A cybersecurity analyst plays a crucial role in safeguarding an organization's digital assets and information from cyber threats and attacks by monitoring security systems, executing incident response, and performing security assessments and threat analysis.
These professionals typically hold bachelor's degrees in cybersecurity, information technology, or related fields, and they often bolster their qualifications with a master's degree, along with relevant job experience, internships, and industry-recognized certifications to secure positions. With that in mind, let’s break down cybersecurity analyst degrees and educational pathways!
Which schools offer cybersecurity analyst degrees?
Many universities offer bachelor's degree programs in cybersecurity that cover a broad range of topics, including network security, ethical hacking, information security, and risk management.
Master's degree programs in cybersecurity often delve deeper into advanced topics and may include research components. For example:
- The University of California Berkeley is one of the top-ranked schools in the U.S. for a master's in cybersecurity, which is also available as an online course and can be completed in 20 months.
- The New Jersey Institute of Technology offers a Cyber Security and Privacy (CSP) master's degree which focuses on cryptography applied to computer systems, networks, and web applications—the degree program also offers a Cyber Defense Option.
- Tufts University Cybersecurity and Public Policy master's program embraces an interdisciplinary approach, ranging from exploration of algorithms and technologies for securing systems to research on law and user experience developments.
Aubrey Perin, lead threat intelligence analyst at Qualys, points out there are also degrees for cybersecurity analysts and schools offered in partnership with the National Security Agency (NSA) with the intent of minting new analysts for intelligence agency roles.
“Outside of those programs, analysts come from all walks of life,” he adds. “For example, a great candidate for working in threat intelligence could be someone with a degree in library science.”
April Slayden Mitchell, vice president of engineering and operations at Dasera, notes a degree in engineering, information technology, or a related field is a common foundation for a career in cybersecurity. “However, the value of education is not just in the diploma but in the theoretical knowledge, critical thinking, and problem-solving skills a degree provides,” she says.
Do cybersecurity analysts need certifications?
Perin says that while degrees are helpful, they’re not required to be successful in a career in cybersecurity. “Generally, certificates are more than adequate for entry into cybersecurity,” he says.
The presence of certifications on a resume and application can certainly make recruiters and hiring managers more comfortable about a candidate’s skills. But which certifications matter in the cybersecurity analyst arena? Mitchell notes certifications specific to cybersecurity are also highly regarded and can provide verification of your security skills including specific expertise and advanced skills.
- DoD 8570 provides a roadmap of certificates to roles, and there are also programs like MasterSchool, which help students get to a Security+ certification and even assist with job placement, with fees payable once students are placed in a role.
- Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP), offered by (ISC)² is a globally recognized certification that covers a broad range of cybersecurity domains.
- Certified Ethical Hacker (CEH), offered by the EC-Council, focuses on ethical hacking and penetration testing.
- Certified Information Security Manager (CISM), offered by ISACA, is focused on information security management and governance.
- CompTIA Security+ is an entry-level certification covers fundamental security concepts and could be a good starting point for those new to cybersecurity.
How else can cybersecurity analysts learn about the profession?
When you’re trying to learn the basics of a profession, there’s nothing like 1:1 help, especially from a more experienced colleague. “Finally, mentorship is a great way to break into cybersecurity,” Perin says. “Having someone to help you focus on your strengths and provide actionable insights to grow through your weaknesses is crucial to breaking into the industry, while combating imposter syndrome and self-doubt.”
Claude Mandy, chief evangelist, data security at Symmetry Systems, notes the increase in cybersecurity degrees, particularly postgraduate programs, which underscores the growing demand for skilled professionals in the field. “However, it's crucial to emphasize that a formal cybersecurity degree is not, and should not be, an absolute requirement for pursuing a career in cybersecurity,” he says. “The talent shortage in this domain is huge and multifaceted.”
He says the industry requires diverse candidates regardless of their formal educational path, which means more organizations must encourage this diversity and provide pathways into the profession and on the job training.
“A combination of training, experience, and a commitment to staying current with the latest developments is often more critical than a degree itself," he explains.
As Mandy adds, it is important to highlight that cybersecurity transcends traditional boundaries and is relevant to almost every profession today. “Therefore, it is important that cybersecurity implications are considered across most fields and embedded in all degrees, cultivating a holistic approach to security that goes beyond those in the cybersecurity industry,” he says.
Mitchell recommends finding and engaging with cybersecurity communities, because even watching the chatter can lead to learning. “Search the topics you don’t understand, read, and then search for lab or sandbox environments where you can practice real-world scenarios and when ready participate in competitions like capture the flag events and hackathons,” she says. “Don’t be afraid to fail—failure to solve a puzzle or breaking a lab is learning, and you will grow with each experience.”