With the increased use of cloud-based services and rapid technological advancement, digital threats are mounting quickly. As a result, there’s also a growing demand for qualified cybersecurity professionals to protect critical informational assets. Cybersecurity jobs are on the rise, offering twice the job growth of general computer- and technology-related occupations, and there’s no end in sight to this growth.
To meet this demand, specialized degrees, like the Masters in Cybersecurity program from Northeastern University, are emerging, designed to combine the most in-demand aspects of the security, tech, and computer science industries into a comprehensive, skills-based education.
One of the most promising career paths in the industry is the role of the cybersecurity analyst. With plentiful job openings, fulfilling responsibilities, and high earning potential, the analyst role is highly attractive to those looking to build a career in cybersecurity.
Why Become a Cybersecurity Analyst?
Many people are attracted to cybersecurity careers because they want to make a difference. In the role of a cybersecurity analyst, you’ll be able to do just that. Guevara Noubir, professor and director of the Cybersecurity graduate program at Northeastern University, says that analysts are a precious and essential part of any technology network, web service, or even gaming application.
“Cybersecurity adversaries range from cybercriminals to nation states and [they] are resourceful and supported by increasingly sophisticated tools and knowledge. [Cybersecurity analysts] are the front-line of defense against these highly dangerous opponents who want to do harm to our most important services or steal precious data and resources.”
Here’s how you can build upon your existing interest and experience to become a cybersecurity analyst and make a difference.
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How to Become a Cybersecurity Analyst
Understand the Role of an Analyst
Cybersecurity analysts, also known as “information security analysts,” “web security analysts,” or even “virtual systems security analysts,” are vital assets to any organization. Noubir says the daily responsibilities of a cybersecurity analyst are multifaceted:
“A cybersecurity analyst plans, designs, implements, assesses, and operates a company security infrastructure. This spans a wide variety of tasks from the identity management, authentication, access control, network architecture, firewalls, intrusion detection, and audits, to security policies, risk management, incident and disaster response strategies, multi-vendor solutions integration, and employees training.”
Because cybersecurity analysts are responsible for so many critical functions, an education that can respond to the growing scope of work—and various technologies used—is key. Northeastern’s program acknowledges that the world of security technology changes daily and seeks to position students to be prepared for that change.
Get the Right Educational Foundation
Cybersecurity analysts need specific industry knowledge, hands-on experience, and soft skills to succeed. Noubir explains what prospective students should look for when researching a cybersecurity degree program:
“A degree program should provide a solid foundation to computer systems and networks, their fundamental limitations, and the theoretical elements to securing cyber systems, as well as today’s best practices in architecting and operating such systems. This foundation enables one to quickly learn and grasp the potential impact of new threats and engineer long-lasting protections.”
Northeastern’s cybersecurity programs have unique strengths. The teaching and advising teams are aware that cybersecurity is a rapidly evolving field, and one that requires real-world experience and expertise—not just textbook responses. In a world where cybersecurity analysts are confronted with malicious hackers daily, they need to know who they will be working against. The right program equips students to confront all kinds of cyber threats, not just the most common adversaries, Noubir says.
“Studying in an environment with a vibrant cybersecurity research center—like Northeastern’s Cybersecurity and Privacy Institute—exposes students to the latest trends of attacks and defense mechanisms, preparing them for a long, successful career.”
Acquire the Skills Required for Success in Cybersecurity
While cybersecurity jobs are abundant, there are certain experiences and qualities that students should have that will help them excel. And although individual job descriptions may vary slightly across industries, the majority of required cybersecurity skills should transfer easily between work environments.
Successful cybersecurity analysts, Noubie says, possess an analytical mindset, a passion for cybersecurity, and the ability to communicate. Whether you are just starting out in your career—or want to switch gears to fuel a new passion—a general love for technology is crucial. Noubir emphasizes what is required for those who want to progress in their careers beyond entry-level analyst roles:
“A passion for cybersecurity in all its forms—from cryptography to reverse engineering, curiosity, and creativity—is essential to foresee potential attacks and pragmatically architect security solutions.”
Exceptional communication, he says, is another key strength for any cybersecurity analyst. Graduates should embrace this crucial skill to effectively convey to upper-management, peers, and other employees the policies and decisions that will best protect data, assets, and systems. Since it can be difficult to get everyone on board—especially when suggested policies or procedures will cost money or convenience to teams—effective communication matters. Cybersecurity analysts not only need to know the best course of action moving forward; they need to be able to back it up with concise and clear messaging that helps bring everyone on board.
Visualize the Future
The future for cybersecurity analysts is bright. For those with at least a bachelor’s degree, the median annual salary is $95,510—and those with graduate degrees can expect to earn much more. The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects job growth of 28 percent—and demand is not expected to slow down in the near future. Considering the 686 data breaches affecting 1.4 billion records that occurred in just the first three months of 2018, it’s no surprise that the focus on—and investment in—cybersecurity will continue to increase.
Further, as more users rely on the internet and cloud services to store information for finances, health, education, dating profiles, family photos, and even their most sensitive legal documents, they will expect only the best protection for those data files that help them live productive lives. Analysts are essential partners in the defense against hackers who want to disrupt critical network communications or steal protected information.
Because of this growth, there is room for new graduates to explore various positions within the field and find just the right fit for their personal preferences and professional goals. Do you want to work in the private sector, helping tech start-ups protect user data and innovative product secrets? Are you geared toward government work that serves citizens and helps build a stronger economy or judicial system? Will you lend your skills to the next non-profit that works to elevate the poor or provide assistance to those with the least?
The choice is yours. With so many jobs available today—and over 28,000 new roles expected to be added by 2026—the possibilities that stand before you offer the perfect blend of career and personal latitude. By knowing yourself, the future you want, and the qualities it takes to get there, you can position yourself to take full advantage of your education and advance your career.
Are you ready to get started in an exciting career in this growing field? Download our Guide to Advancing Your Career in Cybersecurity below.