Hactivism, spear-phishing, social engineering, advanced persistent threats (APT) and “run-of-the-mill” viruses and trolls all fall under the domain of information security analysts, who perform the indispensable work of keeping our nation’s networks and information systems safe. As information technology advances, so too does the number of threats posed by hackers and other cyber criminals.
In the public, private and nonprofit sectors, there is a shortage of qualified cyber security professionals, particularly those with security clearance. The situation is often referred to as the “cybersecurity skills gap,” and the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) predicts that demand will be “very high” in the coming years.
Given the skills, knowledge and qualities required of information security analysts, the profession may prove a promising option for veterans and servicemembers returning to the civilian world. Military life fosters discipline, loyalty and the ability to thrive under pressure.
Because the threats to networks and information security grow and change so rapidly, the duties and responsibilities of information security analysts also are constantly evolving. However, there are some areas of continuity in the work of information security analysts across employment sectors, including:
- Monitor internal and external networks for breaches and vulnerability; conduct ethical hacking and forensic analytics
- Research trends in information and data security
- Develop, apply and evaluate internal security protocols
- Update, maintain and manage security systems, including firewall, anti-virus, and data encryption programs and software
- Train management and employees in security protocol
- Ensure compliance with privacy rules and other relevant legislation
Job Outlook and Salary for Information Security Analysts
The BLS projects a national employment growth rate of 22% from 2010 to 2020 for the category of workers that includes information security analysts, which is significantly higher than the average rate of 14% for all occupations.
According to the BLS, the median annual wage for that category of workers was almost $78,000 in 2011, an increase of more than $2,000 over the previous year. The top 10% earned more than $124,800 in 2011, up nearly $5,000 over 2010.
The BLS also noted that a 2012 survey conducted by Robert Half Technology, a consultancy and staffing service, estimated the pay range for data security analysts was $89,000 to $121,500.
It’s important to remember that employment opportunities and salary potential vary based on factors such as a candidate’s work history and educational qualifications, as well as regional market conditions.
Education and Training for Information Security Analysts
A bachelor’s degree typically is a minimum requirement for employment as an information security analyst, according to the BLS. Information technology, computer science, engineering and business administration with a specialization in information systems are among the degrees commonly held by professionals in the industry.
Some employers may prefer candidates who also have relevant experience, advanced degrees or security clearance.
Technical ingenuity, sophisticated problem-solving capacities, and strong organizational, analytical and leadership skills are hallmarks of effective information security analysts, as is the ability to work effectively in a team and independently.
In response to the cyber security skills gap, respected schools across the nation are offering innovative degree and certificate programs in information assurance, cyber security and information technology, including in a 100% online format.
In addition, at universities that partner with the Department of Defense and the Servicemembers Opportunity Colleges (SOC) Consortium, servicemembers, veterans and their families may be able to take advantage of Tuition Assistance and other benefits, including credit transfers.