What is a SOC analyst and how do you become one?

If you're looking for a career in cyber security, you'll find there is a wide range of options available within the sector. Among the most common roles - especially for people aiming to move into the cyber industry for the first time - are information security analyst positions. 

These job types are in high demand among firms of all sizes, but there are also a few goals and targets you can work toward in order to improve your chances of finding the perfect cyber security analyst job for you. Among the most popular of these roles are SOC analyst jobs.

Browse our latest SOC analyst jobs today to take the next step in your cyber security career.

What is a SOC analyst?

SOC stands for Security Operations Centre, and it's at the heart of any business' cyber security strategy. The term ‘SOC professional’ will cover a number of roles, including analysts, incident responders and network engineers, who will work together to prevent cyber attacks.

Having the job title SOC analyst, whether it’s as a junior cyber security analyst or a lead SOC analyst, means you should be prepared for all manner of security events. Using the security tools at your disposal, you will minimise the impact of incidents for the business you work for.

What does a SOC analyst do?

The job of a SOC analyst is to be on the front line of their company's cyber defences. This involves everything from conducting threat analysis and penetration testing, to investigating reports of any new issues and preparing and testing disaster recovery plans. In short, you are a subject matter expert in terms of cyber security.

SOC analysts usually work as part of a larger team that covers threat intelligence, information security analysis and incident response, with each member bringing their own unique skills and responsibilities to build a comprehensive cyber security defence strategy. Understanding your role among related jobs and being able to provide additional information when required is key to success as a SOC analyst.

What are the different SOC analyst levels?

SOC analyst jobs are generally split into three levels, or tiers based on the expert’s specific skill set. Each level will have its own key set of responsibilities and role to play in securing a business' networks and data from cyber security threats. Starting your SOC analyst career path as a junior IT security analyst, you’ll be able to make your way up through the ranks.

The levels are:

Tier 1 - These junior security analyst experts’ primary role is to monitor systems to identify threats. A tier 1 SOC analyst will respond to alerts and carry out triage operations to determine what type of response, if any, is required. They also scan systems for vulnerabilities and manage monitoring and reporting tools.

Tier 2 - The next step in the process, tier 2 analysts decide the best course of action for responding to cyber attacks. These SOC analyst professionals will look at the scope of any attacks escalated to them from tier 1 analysts and initiate the most appropriate recovery processes.

Tier 3 - The final tier is focused on proactive threat hunting. These systems analyst specialists look for vulnerabilities, study new trends and come up with fresh solutions to counter emerging threats. Vulnerability management is key to prevent cyber security incidents going forward.

What tools does a SOC analyst need?

Most SOC analysts will spend a great deal of their time working with security incident and event management (SIEM) platforms, so a good knowledge of these systems will be essential for information security analysts.

A SIEM platform will typically include a range of security tools to help security operation centre professionals monitor and protect systems. These include:

  • Threat-hunting features to help with locating and identifying vulnerabilities
  • Threat intelligence and security analytics solutions
  • Digital forensic tools for investigating cyberattacks
  • Advanced analytics visualisations

According to cyber security training provider, EC-Council, SIEM systems “facilitate a comprehensive approach to cyber security by giving SOCs the ability to monitor data in real-time and establish security policies that improve overall network safety.”

A security operations centre analyst is an important part of this infrastructure and among the cyber security jobs commonly sought after. Setting up a job alert for such roles could lead to advancement within a SOC analyst’s career.
The nature of the role means that SOC analysts can vary widely in experience and seniority, from a junior cyber security analyst to one responsible for national security. But with this comes a number of opportunities to build skills and advance your career path. If you’re interested in getting into this area, you'll find plenty of options to move forward to more senior SOC analyst positions.

Do you need IT experience to be a SOC analyst?

Some IT experience is highly useful if you're looking to move into the SOC analyst arena, as it will give you a solid grounding on all the basics you'll need, such as networking, operating systems and the fundamentals of programming. 

However, a specific background in cyber security often isn't necessary. In fact, for many industry professionals, a junior SOC analyst position is their first job in the sector.

In general, some of the common top-level skills you may see in a job description that will be vital for cyber security success include:

Once on the job, many of these skills can be picked up as you go, while there are a range of specialised certifications you can study for in order to boost your skill set and further your SOC analyst career.

What certifications are required to become a SOC analyst?

A bachelor's degree in a related subject, such as computer science, is helpful if you're looking for SOC security analyst jobs, but this isn't required. An understanding of IT systems and networking picked up from other areas will often boost your credibility with potential employers.

However, completing a dedicated cyber security course can be useful and there are a few certifications that may help set you apart from other applicants. Hiring managers for SOC analyst jobs will look positively on certifications such as the EC-Council's Certified SOC Analyst (CSA) or CompTIA's Security+, as these give professionals a good grounding in the specific IT skills needed for these roles.

If you're looking for a senior SOC analyst role - typically those at tier 3 - more advanced certifications may prove useful. Qualifications such as (ISC)2's advanced Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP), for example, are in high demand for more senior security engineer and security analyst roles.

How to get a SOC analyst job

A career as a cyber security analyst can offer many benefits. As well as working in an interesting, fast-moving area with plenty of potential for advancement, it offers opportunities for great salaries and perks. 

These professionals are in such high demand across all types of businesses, yet the shortage of talent continues to force organisations to incentivise their roles. This trend can be seen across the entire cyber security industry and, for those seeking employment as a data analyst or cyber security consultant, it’s good news.

To get a SOC analyst role, review your skills, experience and certifications before perusing the cyber security jobs on offer. Starting in a role that reflects your current level, such as a service desk analyst, and moving up is an effective way to progress your career.

How much can a SOC analyst make?

How much you can earn as a SOC analyst can vary significantly depending on your exact role, responsibilities and experience. In general, however, tier 1 positions are often advertised as entry-level positions, whereas tier 3 professionals may be some of the most experienced individuals in a cyber security team.

Salaries for UK SOC analyst jobs range from around £25,000 for entry-level positions up to the region of £75,000 for the most experienced and senior roles. 

According to Glassdoor, the average salary in the UK stands at just over £35,000, but take this with a pinch of salt because the higher distribution of entry-level roles brings the overall figure down.

Where can you find SOC analyst jobs?

The best place to find openings to start or advance your SOC analyst career is a dedicated jobs board that specialises in cyber security roles, such as CyberSecurityJobsite.com

If you upload your CV to these services, employers can also contact you directly if they think you might be the right fit for their role.

If you're looking for career advice on this job type, you should also consider attending one of our Cyber Security Expos. These job fairs not only give applicants a chance to connect directly with recruiters at some of the UK's biggest organisations, but also offer speaker sessions and networking opportunities to help expand your knowledge and understanding of what employers are looking for.

Browse our latest SOC analyst jobs today to take the next step in your cyber security career.