Cybersecurity degrees and career outlook

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HomeCybersecurity

What is cybersecurity? 

Cybersecurity is a relatively new career path that only came about in the last few decades. The primary aim of any cybersecurity professional is to protect online data from being compromised. Individuals, corporations, and governments are using the internet to store sensitive information, and this is where security becomes essential.

Cybersecurity personnel find employment opportunities found in banks, large retail organizations, state and federal government departments. As a specialist, you’re expected to safeguard an entity’s files and networks. Part of your responsibilities will include installing firewalls, monitoring cyber activity, and the creation of security plans. If there’s a breach, it will be your responsibility to identify the problem and find a solution quickly.

Careers within this sector are numerous and qualified personnel are in high demand. Some of the sub-specialties within the cybersecurity workforce encompass cybercrime, digital forensics, information system infrastructure, and security management. Application security focuses on finding and solving software vulnerabilities. Computer forensics specialists deal with how a system was hacked by retracing the steps. Cybersecurity also branches into other areas, including compliance, risk, and governance.

Who would cybersecurity interest and why? 

People who enjoy problem solving, puzzle-like challenges, and troubleshooting join this field. Students should be tenacious, hard-working, and focused. You should possess a dedication to technology and continuous learning.

Preparing for a career in cybersecurity 

Not all professionals in cybersecurity have degrees although entering the workforce without years of experience is difficult if you don’t have one. A degree will help you develop the discipline, knowledge and skills necessary to succeed in cybersecurity professions.

SPECIALIZATIONPROGRAMS AVAILABLE
CybercrimeGraduate certificate
Digital ForensicsGraduate Certificate
Informations AssuranceGraduate Certificate
Informations Systems Security EssentialsGraduate Certificate
Security ManagementGraduate Certificate
Cybercrime EssentialsUndergraduate Certificate
Information Security PlanningUndergraduate Certificate
IT InfrastructureUndergraduate Certificate
CybersecurityUndergraduate Certificate, Bachelor’s of Science, Master’s of Science

Degrees in cybersecurity 

Qualifications in the field of cybersecurity start from undergraduate certificates and rise to master’s degrees for certain careers. Some of the available programs and specializations are listed in the table below.

Bachelor’s degree in cybersecurity

There are numerous ways of breaking into the field of cybersecurity, and various qualifications that will help you get a foot in the door. Degrees that focus on computer science, computer engineering, or even mathematics will allow you to pursue jobs within the broader cybersecurity spectrum.

The curriculum followed in the cybersecurity BA degree coursework is very similar to a bachelor’s of computer science degree. It teaches students programming, database applications, and statistics. It also explores topics such as cryptography, artificial intelligence, and ethical hacking.

Once you’ve qualified, you can search for a position as an information security analyst, computer forensic analyst, or cybersecurity analyst.

Some of the courses included are:

Fundamentals of networking:
  • Security protocols
  • Open system interconnection models
  • Networking protocols
Installing and configuring Windows server:
  • Configuring Hyper-V; server roles and features
  • Initiating and configuring core network services
  • Installing and administering active directory
  • Creating and managing group policy

Graduate certificate program in cybersecurity management

This 2-year program is designed to prepare working information security professionals to develop and execute strategic plans. It teaches students how to collaborate with business executives and create effective IT security policies.

Part of the curriculum also touches on leadership training and personnel management among cybersecurity teams. The information covered in the program includes:

Security leadership essentials for managers
Defensible security architecture and engineering
Security strategic planning, policy, business fundamentals, and leadership
Implementing and auditing the critical security controls | SEC 566, GCCC
IT project management, effective communication, and PMP® exam prep
Auditing & monitoring networks, perimeters and systems
Law of data security and investigations

Online, hybrid, and offline study optionsAn overview of management accounting 

Online

An online program is one where students complete their studies over the internet instead of attending physical university lectures. You can pursue classes either at home or work, and you are not required to attend classes or exams in person. An academic advisor can place limits on the number of classes you register for per semester.

Are these degrees offered online?

Yes, these bachelor’s and master’s degrees are available online through most institutions in the U.S. and other countries, as the full program is done via correspondence.

Hybrid

Hybrid or combined programs do require students to attend aspects of the program physically. Classes count toward the required credit total for your degree just like they would in an on-campus program. It’s a good idea to check course descriptions before you register for any hybrid programs.

Accreditation 

The right accreditation is imperative to your studies as companies may disregard any qualifications obtained through non-accredited or partially accredited institutions. Not all companies and countries will recognize your degree if the courses or programs are not accredited.

Accreditation advantages for students

Worldwide qualification recognition
More employment opportunities
Continuous quality improvements
Better results through multiple faculty contribution
Better quality assurance

How to check accreditation 

Check this database of accredited institutions to find out if your institution is accredited. While some graduate and professional schools have separate accreditation organizations, every institution should show their accreditation on their official website.

Financial aid 

Federal student aid offers need-based financial assistance to students enrolled in eligible postsecondary school programs. Funds are given toward education, living, transport, and stationery expenses incurred through learning. This government website also contains general information about all types of funding options available and is a great place to start your own research on financial assistance that you may be eligible for.

You can apply annually for funding through the Free Application for Federal Student Aid or FAFSA form. Learning institutions use FAFSA data to determine your eligibility for federal aid as well as your eligibility for their campus-based funds administered by the school on the federal government’s behalf.

Grants are types of financial aid that do not have to be paid back to the provider. Grant amounts are based on enrollment status, need, and tuition fees. For example, Federal Pell Grants provide funds for undergraduate students in the low- and middle-income bracket.

There are also scholarships available to students in cybersecurity programs including:

Cybersecurity scholarships are sponsored by the Armed Forces Communications and Electronics Association. They are private scholarships offered for U.S. citizens majoring in computer/information sciences or cybersecurity, among others, at accredited schools.

Raytheon Cybersecurity Scholarship is sponsored by the Air Traffic Control Association (ATCA) for women interested in pursuing cybersecurity at 2- and 4-year accredited institutions. This scholarship is limited to full-time undergraduate students.

Undergraduate & Graduate Cybersecurity Scholarships are up to 30 awards granted and sponsored by Cybersecurity and IT Security Certifications and Training (ISC) for qualifying institutions in and out of the U.S. and Canada.

This scholarship is aimed at students aged 15 and older pursuing a degree in computer/information sciences, cybersecurity, information assurance, or computer engineering with a focus on security.

Careers in cybersecurity

An information security analyst’s responsibilities are planning and carrying out security protocols to protect an organization’s computer networks and systems. Most information security analysts work for tech companies, consulting firms, or financial businesses.

The average salary in 2021 for this profession is $72,840.

A cybersecurity analyst’s job is to analyze and assess infrastructure vulnerabilities in software, networks, and hardware resulting from security incidents. They investigate using countermeasures and tools to remedy detected vulnerabilities and then recommend the best possible solutions.

Job duties also include examining recovery processes and tools to recommend solutions. They test security compliance with procedures and policies and create, implement, and manage security solutions.

An average annual salary of $76,626.

Cybersecurity engineers plan security measures for preventing a cyberattack on an organization. Their responsibilities include protecting data and networks while constructing cybersecurity platforms and collaborating with other departments to uphold overall security.

Cybersecurity engineers should hold a Certified Ethical Hacker or CompTIA Security+ certification. Depending on their experience level, they can also complete advanced certifications.

In 2021, the average annual salary for a cybersecurity engineer is $96,647.

Network security includes adhering to the practices and policies adopted to monitor and prevent unauthorized access, modification, misuse, and computer network denial. Network security covers various private and public computer networks used in everyday jobs for conducting communications and transactions among government agencies, businesses, and private individuals.

Network security is involved in organizations, enterprises, and other institutions. It secures networks, in addition to overseeing and protecting operations.

The average annual salary is $72,405.

Malware analysts identify and examine cyber threats to electronic devices such as viruses, bots, worms, and trojans. They develop tools for malware protection and document methods to avoid threats.

Candidates must be fluent in Linux, Windows, and UNIX operating systems with sound knowledge of C and C++ and how to use tools like IDA Pro, OllyDbg, TCPView, and RegShot. It is advantageous to have a GIAC Reverse Engineering Malware certification in this career.

Average salary per year in 2021 is $92,880.

Computer forensics analysts gather information from electronic devices for legal investigations by combining their computer science background with forensic skills. The responsibilities of analysts include assisting law enforcement with cyber-crimes. Because of this, many computer forensic analysts often work for law enforcement agencies.

A computer forensic analyst can use their expertise in corporate settings, protect computers from infiltration, recover lost files, and determine how a computer was hacked. Most computer forensic analysts acquire advanced investigative techniques while working and pursuing a related major.

Computer forensic analysts are essentially computer systems analysts who have a good understanding of forensic sciences. Typically certified as a Certified Forensic Computer Examiner, they extract and assemble evidence with electronic devices and computers.

The average annual salary is $74,388 in 2021.

Penetration testers or ethical hackers are network security consultants whose job is to exploit a system’s vulnerabilities, similar to what hackers do. They design penetration tools and document the results. You will need to possess 1-4 years of experience in the information security industry to become a penetration tester.

Skills needed for this occupation include knowledge in programs like Windows, UNIX, and Linux operating systems, Java, and C++, among other skills. Certifications required include Certified Ethical Hacker, Offensive Security Certified Professional, and Certified Expert Penetration Tester.

In 2021, $85,615 is reported as the average annual salary paid to penetration testers.

Continuing education and certifications 

There are many continuing education and certification programs to boost your confidence and credibility as a cybersecurity professional. Below is a list of these programs with short descriptions.

This is not meant to be a comprehensive list, but a sample of what is on offer and of relevance to different professionals in the field.

Certified Information Security Manager (CISM)

This credential shows the holder has expertise in risk and incident management, information security, governance, and program development management. To obtain this qualification, you typically need 5 years of experience. There is an annual maintenance fee.

Certified Ethical Hacker (CEH)

This course equips you to use the latest hacking techniques to access an organization’s computers lawfully. This qualification is helpful if you aspire to work as a penetration tester.

Certified Forensic Computer Examiner (CFCE)

This qualification is essential for professionals in the field of digital forensics. The program includes a peer-review phase and a certification phase. Recertification is necessary every 3 years.

Certified Expert Penetration Tester (CEPT)

The CEPT qualification shows you have expert knowledge in penetration testing. The exam consists of online multiple-choice questions plus a practical portion. Recertification is necessary every 4 years.

Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP)

Holding this certificate shows you have the expertise to design, implement, and manage a top cybersecurity program. You need to pass an exam and have at least 5 years of related work experience to qualify. An annual fee is necessary to maintain your credential.

Systems Security Certified Practitioner (SSCP)

This certification demonstrates that you can apply security best practices to implement, administer, and monitor IT infrastructure. It’s ideal for a range of information security professionals.

Computer Hacking Forensic Investigator (CFHI)

This qualification validates knowledge and skills that allow you to detect hacking attacks, gather evidence, report the crime, and prevent future vulnerabilities.

CompTIA Security+

This global certification shows you have the basic skills necessary to pursue a career in IT security. The course typically takes 2 years to complete.

Information Security Forum (ISF)

The ISF is an independent, not-for-profit organization with members in many of the world’s leading Fortune 500 organizations.

International Association for Cryptologic Research (IACR)

This is a scientific organization aiming to further research cryptology and other related fields.

International Association of Security Awareness Professionals (IASAP)

IASAP implements and develops security awareness protocols within companies.

Internet Security Alliance

This organization provides thought leadership and expert testimonies in cybersecurity for the government and media.

National Cybersecurity Society (NCSS)

The NCSS provides cybersecurity education, advocacy, and awareness to small business enterprises.

(ISC)2

This is an international, non-profit membership association for leaders in information security.

Association for Executives in Healthcare Information Security (AEHiS)

AEHiS is an education and networking platform designed for senior healthcare leaders in IT security.

Cloud Security Alliance (CSA)

The CSA promotes the best practices for providing security assurance within cloud computing.

CompTIA

This is a non-profit trade organization that facilitates professional certifications for the IT industry. Student memberships are also available.

Executive Women’s Forum (EWF)

EWF connects influential and prominent female executives in information risk management, security, and privacy.