As the Internet grows and is involved in more and more aspects of our lives, cybersecurity has taken on a high level of importance. The Internet and its foundational infrastructure are vulnerable to many cyber threats and hazards. Highly sophisticated cyber hackers and sometimes nation states attempt to exploit vulnerabilities in networks to steal data, money and more.
Because of the growing cyber threats and the billions of dollars at stake, cybersecurity professionals are growing quickly in demand. Earning a bachelor’s or master’s degree in cybersecurity can be the ticket to a highly rewarding career. This guide serves as a starting place for students and professionals interested in a cybersecurity career. Explore the different sections on the left side of the page to learn more.
Cybercrime – A Growing Threat
The Internet is growing more complex and pervasive in our lives by the day. In 2016, total e commerce retail sales across the world reached nearly $2 trillion.
As so much business is conducted online today and increasing year by year, cybercrimes are becoming more common. It is in the interests of ecommerce companies to employ expert cybersecurity professionals to protect their networks, customers and profits.
Below is a quick snapshot of the cybercrime risks that the global community faces each day:
- Cybercrime damages will reach $6 trillion each year by 2021. That is up from $3 trillion per year in 2015. President Trump noted in early 2017 that cyber theft is one of the fastest growing crimes in the US today.
- Cybersecurity spending will exceed $1 trillion between 2017-2021. Rising incidents of cybercrime increased cybersecurity spending to $80 billion in 2016.
- Microsoft estimates that almost four billion people will be online by 2020.
Cyber thieves and crimes are becoming more numerous and commonplace. Do you want help to put a stop to it? Consider earning a cybersecurity degree.
Clearly, cybercrime risks are on the rise. That’s why if you are thinking about a career change, you may want to consider the cybersecurity field. Forbes magazine estimates that the entire cybersecurity market will grow from $75 billion in 2015 to $170 billion by 2020.
This could be an excellent career path for you if you want to work as force of good in the IT and cyber security space and make a good salary with solid job security.
Forbes states that there will be at least 209,000 cybersecurity jobs unfilled in the US this year, and such job postings have increased by 74% in the last five years. A Cisco report puts the total global estimate for vacant cybersecurity jobs at one million.
Thus, cybersecurity unemployment is essentially zero percent for skilled cybersecurity professionals with degrees.
There are many attractive career options in the cybersecurity field, and the options are growing each year.
If you are a newcomer to the technology field, it is likely that you would earn a bachelor’s degree in cybersecurity. It is a good bet that you would launch your career as an information security analyst. US News and World Report ranked information security analysts as one of the 100 best jobs for 2015.
That publication noted that the cybersecurity profession will enjoy a brisk 36.5% growth rate through 2022. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that this field will see an increase of 18% in terms of new jobs by 2024.
Experts predict that the federal government will greatly boost its hiring of information security analysts to protect the vital information technology infrastructure of the US.
Further, the healthcare industry is transitioning to using electronic medical records or EHRs. Making sure that patients’ privacy and personal health data is protected and secure is of great importance. Healthcare organizations are in the process of hiring far more cybersecurity professionals to contend with this looming threat.
In the area of computer systems design, the employment of information security analysts will rise by a substantial 36% by 2024, BLS reports. This rapid rise is being fueled by more companies using cloud services instead of dedicated servers and IT departments.
Other computer and IT professions that are experiencing rapid growth due to cybersecurity threats include:
- Computer and information research scientists: These computer experts both invent and design new ways to create computing technology. Will experience 11% growth by 2024.
- Computer and information systems managers: Plan, coordinate and direct all computer related work and activities in a company or other organization. Cybersecurity expertise is strongly needed. Jobs will grow by 15% by 2024.
- Computer systems analysts: Study the current computer infrastructure in an organization, and design new information systems solutions to help the entity to operate in a more effective and efficient manner. Cybersecurity skills are absolutely essential to build reliable and secure computer systems. Demand will rise by 21% by 2024.
Some of the other positions you can qualify for in cybersecurity with at least a bachelor’s degree are:
- Applications security specialist
- Network security specialist
- Computer forensics specialist
- Computer system auditor
- Intelligence analyst and specialist
- Cyber-intelligence analyst
- Business intelligence analyst
- Business process analyst
- Counterintelligence and counterterrorism threat analysis
- Economic crime analyst
One of the best reasons to become a cybersecurity professional is the relatively high salaries that you can enjoy. Research indicates that many cybersecurity professionals enjoy very high salaries. Consider the following typical salaries:
- Information security analyst: Median pay as of 2015 was $90,120, with the top 10% earning in excess of $143,000 per year.
- Computer and information research scientist: Median pay is $110,620 per year.
- Computer and information system manager: Median salary in 2015 was $131,600, with the top 10% earning $187,000 per year.
- Software security engineer: Top salaries in this lucrative field can go above $200,000 per year.
- Chief information security officer (CISO): Median salary for CISOs is $204,000 per year, according to Silverbull, an IT and cybersecurity recruiting company.
Where you live will also have an impact upon your salary. For example, CISOs in the following cities have the highest average salaries:
- San Francisco CA: $249,000
- San Jose CA: $240,000
- New York City: $240,000
- Washington, D.C.: $225,000
Indeed.com also reports that the following cities have the top information security specialist salaries:
- Minneapolis MN: $127,757
- Seattle WA: $119,349
- San Francisco CA: $119,346
- Dallas TX: $117,800
- Denver CO: $117,308
- Chicago IL: $111,303
- Austin TX: $110,190
- Salt Lake City UT: $106,207
The cybersecurity market is growing very quickly as new threats manifest daily. As of 2017, some of the top, publicly traded cybersecurity firms you should consider working for are:
- IBM Security
- BAE Systems
- Lockheed Martin
- CyberArk Software
Other major players in the cybersecurity marketplace today include Kaspersky Lab, Palo Alto Networks, Cylance, and Group-IB
If you want to build your career in cybersecurity to fight malware, data breaches, denial of service attacks, phishing and more, you can earn a bachelor’s degree in security and risk analysis from Penn State University.
This four year introductory degree to cybersecurity focuses on education, technologies and policies that will protect people, assets, and information. You will be introduced to the tools and skills you need to determine the necessary integrity, confidentiality and availability of assets, including information, material, people, facilities and processes.
Students will develop a complex understanding of the skills, theories and technologies that are associated with securing networks and fighting cyber threats.
For the experienced cybersecurity professional who wants to enhance his or her career prospects, you can earn a master of science in cybersecurity. Johns Hopkins University offers such an online degree with concentrations in analysis, networks, and systems.
The foundational courses in this two year degree includes classes in cybersecurity, computer science, applied mathematics and statistics, and security informatics.
One of the most popular ways today to move into a cybersecurity career is to earn an online degree. For example, Colorado Technical University offers an online Bachelor of Science in Cybersecurity. Many graduates of this program go on to become an entry level cybersecurity specialist, who play a vital role in the development of modern network security systems and protocols that keep important data safe.
The core curriculum is founded upon a broad foundation of IT-related concepts in the area of computer forensics, security compliance, software assurance and vulnerability assessment. This online program offers concentrations in computer systems security and information assurance.
Admission requirements vary depending upon the university and level of degree. For a master of science in cybersecurity, common requirements are as follows:
- Bachelors in information systems, computer science, computer programming, information technology, management information systems.
- 0 minimum GPA usually required
- For students who have a liberal arts bachelor’s some programs will consider you for admission if you have courses in computer programming, algebra, statistics and networks
- College transcripts
- Updated resume
- Two or three professional or academic references
Your curriculum will vary based upon the institution, the exact degree and whether you are earning a bachelor’s or master’s. A typical bachelor’s program in cybersecurity might include these classes:
- C++ Programming
- Information, People and Technology
- Data Organization
- Legal and Regulatory Issues in Information Science
- Problem Solving in the Information Sciences
- Security and Risk Analysis
- Information Security Overview
- Decision Theory and Analysis
- Risk Analysis from Security Context
A typical master’s degree program in cybersecurity might include:
- Security, Policy and Ethics
- Information Assurance
- Information Assurance and Secure Development
- Incident Response and Recovery
- Network and Internet Security
- Data Assurance and Cryptography
- Secure Software Development
Some universities may offer further specializations in cybersecurity, while others will simply offer a cybersecurity specialization. Some of the other concentrations include policy management and information assurance.
Attending undergraduate or graduate school in cybersecurity can be costly. Fortunately, there are many available scholarships today that can help to pay for your education. Some of the best scholarships to consider include:
- Scholarship for Women Studying Information Security – Started by Applied Computer Security Associates in 2012.
- (ISC) Scholarships – These scholarships are sponsored by the International Information Systems Security Certification Consortium. It is a non profit organization that specializes on IT security education.
- Harold F. Tiptop Memorial Scholarship – An undergraduate scholarship that was named after the founder of (ISC).
- Information Assurance Scholarship Program – Offered by the Defense Department and is given to up to 60 scholars each year earning a bachelor’s, master’s, or Ph.D. in cybersecurity.
- National Science Foundation Scholarship for Service – Run by the National Science Foundation, this scholarship will pay you a stipend of $22,000 and will also help to pay for books and even medical expenses. You are required to work for the federal government after you graduate.
Cybersecurity certifications are numerous; you can earn a certification in everything from forensics, to intrusion to ethical hacking. They are usually administered by various accrediting associations in the field, such as CompTIA, EC Council and GIAC.
Certifications can take time and be expensive. For an entry level credential, expect to spend 3-9 months and pay up to $600 for the examination. The good news: You might not have to foot the bill. Many employers will pay for your certifications at least in part.
Here are some certifications in cybersecurity that are worthwhile:
- CompTIA Security+
- Systems Security Certified Practitioner or SSCP
- Certified Information Systems Security Professional or CISSP
- Certified Information Systems Auditor or CISA
- Certified Information Security Manager or CISM
- GIAC Certified Incident Handler or GCIH
- Offensive Security Certified Professional or OSCP
If you are going to dedicate your career to cybersecurity, you may want to consider joining the following associations. Cybersecurity-related associations can be an excellent means to network and to enhance your job skills:
- Information Systems Security Association (ISSA)
- National Cybersecurity Student Association (NCSA)
- IEEE Cybersecurity Community
- Information Systems Audit and Control Association (ISACA)
A career in cybersecurity can offer you many rewarding career opportunities where you can earn a high salary, and do your part to assure the security of the global e-commerce and information system.