A Growing Field
With reports of hacking threats and security breaches becoming increasingly more common, the need for cyber security experts in the job market is growing. In fact, this sector’s job growth has been rapidly increasing with each passing year. As technology becomes more advanced, the need for skilled workers who understand how to keep people’s identities, personal data, and online assets safe will only increase. As such, it’s an excellent career path for those seeking job security.
Landing a job in cyber security requires the right degree. Many schools have added new courses and programs devoted to these expanding careers; making the right choice in degree and program is a crucial first step in creating a cyber security career.
Some schools require either an associate degree or a certain number of credits earned at a 4-year university, while other provide the option to study in an online bachelor’s program. While this might not work for some, online classes tend to allow students to work at a faster pace due to a more flexible schedule, so it is possible to graduate a year or two earlier in these programs than with the average bachelor’s degree.
Graduate degrees in this field are also an option that can help candidates hone their skills and gain a competitive edge over other applicants with undergraduate degrees. Master’s degrees can take anywhere from one to three years to complete, depending on the specialization. Like any other degree, those studying cyber security can choose a focus. Some of these specializations include: Network Forensics and Intrusion Investigations, Information Assurance, Cybercrime and Fraud Investigation, and Cyber Operations.
While classes can differ by career-path goals, prospective students can expect plenty of overlap or similarities in coursework in many different cyber security programs. Some basic classes to expect in the first year of an undergraduate degree might include: Introduction to Computer Systems, Introduction to Operating Systems, Introduction to Programming, Statistics, Critical Reading and Expository Writing, and Introduction to Psychology.
Second- and third-year students will really begin to dig into the specifics of their program and chosen field. Common second-year classes include: Networks and Telecommunications, Introduction to Linux Systems, Programming with Python, Database Applications, Introduction to Cyber Security, Technical Writing, Project Management, and Economics. Third-year classes can include: Disaster Recovery/Business Continuity, Risk Management, Cryptography, Information Assurance, Artificial Intelligence, Systems Analysis and Design, Computer Architecture, Website Administration, Windows Operating Systems and Administration, and Ethics.
More advanced coursework, classes outside of a chosen major, and taking internships are all valuable ways to build up a student’s skillset. Senior classes may include: Network Security, Operating Systems Security, Audit/Compliance, Ethical Hacking and Systems Defense, Computer Forensics, Advanced Network Management, Firewall and Perimeter Security, Policy Analysis and Implementation, and a Senior Project/Internship. Remember that employers love to see actual security experience on applications, so making room for an internship can help round out a resume and hone helpful skills. It would also be beneficial to take some classes that don’t necessarily have anything to do with a chosen career path in order to develop a more well-rounded and diverse skillset.
Tuition and other expenses will obviously vary by school, location, and whether one takes classes online or on site. Online schools typically have cheaper tuition while popular four-year universities are expensive. Online degrees can cost somewhere around $15,000 whereas attending a four-year university can cost around $60,000, if not more.
Like any other career field, there are plenty of diverse positions (and accompanying salaries) available in the world of cyber security. A security director, for example, has a median annual salary of $116,245. By contrast, a base security analyst can expect a median salary of $65,261 a year.