Which is better as a career, data analyst or cyber security? Let’s find out why your choice may come down to a trade-off between money and stress.
The key to choosing between a career as a data analyst and cyber security analyst may hinge on weighing higher pay against potential stress. Cyber security generally offers better compensation due to unmet demand for expertise. However, it may also bring more long-term stress compared to data analysis.
As a data analyst, you work on vast data sets, leveraging data science techniques to extract insights for business decisions. Once you establish your systems, they often run smoothly with only occasional tweaks. The bulk of the challenge lies in the initial setup, but the rhythm becomes more predictable over time.
In contrast, cyber security analysts are always on alert, defending against ever-evolving threats. Today’s defense strategy might be outdated tomorrow, so the role demands continuous learning and adaptability. The pay is attractive, but the relentless nature of the job can also be taxing depending on your constitution.
Deciding between the two comes down to personal preferences and interests. If you’re up for constant learning and higher pay, cyber security calls. If you lean towards structured challenges with a steadier pace, data analysis might be a better fit.
Shortages of skilled cyber security professionals mean that this line of work is generally more lucrative than data analytics, according to data from indeed.com. In the U.S., IT security specialists, often referred to as cyber security analysts, command a strong average salary of $111,355 per year, with an additional cash bonus of $2,500.
Data analysts earn a more modest average salary of $77,127 annually, with an annual bonus of $2,000. The pay differential between the two professions is statistically significant, with 3.6k pay observations for IT security specialists and 8k for data analysts.
High pay in data analytics is achievable by specializing or taking on managerial responsibilities. Data scientists, known for their expertise in data manipulation, enjoy an average income of $124,370. Business analytics jobs, where you translate data into business strategies, produce average earnings of $84,717, complemented by a $3,500 bonus. Analytics managers earn an average of $117,107 per year.
Differences in Job Duties
There are broad similarities between cybersecurity and data analytics in terms of daily job duties. In both roles, you are likely to spend significant time engrossed in manipulating, analyzing, and testing data. A computer science background is also helpful in both professions. However, there are also significant differences.
As a data analyst, you will normally work on extracting insights from vast sets of data using data science skills. This involves using statistical tools to identify patterns, trends, and correlations that can inform business decisions. Your primary objective is to convert raw data into meaningful information that can guide strategic initiatives. Projects might include designing data visualizations, conducting A/B tests, collaborating with other departments to pinpoint data needs, and developing predictive models to forecast future business trends.
Data analytics should be considered a relatively low-stress job. The nature of the work often involves independently exploring data and drawing conclusions, which means daily activities may not be closely supervised. Additionally, while there can be deadlines, many analytical projects are not typically time-critical.Dr Andrew Lancaster, Labor Market Economist
In contrast, a cybersecurity analyst’s focus is on protecting an organization’s digital assets. Your day-to-day tasks involve monitoring networks for suspicious activity, interpreting system alerts to ward off security threats, and maintaining protective measures such as firewalls. You may be required to investigate security breaches, do regular vulnerability assessments, and collaborate with IT teams to fortify defenses.
Cybersecurity, depending on the field on the actual job you’re doing it can get very stressful. You have to talk to c-level execs, management, and technical people and sometimes even customers and clients. Anytime you’re dealing with a lot of different people, it can be stressful.Bruce Brown, Cyber Security Consultant, Verizon Business
While analytical skills are valuable in both roles, a cybersecurity analyst is more entrenched in immediate threat detection and response. On the other hand, a data analyst often works on longer-term tasks to support business development.
I personally find greater enjoyment in identifying and capturing business opportunities. Those chances are generally greater in the analytics field, especially when you work in areas such as business intelligence or marketing analytics. Cybersecurity is obviously a more defensive role. You are suited if you gain pleasure from keeping systems in order, operating smoothly, and well defended. I’ve worked in both roles in small companies and can gain job satisfaction either way, but am more drawn to what analytics is capable of achieving.
How a Data Analyst Can Go into Cyber Security
To transition from data analytics and become a cyber security analyst, you’ll need to do courses and other forms of training. New skills are a must. However, your data analysis skills won’t go to waste. They could even make you stand out in your new career.
Getting a relevant degree is a good start. If you have a bachelor’s degree already, think about postgraduate courses such as a Master of Cyber Security online. Industry certifications like Security+, CISSP, or Certified Ethical Hacker can also boost your profile.
Cyber security is generally considered not especially hard to learn. The challenge lies more in the ongoing learning required since technology and the nature of cyber attacks constantly evolve.
Gaining initial experience is key to breaking into the cybersecurity field, where abundant job opportunities await. When applying for jobs, highlight the links between your data analytics work and security tasks. Join cybersecurity workshops. Network at events. Do open-source projects. All these steps will enhance your skills and show employers you’re serious.
Which Is the Easier Job?
There is a good case to be made that cybersecurity is the more challenging career path over the long term. Data analytics and cybersecurity are both technically demanding at the beginning of a career. But, over time, data analytics can become easier.
Cybersecurity experiences a relentless evolution. New threats surface, tools change, and defense strategies need constant refinement. Professionals in this domain are always having to adapt, ensuring that they’re a step ahead of potential breaches. New and emerging cyber threats include supply chain compromises, AI-driven disinformation, digital surveillance and privacy loss, exploited legacy systems, and smart device data breaches.
In contrast, data analysts, applying data science principles, often find a semblance of stability after the initial hurdles. Once they’ve established their systems and processes, they can often rely on them to consistently deliver results. The field might see innovations, but the foundational systems usually require only occasional tweaks.
As their career matures, many data analysts transition to managerial roles where foundational knowledge remains valid and not in need of constant updating. Cybersecurity professionals, even in senior roles, don’t have this luxury. They face the ongoing task of keeping updated to implement new technologies and combat different threats and attack strategies.