Cyber security at its broadest form is the field of protecting digital systems, software, and databases from unwanted or malicious criminal activity. Cyber criminals attempt to intrude on digital information, which can cause irreparable harm to individuals and companies. It is important for network security engineers to combat cyber criminals with preparation, minimizing loopholes, hooks, and exploits that criminals use as an “in” to any network. Cyber security engineers engage in preventative measures to secure systems.
Top Cyber Security Degree Programs
Click on one of the icons below for the most popular cyber security degree specialties to learn more about that particular program.
Reasons for Expectations for an Increase in Cyber Security
In the wake of numerous massive data breaches on the infrastructures of large companies such as Sony, Target, and Home Depot, cyber security is definitely a hot topic right now – as it should be. It is encouraging for the industry, and more and more companies are needing experts in cyber security to help protect their data and networks.
According to Forbes business magazine, the United States government (who is tripling its cyber security staff in government positions) has implemented a number of scholarship programs for US citizens only. One such program is called Cyber Cops, but it has been largely unsuccessful, mainly because of the stipulation that those granted scholarships must be US citizens. As a whole, 70% of all computer science graduates at the Master’s level are foreigners and thus do not qualify.
In short, the US government is in desperate need of cyber security professionals. As a result, there is no better time to get into cyber security, network security, or a related digital security field.
Cyber Security Degree Overview
Students pursuing a cyber security degree will take many business and computer-related courses. Course topics may include cyber crime law and investigations, cyber security, introduction to criminal justice, threat of terrorism and crime, computer and network security, discrete mathematics, computer science, cyber law and ethics, information systems design, applied statistics and information technology to name just a few. Many of the programs also require the student to complete an internship with a business to obtain hands-on training and real practical experience. Students pursuing master degree programs may also be required to complete thesis projects and participate in research projects. Applicants to cyber security programs are required to satisfy certain admission requirements such as letters of recommendation, satisfactory scores on GRE and transcriptions from schools attended. Depending on the program or degree they’re choosing, they may also have to already have an associate or bachelor’s degree.
How to Become a Cyber Security Engineer
Becoming a cyber security specialist/engineer generally requires a bachelor’s degree or a master’s degree in this or a similar field, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Although an individual may be hired with just a postsecondary certificate, a bachelor’s degree is the most common for this career path. The bachelor’s degree can generally be earned in four years while the master’s degree may take an additional one to two years. This may vary if the student already has some education in that area of study. A postsecondary certificate can be completed in about a year, but the candidate must already have a bachelor’s degree, preferably in a related field such as computer science or computer programming. Students also will be required to complete general education courses whether they choose a bachelor’s or master’s degree program. A real popular choice for this career is a Master of Business Administration (MBA) with a concentration in cyber or Internet security.
U.S. Government Initiatives for Cyber Security Education
Former President Obama and the White House stated that cyber security is “…one of the most serious economic and national security challenges we face as a nation, but one that we as a government or as a country are not adequately prepared to counter…”. In one of his State of the Union addresses, former President Barack Obama outlined his goals for cyber security reform in his Comprehensive National Cybersecurity Initiative, including information sharing, counterintelligence, and expanding the education of cyber security especially within the federal government.
With the backing of the federal government, the cyber security industry is expected to grow at a rapid pace. Market analysts anticipate (source) the cyber security industry market capitalization (source) to grow from around $65 billion in 2015 to around $150 billion by 2020 (source).
Below, former President Obama speaks about the state of cyber security and the efforts the US needs to make to ward off intruders.
Online Cyber Security Degrees
Cyber security students can also choose from different concentrations, for instance a bachelor’s degree in cyber security with a concentration in cyber crime investigations and forensics or a concentration in information assurance. Although very similar, the cyber crime investigations and forensics concentration focuses on teaching students how to gather evidence to help prosecute cyber criminals in cases like credit card theft, hacking or terrorism, among others. The information assurance concentration, on the other hand, focuses more on how to prevent network invasions and how to identify possible security breaches. A forensic concentration may also prepare the student for careers in law enforcement.
Cyber Security Degree Types
As Internet use steadily grows and computers continue to be such an important part of society, cyber crimes and attacks also continue to be a big problem in the world. This growing problem makes cyber security extremely important. Individuals interested in careers in these challenging careers have many options available in terms of cyber security degrees. Learn what it takes to earn a cyber security degree and what type of career opportunities may be possible.
U.S. News and World Report states that almost fifty percent of U.S. adults were victims of cyber attacks between May 2013 and May 2014, increasing the need for more cyber security professionals to increase Internet security. They also indicated that there are various schools offering online bachelor and master degree programs that focus on cyber security.
Online programs offer students the opportunity to earn their degrees while continuing to work and meet their other obligations. An accelerated cybersecurity baccalaureate program is an online program available for students who hold an associate degree. Specific coursework typically includes security principles, network security, introduction to Unix/Linux operating system and human factors in cybersecurity.
Cyber Security Training & Certifications
In addition to completing the required courses and internships, cyber security graduates may choose to obtain certifications. Although certification may not be a requirement for employment, it can really enhance a resume and increase career opportunities. Some certifications can be obtained through software vendors, and others may be offered through schools or with other agencies. For instance, the International Information System Security Certification Consortium, Inc. (ISC)² offers the Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP) certification, which focuses on areas like cryptography, operations security, telecommunications and network security, software development security and physical security, among others.
What is Cyber Security? A Video Summary
The below video does an excellent job of quickly explaining cyber security.
Careers in Cyber Security
Cyber security degrees offer graduates various career opportunities. The most common careers include information security analysts, network and computer systems administrators, and cybersecurity software engineers. In the same way that career choices vary, so do the possible salaries. The BLS reports that information security analysts earned an average annual wage of $88,590 as of May 2013 while network and computer systems administrators earned $74,000 that same year. The BLS also reports that information security analysts could see an employment growth of thirty-seven percent between 2012 and 2022, and network and computer systems administrators could expect a seventeen percent growth in employment during that same decade.
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