Network Security Analyst (Education Guide & Salary)
Most businesses rely on computers to store client data, sell products and services, increase the efficiency of their daily operations and more. But with those computers come security risks. Network security analysts help companies to identify threats and take steps to protect the company and their data from attacks. Given the growing reliance on computers and the internet, network security analysts play an increasingly important role in today's digital world.
What does a network security analyst do?
Network security analysts have many essential responsibilities to help protect their employers. Youssef El Achab, a cloud security and DevOps consultant who writes for ITCertificate.org, explains that network security analysts must perform several duties:
Identify and assess computer network and system vulnerabilities
Stay up-to-date with the latest security threats, trends and technologies
Investigate security incidents and conduct forensic analysis when necessary
Monitor network traffic for suspicious activity or potential security breaches
Implement and maintain security measures including firewalls, intrusion detection systems and encryption protocols
Develop and update security policies and procedures
Collaborate with other IT professionals to ensure overall network security and integrity
To fulfill these responsibilities, network security analysts need strong analytical and problem-solving skills, as well as meticulous attention to detail. They also need to have a deep knowledge of network protocols, operating systems and security technologies, which they can acquire through education and training.
Tools and technologies used by network security analysts
Network security analysts use many tools and technologies in their daily work. El Achab outlines a few of the more common tools that this career often requires:
- Network monitoring tools:
- Wireshark, Nagios and SolarWinds are important when analyzing network traffic and identifying abnormalities that could signal a security breach.
- Intrusion detection and prevention systems:
- Snort and Suricata are useful when identifying and responding to potential security threats.
- Vulnerability scanners:
- Nessus and OpenVAS help analysts assess network weaknesses and identify potential entry points, so they can then fix those vulnerabilities.
- Security information and event management (SIEM) tools
- Splunk and LogRhythm are used for centralized security log collection and analysis.
- Penetration testing tools:
- Metasploit and Burp Suite help to simulate attacks and identify any system vulnerabilities that need to be addressed.
- Scripting and programming languages:
- Python and PowerShell help analysts to automate tasks and analyze security data.
Educational requirements to become a network security analyst
"To become a network security analyst, a strong educational foundation in computer science, information technology or a related field is essential," says El Achab.
"...a strong educational foundation in computer science, information technology or a related field is essential."
Many employers require candidates to have a bachelor's degree in cyber security, computer science or a related field. A degree program in cyber security, computer science, or network engineering can provide you with an in-depth understanding of computers and network security, and it can also be a valuable way to start to develop your professional network.
Some employers may be willing to accept equivalent work experience in lieu of a bachelor's degree. Completing an internship can help you to get started in the field, and working in an entry-level IT position gives you the chance to start building your experience and skills.
"While certifications are not always mandatory, they can significantly enhance your credentials and demonstrate your expertise in network security," explains El Achab.
Certifications for network security analysts
Network security analysts may choose to earn several different certifications:
- CompTIA Security+: This global certification confirms that an analyst has the baseline skills necessary for an IT security career.
- Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP): The CISSP certification validates that an analyst has the skills necessary to design, implement and manage a quality cybersecurity program.
- Certified Ethical Hacker (CEH): The CEH certification confirms that an analyst understands and knows how to look for weaknesses and vulnerabilities, and uses that information to help protect systems.
- Certified Information Security Manager (CISM): This certification helps analysts learn how to assess risks and implement and manage appropriate solutions.
- Certified Information Systems Auditor (CISA): The CISA certification demonstrates a professional's ability to apply risk-based approaches to planning, executing and reporting on system audits.
Certifications can demonstrate your knowledge and expertise in a particular field. Earning certifications may help to make you a more competitive and appealing candidate for job opportunities.
How to become a network security analyst in four steps
Gain relevant education and training.
While a bachelor's degree isn't strictly required to become a network security analyst, it can be a good way to prepare for your career. Plus, since some employers do require that applicants have a bachelor's degree, completing a bachelor's degree program can help you to qualify for more job opportunities.
Consider a bachelor's degree in computer science, cyber security, IT or a related field. These types of degrees will give you the foundational knowledge you need in computers and networks. You will also gain some hands-on experience through projects, and you will develop the skills and knowledge that you will use in your career.
You might also consider enrolling in cyber security bootcamps. These bootcamps feature an intensive focus on network and cyber security, and some allow you to focus in areas of interest like ethical hacking or digital forensics. Most bootcamps can be completed in about six months, and you can often choose to study on a full-time or part-time basis. A bootcamp can be an excellent supplement to a bachelor's degree that isn't in a computer-related field, or you might choose to pursue a bootcamp instead of a bachelor's program.
Gain experience in related IT positions.
El Achab explains that internships can help you to gain initial IT experience. "Finding internships in the field of network security can be valuable for gaining practical experience," he says. He recommends that you start by checking with local companies, government agencies and IT consulting firms to inquire about internship opportunities in network security.
Your college or university's career services department can be another valuable resource in locating internships. "Attend industry conferences, job fairs or networking events where you can connect with professionals in the field who may be aware of available internships," El Achab advises. He notes that online communities, forums or social media groups dedicated to cyber security and network security may also help you to learn about internship opportunities.
Most employers want to see that you have successfully worked in an IT position. Working an entry-level position can be a good way to get started in the field. Positions like an IT support professional, IT technician, systems administrator or systems analyst may help to prepare you for your network security analyst career.
Earn professional certification.
Earning certifications can demonstrate your skills, knowledge and investment in the network security field. Certifications may help you to stand out from other job applicants, and the certifications also demonstrate your dedication to your career.
Build a professional network.
Building a professional network may help you to get future jobs. Your network can include the connections you made in college, during your internship and connections you make through your work experience and professional networking events.
Skills and traits required
Becoming a network security analyst requires a combination of technical skills and soft skills.
- Programming skills:
- Analysts must be able to use programming languages to create programs and platforms and ensure that they are secure. Knowledge of the specific programming languages used by a business is essential.
- Network management:
- An analyst needs network management talents to oversee active networks, provide employees with appropriate permissions and more. They need to have a strong understanding of how networks work and are constructed, but they also need to be deeply familiar with the specific networks that their employer relies on.
- Data analysis:
- An analyst must collect, analyze and interpret a company's data to identify vulnerabilities and appropriate solutions. A strong understanding of data collection best practices and data analysis principles is important.
- Communication skills:
- Network security analysts must be able to clearly communicate in several ways, including through email, written reports and in person. They need to be able to communicate highly complicated, detailed topics in clear language that those who are unfamiliar with IT principles are able to understand.
- Critical thinking:
- An analyst needs to be able to think clearly and critically while managing multiple priorities. They need strong evaluation skills and need to be able to identify and manage risks and benefits for well-informed decision-making.
- Attention to detail:
- It's essential that analysts have excellent attention to detail, which can help them to identify potential issues and avoid problems. Overlooking important details can cause an analyst to miss risks, leading to costly and complicated mistakes.
- Much of an analyst's work requires strong problem-solving skills as they address immediate problems and help to identify solutions to potential problems. The ability to envision potential problems, identify and evaluate solutions and then choose the solution that is best for the business is important.
- Desire to continue to learn:
- The fields of technology and cybersecurity rapidly evolve, so it's important that a network security analyst has a natural interest in these fields and a desire to continue to learn throughout their entire career.
- Teamwork skills:
- A network security analyst is often a key member of a larger team, including the rest of a business' IT department. The analyst needs to be able to work well as a team member, including managing deadlines and priorities, communicating with other team members and collaborating on projects with a common goal.
- An ethical mindset and a dedication to upholding data privacy and integrity are essential in a good network security analyst, notes El Achab.
Career paths for network security analysts
You may pursue one of many different career paths to become a network security analysis. In most cases, you will start with an entry-level role, like a help desk technician or network administrator. From there, you may progress to a mid-level role, such as a penetration tester or security architect. Upper-level network security analyst roles often require significant work experience, a track record of a strong performance and certifications.
The focus of your job can also depend on your position. For example, a cyber security analyst is responsible for managing and protecting all of a business' systems that are connected to the internet, rather than just focusing on the business' networks. In contrast, a network engineer designs, maintains and helps to troubleshoot a business' networks, including protecting them against cyber threats.
Network security analyst salaries
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) 2022 Occupational Employment Statistics reports that information security analysts earned a median annual wage of $112,000. The median annual wage varied slightly depending on the industry in which the analysts worked:
|Industry||Median annual pay|
|Search engines, information services, libraries, archives||$165,110|
|Computer systems design and related services||$122,430|
|Monetary authorities, banking, finance||$112,580|
|Computing infrastructure providers, data processing, web hosting||$117,560|
The BLS also reports median annual salaries, and highest and lowest 10% pay by state:
Median Salary: $112,000
Projected job growth: 31.5%
10th Percentile: $66,010
25th Percentile: $85,270
75th Percentile: $141,130
90th Percentile: $174,540
Projected job growth: 31.5%
|State||Median Salary||Bottom 10%||Top 10%|
|District of Columbia||$123,140||$84,300||$177,240|
Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) 2022 median salary; projected job growth through 2032. Actual salaries vary depending on location, level of education, years of experience, work environment, and other factors. Salaries may differ even more for those who are self-employed or work part time.
Frequently asked questions (FAQs)
Can you become a network security analyst without a degree?
Yes, while some employers don't require network security analysts to have a degree, other employers do require a degree. Keep in mind that a degree can provide a strong foundation, helping you develop the skills and knowledge that you will need in your career.
What's the job outlook for network security analysts?
According to the BLS, job opportunities for network security analysts are projected to grow by 31.5% through 2032. That growth is much faster than the average for all occupations and correlates with an increase in cyberattack frequency and the rise of e-commerce.
Can network security analysts work remotely?
Yes, network security analysts can often work remotely, though employers may require the analysts to be present in the office at least part of the time.
How long does it take to become a network security analyst?
Becoming a network security analyst takes about two to four years, depending on whether you pursue a bachelor's degree program.
What is the difference between a network security analyst and a cyber security analyst?
Cyber security analysts focus on protecting all of a business' systems that are connected to the internet, but a network security analyst focuses more on protecting the business' IT infrastructure from security threats.
A career in network security analysis can be rewarding and offers many opportunities for growth. Demand for this field is growing, driven by increased cyber attacks and the popularity of e-commerce businesses. From pursuing certifications to receiving on-the-job training, there are many ways that you can advance in this field.
As a network security analyst, you will enjoy the satisfaction of knowing that you are helping to protect a business against attacks. Network security analysts earn highly competitive salaries, and you may choose to contribute to industry publications and studies to advance the network security field.
If you would like to become a network security analyst, a cyber security bootcamp is a great starting point and will give you the skills and knowledge you need to get started with your career. Review our list of available cyber security bootcamps to take the first step in becoming a network security analyst.
Published: July 28, 2023
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