Smart Young Female IT Programer Working on Desktop Green Mock-up Screen Computer in Data Center System Control Room. Team of Young Professionals cybersecurity analyst

What does a cybersecurity analyst do?

Last year, 39% of UK businesses identified a cyberattack on their networks, operating systems and infrastructure, with the most common threats including phishing, denial of service (DoS), malware and ransomware attacks. Of this group, 31% estimated they were targeted at least once a week.

With cybercrime rates on the rise – and methods of attack growing in sophistication – businesses must take their data security more seriously than ever. As a direct result, the job outlook for cybersecurity professionals with the skills to guard against security risks and threat actors is positive. In fact, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) it’s estimated that job growth for cyber and information security analysts is projected to increase 35% from 2021 to 2031 – much faster than the average for all occupations.

What is a cybersecurity analyst?

A cybersecurity analyst is a computer science professional who helps design and implement security systems and solutions to protect a company’s computer networks from cyberattacks. These specialists act as a ‘first line of defence’ against hackers and cybercriminals who try to exploit system vulnerabilities, defending hardware, software and networks from malicious activity and closely monitoring IT infrastructure and assets.

What does the role of a cybersecurity analyst involve?

The process and specifics of preparing for, and responding to, cybersecurity breaches may differ depending on the workplace, organisation and sector – however, the general outline of an analyst’s role remains the same.

Security analysts spend their time managing software, monitoring network security, developing security plans, reporting on security, and researching trends and developments in order to keep themselves – and the companies they protect – up to date and ahead of any potential issues.

Further day-to-day tasks and responsibilities often include:

  •   identifying and resolving threats in order to protect information systems
  •   defining access privileges
  •   implementing, maintaining and upgrading security measures, such as firewalls and antivirus security software
  •   performing penetration tests
  •   monitoring security breaches and following incident response procedures
  •   assessing risks and suggesting/developing improvements
  •   conducting ongoing audits and assessments to detect inefficiencies and violations
  •   compiling security performance reports and sharing results with stakeholders.

Are there different types of cybersecurity analysts?

While all cybersecurity professionals aim to protect systems, networks and software from cyberthreats and data breaches – ensuring the private information of businesses and individuals is secure – there is variety within the field. As such, there’s plenty of scope to narrow your cybersecurity focus and role to an area that most interests you or suits your skill set.

Indeed list a number of positions that are similar to cybersecurity analyst roles:

  •   Computer forensic analyst
  •   IT security specialist
  •   Security manager
  •   Security engineer
  •   Security consultant
  •   Director of security
  •   Security administrator
  •   Information security analyst
  •   Security specialist
  •   Chief information officer
  •   Network security engineer
  •   Machine learning engineer.

How can I get a job as a cybersecurity analyst?

While undergraduate and Masters degrees are a common – and quicker – route into the profession, you don’t necessarily need to work in cybersecurity. Securing an entry-level IT role, and then working your way up and into cybersecurity – by way of experience and gaining industry certifications – presents a good alternative. Apprenticeships in cybersecurity are also an option. However, if you do have a degree in an unrelated subject and wish to secure a graduate-level role in the cyber field, a computer science Master programme that covers cybersecurity is ideal.

There are a number of specific technical skills you’ll need to work as a cybersecurity analyst or in cyber-related fields. These include:

  •   application security development
  •   network security
  •   cloud security
  •   risk and compliance auditing
  •   penetration testing
  •   threat intelligence analysis
  •   identity and access management
  •   mobile and remote computing
  •   communication
  •   problem-solving 
  •   leadership
  •   creativity.

Over time, your degree subject will be less important to potential employers as you gain relevant skills and experience that demonstrate your cybersecurity capabilities.Other ways of developing the skills and competencies required is to participate in a cybersecurity bootcamp, or undertake an internship to gain practical work experience.

Do I need cybersecurity certifications?

Whether you’re an entry-level analyst, want to upskill in a specific area to enhance your existing practice or land a certain specialised role, a cybersecurity qualification could be the answer.

Whatever aspect of the cybersecurity field you’re interested in, the following cybersecurity certifications could help:

  • Certified Ethical Hacker Certification, where ethical hacking skills and expertise are used lawfully and legitimately to enhance and assess company cybersecurity
  • CISSP Certification (Certified Information Systems Security Professional), which validates skills related to the design, building and maintenance of secure business environments using globally approved information security standards
  • CISA Certification (Certified Information Systems Auditor), is a globally recognised certification validating skills in the audit, control and security of information systems.

CompTIA Security have compiled a detailed list of other highly regarded, widely accepted cybersecurity certifications. There are online options, full-time and part-time learning models, practitioner-led and self-guided options available, depending on your needs and current commitments.

What is the average salary of a cybersecurity analyst?

With demand for specialists soaring in recent years, cybersecurity can be a lucrative career path with great job security.

The cybersecurity analyst salary varies depending on type of industry, specific job requirements, job location, and individual skills and experience. According to Prospects, starting salaries average between £25,000-£35,000, experienced and senior analysts earn upwards of £35,000 and in excess of £60,000, and managerial and leadership roles can command upwards of £70,000 on average.

Gain the specialist skills to design, implement and monitor IT security measures

If you’re thinking about a fast-paced and rewarding cybersecurity career, develop the expertise and skills to succeed with the University of York’s online MSc Computer Science with Cybersecurity programme.

Our flexible, 100%-online course has been designed for individuals without computer science or information technology backgrounds. You’ll gain an in-depth and solid understanding of computing fundamentals, including computer systems and network infrastructure, protocols, programming techniques and languages – including Python – and data analytics. Alongside this, specialist modules in security engineering will cover cryptography, access management, password protection, safeguarding against cyber threats, memory and resource management, incident response planning, and more.