Are you interested in exploring a career in cybersecurity? If so, you’ll need to take certain steps to gain the required experience and qualifications. These steps include earning a degree, obtaining professional certification, and, last but not least, keeping up with networking opportunities and industry developments.
If you’ve ever wondered how to become a cybersecurity analyst, this helpful guide will walk you through all of the basics you need to know to get started. The guide covers some of the most common questions about embarking on this career path, including education and certification requirements for a career in cybersecurity; information about typical salary ranges and the future job outlook for this field; and some of the typical duties and responsibilities you can expect in this role.
What is a Cybersecurity Analyst?
A cybersecurity analyst is an IT professional whose most fundamental task is to protect computer networks and systems from being attacked by cybercriminals, such as preventing the theft of personal data or unauthorized access to financial records. This involves performing a range of job duties, such as watching networks for suspicious traffic, teaching organizations about best practices for maintaining security, and reporting on and investigating data security breaches.
Steps to Becoming a Cybersecurity Analyst
If you aspire to become a cybersecurity analyst, it’s important to take targeted steps that will help you achieve that goal. These steps include:
- Meeting cybersecurity analyst education requirements by earning a relevant degree. This includes not just degrees in cybersecurity, but also degrees in related fields like computer science or information systems.
- Earning an industry certification. This step is frequently a requirement for completing cybersecurity degree programs. We’ll compare a few common cybersecurity certifications below, such as CISA and CISSP certifications.
- Involving yourself in professional networks or associations, such as the Information Systems Audit and Control Association (ISACA). No matter your specialization, networking is essential to the continued advancement of your career.
1. Higher Education
Most positions require applicants to possess, at minimum, a bachelor’s degree in cybersecurity but preferably a Master’s degree or higher. For example, the entry-level education requirements listed in the following table of IT and computing jobs virtually all specify a bachelor’s degree, with some requiring a more advanced degree.
In an undergraduate cybersecurity program, like the accredited online program offered through National University’s School of Technology and Engineering, you will learn key fundamentals and critical skills, such as data and operating system fundamentals, security automation, and the fundamentals of virtualization and cloud computing. These skills will prepare you to successfully perform your job duties as a cybersecurity analyst.
Like with any profession, cybersecurity analyst entry-level requirements differ from mid-level or senior-level requirements. If you aspire to managerial or executive positions in the cybersecurity field, you should strongly consider continuing your academic pursuits and earning your master’s degree.
2. Industry Certifications
Depending on your specific career goals, you may need to obtain one or more industry certifications. You may even be required to earn a certification to graduate from your academic program, depending on what degree you’re pursuing and at which institution.
In the cybersecurity industry, professional certifications are frequently prerequisites for not only senior or executive positions, but also mid-level and even some entry-level positions. To gain access to a broader range of job opportunities — and successfully meet the requirements for your bachelor’s or master’s degree program — we suggest exploring the certifications below.
The Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP) certification, which is granted by the International Information System Security Certification Consortium (ISC²), tests whether you can “effectively design, implement and manage a best-in-class cybersecurity program.” You may be interested in earning CISSP certification if you aspire to a career as a network architect, chief information officer, director of security. It’s also useful for those aiming to be a security analyst, manager, architect, auditor, or consultant.
The Certified Information Systems Auditor (CISA) is a globally-recognized certification designed to test your expertise across five areas:
- The information systems auditing process
- IT governance and management
- The acquisition, development, and implementation of information systems
- Business resilience and the operation of information systems
- Secure protection of information assets
According to ISACA (Information Systems Audit and Control Association), which administers the CISA certification exam, CISA certification holders earn an average salary exceeding $149,000.
The Certified Information Security Manager® (CISM®) certification is also administered by the ISACA and tests your knowledge in risk assessment, implementing effective governance for information, and proactively responding to security threats and incidents.
CompTIA Security+ Certification
According to CompTIA, the organization that issues this certification, “CompTIA Security+ is a global certification that validates the baseline skills necessary to perform core security functions and pursue an IT security career.” CompTIA Security+ Certification emphasizes “hands-on practical skills” and incorporates “most core technical skills in risk assessment and management, incident response, forensics, enterprise networks, hybrid/cloud operations, and security controls.”
Ethical Hacker Certification
The Certified Ethical Hacker, or CEH, is a globally-recognized certification issued by the EC-Council. CEH certification programs may be completed live, online, or in a hybrid format. Learn more about CEH certification, including the purpose of the credential and details about the exam.
3. Apply and Network
Cybersecurity is a field that evolves as rapidly as the technology behind it. Commit to continuing your education and actively pursuing career development opportunities by attending local networking events and searching for professional organizations to involve yourself in. Consider challenging yourself further by completing a cybersecurity boot camp for fast-paced, intensive learning.
What Does a Cybersecurity Analyst Do?
Cybersecurity analysts are responsible for a wide range of tasks that, together, help keep computer networks and personal information safe. Below are just a few examples.
Some of a cybersecurity analyst’s core duties and responsibilities include:
- Analyzing networks to identify potential weaknesses and vulnerabilities
- Conducting penetration testing and other risk assessments
- Configuring software and other tools to help protect data
- Developing contingency plans to utilize in the event of a cyber attack
- Evaluating data breaches and cybersecurity failures
- Implementing best practices for data security and IT
- Installing data encryption programs, firewalls, and other security features
- Monitoring networks for any unusual or suspicious traffic or activity
What Does a Cybersecurity Analyst Do?
The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) does not provide salary data specific to cybersecurity. It does, however, supply data for information security, which is a broader field that includes cybersecurity.
According to the BLS, information security analysts earn a median salary of $102,600, with the top 10% earning close to $166,000 annually. The BLS also reports that the top-paying industries for information security analysts to work in include information, finance, insurance, “management of companies and enterprises,” and computer systems design, which all pay over $100,000 annually.
According to the employment site Zippia, cybersecurity analysts earn an average salary of over $88,400. According to Glassdoor, the reported average salary is over $85,000. Even more impressive is the projected growth of this field through the year 2031, a whopping 35% based on BLS estimates, compared to the national average of just 5%.
Why is Cybersecurity Important?
From healthcare and banking to communications and transportation, we all rely on the privacy and security of our data — and cybersecurity analysts provide a critical line of defense. Whether they are working to protect individuals, small businesses, corporations, or government agencies, cybersecurity experts help ensure that hackers and other cyber criminals are stopped in their tracks before data can be breached or stolen.
Cybersecurity protocols will become increasingly crucial for keeping data, and IT infrastructure safe as our systems become increasingly automated and interconnected — from the Internet of Things (IoT) in our homes to the global eCommerce economy.
Skills Needed to be Successful in CyberSecurity
Like any industry, cybersecurity requires a mix of hard and soft skills — not only formal knowledge and training but also the character traits and personal strengths that will position you for long-term success. Keep reading for a brief overview, or go more in-depth with our guide to soft and hard skills needed for a career in cybersecurity. We’ll focus on hard skills in the overview below, including:
- Understanding operating systems
- Competency with programming languages
- Knowledge of computer networks
- Expertise in malware, spyware, viruses, and other cybersecurity threats
Understanding Operating Systems
To be proficient as a cybersecurity professional, you need to understand the features, functions, and challenges of various operating systems, which include Microsoft Windows, Apple macOS, and Linux. For example, Kali Linux is frequently used to perform penetration testing.
In addition to various operating systems, you’ll also need to be comfortable with multiple programming languages. Some of the most common examples include Python, Java, and C++, along with SQL and PHP.
Networking is a fundamental skill that is essential to cultivate a successful career in cybersecurity. The Bachelor of Science in Cybersecurity at NU teaches students about local area networks, wireless networks, and wide area networks, in addition to network security concepts and network defense.
Malware, Viruses, & Spyware
Cybersecurity professionals need to be trained in detecting and preventing threats from increasingly sophisticated spyware, malware, and computer viruses. Some cybersecurity analysts specialize their careers in this area and become malware analysts.
Start Your Career in Cybersecurity
Learn from some of the best in the industry. The National Security Agency (NSA) has designated National University as a National Center of Academic Excellence (NCAE) in Cyber Defense (CAE-CD) through 2028. Interested in exploring a career in cybersecurity or a related field, such as information security? We offer a range of online, on-site, and hybrid cybersecurity, computing, and IT programs.
Fast-track your career change by earning a Certificate in Cybersecurity, or deepen your knowledge and expand your employment horizons by pursuing a Bachelor of Science in Cybersecurity or Master of Science in Cybersecurity. Students may also wish to explore other technology and engineering degrees offered through our School of Technology and Engineering, such as the Master of Science in Computer Science or Bachelor of Science in Information Systems.
With scholarships for eligible students, accelerated study options, credits offered for work experience, and a military-friendly campus culture, National University provides the support you need to launch or grow your IT career. Explore our 75+ accredited programs online, or get in touch with our admissions office to learn more about applying today.
Cybersecurity Career FAQs
Not necessarily, but holding a bachelor’s or master’s degree will help you qualify for more advanced — and generally, higher-paid — job positions.
The answer depends on factors like which degrees and/or certifications you decide to pursue (such as a bachelor’s degree versus a master’s degree), whether you are a full-time or part-time student, and which industry certifications you are attempting to obtain (such as your CISA, CISM, or CEH).
Most entry-level cybersecurity positions do not require knowledge of coding. However, the ability to code is commonly required for mid-level and senior-level cybersecurity positions.