What You Need to Know About Getting a Master’s in Cyber Security
With over one million people becoming victims of cybercrime every day in the U.S., nearly every industry needs skilled cyber security experts. Obtaining a masters degree in cyber security can give you access to a job market with growth expected to increase 53 percent by 2018.
Businesses, government offices and other organizations are seeking out trained cyber security experts to help safeguard data from hackers looking for vulnerabilities to exploit. If you’re interested in joining the fight against cybercrime, a cyber security masters degree may be right for you.
Before you can get an advanced degree in cyber security, you must have a solid understanding of computer software and networking, often backed by several courses in these disciplines. Additional real-world training and experience is preferred and provides the groundwork necessary for understanding the principles involved in the degree program.
The exact combination of prerequisite courses is specific to each institution offering a cyber security masters degree. Research the academic requirements online, and speak with an admissions advisor to find out which courses you may be asked to complete to meet the standards for the program. These requirements ensure you’re prepared to tackle the complexities of the degree and come out of the program with the skills to support success in the field.
Cyber security degree programs are available online and at many universities around the U.S. Online classes allow you to pursue the graduate program from home if your current career makes a traditional class structure impractical.
Expect to take foundational courses in the basics of cyberspace and cyber security. These classes set you up for the advanced studies required later in the degree program. As you progress, you learn how to:
- Identify and assess vulnerabilities
- Apply fixes to prevent attacks
- Create digital protections for multiple environments
- Analyze protocols and algorithms
- Set up and manage security frameworks
- Spot and counter cyberattacks
- Detect and prevent intrusions
- Apply digital forensics when investigating cybercrimes
At the end of the program, you’ll likely be required to complete a capstone project to demonstrate your knowledge of the tactics and techniques you were taught. This final project showcases your ability to apply cyber security concepts in real-world situations and proves you’re ready to enter the workforce.
Because industries aren’t likely to disengage from technology any time soon, career stability is good in the cyber security realm. However, despite the inevitable vulnerabilities present in technological systems, many businesses and organizations don’t have the cyber security staff necessary to keep data safe from prying eyes.
The University of Maryland University College (UMUC) puts the numbers at 6,000 available entry-level jobs and 12,000 midlevel positions waiting to be filled. Approximately 83 percent of these positions require a degree, making higher education a necessity to land a job in this lucrative market.
In addition to a degree, 51 percent of positions prefer applicants obtain some kind of industry certification.[http://blog.online.saintleo.edu/career-advice/For-The-Best-Cybersecurity-Jobs-Don-t-Overlook-Certification]
When searching for a cyber security job, you may find open positions for:
- Ethical hackers
- Forensics experts
- Incident responders
- Penetration testers
- Security analysts
- Security auditors
- Security consultants
- Security directors
- Security engineers
- Security managers
- Security software developers
- Vulnerability assessors
Professionals in any of these jobs can work for a number of industries. If you want a job in government, you could find a position protecting national security. Businesses are always in need of help keeping private customer data safe.
Educational and health care institutions deal with student and patient data they’d like to keep out of the hands of malicious third parties.
You can also work for a financial institution to preserve the security of credit card numbers, bank accounts and funds. If you prefer to work independently, you may be able to offer freelance services as a consultant in many different sectors.
According to U.S. News, cyber security professionals made an average of $116,000 annually in 2013. Median pay varies by specialty and increases with the responsibilities and complexity of each position:
- Information security analyst: $69,000
- Information security specialist: $75,000
- Security engineer: $86,000
- Information security manager: $100,000
- Chief information security officer: $135,000
Many other positions are available, and additional benefits are often provided. You may also have the opportunity to work on a flexible schedule, allowing you to create a better balance between work and personal time.
Who Should Pursue a Masters Degree in Cyber Security?
If you’re already familiar with or involved in IT, computer systems management or data security and want to advance your career with new job opportunities, an advanced degree in cyber security can help you achieve your goals. A master’s degree also readies you to take an exam for one of the many security certifications employers are looking for, including:
- Certified Ethical Hacker (CEH)
- Certified Information Systems Auditor (CISA)
- Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP)
- Offensive Security Certified Professional (OSCP)
Obtaining a certificate gives you the opportunity to work on curbing the skyrocketing rate of cybercrime and its associated costs.
If you already have experience in the IT field, you possess skills employers want in cyber security experts.
A cyber security masters degree can help you put these skills to good use in one of the many industries looking for someone to handle data security and manage potential system vulnerabilities. With the many opportunities available for growth, investing in an advanced degree can pay off with a favorable salary and a stable career you enjoy.