What is an Intelligence Analyst in Cyber Security?

Intelligence analystAn intelligence analyst in cyber security is essentially a professional researcher whose job helps prevent cyber crimes and other types of malicious activity, even crimes unrelated to networking. Intelligence analysts work for the FBI, CIA, NSA, DEA and just about every other government agency, and their job is to constantly sift through data looking for possible clues about future crimes or illicit activity. These researchers must have a great deal of patience and ability to concentrate because most of their job is spent waiting for a crime that never happens.

While intelligence analysts work in cyber security, they must have knowledge across a broad spectrum of disciplines, such as foreign languages, engineering, history, criminal justice, finance, geography, international law, forensics, telecommunications, physics, political science and many other areas. An analyst may spend an entire career researching a subject that never really causes a threat; the reason for doing the research is to be ready in case the subject becomes a threat.

What Do Intelligence Analysts Do?

The work of an intelligence analyst is a desk job that requires extensive reading, writing and research into raw data. For example, analysts in the NSA may spend quite a bit of time analyzing the records of suspected terrorists in the Middle East, but they may spend just as much time analyzing information on political groups in Eastern Europe or Russia, even though these groups have no plans to commit a crime. Many groups can pose a cyber security threat, in the present or at some point in the future, and the public only ever hears about the big threats that become dangerous. People who have worked in intelligence analysis have said that it’s essentially a government-subsidized research position, and few of the leads ever materialize into a dramatic investigation.

To become an intelligence analyst in cyber security, the best degree to get is a computer science degree, although many other degrees can also lead to a job in this field. The FBI and NSA have high requirement for their agents, and both agencies look for a very diverse set of skills in applicants. Computer science is a useful degree to have in this field, but experience in the military or police is also a good way to get your foot in the door. Additionally, a certificate in cyber security will set you apart from other applicants. According to the National Initiative For Cybersecurity Careers and Studies, many institutions offer valuable cyber security certifications, and some of the most well-known include CERT, CompTIA, DRI International and Infotec Pro. These certificate programs cover the most up-to-date Internet protocols, exploits and security vulnerabilities in the world of networking, and almost none of this information is taught in a computer science bachelor’s degree.

Intelligence Analyst Salary and Job Outlook

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, intelligence analysts in all fields have one of the fastest-growing professions in the economy. Over the next ten years, security analysis jobs are expected to increase 37 percent, compared to the average of around 11 percent. The median annual salary of security analysts was $86,170 in 2012, with the highest-earning 10 percent making at least $135,600.

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Cyber security is a fascinating field, and security analysts have a stimulating job with exciting rewards and challenges. If you enjoy discovering patterns in words and numbers, consider becoming an intelligence analyst in cyber security.