Career Insight

What is a SOC Analyst?

Male and female SOC Analysts working in Cybersecurity on a laptop with a server room in the background.

In today’s digital age, cyberattacks are increasingly sophisticated and frequent. Their threats can be devastating to organizations, putting confidential information and valuable data at risk — causing damages that could amount up to millions of dollars in losses.

To prevent these cyber threats, organizations employ robust security measures and hire experts in the cybersecurity field, including Security Operations Center (SOC) analysts. These professionals play a critical role in maintaining the security of an organization’s network infrastructure and protecting against cyberattacks. Learn more about SOC analysts, their responsibilities, skills, and typical career paths.

What do they do?

The SOC analyst’s duty is to detect and investigate security threats in a network infrastructure to help resolve them in a timely manner. They work closely with security engineers, threat intelligence analysts, and incident responders to coordinate efforts and ensure threats and incidents are handled effectively.

In most organizations, a SOC analyst’s role includes a wide range of tasks such as:

  • Monitoring security alerts: These security analysts use specialized security tools to monitor alerts and identify potential security exploits.
  • Investigating incidents: When a threat is detected, SOC analysts investigate it to determine the nature of the threat, the extent of damage, and its potential impact on the organization.
  • Responding to incidents: SOC analysts work to contain and mitigate incidents such as malware infections, network intrusions, and data breaches. They follow established incident response plans and procedures to contain, mitigate, and eradicate the threat. This involves coordinating with other teams, such as network administrators, system administrators, or incident response teams, to implement necessary remediation measures.
  • Documentation: SOC analysts prepare detailed reports on security incidents, including findings, analyss, and potential action items.
  • Developing and implementing security policies: These security analysts work with other cybersecurity experts to develop and implement procedures and policies designed to minimize risks.
  • Conducting assessments: SOC analysts perform frequent assessments to identify vulnerabilities in an organization’s network infrastructure.

How are they different from other cybersecurity jobs?

SOC analysts typically focus on day-to-day monitoring and incident response, whereas other roles can involve more strategic planning, vulnerability assessments, or penetration testings. Compared to other experts in the field, SOC analysts also have more specialized skills in areas such as threat hunting, network analysis, and forensic investigation.

What skills do they need?

SOC analysts are specialists of their craft and equipped with a set of skills not regularly found across the cybersecurity role spectrum.

SOC Analyst Skills

While these abilities can vary depending on the specific role and organization, typical SOC analyst skills include:

  • Technical Expertise

    SOC analysts need to have a strong understanding of network security, including the ability to analyze network traffic, detect and respond to threats, and troubleshoot security issues. They should understand various types of cyber threats, attack vectors, and common security vulnerabilities.

  • Threat Intelligence

    SOC analysts must be familiar with the latest threats and attack vectors to effectively carry out their duties. They should be adept at analyzing threat intelligence feeds, understanding the tactics, techniques, and procedures (TTPs) employed by threat actors, and using this information to enhance security measures.

  • Intrusion Detection and Prevention Systems (IDS/IPS) Expertise

    Proficiency in working with IDS/IPS solutions is essential. SOC analysts need to understand how to configure, manage, and analyze alerts generated by these systems to identify potential security incidents.

  • Security Information and Event Management (SIEM) Tools Expertise

    SIEM tools are used to log aggregation, event correlation, and incident response. It’s important that SOC analysts have a thorough understanding of SIEM platforms and are skilled in interpreting the data collected to recognize security events.

  • Communication

    SOC analysts need a high level of communication skills to collaborate with various cybersecurity experts and communicate findings or results to stakeholders. Collaboration skills are also important when working as part of a larger security team.

  • Analytical Skills

    SOC analysts are expected to identify and assess threats seamlessly and quickly, which makes problem-solving and analytical skills essential.

  • Attention to Detail

    Overlooked threats can become significant issues to organizations, so SOC analysts must be detail-oriented professionals.

  • Growth Mindset

    Cybercriminals are constantly on the lookout for new and innovative ways to exploit security weaknesses. It’s important for SOC analysts to stay on top of trends and learn new and emerging technologies in an effort to continue protecting their organizations against potential cyberattacks.

What’s the career path of a SOC analyst?

In most organizations, SOC analysts are given Tier 1, Tier 2, and Tier 3 designations, depending on their expertise.

  • Tier 1 security analysts generally monitor alerts, escalate incidents, and perform initial investigations on threats.
  • Tier 2 security analysts are responsible for in-depth analysis of incidents, forensic investigations, and developing strategies for cybersecurity initiatives.
  • Tier 2 analysts are additionally given more collaboration and coordination duties with security engineers, threat intelligence analysts, and other cybersecurity experts.
  • Tier 3 security analysts have the most expertise and experience. They share the same duties with Tier 2 analysts and, when not dealing with immediate threats, they review data and telemetry that have yet to be flagged as malicious.

To advance to Tier 2 and Tier 3 roles, Tier 1 SOC analysts typically need a few years of experience in their role, plus additional expertise in security operations, incident response, and analysis. Tier 3 SOC analysts can potentially advance their career to become SOC managers or team leads.

SOC analysts, no matter what tier, can also benefit from additional certifications to demonstrate additional skills and knowledge. Some of the most popular certifications in the cybersecurity industry include:

  • Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP)
  • Certified Ethical Hacker (CEH)
  • CompTIA Network+
  • CompTIA Security+
  • CompTIA Cybersecurity Analyst
  • CompTIA Advanced Security Practitioner
  • Certified Security Analyst Training
  • GAIC Information Security Fundamentals
  • GAIC Security Essentials Certification

How does someone become a SOC analyst?

Cybercriminals work tirelessly to develop new ways to wreak havoc on organizations, governments, and individuals alike. Cybersecurity professionals, such as SOC analysts, are the experts combating threats and taking the necessary steps to stop relentless cybercriminals. While there are different pathways toward becoming a SOC analyst, the following factors can help you build the foundation for success:

Knowledge and skills

Develop a solid understanding of cybersecurity principles, network protocols, operating systems, and security technologies through rigorous, in-depth training.


Build your practical experience through collaborative, strategic learning and entry-level positions. Remember, the goal is to expose yourself to different technologies, processes, and practices to ensure your continued growth.

Continued learning

Technology is constantly on the move and you’re expected to keep up. Even after you land a job, it’s important to continue learning and stay updated on any new developments to help your knowledge grow and stay relevant.

How do we prepare people for a role in cybersecurity?

If you’re considering a future in the growing cybersecurity field, corporations across different industries need you, and the Kenzie Academy Cybersecurity program from Southern New Hampshire University (SNHU) can help you get started.

Our cybersecurity certificate program will help you become proficient in areas such as ethical hacking, network defense, and digital forensics. By partnering with the International Council of eCommerce Consultants (EC-Council), the program offers a career-oriented, strategic, and accredited cybersecurity certificate.

This means you can prepare to start a career in cybersecurity and potentially transfer the credits you earn toward an applicable degree program from SNHU if eligible or another institution, depending on their transfer policies. Plus, you will receive vouchers to take additional exams to earn 3 more cybersecurity certifications if you pass: Network Defense Essentials, Ethical Hacking Essentials, and Digital Forensics Essentials. If you’re ready to make a difference in the cyberworld, apply today!

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