Information is big business these days. No matter what field you’re in, from finance to medical to straight-up James Bond-worthy intelligence, information carries a high price tag – which means you don’t want it to fall into the wrong hands.
That’s where an information security analyst comes in. People in this role help to make sure that that doesn’t happen by implementing ever-stronger protective measures on computer systems to help keep hackers out and reduce the number of potential cyberattacks. It’s an uphill battle, needless to say, but with intelligent measures and constant vigilance, it’s possible.
For that reason, there is a growing demand for well-trained information security analysts to serve and protect inside corporations, government entities and nonprofits. If you have a call to help ensure that systems are able to guard information against digital attacks, this might be the job for you.
While a background in programming, computer science, information technology or related fields are all a plus, the best way to prepare yourself for a degree in the field is to get a pertinent master’s degree. We discuss some of the best options here in this post.
First, though, are you wondering exactly what an information security analyst is? Let’s talk about that.
What Is an Information Security Analyst?
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), “Information security analysts plan and carry out security measures to protect an organization’s computer networks and systems. Their responsibilities are continually expanding as the number of cyberattacks increases.” Perhaps not surprisingly, “Most information security analysts work for computer companies, consulting firms, or business and financial companies.”
That’s not to say these are the only companies who will hire an information security analyst, though. As U.S. News and World Report points out, “These professionals plan and execute security measures to shield an organization’s computer systems and networks from infiltration and cyberattacks,” which is obviously a need shared by almost all organizations. That includes:
- Banking and financial institutions: Any company, government office or NGO concerned with financial information is in constant need of security measures, the stronger the better.
- Medical facilities: According to some talking heads, medical information will soon become one of the most valuable currencies of the upcoming centuries, due to its relatively unprotected nature compared to financial and personal information. Because of this, health records systems are increasingly vulnerable and need protection.
- Intelligence centers. Whether we’re talking the most sensitive government information or local police stations, intelligence carries a lot of stock, and we can’t let it fall into the wrong hands.
- Educational facilities: The organizations that manage data pertaining to our nation’s youth are extremely important to safeguard, but without good protection, they are as vulnerable as any other institution.
- Corporations, companies and commercial enterprises: From the secret sauce recipe to the upcoming product line, companies have lots to hide from competitors and hackers. They will pay big bucks to ensure their secrets stay safe from people who wish to do ill with them.
With so many different job opportunities, information security analysts have a good chance of forging a career they can be proud of. But is it worth it?
Career Outlook for Information Security Analysts
The short answer is yes, this job pays back in a big way. The BLS reports that, on average, information security analysts make $98,350 per year or $47.28 per hour – and that’s with only a bachelor’s degree, whereas those who earn the master’s not only have more opportunities, they have a much higher earning potential as well.
The job is also growing at a significant rate. BLS estimates hold that we can expect the addition of 28,500 jobs between 2016 and 2026, which is a growth rate of 28 percent – faster than almost any other field out there. To say it’s smart to get this degree now is not overstating the case.
But which one should you get? Here are several of our favorite master’s degrees that can set you up for a job as an information security analyst.
Master of Cyber Security
Perhaps the most pertinent master’s degree for anyone who wants to become an information security analyst – though by no means the only one – is a master’s degree in cyber security. Cyber security is, essentially, protection against risks in the digital space. As Norton explains, “A strong cyber security system has multiple layers of protection spread across computers, networks, and programs.” However, “a strong cyber security system relies not only on cyber defense technology, but also on people making smart cyber defense choices.” That’s what you’ll learn to do when you get a master’s degree in cyber security, with your program benefiting you in several ways:
- A master in cyber security has very obvious applications to your desired role. When you get a master’s in cyber security, you don’t have to rely on a future employer to trust that you can get the job done; it’s right there in your degree.
- Your degree is specifically focused on the dangers of the digital world. There are many master’s degrees that can contribute to a meaningful career as an information security analyst, but this degree might give you the most targeted tools if protecting against cyber attack is your sole goal.
- Many programs are short and sweet. Looking to get in and out with a master’s degree? There are several programs that are only a year long that will give you the knowledge and experience you need.
Master of Business Analytics
Another degree that will get you where you need to go is the master of business analytics. This program combines data science, machine learning and optimization to provide you with foundational tools to create and manage security systems at a wide range of organizations, both on a national and a global level. Whether you are interested in information security one hundred percent of the time, or want to have the skills to take on other related projects as well, this master’s degree can get you there. It also benefits you in other ways:
- It’s a fairly short program. You can get this master’s degree in 12 months or less too, making it a good addition to your resume if you want to impress a current or a new employer.
- An employer may be willing to pay for it for you. Some companies will pay for their employees to get trained in valuable skill sets such as information security. The deal is usually pretty straightforward: They’ll cover the cost of the program, which you can attend while you work for them. In exchange, you’ll guarantee to work for them for a certain amount of time afterward.
- The program contains lots of real-world applications. If you’re looking for a master’s degree that will give you real experience in spades, this is the one. Business analytics is an increasingly relevant field, so getting a degree from a reputable institution will not only help you become a better security architect, but can also help you perform better in business overall.
Master of Computer Science
It hardly bears explaining why a master’s degree in computer science will be useful to those who want to work in information security. Digital attacks take place in the digital space, after all, so understanding computers and programming is a necessary element in warding them off. Computer science, while it is a discipline decades old, changes and remolds itself every few months, so getting a cutting-edge degree in this field will certainly help you reach your goals. The program will also help you in that:
- You will have a foundational understanding of computers and programming. This will enable you to create protective systems and patch the ones your organization already has in place.
- You will know how to get the skills you need on an ongoing basis. Half of this field is continuing education, and a foundational degree in computer science will teach you the best ways to run your own continuing education so that you always remain relevant.
Master of Information Technology
Information technology is a broad term, encompassing all the communications equipment and processes at any given organization. When you work in IT, you help to keep these communication systems – both digital and otherwise – running. For anyone who is interested in information security, it’s another obvious choice of master’s degree, giving you a broad understanding of how machines use networks to talk to one another and the outside world. Because of this:
- You will have the knowledge you need to look for, spot and respond to potential threats through the communications network. This knowledge will extend beyond computers as well, since an IT degree focuses on every kind of comms technology, making you stand out in an increasingly digital-only peer base.
- You can go anywhere and do anything with this degree. Because the degree is so malleable, if you decide that being an information security analyst isn’t for you, you can leverage this degree into many other jobs as well.