As society's need to digitize grows, cyber security is becoming one of the fastest-growing industries in the world. Recent education statistics project that the number of information security analysts will increase by 35% from 2021 to 2031 (Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2020). That said, students looking to take up a cyber security degree can look forward to many opportunities in the industry.
Cyber security professionals are tasked with preventing data breaches and cyber-attacks. The job involves knowing and applying information security practices to safeguard sensitive data. These include planning and carrying out security measures to protect an organization's networks and systems.
Whether you want to earn an undergraduate or master in cyber security degree or want to advance your career, there are several requirements you have to meet. In this post, you will discover what a cyber security degree entails, how much it can cost, and other requirements that can help you pursue a relevant career.
One of the IT-related careers, a cyber security degree prepares students to counter cyber security threats. This includes monitoring networking systems, identifying potential security breaches, and taking proactive security measures. Thus, students who pursue this degree can learn skills involving information security, like ethical hacking, network security, and security risk management. They can also acquire knowledge similar to students who take up computer programming degrees.
Offering cyber security programs is also the government's response to reducing national and critical infrastructure vulnerabilities. According to the National Initiative for Cybersecurity Careers and Studies (NICCS), more than 300 colleges and universities across the country are designated to the National Centers of Academic Excellence in Cyber Security (NCAE-C) Program (2022).
In addition to coding and hacking, a cybersecurity degree fosters communication, organization and management, and creative problem-solving skills. Every organization, from entertainment to healthcare, needs people with cyber security skills at all levels.
So, what can you do with a cyber security degree? Earning a degree in cyber security allows graduates to work in various fields. They can perform security audits and risk analyses, install intrusion detection systems, and design access control policies for businesses of all sizes.
Most cyber security jobs involve identifying vulnerabilities that hackers can exploit. It also includes configuring and installing solutions to prevent cyber attacks, implementing security policies, and providing counterintelligence investigations.
As with any discipline, it is vital to consider the cost of tuition, books, supplies, and other related expenses like application fees and standardized tests.
Students should also consider their preferred college or university. This will dictate how much a cyber security degree will cost. The same goes for the transfer credits and course codes that transfer students should keep in mind.
The cost of cyber security degree programs will vary considerably based on the institution you enroll in, its location, and your lifestyle. Cyber security degree tuition and fees at a private four-year institution can range from $44,700 to $46,000. On the other hand, tuition and fees at a public four-year college or university can cost $20,600 (in-state) and $21,100 (out-of-state) (National Center for Education Statistics, n.d.).
As for a master's degree program, tuition and fees range from $12,400 to $26,700 per year (National Center for Education Statistics, n.d.). This will depend on the duration of the program and whether you will enroll in a private or public university.
|Bachelor's Degree (Public)||$20,597||$21,035|
|Bachelor’s Degree (Private)||$44,671||$45,932|
|*Values are estimates.|
Source: National Center for Education Statistics
Cyber security professionals are often interested in computers and solving puzzles and mysteries. Add to that their desire to protect themselves and others against hackers and scammers. In turn, working in cyber security allows them to build IT infrastructure that safeguards people, organizations, and governments' sensitive data.
Earning a cyber security degree is the first step towards providing critical network surveillance services, security awareness training, or comprehensive defense analysis and assessment. Whether you want a career that pays well or to do meaningful work, becoming a cyber security professional allows you to contribute to society.
That said, a degree in cyber security provides exciting and fulfilling opportunities. You can find work primarily in IT companies. Still, you can also serve in the government, finance, healthcare, law enforcement, retail sectors, and more. In addition, the average starting salary of a cyber security specialist starts at $70,000 per year (Indeed, n.d.).
As a cyber security degree holder, you will find jobs that involve testing and assessing IT infrastructures for vulnerabilities and providing solutions that can minimize business damage and revenue loss. The following sections will discuss in detail the type of jobs you can choose.
No individual or organization is immune from increasing cyber-attacks. Flashpoint's State of Data Breach Intelligence report in 2022 revealed that almost 2,000 breaches were disclosed during the first six months of 2022. Approximately 60% of these incidents are due to hacking, exposing 1.4 billion records (Flashpoint, 2022).
As such, companies are pressured to hire more professionals who can prevent and act on these attacks. However, the number of cyber security professionals cannot keep up with the current demand as discussed in a paper titled “Fight Fire with Fire: Proactive Cybersecurity Strategies for Today’s Leaders” published in the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers. It states that “more than two‐thirds of organizations struggle to recruit, hire, and retain cybersecurity talent. Actively working to bridge the diversity gap also helps bridge the skills gap because in so doing the readers' organization opens the doors to additional cybersecurity workers (Tarun, 2022).”
This also explains why the United States has over 750,000 cyber security job openings . In addition, an information security analyst role is the eighth fastest-growing occupation in the country (Cyberseek, n.d.).
Source: CyberSeek.org, 2022
Another contributing factor to the rise of demand for cyber security professionals is the White House's push to build relevant career pathways. This includes providing Registered Apprenticeships in community colleges and non-traditional training opportunities for job seekers wanting to learn and make a good living as cyber security analysts, consultants, or vulnerability testers.
In the United States, the average annual salary of a cyber security specialist is $97,547 (Indeed, 2023). In entry-level positions, you can earn up to $71,000 annually. Meanwhile, professionals with several years of experience make $73,000 to $118,000 yearly. This will depend on how long they have been in the field and the type of industry they are in.
Some employee benefits that a cyber security professional may receive are long-term care insurance, student loan repayment, and retirement accounts. Companies also provide training and development to their employees, allowing them to upskill and get a chance to earn more.
Depending on your choice of university, you can find certification courses and associate, bachelor, and master's in cyber security degree types. You can also search for the best online cyber security degrees if you prefer to complete this degree online.
Average time to complete: Two years
Earning an associate's degree in cyber security allows students to increase their understanding of robust cyber defense technology. They will also learn computer technology that can help address security-related information system needs. These include protecting digital information against unauthorized access or attack.
Taking an associate's degree will expose you to the following:
Entry-level jobs: Information security analyst, information system security officer, computer investigative forensic analyst
Average time to complete: Three to four years
A bachelor's degree in cyber security gives students the advanced technical knowledge and skills to monitor, mitigate, and prevent online threats. They can also use this degree to seek employment in various industries like government agencies, ecommerce companies, and defense contractors. There are also graduates who work alongside professionals in biotech careers.
Taking a bachelor's degree will expose you to the following:
Entry-level jobs: Cyber security engineer, security operations engineer, information security analyst
Average time to complete: One to two years
Taking a master's degree in cyber security focuses on system management and design meant to defend IT networks from external threats. Thus, students will learn to safeguard the confidentiality, availability, and integrity of information and systems that support an organization.
Taking a master's degree will expose you to the following:
Entry-level jobs: Cyber security engineer, cyber security architect, security operations center engineer
Average time to complete: One to four years
A certificate in cyber security is often a complementary course for bachelor-degree holders who want to pursue a career in cyber security. This may also be a cyber security degree prerequisite to pursuing a master's degree.
Taking a certificate course will expose you to the following:
Entry-level jobs: IT auditor, cyber security specialist, cybercrime analyst
Source: Talent.com, 2022
Aside from the increasing demand and competitive compensation, getting a cyber security job allows you to contribute to society. Moreover, you have the opportunity to work in various industries.
One reason is that companies in every industry are at risk of cyber attacks. In 2022 alone, small businesses reported more than 800 incidents of data breaches (Verizon, 2022). Other than that, some industries are especially vulnerable to cyber attacks.
Source: Verizon 2022 Data Breach Investigations Report
To become a cyber security professional, you must earn a relevant degree. That said, we compiled a list of the cyber security degree requirements that you must complete before enrolling.
More than 6,000 cyber security training courses are available in the United States, over 300 of which are offered by colleges and universities (National Initiative for Cybersecurity Careers and Studies, 2022). So how do you choose which program to consider? We recommend considering the specialization you want to study and the program's accreditation.
Since every business is vulnerable to threats, cyber security can fit into organizations of all sizes. This also explains why the field has matured into a complex and diverse set of functions.
When looking for a college or university offering cyber security programs, consider whether the course provides relevant specializations:
There is no specific body that accredits cyber security programs. However, the U.S. Department of Education recognizes these six regional accreditation organizations:
In addition, students can enroll in colleges and universities that are part of the NCAE-C Program. This program features schools that offer top cyber security degree courses.
Aside from completing a degree, acquiring a cyber security certification can increase a student's chance to land their preferred career. This is because some employers require job applicants to have specific credentials. In fact, as of 2022, the number of job openings for certified information systems security professionals have increased to 13,4613 (CyberSeek.org, 2022).
Other common certifications that cyber security students can look into include CompTIA Security+, Cisco Certified Network Associate (Cisco CNA), Certified Computer Forensic Examiner (CCFE), and Global Information Assurance Certification (GIAC).
Source: CyberSeek.org, 2022
To leverage the cyber security degree skills and knowledge that a student acquires, it would help if the school offers hands-on experience. It can be through a computer lab or a virtual environment that will enable students to apply what they have learned. Some hands-on activities they can do include building secure IT infrastructure, monitoring networks and systems against cyberattacks, or uncovering system vulnerabilities and mitigating risks.
The Cybersecurity & Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) teamed up with the National Science Foundation and the Office of Personnel Management to provide scholarship funding to programs related to cyber security.
Scholars may take advantage of the following:
Students can check the list of schools that offer cyber security scholarships. In return, scholars must serve a cyber security role within a U.S. government entity for a period equal to the length of their scholarship.
For students looking for a job that lets them contribute to society and pays well, we recommend that you acquire a cyber security degree.
First, the need for cyber security professionals will continue to rise as the need for digitization grows. Second, your prospect is wider than IT. You can work for the government or in healthcare, finance, education, marketing, and more.
Albeit the tuition can be expensive, ranging from $20,000 to $45,000 per year, you can earn an average of $71,000 annually for an entry-level cyber security job. That's why having a degree in cyber security is worth it.