If you’re a tech professional looking to change directions or level up your career, the cybersecurity field holds several terrific opportunities. As the world moves increasingly online, and as online data breaches and fraud escalate, the demand for cybersecurity specialists is growing exponentially. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, this occupational sector is projected to grow by 35% from 2021 to 2031, significantly faster than the 5.3% projected overall job growth in the same period.
Because of the high demand, most cybersecurity roles offer competitive salaries and benefits, opportunities for growth, and job security. As well, the field is an exciting one, with complex day-to-day tasks that will challenge you to achieve your best and offer the possibility to make a real difference.
While there are a number of different roles within the cybersecurity field, cybersecurity analysts work within a wide and exciting scope. A piece in Forbes defines the role as one that requires specialists to “plan, carry out and monitor security measures to protect their organizations’ computer networks, systems and sensitive information.”
In general, the role of cybersecurity analyst is not an entry-level IT position. Most employers will require some related job experience, even if as a help desk technician or web developer. Once you have some experience in the IT sector, you can advance to junior-level positions in cybersecurity that will serve as stepping stones to a career as a cybersecurity analyst. However, if you’re still in school or considering certifications for new collar job opportunities, you can certainly set goals to enter this field. Knowing in advance which direction you want to move in can help considerably in choosing relevant courses and certifications.
What Does A Cybersecurity Analyst Do?
Cybersecurity analysts are highly knowledgeable IT professionals who work for organizations, businesses, or government agencies to protect network and IT infrastructures. Their goal is to prevent breaches to technical systems proactively, and to do so, they:
- Monitor computer networks and infrastructure for cyberattacks and other security breaches;
- Manage security software and firewalls, including the installation, updates, and any patching required;
- Perform internal and external audits to check for potential vulnerabilities;
- Design and/or develop systems, processes, and solutions to support cybersecurity; and
- Prepare reports and meet with company executives to explain issues and solutions.
Proactively assessing risks is a key component of a cybersecurity analyst’s duties. Typically working as part of a team, these IT professionals use a number of different strategies to ensure the security of their employer’s network and infrastructure.
One of the most important tasks of a cybersecurity analyst is performing internal and external audits to look for security flaws. They also examine reports, data, and analytics to identify possible threats and, further, they investigate current industry standards and regulatory requirements as part of their evaluation of their employer’s systems. Once they’ve gathered this information, they can determine where changes and improvements are needed, allowing them to develop solutions that will prevent security breaches.
As part of the assessment, cybersecurity analysts may provide advice to leadership on the best security measures for the company. They may also be involved in developing training programs for other employees so that all employees understand cybersecurity risks and can help keep their employer’s systems safe from cyberattacks.
A piece at Forbes points out that the roles of cybersecurity analyst and information security analyst are very similar and, in fact, “A cybersecurity analyst is a type of information security analyst. Both roles aim to protect and secure data, but cybersecurity analysts focus on cybercrimes. Such crimes include identity theft, fraud, ransomware and spoofing or phishing to trick users into sharing sensitive information.”
How To Become A Cybersecurity Analyst
Cybersecurity analysts require a high level of technical knowledge and a considerable skillset to manage the complex demands of the job. While an undergraduate degree, boot camps, and/or certifications can prepare people for the field, most employers rank relevant work experience as the most important qualification that they consider when hiring cybersecurity analysts.
According to a piece at the University of Texas, the following qualifications are most often sought after by employers:
- Relevant work experience in information security;
- A bachelor’s degree in computer science or an equivalent field;
- The skills needed to find and address security flaws, whether internal or external;
- An understanding of security technologies and software; and,
- A broad array of soft skills, including problem-solving, critical thinking, conscientiousness, collaboration and teamwork, flexibility, and communication skills.
If you don’t possess some of the stated qualifications, it’s possible some employers might accept equivalent qualifications. For example, if you’ve never had paid employment as a cybersecurity analyst, it’s possible that you may be able to find a volunteer role (perhaps with a non-profit) or an internship (if you are still in school) that would provide you with relevant transferable experience. As well, if you don’t have an undergraduate degree, there are boot camps and certifications targeted toward the cybersecurity field.
A Day In The Life Of A Cybersecurity Analyst
Needless to say, cybersecurity analysts need to be comfortable with multitasking, shifting priorities, and working outside of business hours when a threat, attack, or security breach has been identified.
However, a typical day for a cybersecurity analyst involves hands-on work with software and patch installations, risk assessment, the preparation of reports, and meetings. In brief, a cybersecurity analyst’s day might unfold as follows:
- The first duty of the day typically involves reviewing any security alerts, incident reports, or other critical issues that came in overnight.
- A daily team meeting with other IT and/or cybersecurity staff keeps everyone updated on current issues, projects, and industry news, and provides a chance for teamwork and collaboration on tasks.
- Meetings may be scheduled occasionally with management, executives, or vendors, to discuss possible improvements or changes to existing security measures.
- As well, meetings may be required sporadically with other departments in order to discuss security measures needed for upcoming projects or to offer guidance to other IT professionals on secure coding practices, appropriate security controls, or system architecture design.
- Dedicated time is spent daily on core work around risk assessments and audits, requiring a deep dive into logs, reports, and data.
- Dedicated time is also spent daily on learning via professional development opportunities, training sessions, or reading since the cybersecurity field evolves quickly and continuous learning is essential.
- Some administrative work, such as preparing reports and documenting findings, is required on a daily basis.
- On occasion, a cybersecurity analyst may need to take time to assist with or implement installations of new software, patches, or systems.
- Time to review any new security advisories or alerts issued by security software vendors or industry-specific organizations is essential on a daily basis, in order to stay on top of emerging threats or vulnerabilities.
- Most security analysts work a typical 8-hour day but may be on call or work past regular business hours when incidents or critical issues occur.
Cybersecurity is an exciting field that will challenge you on a daily basis and provide ample opportunities for advancement and change. If you’re currently working as an IT professional, it might be worth considering a lateral career shift. And, if you’re planning to move into the tech sector from another field, or straight from your educational career, check out courses, boot camps, and certifications that can help you move quickly into the cybersecurity specialty.