How to become a cybersecurity analyst in 6 steps
A cybersecurity analyst plays a crucial role in safeguarding an organization's digital assets and maintaining a strong security posture in an increasingly digital and interconnected world.
What does a cybersecurity analyst do?
A cybersecurity analyst is responsible for protecting an organization's computer systems, networks, and data from security breaches and cyber threats. Their primary role is to monitor, analyze, and respond to security incidents.
Some specific tasks a cybersecurity analyst might perform include:
Detect, identify, and alert to possible attacks, anomalous activities, and misuse activities.
Document and escalate incidents that may cause ongoing and immediate impact to the environment.
Analyze identified malicious activity to determine weaknesses exploited, exploitation methods, effects on system and information.
Perform cyber defense trend analysis and reporting.
Cybersecurity analyst vs. engineer
Cybersecurity analysts and cybersecurity engineers both play vital roles in safeguarding an organization's digital assets, but they have distinct focuses and responsibilities within the realm of cybersecurity. Cybersecurity analysts are primarily responsible for monitoring and responding to security incidents. They analyze security alerts, investigate potential threats, and take swift actions to mitigate risks.
Cybersecurity engineers focus on designing, implementing, and maintaining security solutions and infrastructure. Their expertise lies in building long-term security measures, creating secure network architectures, and configuring security policies.
Information security analyst vs. cybersecurity analyst
The terms "information security analyst" and "cybersecurity analyst" are often used interchangeably. However, there can be some subtle differences in their focuses depending on the job posting and organization.
An information security analyst concentrates on safeguarding an organization's information and data from unauthorized access, modification, or destruction. On the other hand, a cybersecurity analyst's scope of focus is broader and could include not only information security but also the protection of computer systems, networks, and technology infrastructure.
How to become a cybersecurity analyst
Explore some steps, skills, and educational pathways to embark on a cybersecurity career. Whether you're a tech enthusiast looking to transition into the field or a recent graduate seeking a dynamic profession, it’s important to equip yourself with the knowledge and resources to thrive as a cybersecurity analyst. While there are many pathways to become a cybersecurity analyst, the following steps outline one pathway to securing a position in this field..
Step 1: Develop cybersecurity skills
As a cybersecurity professional, you have the option to work in a wide variety of fields: Corporate databases, banking and office networks, military intelligence, and more. But for any of these, you will need to learn critical cybersecurity hard and soft skills to succeed.
Skills that might prove useful in a cybersecurity field include:
Programming (C, C++, PHP, Perl, Java, Python)
Operating systems (PC, iOS, Linux)
Network and systems security
NIST Cybersecurity Framework
Enterprise security architecture
Data storage and management
A cybersecurity boot camp is one pathway that you can take to quickly learn these skills on an accelerated timeline.
Step 2: Get cybersecurity certifications
Getting cybersecurity certifications could be helpful to securing any cybersecurity role. They demonstrate that you have the technical know-how to do the job.
If you are looking to earn a cybersecurity position, some available certificates include:
CompTIA Security+ : The Security+ certification requires no prerequisites, which makes it truly ideal for early-career cybersecurity professionals or security administrators who are looking to transition into the cybersecurity field.
CompTIA CySA+ : The CYSA+ exam is a fairly new certificate that demonstrates an individual has mastered core cybersecurity concepts to become a cybersecurity analyst. However, keep in mind that the CYSA+ is an intermediate certification.
CompTIA Network+ : Networking is a fundamental skill in cybersecurity. The Network+ certification validates that you are able to establish and maintain networks.
There are many free resources designed to help you acquire whichever cybersecurity certification you choose. Ultimately you need a very strong foundation in computer science basics such as programming languages, familiarity with operating systems such as Linux, and network security. Learning all of this information from scratch can take years of experience, but you can fast-track what you need to learn through accredited cybersecurity courses or bootcamps.
Step 3: Network with cybersecurity professionals
Attending conferences and connecting with fellow professionals isn’t just about making connections, although that’s a big part of it. Another benefit of networking is staying up-to-date on the latest trends and cybersecurity job opportunities. In a fast-paced, constantly evolving industry like this, any tool that can help you keep a finger on the pulse is worth your time and energy.
Step 4: Gain IT experience
It can be common for those with IT experience to eventually make the transition into cybersecurity. If you do not immediately begin with an entry-level cybersecurity job, consider applying for an internship or a part-time job in desktop support.
Although these positions may not be the same as a cybersecurity analyst, they do help you gain an understanding of how your decisions can affect a business, and teach you how to effectively communicate with non-technical people.
Someone who has completed a cybersecurity boot camp, for example, could be qualified for a variety of careers that may work as stepping stones towards a career in cybersecurity. A boot camp can also help facilitate obtaining cybersecurity certifications.
Step 5: Expand your training
Start building the knowledge you need to work in the cybersecurity field with edX. From accelerated boot camps to comprehensive programs that allow you to earn a bachelor’s degree or (for more advanced learners) a master’s degree in technology, there are many different learning formats available to fit your needs. Busy professionals can even take advantage of executive education courses tailored to those in leadership and management positions. Find the right course for you.
Step 6: Apply for cybersecurity analyst jobs
Cybersecurity is a diverse field filled with a variety of career opportunities once you learn the skills to analyze and prevent security breaches. Some examples of cybersecurity jobs you could pursue include:
Cybersecurity analyst: Monitor and respond to security incidents, conduct vulnerability assessments, and protect an organization's digital assets.
Security operations center (SOC) analyst: Monitor security alerts, investigate incidents, and coordinate incident response efforts.
Information security analyst: Protect an organization's information and data from unauthorized access and data breaches.
Network security analyst: Specialize in securing an organization's network infrastructure and identifying potential threats.
IT security administrator: Manage and implement security measures, access controls, and security policies across an organization's IT systems.
Each of these roles will have different education and skills requirements. For example, you may be able to build relevant skills in a cybersecurity boot camp. However, some employers may seek candidates with a degree depending on the role. Before deciding on a specific learning path, research the positions you hope to pursue and align your coursework with your career goals.
Cybersecurity analyst salary
Those interested in pursuing a career in information security may be wondering, how much does a cybersecurity analyst make?
While exact salaries could depend on each individual’s experience, location, and specific company, the average salary outcomes for information security analysts are higher than other occupations.
The median annual wage for information security analysts was $102,600 in May 2021 , according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). That is higher than the median annual wage for all careers, as well as for computer occupations.
Salary averages will vary from industry to industry. The same BLS data shows that among the most popular industries for information security analysts, the highest median annual wage is in the information industry ($128,970). The lowest paying industry is administrative and support services ($95,270).
Cybersecurity analyst career path
A typical cybersecurity career path is not linear, but it does have stepping stones.
The beginning of your cybersecurity career path will depend on your prior professional experience and portfolio of skills. It could start with an entry-level role such as cybersecurity associate or analyst, where you might spend your days looking at network traffic that’s coming in from outside the organization. Similar positions include cybersecurity specialist/technician, cybercrime analyst/investigator, incident analyst/responder, or even an IT auditor.
Then, you could advance to a role that requires a specific focus or area of expertise, like penetration tester, where you will look for ways to break the systems you previously worked to build and defend. You can also grow into roles like cybersecurity consultant, manager or administrator, cybersecurity engineer, or cybersecurity architect. At the c-suite level, you can become an information security officer.
Wherever your career path takes you, learn more about how edX courses and programs can help you get there.
Cybersecurity analyst job outlook
Cybersecurity risks are increasing — according to Check Point’s data, there was a 7% increase in cyber-attacks between Q1 of 2022 and the same period in 2023 . Innovative solutions and capable analysts are needed to help slow and prevent attacks.
According to the BLS, employment opportunities for information security analysts is projected to grow 35% from 2021 to 2031 . This is much faster than the average for other occupations, which is about 5% among all jobs and 15% for computer occupations.
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Frequently asked questions
A cybersecurity analyst is a professional responsible for protecting an organization's computer systems, networks, and data from security breaches and cyber threats. They monitor, analyze, and respond to security incidents, conduct vulnerability assessments, and implement security measures to ensure the confidentiality, integrity, and availability of information and technology infrastructure. Their role is crucial in defending against cyberattacks and safeguarding sensitive information in an increasingly digital world.
The time it takes to become a cybersecurity analyst varies based on individual circumstances, prior knowledge, and learning pace. Acquiring the necessary education and skills can take anywhere from several months to a few years. It involves gaining knowledge of network security, incident response, ethical hacking, and other cybersecurity domains. Practical experience, certifications, and continuous learning are also components in becoming a proficient cybersecurity analyst.
Becoming a cybersecurity analyst offers a rewarding career path. It allows you to protect organizations from cyber threats, defend against malicious attacks, and safeguard valuable information. With the increasing frequency and sophistication of cyberattacks, the demand for cybersecurity analysts provides diverse job opportunities and interesting challenges. As a cybersecurity analyst, you can contribute to global digital security and play a crucial role in ensuring the integrity and confidentiality of critical data and systems.
Becoming a cybersecurity analyst can be challenging but is achievable with dedication and continuous learning. The field demands technical expertise in network security, incident response, and threat analysis. Additionally, staying updated with evolving cybersecurity trends is essential. Despite the challenges, the rewarding nature of the profession makes it an attractive career choice for individuals passionate about protecting organizations from cyber threats.