs in nearly every industry you can think of, from the corporate sector and government agencies to nonprofits.
On an average day, a cyber security analyst might collect data and conduct analysis to identify suspicious digital activity and potential threats. But these professionals don’t just fend off cyber threats from external hackers; they also look inward to find vulnerabilities that could put their employer at risk. Once cyber security analysts identify potential vulnerabilities and record their findings, they develop security procedures to address those security gaps and keep the business safe.
Not all cyber security professionals will have precisely the same job description. However, there are a few responsibilities that are generally consistent across all positions. These include:
- Implementing and maintaining security software and firewalls
- Conducting penetration tests and other assessments to gauge security and identify potential vulnerabilities
- Continually monitor computer networks and systems for potential threats
- Report on any breaches or other security events that occur
- Develop, implement and instruct employees in security protocols and best practices
Cyber security analysts can serve as independent consultants; however, they more often contribute within teams.
Cyber Security Analysts vs. Information Security Analysts: What’s the Difference?
While the two titles are often used interchangeably in conversation, cyber security analysts and information security analysts have distinct roles.
As their title suggests, cyber security professionals are concerned with protecting data stored by cyber (electronic) means. They specialize in securing networks, servers and digital devices against breaches. Information security specialists aren’t quite as niche; they care about securing all confidential data, not just the digitally hosted portion.
Here’s a quick hypothetical to illustrate the difference: let’s say a private equity firm keeps its sensitive financial records on protected servers and maintains hard copies in an on-site vault. A cyber security analyst would ensure that the firm’s servers, networks and computers were fully protected against malicious attacks — but they wouldn’t pay any attention to the paper copies in the vault.
An information security specialist, in contrast, would lock down every electronic touchpoint as well as the file cabinets, vault and office doors to boot. Their job is to preserve the confidentiality, integrity and availability (CIA) of their client’s data at all times, regardless of how it might be stored.
This isn’t to say that there isn’t overlap between the two jobs; both are concerned with security and understand the importance of protecting valuable data. Technically speaking, information security encompasses cyber security. If a cyber professional ever wanted to learn how to become an information security analyst, they would be in an excellent position to upskill.
5 Steps to Becoming a Cyber Security Analyst
Are you wondering how to become a cyber security analyst? Don’t worry; the process isn’t as intimidating as you might think. Here are the five steps you’ll need to follow to launch a cyber security career!
1. Obtain an Education
No matter how technically savvy you might be, you won’t be able to build a cyber security career if you don’t have at least some formal education. According to survey data from CyberSeek, the vast majority of cyber security specialists (83 percent) have completed at least an undergraduate degree. Only 19 percent of people working in the role have less than a BA.
That said, not having a formal degree shouldn’t prevent you from seeking out opportunities in this high-potential field. In fact, you can get into cyber security without a degree! If committing to a four-year, full-time academic degree program isn’t an option, you may want to consider an alternative educational route such as a cyber security bootcamp.
Cyber security bootcamps are intensive and comparatively inexpensive courses that impart the fundamentals of networking, systems management, cyber security, programming, database management, ethical hacking and risk communication in as little as 24 weeks. These programs are instructor-led and offer all the collaborative benefits of a class-based environment.
Most bootcamps follow a part-time schedule so learners can balance their education with their other personal and professional priorities. This arrangement is also ideal for entry-level IT professionals who want to upskill as quickly as possible while gaining relevant, on-the-job experience.
That said, college degree programs and bootcamps may not be a fit for every learner. If you already have a degree and want to pursue a leadership role, you may want to consider a Master’s degree in cyber security. These programs tend to run longer than bootcamps — around 20 months — and give students the opportunity to complete a series of foundational and elective courses as well as a capstone project.
By the time a student graduates from a Master’s in Cyber Security program, they’ll have the technical and soft skills they’ll need to take on leadership roles in government agencies, military organizations and private-sector businesses alike. Graduates also have access to their school’s alumni network. If you have some experience in tech and want to vault to the top of the proverbial ladder, obtaining a Master’s degree in cyber security might be your best bet.
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2. Get Certified
If you plan to build a career in cyber security, you’ll probably need to seek out certification at some point. Think of accreditation as an extra stamp of approval on your resume — it asserts that you have a baseline level of expertise in a given subject and can tackle certain job-specific challenges.
For example, someone with a CompTIA Security+ certification is guaranteed to have a handle on foundational security skills. There is no guesswork; when employers see that certification, they know that an applicant has the bare-minimum skills necessary to succeed in an entry-level cyber security role. Having certifications may help you stand above the crowd as a qualified job applicant and increase the chances of employers ranking you high on their shortlist.
However, a CompTIA Security+ certification isn’t the only one you should consider if you’re wondering how to become a cyber security analyst. Below, we’ve listed the security analyst certifications most often requested by employers, as per CyberSeek.
- Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP)
- SANS/GIAC Certification
- CompTIA Security+
- Certified Information Systems Auditor (CISA)
- Certified Information Security Manager (CISM)
While you probably won’t need all of these certifications to land your first entry-level job in cyber security, you should consider picking up one or two to affirm your skills before you begin applying.
3. Gain Experience
The best way to learn is (almost) always by doing. When it comes to upskilling into cyber security, that means finding an internship or other job that will provide you with real-world security and IT experience.
If you’re a current student or recent graduate, consider applying for part-time roles that will allow you to put your book learning into practice! You could reach out to your academic institution’s career office to see if they have any IT-sector job placements available for credit. Alternatively, you might reach out to your instructor or alumni office to see if they know anyone in the security industry who might be interested in taking on an intern for a semester or two.
Already working in IT? You’re ahead of the curve — but there are still steps you can take to advance your resume. Talk to your supervisor to see if there are any security-adjacent projects you can assist with or sit in on. You might be surprised at the opportunities you find!
- How to Get an Internship — Glassdoor
- Making the Case for Your Professional Development — The Economist
- How to Find a Summer Internship — Indeed
4. Build Your Professional Network
It’s a fact of (professional) life; who you know matters. Taking the time to forge connections might sound like a lot of unnecessary work at first — but doing so could pay off big down the road.
Consider mingling at a local tech professionals’ event as an example. Sure, you might not love the idea of making small talk with people you don’t know for an hour or two. But who knows; the person you strike up a conversation with during a networking event might know of a job opening that suits your interest — or, even better, be in a position to put in a good word for you.
Networking at conventions and panels further provides you with the opportunity to engage with new industry ideas, trends and changemakers. But you don’t need to attend these events if you don’t have time. Even networking on online platforms such as LinkedIn can help you tap into immediate career opportunities and access valuable career advice and support!
5. Apply For Jobs
Once you’ve obtained an education, netted a few certifications, gained some experience and built the foundation for your professional network, you’ll be in an excellent position to start applying to entry-level cyber security analyst jobs.
Start your search by asking your network — are any of your connections’ companies hiring? Are there any immediate, local talent needs you can take advantage of? You might be surprised at the opportunities you find in your own neighborhood.
If your network search runs dry, you can turn to online job boards like Indeed, Monster, ZipRecruiter or Google Jobs, which aggregate postings into a convenient list. You may want to make a spreadsheet or other document to keep track of your applications; according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, it often takes professionals between one and three months to land a new job.
Don’t expect to land a role right off the bat! No matter how talented you are, the process takes time and effort. That said, you can boost your chances of getting a job quickly by optimizing your resume and cover letter for each job and thoroughly preparing for any interviews you might receive.
The right cyber security analyst job is out there — you just need to find it!
- 10 Do’s and Don’ts for Writing a Winning Cybersecurity Resume — Security Intelligence
- How to Write a Cover Letter: The All-Time Best Tips — The Muse
- 10 Ways to Prep For (and Ace) a Security Job Interview — CSO Magazine
Skills Cyber Security Analysts Are Expected to Have
While job responsibilities can vary between employers, most entry-level cyber security jobs will require the same set of foundational capabilities. An entry-level cyber security skill set is diverse; it encompasses system administration, network security and protocol development, among other areas of expertise.
Here’s a quick summary of the skills you should prioritize.
These skills relate to learning to think like a security professional and understanding the context of protecting data in a digital world.
- The CIA triad (confidentiality, integrity and availability)
- Disaster recovery
- Risk analysis and mitigation
- Business continuity planning
These capabilities relate to operating Windows and Linux systems.
- Configuring Linux servers
- Using tools such as Tar, Cron and Cronjobs
- Security-relevant programming
- Configuring Windows servers
- Using Kerberos
- Using Active Directory
These skills relate to network configuration, design and protocols.
- Network architecture, operations and security
- Traffic analysis
- Email and wireless security
- Encryption and cryptography
- Cloud security and virtualization
- Port scanning
These capabilities relate to the challenges of responding to breaches and attacks in real time.
- Incident response
- Digital forensics
- Data extraction and recovery
- Monitoring and logging
- Using Splunk
These skills are associated with penetration testing and proactive protective tactics.
- Penetration testing standards
- Using SearchSploit and Metasploit
- Pivoting networks
- Using Zenmap
- SQL injections
- File inclusion and command injections vulnerabilities
- Using Burp Suite
- XSS payload and vulnerabilities
Once you have a handle on these, you’ll be well on your way to becoming a cyber security analyst!
Career Paths In the Field of Cyber Security
Cyber security is a field with fantastic advancement potential. Below, we’ve outlined a few entry-, mid- and senior-level roles that you may progress through as your career matures.
Cyber Security Specialist
Cyber security specialists screen developing software, networks and data centers for security flaws, then propose ways to resolve those vulnerabilities. These professionals are detail-oriented detectives who regularly run diagnostics, analyze potential intrusion methods and develop protective measures.
As their title suggests, incident analysts focus on actual and potential security breaches. They are tasked with monitoring networks and systems for irregular activity and performing security audits, forensic activities, penetration tests and malware analysis.
As scary as the term sounds, an audit isn’t always bad. IT auditors take a magnifying glass to an organization’s technological infrastructure — it’s their job to identify any lapses in compliance, efficiency and risk management before they cause a real problem.
Cyber Security Analyst
Like cyber security specialists, cyber analysts regularly monitor their organization’s network and servers for potential threats. However, a more significant part of an analyst’s role lies in planning and implementing security protocols and procedures. These professionals are responsible for ensuring that a business’s security plan is more than just words on paper.
Cyber Security Consultant
A cyber security consultant’s role is fluid; it varies between professionals. By definition, consultants aren’t tied down to a single company. Instead, they work independently and bring specialized skills to bear on a company’s security problems. Their work depends heavily on what that specialization is — some might focus on vulnerability assessments, others might develop security recommendations. In any case, a consultant designs their own responsibilities.
A penetration tester is essentially a white-hat hacker. They perform authorized tests — hacks — to identify vulnerabilities in a client’s servers, networks, computer systems and other digital touchpoints.
Cyber Security Administrator
Cyber security administrators are essentially the directors of a security team. They take on responsibility for implementing, troubleshooting and otherwise overseeing a company’s cyber security protocols. These professionals are also responsible for producing training documents and security standards for members of the security team.
Cyber Security Engineer
Cyber security engineers develop a big-picture solution to meet organizations’ security needs. They handle — or at least oversee — every aspect of this process, from planning to implementing and troubleshooting new procedures and protocols.
Cyber security architects take on the challenge of designing, constructing and executing security systems for enterprise companies. This is an ambitious role; it often requires the professional to integrate security solutions into a business’s existing security strategy and infrastructure.
The California and U.S. Job Outlook for Cyber Security Analysts
There’s no way to put too fine a point on it — the job outlook for cyber security analysts is fantastic.
Right now, the cyber sector is amid a talent crunch. According to (ISC)2 research (PDF, 1 MB), the global shortage of cyber professionals topped 3 million in 2018.
The same report found that 63 percent of surveyed respondents said their company has a shortage of security-specific IT professionals — and nearly 60 percent say that their organizations are “at moderate or extreme risk of cybersecurity attacks” as a result. Given this, it’s not surprising that nearly half (48 percent) of all surveyed organizations stated that they planned to increase their cyber security staff.
Research from the Bureau of Labor Statistics reiterates the need for talent. Analysts for the BLS project that information security analyst jobs will grow by 31 percent by 2029. To put that in context — the average growth expected for all other professions is just four percent.
The degree of opportunity available to aspiring cyber professionals is remarkable. Companies are hiring cyber security analysts at an accelerated — almost unthinkable — rate.
If you live in California, your odds of landing your dream cyber job are even higher. According to CyberSeek’s demand heat map, California currently has between 20,203 and 66,741 jobs available for aspiring security professionals. Only six other states are similarly in need of talent: Texas, Florida, North Carolina, Virginia, Maryland and New York.
In short — if you want to get into the cyber security field, there’s no better time than the present
Should You Become a Cyber Security Analyst?
If you’re interested in tech and security, the only answer to this question is a resounding yes. Demand for qualified cyber security analysts has never been higher, nor have the opportunities for upskilling been more available.
If you want to start building your foundational skill set while gaining practical experience in IT, there’s no better place to start your career journey than at Berkeley Cybersecurity Boot Camp. Our intensive, 24-week program will help equip you with the practical skills and knowledge you’ll need to pursue your first job in cyber.
Why wait? Contact us today to learn how we can help kickstart your career!