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.
Cyber security degrees, also known as cybersecurity degrees and information security degrees, comprise courses of study specific to computer network security that prepare students for careers as forensic network analysts, computer analysts, information security analysts, and other network security jobs. These programs provide graduates with specific skills related to the investigation of cyber intrusions and the 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 for those involved in cybersecurity and information security are generally higher than average and job growth is higher than the national mean. Jobs in this field generally require a minimum of a bachelor’s degree.2
Did you know? At a House Intelligence Committee hearing in April 2013, top US intelligence official James Clapper stated that the threat of cyber attacks has become a greater concern than terrorism for the first time.1
Featured Online Programs
Explore program formats, transfer requirements, financial aid packages, and more by contacting the schools below.
Cyber Security Training and Courses
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. Cybersecurity students learn how to design, manage, and secure computer networks. Advanced coursework focuses on cybercrime and cyberterrorism, as well as online forensics work to identify intruders on corporate and government computer systems. Other high-level courses focus on threat assessment and planning for active network defense.
According to O*NET OnLine, 53% of information security analysts recommend those interested in the field to earn a bachelor’s degree, while 23% recommend a bachelor’s degree and a post-graduate certificate.2 Only 13% of information security analysts recommend a post-secondary certificate in lieu of a bachelor’s degree.2
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 fiscal year of 2017, over 35,000 cybersecurity incidents against the US federal government and its personnel were reported.3
Traditional Cyber Security Degree Programs
George Washington University awards a bachelor’s degree in cybersecurity to students who complete its academically challenging undergraduate degree completion program. Administered through the College of Professional Studies, this degree designed for working professionals and is open to students who already have an associate’s degree, another bachelor’s degree, or 60 credit hours from a regionally-accredited institution including certain required courses. The curriculum requires 60 credit hours including core courses and concentrations in computer network defense and cyber threat analyses. 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 36-credit master’s degree program in Cybersecurity Strategy and Information Management.
Stevens Institute of Technology administers programs culminating in the award of a Bachelor of Science in Cybersecurity and a Master of Science in Cybersecurity. Courses for the 30-credit graduate program may be completed through on-campus learning at the Hoboken campus. Core courses in the program include Foundations of Cryptography, Advanced Algorithm Design, and Privacy in a Networked World. Students can take electives in areas like cybersecurity, enterprise computing, and management to complete the degree plan. The program faculty have research interests such as cryptographic protocols, identity and authentication in user environments, distributed systems, and algorithmic number theory. 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.
The University of Maryland, Baltimore County has an on-campus program that leads to the award of a Master in Professional Studies (MPS): 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, though the average completion time for part-time students is three years. Students can be admitted to the program and take courses through 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 course: 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 in fifth place as a top innovative national university by US News & World Report and is certified by the National Security Agency and Department of Homeland Security as a Center of Academic Excellence in Research.
Online Cyber Security Degree Programs
University of Maryland University College (UMUC) offers three types of online Bachelor of Science degrees in Cybersecurity: Computer Networks and Cybersecurity, Cybersecurity Management and Policy, and Software Development and Security. Each program focuses on different operational and technological concepts in corporate network administration and has different required courses. The Computer Networks and Cybersecurity program can help students prepare for standard cybersecurity industry certifications such as Cisco Certified Network Associate, Microsoft Certified Solutions Expert, Mobile Forensic Certified Examiner, CompTIA Network+, and Computer Security Incident Handler. Students who have already earned a bachelor’s degree may be interested in UMUC’s four online Master of Science in Cybersecurity programs or its four options for online 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.
The online Master of Science in Cyber Security program offered by Valparaiso University provides an affordable path toward a career in the growing cybersecurity 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. Students enrolled in the program have access to a virtual cloud server that blends theoretical coursework with tactile cybersecurity 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.
Did you know? It is estimated that a third or more of US cyber attacks originate outside of the United States. – Congressional Cybersecurity Caucus
Cyber Security Job Description
Network security analysts and cybersecurity investigators work with private organizations as well as 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. Excellent computer skills are required to both defend against cyber attacks on government and organizations and develop strategies to prevent security breaches by cyber criminals. An undergraduate degree may be sufficient for entry-level positions, while a graduate degree could lead to leadership or management opportunities in government.
The cybersecurity and information security fields is relatively new and as a result, job descriptions and roles are still developing. Graduates are hired by IT and technology companies, government departments and agencies, security software companies, and others. Examples of related jobs you can get with a cybersecurity degree include:
- Computer security incident responder
- Information security analyst
- Information security officer
- Penetration tester/ethical hacker
- Security administrator
- Security analyst
- Security architect
- Security consultant
- Security analyst
- Security director
- Security engineer
- Source code auditor
- Vulnerability assessor
Cyber Security Salary and Job Outlook
The federal government is devoting significant resources towards reducing the threat of cyber attacks. The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects 28% growth in employment for information security analysts through 2026, much faster than the average for all occupations.5 Information security analysts earn an annual median salary of $95,510.5 Those working in computer systems design and related services earn a higher average, at $98,100 per year.5
Compensation is also increasing for government employees who are tasked with protecting the nation’s infrastructure using cybersecurity skills. Career advancement in all levels and industries is possible by handling the protection of larger networks or managing other network security analysts. There are also many opportunities in this field for careers in consulting and risk management.
CJDS Fact: A 2015 study found that cybersecurity hacks cost companies an estimated $243 billion per year – in the US alone.6
Featured Online Programs
- CyberCorps Scholarship for Service: The CyberCorps Scholarship for Service is a program funded by the National Science Foundation that 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.
- FBI Cyber Crime: News and information including cases, threats, and Cyber’s Most Wanted.
- 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.
- DOJ Computer Crime & Intellectual Property Section: Responsible for combating computer and intellectual property crimes worldwide.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is the difference between a cyber security degree and an information security degree?
What is the difference between a cybersecurity degree and an information assurance degree?
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.
1. Federal Times: DNI Clapper: Cyber bigger threat than terrorism: https://www.federaltimes.com/management/2016/02/04/dni-clapper-cyber-bigger-threat-than-terrorism/
2. O*NET OnLine, Information Security Analysts: https://www.onetonline.org/link/summary/15-1122.00
3. United States Government Accountability Office, “Urgent Actions Are Needed to Address Cybersecurity Challenges Facing the Nation”: https://www.gao.gov/assets/700/694355.pdf
4. Whitehouse.gov: https://www.whitehouse.gov/issues/foreign-policy/
5. Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Outlook Handbook, Information Security Analysts: https://www.bls.gov/ooh/computer-and-information-technology/information-security-analysts.htm
6. LLoyd’s and the University of Cambridge, Emerging Risk Report 2015 – Business Blackout: https://www.lloyds.com/news-and-risk-insight/risk-reports/library/society-and-security/business-blackout
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