There are new viruses and malware written every day. What was once an industry filled with people just trying to hack personal computers is now an industry filled with hackers trying to gain access to corporate data and accounts. For this reason, the job opportunity for malware analysts and architects are increasing.

Prerequisites: What Do I Need to Be a Malware Analyst?

Malware analysts are specialists in reverse engineering. You’ve probably used antivirus at some point to protect your computer from viruses and spyware. A malware analyst is the person who can reverse engineer these tiny programs, identify a pattern or footprint, and then the analyst can write programs that detect and protect a desktop or mobile device from infection. You must understand binary, machine languages, and how programs run on a computer. Basically, you must understand programs and hardware that execute binaries.

Most malware analysts have a computer science degree, but you can get a leg up on the competition and get started using certifications. For instance, the CREA test helps you get started and tests you on knowledge of binaries and computer programming that includes reverse engineering.

What Does a Malware Analyst Do?

When a programmer creates a program, he writes it in a language that is close to machine language such as C++, C, Java or C#. These languages are close but not machine language, which is ones and zeros. A malware analyst can reverse engineer the compiled code that’s stored as ones and zeros and reverse engineer the functionality of a program either to the programmers chosen language or binary language. After properly detecting and analyzing a threat, the malware analyst then works with antivirus software makers to properly identify and protect threats on user computers. This includes tablet and mobile devices.

How Much Does a Malware Analyst Make?

Malware analysts have a competitive edge over most other computer science jobs, because being an analyst takes special skills and a strong understanding of complex computer science areas. Take a look at the graph below to get a good idea of how much a malware analyst makes.

malware analyst salary
As you can see, the very beginning of the salary chain is $70,000 each year. A senior malware analyst makes almost $100,000 each year, which is a great salary for most areas. A security systems analyst is similar to a malware analyst, except a security analyst takes care of global platform protection instead of just malware releases. A security analyst makes about the same at $100,000 each year. The median salary for this job opportunity is around $80,000 each year, so it’s a good way to secure an income for yourself and invest your time in a long term job. You can also move on to a senior risk analyst and make about $130,000 each year. A regular risk analyst makes about $110,000 each year.

The job of a malware analyst is fun if you like the challenge of computer programming and binaries. This job continues to be in demand as more viruses are released.