Network security is growing in importance as Internet technology controls more and more of the economy and is part of so many of our daily activities. A degree in network security will provide you with the much-needed skills and knowledge to defend computer systems, data and networks from cyber attacks. A network security degree also may be referred to as a degree in cybersecurity, information assurance, information security and information systems security.
What Is Network Security?
Network security is defined as all activities that are designed to protect the integrity and usability of the network and data. Network security includes software and hardware, and it effectively manages access to the network. It also targets a variety of cyber security threats and stops them from getting into and spreading on the network.
Network security has several layers of defense at the edges and inside the network. Each layer of network security has policies and controls to limit access to authorized parties to certain information. Authorized users get access to certain network resources, but malicious individuals are blocked from doing any harm.
Job demand for network security professionals is expected to grow much faster than average in the next decade. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports job growth will be a huge 28%. Demand for all types of information security professionals should soar; cyber attacks are becoming more frequent and more network security professionals are needed to devise innovative solutions to prevent hackers from stealing important company information.
One area where there should be especially strong growth is banks and financial institutions. They will need to boost their information security capabilities as more cybersecurity threats come to the forefront. The healthcare industry is also using electronic medical records extensively, and these are vulnerable to cyber attacks.
Earning a degree in network security will make you a strong candidate for a career as an information security analyst. You will be responsible for planning and carrying out security measures to protect the computer networks and systems of all types of organizations. Major responsibilities include:
- Monitor the organization’s computer networks for security problems and investigate violations as they come up
- Install and use network security software, including data encryption and firewalls, to protect sensitive company information
- Prepare department reports that report all security breaches and how much damage was done
- Do penetration testing which is where the analyst simulates attacks to look for any vulnerability in the system
IT security analysts are responsible largely for the disaster recovery plan for their organization. This is a procedure that allows the company and department to continue to function in case of some type of emergency.
The median salary for information security analysts in 2017 was $95,500. The top 10% earned more than $153,000 per year. Those professionals generally have the most experience and a master’s degree.
The median salary for information security analysts in major industries were:
- Computer systems design and related services: $98,100
- Finance and insurance: $97,600
- Information: $96,200
- Administrative and support services: $91,500
- Management of companies and enterprises: $90,900
Online Degree Programs
For students and professionals who want to get a good start in their career in network security, there are many excellent online degree programs where you can get your degree without ever leaving your home.
A good program to consider is the Bachelor of Cybersecurity from Southern New Hampshire University. Students in this four year, online network security program will gain a strong foundation in cybersecurity principles and practice, and will use industry standard computer programming tools and methodologies to assess and develop software programs and systems. Students also will determine appropriate models, methodologies, and strategies that ensure the best product quality and security within the software development life cycle.
Necessary courses to complete include:
- Cybersecurity Foundations
- Computer Networking
- Network Security
- Operating System Security
- Cyber Defense
- Legal and Human Factors of Cybersecurity
- Network Defense
- System and Communication Security
- Security Assessment and Auditing
- Security Risk Management
Students who want to get a good start in a network security career may want to earn their bachelor’s degree in network security or cybersecurity. There are many good on campus and online bachelor’s programs to consider. One of them is the Bachelor of Science in Network Operations and Security from Western Governor University.
With this four year, online degree, you will gain the credentials that you need to turn the demand for network operations and security into long term career success. This program has been designed for IT professionals who want to use their network knowledge and experience of the cloud to become an IT security management and network administration expert. This accredited program will help you to develop network design, network operations and security management skills that are in such demand today.
Key subject areas are:
- IT Foundations
- IT Applications
- Network and Security Foundations
- Linux Foundations
- Cloud Foundations
- Scripting and Programming
- Organizational Behavior and Leadership
- Emerging Technologies
To take your network security career to the next level, it is often a wise move to earn a master’s degree in network security or a related field. A good choice is the Master of Science Cybersecurity and Engineering from the University of Southern California.
It is a good fit for students who want to obtain work in which extensive computer network operations skills and knowledge are needed, and for those who wish to continue their education towards a doctorate degree that is focused on network security. It also is designed for professionals who have work related to information security and need to increase their skills and knowledge.
This two year program focuses on the basics of developing, engineering and operating secure information systems. Students will learn about the problems and challenges of secure operating systems, secure networking, secure applications, key management and cryptography.
All universities and network security degree programs have their own admissions requirements. Below are typical requirements for a master’s program in network security:
- Undergraduate degree in computer science or a related degree
- Official college transcripts
- GRE scores may be required
- 0 or higher GPA
- Three references from professional and/or academic sources
- Writing samples
Each university will have its own specific curriculum. At the University of Southern California’s master’s program, these are the required courses:
- Security Systems
- Applied Cryptography
- Foundations of Information Security
- Applications of Cryptography to Information Security Problems
- Computer Systems Assurance
- Secure Systems Assurance
- Computer Forensics
- Secure Systems Administration
- Distributed Systems and Network Security
- Trusted System Design, Analysis and Development
- Computer Systems Assurance
To help you to pay for your college education, these grants and scholarships are available. It also is wise to check with your university to determine if there is financial assistance available from the financial aid office:
- ISC2 Graduate Cybersecurity Scholarship: $5000
- CyberCorps Scholarship for Service Program: $34,000
- International Association for Intelligence Education Scholarship: $1500
- Raytheon’s Women Cybersecurity Scholarship Program: $8000
- SWSIS Scholarships for Women Studying Information Security: $10,000
- ISC Undergraduate Cybersecurity Scholarship: $5000
These certifications in network and cybersecurity can help to improve your career prospects:
- Certified Ethical Hacker (CEH)
- Offensive Security Certified Professional (OSCP)
- Security+, CompTIA
- ISACA certifications – Certified Systems Auditor; Certified Information Security Manager; Certified in the Governance of Enterprise IT
- CREST certifications – CREST Practitioner, Security Analyst
Students and professionals interested in a network security career may consider joining these associations for their extensive educational and networking opportunities:
- Global Information Assurance Certification
The network security field is really taking off in recent years, and professionals with a degree in this field will experience strong job demand and earn very good salaries.
- Information Security Analysts. (2017). Retrieved from https://www.bls.gov/ooh/computer-and-information-technology/mobile/information-security-analysts.htm
- What Is Network Security? (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.cisco.com/c/en/us/products/security/what-is-network-security.html