Many employers look for security analyst candidates with a bachelor’s degree in computer science, math or engineering, or another computer-related field. If you’ve got security experience, a stable work history and solid references or letters of recommendation, it’s possible to land a job in security without a college degree. But a degree – especially one with some security-related coursework included – will definitely help.
An intermediate-level security analyst position typically requires three to six years of direct experience in information security, or some combination of education and experience. In fact, this is a field where experience counts greatly. Thus, for example, a military veteran with documented cyberwarfare experience and a security clearance would probably be a more attractive candidate for a security analyst’s job than a person with a bachelor’s degree straight out of school. That’s starkly true, even if that degree-only person graduates from a top-flight institution such as Carnegie-Mellon University, Perdue or another school belonging to the National Centers of Academic Excellence in Information Assurance/Cyber Defense (CAE IA/CD) program.
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Regardless of how you prepare for a career as a security analyst, here are the skills you should have or plan to develop:
Create and document security policies, including acceptable encryption, acceptable use, data breach response, disaster recovery planning, digital signature acceptance, email and ethics, password construction and use, and so forth (for a complete collection see the SANS Information Security Policy Templates)
Perform security audits and reviews, with thorough knowledge of best auditing practices and procedures, and enact remediation and mitigation
Understand how to design and establish perimeter security protection and controls, including firewalls, content filters, proxies, intrustion detection and prevention, and more
Understand role-based security, access controls (including physical, software and human security processes and procedures), identity management, authentication and authorization, and proper use of rights and privileges
Be a multi-tasker, with good time-management and self-motivation skills
Be an excellent communicator (written and verbal)
Some positions require programming skills and an understanding of databases. You don’t necessarily need years of programming or scripting experience to be a security analyst, but it will help.