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What are some of the Degree Choices to be a Cyber Threat Analyst?

DegreeQuery has written several articles related to cybersecurity, as well as intelligence analysis (see links below). The lines blur due to the seemingly overlapping functions of different roles associated with cyber security. There isn’t even a consensus on the spelling of the word-cyber security. Or is it cybersecurity? It depends on the source.

What is Threat Analysis?

Isn’t this the same as intelligence analysis? The Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) defines intelligence analysis as “the application of individual and collective cognitive methods to weigh data and test hypotheses within a secret socio-cultural context.” According to the CIA, cyber threat analysts “conduct all-source analysis, digital forensics, and targeting to identify, monitor, assess, and counter the threat posed by foreign cyber actors against US information systems, critical infrastructure, and cyber-related interests”. For this purpose, analysts apply their scientific and technical knowledge to solving complex intelligence problems, produce short-term and long-term written assessments, and brief U.S. policymakers and the cyber defense community.

What Degree do I need?

Continuing with the CIA, their website states that the minimum qualifications for a threat analyst are a Bachelor’s or Master’s degree in one of the following fields or related studies:

  • Computer Science
  • Computer Engineering
  • Digital Forensics
  • Cyber Security
  • Telecommunications
  • Information Assurance
  • Security Studies

A mix of international and technical studies are other options.

Synopsis of these degrees

Computer Science:  The degree is an umbrella term that encompasses four major areas of computing: theory, algorithms, programming languages, and architecture. At the undergraduate level, programs usually cover a broad range of computing topics and allow students to engage in projects across multiple areas.

Computer Engineering: It focuses specifically on computer hardware and software. It is an integration of computer science and electrical engineering.

Digital Forensics: Otherwise known as computer forensics. Computer forensic examiners must have skills related to digital storage devices, computer operating systems, a variety of programming languages, and common software applications.

Cyber Security: A broad term covering several areas of specialization. These include information security, information assurance, information analysis, network security, and threat analysis.

Telecommunications: Students may choose to focus on telecommunications engineering, management, or practices. Students can expect to learn about computer systems, media organization, media technologies, information systems, business practices, and policy issues.

Information Assurance: This degree provides the knowledge and skills to apply and develop the methods, techniques, and tools necessary for securing the public and private sectors’ critical assets and information.

Security Studies: A Bachelor of Arts provides students with a comprehensive and critical examination of the contemporary security environment. Graduates should have the ability to understand and analyze complex security problems confronting the United States and the international community.

With all these choices, is there one that stands out? Is there one major that is the most beneficial for a threat analyst? Degrees closely linked to computer science and/or computer forensics may sit at the top of the list. Automated systems are paramount to threat detection. A lead threat hunter at General Electric opined that detection is the result of using manual or machine-assisted techniques for detecting security incidents that an organization would otherwise not know.

The analyst must vigilantly look for trouble in increasingly complicated IT environments, as systems become more distributed, virtualized, and automated. Some companies select their analysts from a pool of security personnel. This option lends credence to a degree in cybersecurity being beneficial.

What does the Private Sector want?

In the private job sector, there is a host of names associated with threat detection/analysis. A short list of positions includes cyber threat intel analyst, SOC (security operations center) analyst, cyber security analyst, criminal intelligence analyst, and cyber-crime analyst.

A job posting on Indeed for Acuity, a leading management and technology consulting firm that specializes in serving the federal government requires a Cybersecurity Threat Intelligence Analyst. Applicants need a Bachelor of Arts or Science in Cyber Security, Information Systems, International Security Studies, Political Science, or Business Administration with a focus on IT Administration. This job posting places a premium on applicants who have a Master of Arts or Science in Cyber Security, Information Systems, International Security Studies, Political Science, or Business Administration with a focus on IT Administration.

Another Indeed job posting from Amazon seeks a Cyber Threat Intelligence Analyst. The basic qualifications are a B.S. degree in Computer Science, MIS, Computer Engineering, or 5+ years equivalent technology experience. Their preferred degrees are an M.S. in Computer Science, MIS (management information systems), Computer Engineering, or 8+ years’ equivalent technology experience.

Conclusion

The degree choices allow the latitude to select the one that best suits your career intentions. In addition to a degree, the job of a threat analyst demands critical thinking, communication, an analytical mind, and a readiness to look for trouble in increasingly complicated IT environments. The latter commands that you live on the front lines of security research, attuned to the latest and most dangerous emerging threats.

Additional Resources: 

What are the Fastest Schools to earn a Master’s Degree in Cybersecurity?

What should I know about Accreditation for a Degree in Cybersecurity?

Is a Degree in Cybersecurity better than a Certification Course?

What degree do I need for Computer Forensics?

What degree do I need to be a Digital Forensics Analyst?

What is the difference between a Computer Science and Computer Engineering degree?

 What Occupations are there with a Degree in Information Systems Security?

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