How to Become an Information Security Analyst: Cracking the Code

information security analyst

Your bank transactions, your family’s medical history or an organization's financial records—all of these exist in the form of data that are electronically stored somewhere outside of most people’s consideration. And this data is in desperate need of protection.

“The bargain we strike is that being so open and connected makes us vulnerable,” says Peter Nguyen of Palo Alto Networks. In this digital age, the unfortunate reality is that we are easily compromised.

The good news is there are professionals waging wars “behind the screen" to ensure our national, corporate and personal data is kept safe and secure. But the demand for these experts is growing, and positions are becoming harder to fill.

Maybe you know you want to join this fight, or perhaps you’re just curious about what it takes to become a security analyst. In any case, if you’re at all interested in how to become an information security analyst or what the position entails, you came to the right place. Read on for the answers to some of your key questions.

What does an information security analyst do?

Information security analysts must always be ready to adapt to an evolving digital world in order to stay a step ahead of cybercriminals. In doing so, they are responsible for a variety of tasks.

Information security analyst job duties

Here’s a look at a few common job duties, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS):1

  • Monitoring networks for security breaches and investigating when one is detected
  • Installing and maintaining software to protect sensitive information
  • Simulating attacks to identify potential areas of vulnerability
  • Develop security standards and best practices for the company

You’ll also be expected to stay up to date on the latest trends and technology in order to develop professionally and recommend security advancements for your organization.

How to become an information security analyst

There is no set-in-stone path to becoming an information security analyst. But there are some important skills, training and experience that can help you on your way to joining the field. Consider the following information when planning your next steps.

In-demand information security analyst skills

Information security professionals, sometimes called cyber security professionals, must possess a handful of technical skills. But with so many different techniques and software out there, it’s hard to know where to focus your efforts.

We used real-time job analysis software to examine over 150,000 information security job postings.2 This data helped us identify the top technical skills and qualifications employers are seeking. Here’s what we found:

But it takes more than technical skills to succeed as an information security analyst. Employers are looking for candidates who possess a healthy balance of hard and soft skills to get the job done properly.

Our analysis also revealed the importance of critical thinking and complex problem-solving skills. Information security analysts should also be effective communicators who employ active-listening skills because they often interact with various members of the company and must explain complex information in a simple way.

Education and experience needed to become an information security analyst

Don’t be intimidated by the list of skills and competencies highlighted above. Information security analysts are responsible for very complex technical tasks, which is why undergoing a formal education is so critical. These are precisely the skills and proficiencies you’ll master in a Cyber Security degree program.

Our job posting analysis indicated that 92 percent of employers are seeking candidates for this role who have at least a Bachelor’s degree.2 Additionally, you’ll likely need some work experience—many information security professionals get their start in IT or other network-related positions, but there are several viable paths. Analysts need an in-depth understanding of network structures and their potential vulnerabilities, so the knowledge of network hardware and configurations is an excellent foundation to build upon.

In-demand information security certifications

In the tech world, certifications are regarded as a badge of approval. It’s another way to prove you’re ready and equipped for the job at hand. Here are the five certifications currently in highest demand for aspiring information security analysts:2

Advice for becoming an information security analyst

Education can go a long way, but what else can be done to stand out to employers? Rudraksh Khanna, owner of Khanna Security Solutions, says there are several things you can do to establish yourself in the information security field. Khanna suggests contributing to open-source security projects and bug bounty programs as a way to gain experience and learn more about current exploits.

Additionally, much of an information security professional’s career is based on their ability to think like a hacker. To better develop that mentality, Khanna recommends seeking out and participating in hacking challenges.

“There are several companies that organize these challenges in order to check the vulnerability of their own software products,” Khanna explains. “Regular participation in these hacking challenges can help you learn more and sharpen your knowledge.”

Information security analyst salary and career outlook

You’re probably wondering whether acquiring the education, experience and certification is worth it. The compensation may be enough to convince you. The BLS reports the median annual salary for information security analysts in 2020 was $103,590.1 This is more than twice the national average for all occupations.

But keep in mind that your salary range will depend on your education, experience and location, as well as the industry in which you’re working. In 2020, the top-tenth percentile of security analysts are earning upwards of $163,300 annually, while analysts in the lowest tenth percentile earn $60,060, according to the BLS.1

As cyberattacks continue to grow in frequency and attackers become more sophisticated, the demand for information security analysts remains high. The BLS projects employment of information security analysts will grow at the much-faster-than-average rate of 33 percent through 2030.1 The projected areas of highest demand for information security analysts are the federal government and the healthcare field.1

Is your future in information security?

Now you have a better understanding of how to become an information security analyst and what you can expect in the field. Do you feel compelled to join the fight against cybercrime? If so, then it’s time to start preparing yourself to qualify for one of those coveted positions.

Learn more about how a degree can help get you there by reading our article “Is a Cyber Security Degree Worth it? The Facts You Can’t Ignore.

1Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, [career information accessed September 2021] www.bls.gov/ooh/. Salary data represents national, averaged earnings for the occupations listed and includes workers at all levels of education and experience. This data does not represent starting salaries, and employment conditions in your area may vary.
2Burning-Glass.com (analysis of 160,506 information security analyst job postings, Sep. 20, 2020 – Aug. 31, 2021).

EDITOR’S NOTE: This article was originally published in April 2016. It has since been updated to include information relevant to 2021.

CompTIA Security+ is a registered trademark of CompTIA Properties, LLC.

Certified Information Systems Auditor (CISA) and Certified Information Security Manager (CISM) are registered trademarks of ISACA.

Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP) is a registered trademark of (ISC)², Inc.

NIST is a registered trademark of the National Institute of Standards and Technology, U.S. Department of Commerce.

About the author

Carrie Mesrobian

Carrie is a freelance copywriter at Collegis Education. She researches and writes articles, on behalf of Rasmussen University, to help empower students to achieve their career dreams through higher education.

Carrie Mesrobian

Related Content

This piece of ad content was created by Rasmussen University to support its educational programs. Rasmussen University may not prepare students for all positions featured within this content. Please visit www.rasmussen.edu/degrees for a list of programs offered. External links provided on rasmussen.edu are for reference only. Rasmussen University does not guarantee, approve, control, or specifically endorse the information or products available on websites linked to, and is not endorsed by website owners, authors and/or organizations referenced. Rasmussen University is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission, an institutional accreditation agency recognized by the U.S. Department of Education.

logo-accreditation-acen logo-accreditation-ccne chart-credential-laddering-associates-bachelors-masters 0 Credits90 Credits180 Credits48 CreditsStart HereHIGH SCHOOL GRADSStart HereTRANSFER STUDENTSStart HereSECOND DEGREE PURSUERSEnd HereASSOCIATE'S DEGREEStart HereMASTER'S DEGREEPURSUERSEnd HereBACHELOR'S DEGREEEnd HereMASTER'S DEGREE chart-credential-laddering-associates-bachelors 0 CreditsStart HereHIGH SCHOOL GRADSStart HereTRANSFER STUDENTS90 CreditsStart HereSECOND DEGREE PURSUERSEnd HereASSOCIATE'S DEGREE180 CreditsEnd HereBACHELOR'S DEGREE chart-credential-laddering-msn chart-credential-laddering-nursing-programs chart-credential-laddering-nursing DNPMSNRN to BSNLPN to RN BridgeAccelerated BSNProfessional Nursing ADNPractical Nursing DiplomaPre-LicensurePost-Licensure icon-colored-outline-bank icon-colored-outline-certificate icon-colored-outline-circle-dollar-sign icon-colored-outline-folder-search icon-colored-outline-hand-heart icon-colored-outline-head-blocks icon-colored-outline-head-cog icon-colored-outline-head-heart icon-colored-outline-health-plus-leaves icon-colored-outline-hospital icon-colored-outline-lifelong-learning icon-colored-outline-light-bulb-analytics icon-colored-outline-location-pin icon-colored-outline-maginify-glass icon-colored-outline-magnifying-glass icon-colored-outline-monitor-healthcare icon-colored-outline-monitor-paper-search icon-colored-outline-nurse-rays icon-colored-outline-padlock-shield icon-colored-outline-person-presenter-screen icon-colored-outline-scales icon-colored-advance icon-colored-arrows-cross-curve icon-colored-briefcase-star icon-colored-build icon-colored-bulb-analytics icon-colored-certificate icon-colored-continual-development icon-colored-duo-chatbox icon-colored-folder-mortarboard icon-colored-forward-ribbon icon-colored-gears-clock icon-colored-globe-pen icon-colored-growth icon-colored-hand-bubble icon-colored-hand-stars icon-colored-hands-gear icon-colored-head-blocks icon-colored-head-cog icon-colored-health-plus-leaves icon-colored-hospital-building icon-colored-laptop-cbe-skyscraper icon-colored-laptop-checkmark icon-colored-laptop-webpage icon-colored-location-map icon-colored-location-pin icon-colored-monitor-paper-scan icon-colored-mortarboard-dollar icon-colored-national icon-colored-people-chat-bubbles icon-colored-person-cheer-star icon-colored-person-laptop-checkboxes icon-colored-person-screen-instructor icon-colored-person-whiteboard icon-colored-phone-chatbox icon-colored-police-light icon-colored-prep icon-colored-presenter icon-colored-regional icon-colored-save-time icon-colored-shirt-hat icon-colored-skyscraper icon-colored-state icon-colored-student-centered icon-colored-support icon-colored-world-experience icon-triangle-arrow-up-plant icon-triangle-calendar-pencil icon-triangle-clock-rotating-arrows icon-triangle-display-gears icon-triangle-hand-right-speech-bubble icon-triangle-laptop-coding-brackets icon-triangle-mortarboard icon-triangle-paper-ribbon icon-triangle-person-cheer-star icon-triangle-person-juggle icon-triangle-triple-people-chat-bubble icon-arrow icon-bank icon-camera icon-filter icon-general-chart icon-general-connect icon-general-degree icon-general-discuss icon-general-email icon-general-find icon-general-hat icon-general-heart icon-general-laptop-building icon-general-laptop icon-general-leader icon-general-map icon-general-money icon-general-paperwork icon-general-people icon-general-phone icon-general-speak-out icon-head-heart icon-info-circle icon-mail-forward icon-mglass icon-play-solid icon-quote-mark-left icon-quote-mark-right icon-scales icon-share-square-o icon-simple-chat icon-simple-desktop icon-simple-find icon-simple-hamburger icon-simple-phone icon-spinner icon-tag icon-testimonial-quotes icon-util-checkbox-white icon-util-checkbox icon-util-checked-white icon-util-checked icon-util-chevron-down icon-util-chevron-left icon-util-chevron-right icon-util-chevron-up icon-util-circle-arrow-down icon-util-circle-dot icon-util-language-switch icon-util-loading icon-util-open-window-button icon-util-open-window-link icon-util-pdf-button icon-util-pdf-link icon-util-refresh icon-util-x rebrand-arrows icon-modality-campus icon-modality-field icon-modality-online icon-modality-residential icon-social-facebook-square-colored icon-social-facebook-square icon-social-facebook icon-social-google-plus-square icon-social-google-plus icon-social-instagram icon-social-linkedin-square-colored icon-social-linkedin-square icon-social-linkedin icon-social-pinterest-p icon-social-twitter-square icon-social-twitter icon-social-youtube-play-colored icon-social-youtube-play ras-logo-flame ras-logo-horizontal ras-logo-stacked