Cyber security is a growing field that deals with protecting computers, programs, networks and data from damage, attacks or unauthorized access. When one is discussing computers, the term security is synonymous with cyber security. According to the Washington Post, more than $13 million of the government’s 2014 budget was allotted to cyber security.
The need for more cyber security specialists continues to grow as cyber attacks and intrusions are reaching an all-time high. Earning a cyber security degree can put you in a position to help fight this global problem. If attending college full time is a problem, you may want to check into online cyber security degrees, which are offered at many colleges as a part-time option.
- Point Park University - Master of Arts in Intelligence and Global Security
- Utica College - BS in Cybersecurity, MS in Cybersecurity
Online education, also known as distance learning, has some similarities to traditional brick and mortar education, but students can learn in the privacy of their homes. Students have real time instructors but will also learn through virtual classrooms and DVDs, webinars, interactive media and other learning tools. Earning an online cyber security degree allows individuals to pursue a challenging and rewarding career while continuing to work and fulfill other obligations.
Why Consider a Cyber Security Degree?
Information continues to be gathered and stored at a rapid rate within data centers and the cloud as people become more reliant on technology. While it provides a better lifestyle with smartphone convenience and ongoing automation within our vehicles, there will always be dangers of this technology being in control of cyber attacks, stealing personal information or manipulating devices that operate on machine learning and artificial intelligence. These crimes end up costing businesses billions of dollars each year as cyber security is constantly overlooked, and oftentimes sensitive information can be leaked to the public or completely lost without any developed recovery methods.
Despite technological innovation that will try to thwart vulnerable areas, there will always be a need for cyber security as more and more devices continue to be linked together. Any organization can save millions of dollars with experienced professionals in the area that can protect intellectual property. All it takes is proper implementation of preventative methods and quickly solving any disruptions that may occur. When studying higher education within cyber security, it is important to focus on accreditation from the National Centers of Academic Excellence (CAE).
What is Cyber Security?
Cyber security is the preventative methods of protecting digital information within a computer system so it is not compromised by an outside attack. This could be anything from unauthorized access by an employee to a malicious virus that attempts to destroy or steal data. As we continue to rely more on data and much of our private information is stored in these systems or within the cloud, it is extremely important to keep this information secure and avoid any data breaches or the misuse of this information.
Security is important not only within servers and networks that connect computers and mobile devices together, but the hardware itself and the software that is running on these systems. Strategies deployed within this sector include identifying potential risks and how they can be exploited, encryption to avoid any data leaks, and following the latest innovations to further protect these systems and being a step ahead of hacking attempts.
Multiple Levels of Online Cyber Security Degrees
Online cyber security degrees may be offered in several degree levels. Depending on the school, the student may pursue associate, bachelor, master or doctoral degrees as well as postsecondary certificates. However, cyber security careers generally require the candidate have at least a bachelor’s degree. Associate degree programs can be completed in two years while bachelor’s degree programs generally take four years. Online degree programs, which are popularity for their flexibility, often allow the student more time to get them completed. Earning a master’s or doctoral degree may take two to three years, but the student must already have a bachelor’s degree. Post secondary certificates may only take a year, but the student must already have a degree in that or a related field.
Students earning an online cyber security degree can typically complete most of the courses online. In addition to the business and computer-related courses, students are required to complete general education courses. Many students choose to complete these courses online prior to even starting their actual degree programs. However, prior to graduation, the student usually has to complete an internship as part of a practicum course to obtain real experience in a work setting. The internship may be paid or unpaid depending on the employer. Students in graduate programs may also be required to complete thesis or research projects.
Online Bachelor’s in Cyber Security Degree
Course topics may include applied statistics, social psychology, business systems analysis and design, information technology fundamentals, cyber security and information assurance, database design and management, cyber law and ethics, website design and advanced information systems.
As part of a degree program, cyber security may be a major, but there are also programs that offer different areas of concentration. A student can study cyber security as a whole but specialize in a specific area such as forensics, cybercrime investigations or information assurance to name just a few. Although the concentrations are somewhat similar, they also cover different areas. For instance, someone interested in working in law enforcement may choose a concentration in forensics while someone who enjoys finding clues and evidence used for prosecution may wish to focus on cybercrime investigations. A concentration in information assurance teaches students how to recognize possible security breaches and how to design and implement preventative measures. Choosing a concentration allows the student to gain more detailed knowledge in his or her area of interest.
Online Master’s in Cyber Security Degrees
With the increasing popularity of online education, more and more schools are offering online degree programs, and cyber security degrees are offered in many colleges and universities.
Some universities offer both bachelor’s and master’s degree online programs in cyber security; computer networks and security; software development and security; cyber security policy; digital forensics and crime investigations; and information technology. Also be on the lookout for different graduate or postsecondary certificates in various areas of cyber security.
The information technology degree offers concentrations in Homeland security management and information assurance. Southern New Hampshire University offers a bachelor’s degree in information technology with a concentration in cyber security.
Aspiring cyber security students can find a listing of accredited colleges through the National Center for Education Statistics. This site allows viewers to find schools based on state, zip code and degree level. It also offers a sort filter, making it easier for students to find just the online schools.
Online Certifications in Cyber Security
Upon graduating, the graduate may wish to obtain certifications. Certification may not be required for employment, but many employers prefer to hire candidates who are certified because it’s an indication of knowledge, skill and commitment to the field. Software vendors often offer certifications when their products are being used. Additionally, various certifications are offered through the following agencies.
- Certified Wireless Network Professional
- Global Information Assurance Certification
- International Information System Security Certification Consortium, Inc. (ISC)²
Sample Online Course on Security from Harvard Professors
Harvard University professors Dan Armendariz and David J. Malan on security, including internet, web, and information security (view only if you have time as it is an hour and a half long, yet very interesting!). This is a great video to view to see if you might be interested in getting into cyber security or internet security.
Cyber Security Careers
According to the National Initiative for Cybersecurity Careers and Studies, cyber security offers a variety of career opportunities. Here are just a few of the many potential career choices for cyber security graduates: Information security analyst, Network and computer system administrator, Security analyst, Information assurance analyst, Forensic expert, Chief information security officer, Network security engineer, or Computer crime investigator.
Cyber Security Salary Information
Salaries for cyber security specialists can vary from city to city and will also depend on skill level and years of experience. According to a May 2013 report by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), information security analysts earned an average annual wage of $88,590 while network and computer system administrators earned $74,000, and computer and information systems managers earned $123,950.
Forensic science technicians earned $54,360 and computer network architects earned $95,380 that same year.
The BLS also reports that these careers should experience job growth from six percent to thirty-seven percent between 2012 and 2022.
List of Online Cybersecurity Programs
University of Southern California
Colorado Technical University
Iowa State University
Carnegie Mellon University
The George Washington University
Mississippi State University