Protecting the security and integrity of data is vital for businesses and organizations, sending demand for qualified cybersecurity analysts surging. These professionals monitor computer networks to ensure safeguards are in place to protect sensitive information and proprietary data from cyber criminals.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), information security analyst jobs are projected to increase by 18% between 2014 and 2024, much faster than the national average for all occupations during that decade.
Without constant monitoring and analysis, businesses, public organizations, government agencies and individuals are vulnerable to harmful infiltration of their computer systems. Cybersecurity analysts protect websites and networks from cyber threats such as malware, denial-of-service attacks, hacks and viruses.
They provide consulting services, interpret and establish security technologies, and create the information security framework and architecture that protects sensitive data from threats.
Whether aimed at government databases, financial institution networks or personal computers, cyber attacks cause huge losses of time and money – as well as trust – each year. When hackers infiltrate credit card firms’ networks, for example, millions of dollars can be lost in a matter of minutes. Sensitive military information could be extremely dangerous in the wrong hands. Even small businesses must keep their customers’ data secure to protect their brands.
Cybersecurity analysts help prevent attacks through their expertise and knowledge of databases, networks, hardware, firewalls and encryption. They keep computer systems running smoothly, prevent the theft of financial and personal information, and block intruders from accessing and divulging proprietary data.
In performing these duties, cybersecurity analysts assess and mitigate risk while enhancing system security. They are typically responsible for identifying and securing any network weaknesses, and making recommendations for hardware and software upgrades.
These professionals often establish information security policies and procedures, and review violations to help prevent future breaches. Cybersecurity analysts may also regulate access to computer files, develop firewalls, perform risk assessments and test data processing systems to verify security measures.
Additional duties may include simulating threats and adversarial incidents under various conditions. These professionals also typically review new technologies to ensure that they conform to security policies and computer infrastructure.
Organizations that deal with sensitive data need the services of information security professionals such as cybersecurity analysts, and the BLS expects the need to be “very high” in the coming years. Job opportunities can be found across sectors and industries, from healthcare to financial services and insurance to education. For example, during the 10-year period ending in 2024, employment opportunities for cybersecurity specialists in the computer systems design field should jump by 36%, compared to the 7% average growth rate for all occupations.
Cybersecurity professionals also have been in high demand in military and government agencies. The Department of Defense announced plans in 2015 to hire up to 3,000 cyber-savvy civilians to be part of the U.S. Cyber Command.
A bachelor’s degree in computer science, programming or a similar field is typically a minimum educational requirement for cybersecurity analysts. Some employers may also look for applicants with advanced training, industry certifications or work experience in a related field such as information technology. Some firms prefer candidates to have an advanced degree, such as a Master of Science in Information Assurance and Cybersecurity.
Applicants for cybersecurity positions with military or government agencies often must undergo background checks, and obtain security clearances and industry certifications.
Prospective employers may offer tuition assistance to help employees attain a degree or professional credentials.
In addition to advanced educational qualifications, interpersonal skills and general business expertise are important attributes for cybersecurity analysts. Employers also may seek the following qualities in cybersecurity analyst candidates:
Experience with multiple computer systems and programs
Aptitude in solving problems independently
Strong verbal and written communications
Sound decision-making ability
Nationwide, information security analysts had an average annual wage of $93,250 as of May 2015, the BLS reports. The top 10% had earnings of more than $143,000, and wages were higher for cybersecurity professionals in industries such as securities and commodities.
Salary potential and employment opportunities vary depending on geographic location and market conditions, as well as an applicant’s level of educational attainment and work experience.