How To Become An Incident Responder?

Have you ever seen a first responder deal with medical emergencies? Just like how they are trained to provide safety to humans in critical medical emergencies, an incident responder fights cybersecurity threats in an organization.

Tasked with the duty to protect the company from threats and to respond to security breaches, an incident responder is a highly sought-after job. With the increase in cybercrime globally, there is a very high rate of employment in cybersecurity too.

Therefore, if you are interested in becoming an incident responder, we have got your back. In this article, we are going to discuss all the steps you need to take to become a successful incident responder.

What Does An Incident Responder Do?


To start, you need to be well-aware of the responsibilities of an incident responder.

To put it simply, they are the firefighters with the job to prevent any data breaches or security threats in the company. In the case of incidents, they are tasked with mitigating the effects of the threat and alter their security system to avert any future risks.

For this purpose, an incident responder utilizes computer forensic tools to identify the source or cause of the incident and find solutions to avoid similar security threats.

Besides this, they look for any vulnerability in the security system and produce a stable procedure for emergencies. An incident responder has to keep a keen eye on any suspicious activity in the system and run regular security checks for safety.

As cybersecurity leaders, we have to create our message of influence because security is a culture and you need the business to take place and be part of that security culture.

Not only do they have to analyze security, but they also have to work with other cyber teams to manage regular audits. Along with this, an incident responder needs to come up with a communication system for everyone to deal with emergencies.

Also, they have to relay all the appropriate data regarding the breach to law enforcement and write a detailed report on the incident to the admirations and management departments.

If all this was not enough, these professionals are responsible for analyzing malware using penetration tests and reverse engineering tools.

Keep in mind that you can either work as an independent consultant or a part of computer security incident responder teams (CSIRTs) in larger organizations.

Job Requirements


According to a report by Cybersecurity jobs, there will be 3.5 million available job openings by 2021 in cybersecurity, with cybercrime rising to six trillion in the same year.

Despite the high employment rates in this department, it can be quite tricky to get a high-paying job without the right job requirements. If you are serious about becoming an incident responder, you will need to work hard to get an edge over your colleagues.

This includes selecting the right college degree and getting the appropriate experience to add to your resume. Apart from this, you need a lot of technical skills to learn how to deal with security threats successfully.

To help you out, we have highlighted all the crucial steps to becoming an incident responder in the future.


A cybersecurity job requires a plethora of technical expertise and vast knowledge of Information Technology. Thus, you need to have the right skills, both hard and soft, in your hand, to succeed.

Although you develop many skills with experience, there are those that you need to learn beforehand.

Hard Skills

Let us take a look at all the hard skills you might need as an incident responder

  • Well-experienced with installing and configuring operating systems like Windows and UNIX
  • Fluent in programming languages, including C, C#, C++, ASM, Java, PERL, and PHP
  • Worked with advanced forensic software like EnCase, XRY, Helix, FTK, and Cellebrite
  • Familiar with cloud computing and eDiscovery tools like Relativity, NUIX, and Clearwell
  • Know about the security of applications linked to the Web
  • Well-versed in system monitoring tools including, SIEM and SOAR
  • Comfortable with computer communications and network using TCP/ICP protocol
  • Experienced with backup techniques and arching relevant data
  • Knowledge of different computer hardware and software programs

Soft Skills

Apart from technical expertise, it is also essential to have excellent analytical and communication skills. Since an incident responder has to work with other cyber teams, they have to converse correctly and even guide others on individual security plans.

Without further due, let us look at some vital soft skills to help you become an incident responder.

  • Quick thinking when it comes to responding to emergencies
  • Confident while working under stress to make the right decisions
  • Experienced in writing detailed analysis reports
  • Excellent communication skills with colleagues and superiors
  • Flexible enough to adapt well to immediate security threats
  • Logical and creative thinker to find the appropriate solution to problems
  • Well-spoken and well-versed to convey technical data to the team


Even though a good education is the first way to open up the path to your career, you do not require a bachelor’s degree to become an incident responder. However, obtaining a degree in computer science, computer forensics, cybersecurity, or related IT fields can give you an edge.

Not only will you learn different hard skills in your bachelor’s degree, but you will also be able to apply technical expertise in your work. Along with this, it will widen your career opportunities by enhancing your resume.

Apart from this, a degree can help you learn many vital soft skills too. By participating in group projects, you will learn how to communicate well with your colleagues.

Moreover, you will have to take part in internships as a part of your degree. Here, you can get familiar and get the first-hand experience in cybersecurity. It will provide you with opportunities to learn both hard and soft skills.

If you want to consider a managerial position in your field, start thinking about a master’s degree in information security, information assurance, or incident response management. These degrees will help you get higher roles, like a senior incident responder, CSIRT manager, or senior intrusion analyst.

Unlike these bachelor’s or master’s degrees, professionals can opt for earning relevant certifications to learn hard skills suited for their job too. We have listed all the related training programs in the section below.


Before applying for a reputable job like an incident responder, every company requires you to have some experience. Since it is a high-level job, you need to dedicate a few years to entry-level jobs to learn technical skills in this field.

As a result, organizations require a minimum of two to three years of experience in relevant areas of cybersecurity, computer forensics, and network administration to get an entry-level job as an incident responder.

For upper-level jobs like a senior incident responder or senior intrusion analyst, you need to have at least five years of experience in the same field. Besides this, taking online courses or participating in relevant training programs can give you an edge over your competitors.


Even though a bachelor’s degree in IT fields provides you with technical expertise in cybersecurity, you might be lacking in some areas. This is where certifications come in. As mentioned previously, relevant certifications in information security offer many vital hard skills to help you become a successful incident responder.

Not only can you boost your resume with additional training programs, but you can also link the gap between your education and the required skills.

Instead of signing up for just any certification, make sure to check for those required by your employer and your desired job. Keep in mind that different companies will have different preferences for hard skills.

As such, we have listed down a few crucial certifications which are crucial for incident responders.

  • CEH- Certified Ethical Hacker
  • CCFE- Certified Computer Forensics Examiner
  • CCE- Certified Computer Examiner
  • CPT- Certified Penetration Tester
  • CMFE- Certified Mobile Forensics Examiner
  • CREA- Certified Reverse Engineering Analyst
  • GCIH- GIAC Certified Incident Handler
  • GCFA- GIAC Certified Forensics Analyst
  • GCIA- GIAC Certified Intrusion Analyst

Career Path For An Incident Responder


With the rise of Information Technology and the role of AI, the world has seen a notable increase in cybercrime in all sorts of organizations. Hence, cybersecurity has opened up the doors for employment in cybersecurity for many people.

When it comes to becoming an incident responder, it takes years of dedication to take on this significant role. Just like all high-level jobs, this one also requires you to work from the bottom to the top.

As a potential incident responder, you have to start with entry-level positions to gain the necessary experience for your career. These include a job as a security administrator, network administrator, or system administrator.

Here, you can take relevant CISM courses to enter a managerial position. Or, if you want more technical work, you can opt for a forensics role for your budding career.

After gaining knowledge and professional skills from your entry-level job, you can take on mid-level incident response positions. According to your skills, you can either become a CSIRT engineer, cyber incident responder, or incident response engineer.

All the jobs mentioned above are quite similar and offer similar skills to the employees. Such that they learn to recognize threats, mitigate incidents, and prevent any future breaches by working together. Moreover, you learn various skills to prepare for higher jobs.

Coming to the senior-level posts, you need to have abundant experience in land up here. If you have all the necessary certifications and qualifications, you can become an incident manager or even an intrusion detection specialist.

Expected Salary For An Incident Responder


Since it is a highly specialized and unique job, there is no set salary figure for all the incident responders. Some organizations might deal with a higher number of threats and require your support more than others.

Similarly, at the time of incidents, you might have to work long hours until the problem is averted. As a result, it is possible to work for two days straight and have the rest of the week off.

According to Glassdoor, the median annual salary for an incident responder is around $74000. BLS data, on the other hand, shows a median salary of $86300 annually. Moreover, they have listed a 12% increase in job growth from 2018 to 2028.

Keeping in mind that a job as an incident responder overlaps with various other similar jobs, there is a high discrepancy in the annual salary figure. For instance, information security analysts made a median salary of $98350 in 2018.

Senior-level jobs in incident response, on the other hand, have much higher pay per year than the other positions. Incident managers and incident response analysts, for example, received a salary of over $10500 annually.


Since an incident responder has a significant role in the cybersecurity field, you have to dedicate years of hard work to reach this position. Apart from getting a related degree in the IT field, you need to obtain the necessary hard and soft skills to fight for your position.

Besides this, the job requires a lot of experience and relevant certifications to gain an edge over your competitors. Thus, you need to prepare yourself for years of commitment to follow your career path.

The detailed guideline mentioned in our article can surely help you focus on a clear-cut path to becoming an incident responder in the future.

Jonathan Holmes

Jonathan Holmes is a writer for HKS Siblab, an education and business blog. He has a MSc in Cyber Security & Digital Forensics from the University of Hertfordshire and has been working in the cyber security industry since 2010. In his spare time, he enjoys reading, playing guitar and spending time with his family.

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