Once a specialty only linked with government agencies and defense contractors, cyber security is now in the mainstream. Industries like health care, finance, manufacturing, and retail all hire cyber security professionals to protect valuable info from cyber breaches. The demand for trained specialists in this field is high. A report by job analytics firm Burning Glass Technologies discovered job postings for openings in cyber security have grown three times faster than those for IT job overall, and cyber security professionals are earning nine percent more than their IT counterparts.
What Does a Career in Cyber Security Involve?
From “ethical hackers” who look for and exploit security vulnerabilities in web-based applications and network systems to cryptographers who examine and decrypt hidden information from cyber-terrorists, cyber security professionals work hard to make sure data stays out of the wrong hands. Cyber security professionals work in almost every industry, responding quickly to real-world threats. While there are cyber security associate degree programs, high-level careers usually require an array of technical IT skills and advanced analysis capabilities found in graduate-level degree programs.
Cyber Security Degrees and Careers In-Depth
A four-year cyber security degree program concentrates on the variety of methods used to protect data and information systems. Students get training in technical and business skills like database applications, systems administration, and data recovery. Coursework mixes criminal psychology, digital forensics, and policy analysis to offer a complete perspective of IT security. There are hundreds of job titles in cyber security, and some of the top positions include:
- Security Analyst
- Security Engineer
- Security Architect
- Security Administrator
- Security Software Developer
- Security Consultant
Pursuing a Cyber Security Degree & Career
While it’s possible to find some entry-level cyber security positions with only an associate degree, most jobs require a four-year bachelor’s degree in cyber security or a related field like IT or computer science. Coursework in programming and statistics in addition to classes in ethics and computer forensics prepare students with the technical and analytical skills needed for successful careers in cyber security.
In an environment where data breaches are becoming more and more frequent, more cyber security degree programs are being added each year. Before deciding on a cyber security degree, students should make sure that it is not only accredited, but also supports their career goals.
Associate Degree in Cyber Security
An associate degree in cyber security is a two-year program suitable for the following types of situations:
- Securing entry-level work as a computer support technician or a similar position
- An added qualification for those already working in the field
- A step on a path to a four-year cyber security degree
Associate degree coursework includes the vulnerabilities of a variety of hardware and software systems, network technologies, and key cyber security concepts like security administration and intrusion detection. Many programs also prepare students for certification exams typically required for full-time employment, ranging from basic CompTIA Security+ to ISC2 Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP).
Cyber Security Certificates
Many colleges and universities offer certificates in cyber security for those who are looking to develop further expertise in the field or add credentials to their resume. Students study the principles of computer systems security, including attack protection and prevention. Courses delve into cryptographic techniques, legal issues in computer security, digital forensics, and designs for network perimeter defenses.
Most certificates are 12-18 credits and accessible online. In some cases, students may apply credits earned in a certificate program to a master’s degree in cyber security at a later date. There are a few types of cyber security certificates that cover cyber security technology, cyber security management and related areas.
Complete advanced training
Some employers require candidates to hold an advanced degree like a master’s degree in cyber security. Prospective employers can also offer tuition assistance to meet this goal. A master’s degree requires an additional one to two years to complete after the bachelor’s degree-level and delivers advanced instruction in protecting computer networks and electronic infrastructures from attack. Students learn the ethics, practices, policies, and procedures of cyber security as they examine how to tackle network security defense techniques and countermeasures. Cyber security professionals also pursue certification to boost their skills while working full-time to gain hands-on experience.
Pass security clearances (if applicable)
Security clearances are a requirement for those who want to work with classified information as part of a military of government agency. A number of agencies issue both personnel and facility security clearances, but for the most part they are issued by the Department of Defense. Each type of clearance requires its own procedures and paperwork. The process, which can take three months to a year, does not begin until an employer has hired you, at which point you be given a conditional offer of employment. The first step is to submit clearance documentation, which is then followed by a Background Investigation.
Find the Right Cyber Security Degree Program
The field of cyber security concentrates on network and data protection at various levels. Whether you are looking for an accredited online program or a traditional on-campus program, students have a variety options when it comes to cyber security degrees.
While it is still a relatively fresh field, cyber security degrees are available at all levels, from associate degrees to PhD degrees. Students can engage in cyber security degrees online or in a campus-based environment. Each degree-level preps students for specific opportunities, from entry-level employment to careers in academia. Before choosing a cyber security program, students should ensure it supports their long-term goals