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Cyber Security Degree

Cyber security degrees are specific computer network security courses of study that prepare students for careers as forensic network analysts, computer analysts for law enforcement agencies and other network security jobs. They are a relatively recent development, providing specific skills related to the investigation of intrusions and maintenance of security protocols on computer networks of various sizes. Cyber security graduates help organizations protect critical information, assess threats and vulnerabilities, and assist with forensic analysis of cyber incidents. Like other computer networking degrees, salaries are higher than average and job growth is higher than the national mean. While some cyber security employees hold a high school diploma or associate’s degree, a majority of the jobs in the growing cyber security field require a bachelor’s degree.1

Did you know? At a House Intelligence Committee hearing in April 2013, the US top intelligence official, James Clapper stated that the threat of cyber attacks has become a greater concern than terrorism for the first time.2

Cyber Security Degree Requirements And Coursework

An aptitude for mathematics and electronics is key to doing well in a cyber security degree program. Most schools offering these programs require strong standardized test scores and above average grades in math and science classes. Cyber security students learn how to design and administer computer networks. Unlike other degrees, advanced coursework focuses on cybercrime and cyberterrorism, as well as online forensics work to identify intruders of corporate and government computer systems. Other high-level courses focus on threat assessment and planning for active network defense by degree graduates who generally attend bachelor’s degree programs or obtain post-baccalaureate cyber security certificates or master’s degrees.

Examples of courses in a cyber security degree curriculum include:

  • Computer Science
  • Discrete Mathematics
  • Foundations of Cybersecurity
  • Object-Oriented Programming
  • Computer and Network Security
  • Operating Systems Security
  • Information Assurance
  • Database and Distributed Systems Security
  • System Vulnerability Assessments
  • Cyber Crime Investigations and Forensics
  • Managing Cybersecurity Operations
  • Information System Threats, Attacks and Defenses
  • National Cybersecurity Policy and Law
  • Global Cyber Capabilities and Trends
  • Cyber Warfare
  • Applied Cryptography
  • Ethical Hacking and Systems Defense
Did you know? In the first six months of 2009, there were over 40,000 cyber attacks against the Department of Defense costing the government more than $100 million.

Source: Congressional Cybersecurity Caucus

Top Cyber Security Degree Programs

The Ponemon Institute conducted a survey of about 2,000 certified IT security professionals in 2014 to determine the top cyber security universities in the country. They ranked the following school at the top:

1. The University of Texas at San Antonio
2. Norwich University
3. Mississippi State University
4. Syracuse University and Carnegie Mellon University
5. Purdue University
6. University of Southern California
7. University of Pittsburgh and George Mason University
8. West Chester University
9. US Military Academy at West Point
10. University of Washington in Seattle

Profiles of Cyber Security Degree Programs

University of Maryland University College
University of Maryland University College offers an online Bachelor of Science in Cybersecurity program that emphasizes operational and technological concepts in corporate network administration. Core courses in the major include Economics in the Information Age, Foundations of Cybersecurity, Digital Forensics in the Criminal Justice System, and Advanced Information Systems Security. The program curriculum can help students prepare for standard cybersecurity industry certifications such as Cisco Certified Network Associate, Microsoft Certified Solutions Expert, Mobile Forensic Certified Examiner, and Computer Security Incident Handler. Students who have already earned a bachelor’s degree may be interested in University of Maryland University College’s Master of Science in Cybersecurity programs or its 12 to 18 credit post-graduate certificate programs, credits from which can be applied towards a master’s degree at UMUC. Students enrolled in the school’s cybersecurity programs can find additional networking opportunities and experience by joining the extracurricular UMUC Cybersecurity competition team, which competes in the Global CyberLympics.

University of Maryland, Baltimore County

The University of Maryland, Baltimore County has an on-campus program that leads to the award of a Master’s in Professional Studies: Cybersecurity. Courses in the program are offered in the fall, spring, and summer semesters and may be taken full or part-time, giving students up to five years from the program start date to complete the master’s degree. Students can be admitted to the program through and take courses from either the Catonsville or Rockville campuses. Required courses for the degree include Cybersecurity Law & Policy and Managing Cyber Operations. Graduate students additionally undertake a research-based capstone Cybersecurity Project. Additional graduate certificates and courses leading to industry certifications such as Certified Ethical Hacker and Computer Hacking Forensic Investigator are offered through the university’s Cybersecurity Academy. UMBC has been ranked as a top up and coming university by US News and World Report and is certified by the National Security Agency and Department of Homeland Security as a Center of Academic Excellence in Research.

George Washington University

The George Washington University awards a Master of Science in Cybersecurity to graduate students who complete its academically challenging graduate program in cybersecurity. Administered through the Department of Computer Science, this degree requires thirty graduate credit hours to complete. Courses within the program include Management of Information and Systems Security, Cryptography, Advanced Topics in Security, and Internet and On-Line Law for Security Managers. Admission to the program is competitive, and students must demonstrate familiarity with advanced mathematics and computer science for admission consideration. The program faculty are active in computer science research and consistently present original research in fields such as artificial intelligence, bioinformatics, pervasive computing, and other areas in and related to cybersecurity. Prospective graduate students may also be interested in the university’s four-course Computer Security and Information Assurance Graduate Certificate.

Stevens Institute of Technology
Stevens Institute of Technology administers a program culminating in the award of a Master of Science in Cybersecurity. Courses for the thirty credit program may be completed through on-campus learning or online through the Stevens WebCampus. Core courses in the program include Foundations of Cryptography, Advanced Algorithm Analysis and Design, Network Forensics, and Threats, Exploits, and Countermeasures. Students can take electives in cybersecurity, systems, enterprise computing, and management to complete the degree plan. The program faculty include cryptographic protocols, identity and authentication in user environments, distributed systems, and algorithmic number theory among their research interests. Stevens Institute of Technology is a Center of Academic Excellence in Information Assurance Education and Center of Academic Excellence in Information Assurance Research recognized by the National Security Agency.

Valparaiso University
The online Master of Science in Cyber Security program offered by Valparaiso University provides an affordable path toward a career in the growing cyber security field. The curriculum is built to suit both established professionals and those who may not have a deep background in IT, but have an interest in technology. It is specifically designed to prepare students for real life on the job. Unlike many programs of its kind, students have access to a virtual cloud server that blends theoretical coursework with tactile cyber security threats in white-hat, black-hat, and grey-hat roles. Because the cloud server is hosted in a secure environment, users have the freedom to simulate situations from an opponent’s perspective, and faculty can recreate system vulnerabilities for demonstrations and hands-on practice. This highly-applied approach deepens students’ understanding of the intricacies of the digital realm while preparing them for a career. The program also allows students to integrate CISSP (Certified Information Systems Security Professional) certification preparation into their coursework, enriching their professional and ethical lives.

Cyber Security Job Description

Network security analysts and cybersecurity investigators work with federal and state agencies to investigate allegations of computer crime and identify possible suspects. In addition, they use internet tools to gather online evidence of wrongdoing. Cybersecurity degree holders who decide to work for businesses may be tasked with providing security for large-scale private databases or e-commerce systems, creating active defenses against hackers and responding to intrusions.

Cyber Security Salary And Job Outlook

According to the “Cybersecurity Jobs Report,” the rapid growth of computing and communication technologies around the globe has led to unprecedented growth in the cybersecurity industry and an urgent need for qualified individuals to address dramatic future growth.1 The federal government is placing significant resources into reducing the threat of cyber attacks and President Obama has declared that the “cyber threat is one of the most serious economic and national security challenges we face as a nation.”4 In April, 2013, James Clapper, the top US intelligence official, stated that the threat of cyber attacks has become a greater concern than terrorism.2 The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects a 37% growth in employment for information security analysts from 2012-2022, much faster than the average of all occupations.3 24% of Chief Information Officers interviewed by Robert Half in 2012 said data security was their top professional concern.5

The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports an annual median wage of $86,170 for information security analysts as of 2012 and the top 10% earn a median wage of more than $135,600 per year.3 Median pay for information security analysts is $9,900 higher than the median pay for all computer occupations.3 The highest paying industry for information security analysts is finance and insurance with a median wage of $92,080.3 Compensation is also increasing for government employees who are tasked with protecting the nation’s infrastructure using cybersecurity skills. Advancement is possible by handling the protection of larger networks, or managing other network security analysts.

CJDS Fact: The demand for cyber security experts is growing at 12 times the overall job market and 73% during the five years from 2007 to 2012 (Burning Glass International Inc. report).6

What Jobs Can You Get with a Degree in Cyber Security

The cybersecurity field is relatively new and jobs descriptions and roles are still developing. Jobs include general network security as well as specialized positions on a team like an Ethical Hacker, who is tasked with exploiting networks to show evidence of vulnerabilities. According to The George Washington University, graduates are hired by IT and technology companies, government departments and agencies, security software companies, and others.

Examples of job titles for cybersecurity professionals:

  • Security Analyst
  • Security Engineer
  • Security Architect
  • Security Administrator
  • Security Consultant
  • Security Director
  • Vulnerability Assessor
  • Ethical Hacker (Penetration Tester)
  • Source Code Auditor
  • Computer Security Incident Responder

What is the Difference Between a Cyber Security Degree and an Information Security Degree?

According to Florida Tech University Online, cybersecurity is a subset of the larger area of information security. Cybersecurity refers to the protection of networks, computers, programs, and data from attack or unauthorized access. Information security refers to the protection of data stored both electronically and physically.

What is the Difference Between a Cyber Security Degree and an Information Assurance Degree?

According to University of Maryland University College, information assurance deals with “confidentiality, integrity, availability, authentication and validation of data” while cybersecurity deals with the safety of computers and computer systems in a networked environment.

Additional Cyber Security Resources

1. CyberCorps Scholarship for Service: The CyberCorps Scholarship for Service is a program funded by the National Science Foundation and provides full scholarships to eligible individuals at participating colleges in exchange for service for the government after graduation. In addition to covering education costs, the program provides stipends of up to $20,000 per year for undergraduate students and up to $25,000 per year for master’s students.
2. FBI Cyber Crime – News and information including cases, threats, and Cyber’s Most Wanted.
3. United States Computer Emergency Readiness Team – CERT-US is managed by the National Cyber Security Division at the Department of Homeland Security and works to improve the nation’s cybersecurity.
4. DOJ Computer Crime & Intellectual Property Section – Responsible for combating computer and intellectual property crimes worldwide.

Online Cybersecurity Degree Info, Courses & Criminal Justice Programs

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1. Cyber Technology and Innovation Center: http://www.cyberinnovationcenter.org/
2. Bloomberg: http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2013-05-16/cybersecurity-starts-in-high-school-with-tomorrow-s-hires.html
3. Bureau of Labor Statistics: http://www.bls.gov/ooh/computer-and-information-technology/information-security-analysts.htm
4. Whitehouse.gov: http://www.whitehouse.gov/cybersecurity
5. Information Week: http://www.informationweek.com/traffic-management/best-paying-it-security-jobs-in-2012/d/d-id/1101522?
6. Wall Street Journal: http://blogs.wsj.com/cio/2013/03/04/demand-for-cyber-security-jobs-is-soaring/