Hackers are becoming increasingly creative in how they attempt to infiltrate an organization’s computer networks and systems. Luckily, information security analysts ensure that the most up-to-date security measures are in place to prevent critical information from leaking into the hands of online criminals. Nearly all industries benefit from the critical work of information security analysts, and demand for these professionals continues to grow.
That’s why the role of information security analyst jumped 14 spots from last year to the top of this year’s U.S. News 100 Best Jobs Rankings.
The Best Jobs are determined by identifying careers with the largest projected number and percentage of openings through 2030, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, as well as other factors such as median salary, employment rate, stress levels and work-life balance.
The role of information security analyst ranked high in median salary, job growth, future prospects and current employment rate. Read on to find out why professionals love this job and why it may be a good role to consider for a career change.
[See: The 25 Best Jobs of 2022.]
Demand for These Professionals Continues to Grow
An overarching factor that puts information security analyst at the top of the Best Jobs list is its high demand for workers. In this year’s rankings, the job’s projected 10-year growth and future job prospect rating both increased while the unemployment rate decreased. The BLS estimates that employment of information security analysts will grow 33% in the next 10 years — much faster than the average for all occupations.
This demand is tied to the prevalence and growing complexity of data breaches for nearly all institutions. For example, the health care industry needs to ensure that all electronic medical records remain private, while banks need to be on top of the latest cybersecurity trends to prevent hackers from accessing the critical financial information of clients. As society grows more reliant on technology for both work and pleasure, the role will continue to increase in importance.
Brian Wrozek, chief information security officer at Optiv Security and an adjunct professor of cybersecurity at the University of Dallas, has been in the industry since 2000 and has seen firsthand how the role has expanded in the past two decades.
“The field is now more specialized and greatly expanded — and not just for the high-tech industry,” Wrozek says. “Everyone has a need for protection. The impact and stakes are much higher now. It’s no longer a matter of ‘I hacked your website.’ It’s more like ‘I’m holding you for ransom or I’ll shut down an entire coastal pipeline.'”
[BROWSE: Best Technology Jobs]
Above-Average Stress Levels Are Highly Compensated
Information security analysts bear the weight of many responsibilities on their shoulders: monitoring and investigating data breaches, creating disaster recovery plans, searching for vulnerabilities and constantly keeping up with the latest advancements in cybersecurity.
As Tony UcedaVélez, CEO and information security analyst at VerSprite Cybersecurity puts it: “The stress is real.” And it’s not necessarily a burden you can always leave at home.
“Is today the day an exploit brings down the ship? The chance of finding out that you’ve been extorted or that there has been a major data breach will always run in your mind,” says UcedaVélez. “The stress can be incredibly demanding.”
Because catastrophe can hit at any time, information security analysts may have to be on call outside of normal business hours; some work more than 40 hours per week, according to the BLS. The job ranks above average for stress levels and below average on work-life balance, according to U.S. News data.
However, the hard work that comes with the job is well-compensated with a median annual income of $103,590. Information security analyst also ranks No. 25 in the Best Jobs That Pay More Than $100K.
For many information security analysts, the rewards of the job far exceed monetary compensation.
“There is certainly a great level of satisfaction in helping organizations stay safe,” says J.R. Cunningham, chief security officer at Nuspire. “You know your work is meaningful and you’re helping organizations stay protected from malicious actors.”
A Good Choice for Career-Changers
Wrozek, who teaches multiple graduate-level cybersecurity courses, says many of his students are making a career transition into the information security field — either from a different industry altogether, such as project management, or from a more specialized discipline within cybersecurity to broaden their skill sets.
Wrozek was a former programmer himself who broke into the security industry by assisting in an investigation using his broad technical skills.
“The thrill of chasing the attacker and stopping them was quite a rush,” he says, adding that those who thrive on the job are “people who enjoy challenges, people who are very inquisitive and enjoy continuous learning.”
Wrozek warns that although there are foundational courses every information security analyst should have under their belt, such as network security and data protection, the job itself isn’t something that can be taught step-by-step and duplicated.
UcedaVélez concurs, adding that information security analysts need to be comfortable always being students. “Expertise in this industry is like milk — it doesn’t stay fresh too long,” he says.
While technical skills are required for the job, experts emphasize the need for strong collaboration and communication skills when working with others who may not be privy to why a cyberattack has happened. Communicating the reason for an attack and how to prevent it can feel like the job of a translator, says Wrozek.
The constant learning, satisfaction of preventing a major breach, excellent job prospects, low unemployment and high pay draw tech wizards and internet do-gooders to the growing field of information security.
“There will always be people who want to do harm, so we will always need people who want to stop them,” says Wrozek.
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Why Information Security Analyst Is the No. 1 Job of 2022 originally appeared on usnews.com