Introduction to cybersecurity
Cybersecurity is the study of the technical programs and coding that keep online data safe. This field is also known as cyber defense, information security or information analytics. Whether you use your skills as an ethical hacker or as a chief analytics manager, your career path begins with a bachelor’s degree in cybersecurity.
This degree program is often part of engineering or technology departments. It utilizes mathematics, leadership, and other hard sciences to teach students. Usually running an average of 4 years, the program caters to people with computing and programming skills. Students come from all backgrounds and often earn this degree as a secondary degree or while already stationed in the field. This degree also prepares students for essential certifications required by employers, like the Computing Technology Industry Association (CompTIA) exam or the Certified Information Security Manager (CISM) certification.
The field of cybersecurity is anticipated to grow over 30% by 2029.
About the degree
This degree can be earned in many ways, but it most often takes 4 years or 120 credits. Because it focuses on technological skills, it is online-friendly, offering students the ability to customize their education. Applicants who already have an associate degree in cybersecurity may have an advantage when applying to the college of their choice as the field prioritizes experience and skill over letters of recommendation and high school GPA.
- high school, associate degree and prior college transcripts
- minimum high school GPA of 3.0
- portfolio of experience or prior certifications
- professional and academic letters of recommendation
This program often does not require SAT or ACT scores, but some institutions may need them for initial entry. This degree is friendly to working and older students, because the program requirements focus on expertise and experience.
Like most degree programs, transferring between schools and majors is acceptable. There is no official accreditation for a cybersecurity program, so institutions rely on regional bodies for accreditation. The Centers of Academic Excellence in Cybersecurity (CAE-C), a joint program sponsored by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the National Security Agency (NSA), recognizes and sponsors some college programs. There may be some issues in transferring between programs if one is CAE-C approved while another is not.
Institutions determine how many credits to accept upon transfer. You will need to check with your desired colleges and programs before transferring to see what credits they accept.
College can be an expensive investment, but it is often necessary to assure you achieve mastery in your field. The price of a bachelor’s degree varies based on program type and student standing, but on average, it will range from $27,000 for a public 4-year in-state institution to $55,000 for a private 4-year school. A bachelor’s degree in cybersecurity may be more expensive when choosing CAE-C-approved programs.
Completing this degree online or part time can decrease the cost, especially at institutions that charge per credit hour rather than per semester. Additionally, scholarships and financial aid are available to students of all levels.
There are many options for financial aid, but the most common are the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) and in-house institution scholarships. In-house scholarships created by alumni help sponsor gifted students in need throughout their education. Their support and requirements vary from scholarship to scholarship.
A few of the cybersecurity scholarships include:
Ethics, law, & policy
It is important to understand the laws and ethical ramifications of this field. This class teaches the strict rules of procedures that all cyber defense workers must adhere to at work.
Forensics courses teach how to identify, resolve and prevent security breaches and data theft. Forensics deals with navigating a problem and tracing it back to the criminal group responsible. Due to this, it may share some course designations with an institution’s criminal justice program.
An operating system course includes mastering popular technical programs like Windows, Linux, OS X, and more. It teaches both a basic understanding of hardware and an advanced understanding of the specific programs you will encounter in your time as a cybersecurity worker.
Project management courses see that students understand essential business and leadership skills utilized in key job projects. This class also helps with organizational skills, time management and attention to detail.
A traditional course often completed in the first year of study, this course updates students on all aspects of basic computer applications. Computer science is a foundational class to ensure all students are competent in the basics before moving forward.
During your undergraduate program, you will have the opportunity to customize your education to 1 of 3 general specializations: technical, senior leadership or management. Each specialization focuses on a unique set of skills, ranging from direct technical work to hands-off company compliance and administrative work.
This specialization puts you on the front lines of digital protection and security. You will work to identify malicious programs, defend against them and respond to any cyber threats. It is a hands-on programming specialization.
This concentration is about managing your company’s business and operational staff. You will act as an oversight leader, project manager, operations chief and more. Considered the highest paying specialization, senior leadership puts you at the top of your field leading teams in programming, business and productivity.
The management specialization focuses on organizational oversight to ensure all programs respond and function as they should while adhering to a private policy. Management is the most people-focused of the specializations and sees you training and guiding others in the field.
There is no singular accreditation body for this degree, but regional or STEM-based accreditations often approve it. It depends on how the institution categorizes its cyber security degree program to fit in its science, technology and engineering colleges. The CAE-C or CAE-CD denotes programs of excellence from specific college programs on cyber defense and cyber security. These sponsored programs are required for those looking to join the DHS or NSA.
If you want to further your education, a master’s degree in cybersecurity helps you specialize in the field. Employers may recommend this degree in later parts of your career, but it is not required to find a job.
Continuing education helps keep professionals up to date with the latest trends, programs, and certificates needed for top-level cyber defense positions. Those looking for a government position in cybersecurity will need a master’s degree and designated certifications for a position. This field values experience and skill mastery above all, so a master’s degree in cybersecurity is vital to those looking to lead the way.
Should I get this degree?
A bachelor’s degree in cybersecurity is considered standard in the field for all cyber defense-related jobs. The world of I.T. is complex and a bachelor’s in cybersecurity shows mastery in the field. Most employers demand a bachelor’s degree for positions above entry-level.
On top of a bachelor’s degree, a variety of certifications will be required at some point in your career. Some employers help pay for CompTIA certification and other specialized exams. Luckily, a bachelor’s in this field will often include courses focused on preparing you for these exams and field certifications.
Further education will always benefit salary and employment status. You can enjoy the benefits of a good salary and save up before continuing your education to the top tier of cyber defenders.