CYBER SECURITY DEGREES—LEVELS & CURRICULUM
Though it may seem very different, cyber security is an offshoot of computer science. When you work towards a degree in this field, you will need to apply your skills in statistical analysis and have knowledge of laws governing intellectual property, on top of knowing all of the relevant technologies related to the web, robotics and artificial intelligence.
In fact, a cyber security degree is sometimes not even offered at the undergraduate level, and students must wait until they reach graduate school to take classes. At the same time, more and more universities are offering associate degrees in information security, and for students really short on time cyber security bootcamps are sprouting up all over the place.
THE CYBER SECURITY STUDENT PROFILE
Students who pursue cyber security are generally highly analytical problem solvers. They have a passion for technology and are intrigued by the problems posed by cyber criminals, cryptography, and the laws and ethics surrounding privacy and intellectual property. It might be said that cyber security students are detectives or investigators and that the virtual world is their jurisdiction.
MASTER'S AND UNDERGRADUATE COURSEWORK
There are numerous programs that offer a specialty in the field, and most are available at the master's level. However, there are undergraduate cyber security programs that allow students to study information security as a special focus for their degree.
If you are intrigued with the field and want to get started immediately, you can get a head start on your career by diving directly into information and network security. At the undergraduate level, you may be offered classes such as these:
- Intro to Networking
- Digital Forensics and Criminal Justice
- Computer Ethics (e.g. Ethical Hacking)
- Cyber Security Policies
If you decide to go on to study cyber security at a graduate level, you may find courses such as:
- Computer Forensics
ONLINE AND REAL-WORLD CYBER SECURITY SCHOOLS
Since a cyber security degree is geared towards tech-minded people, it makes sense that there are many programs available both in the real world and online environments. If your program of choice is in your local area and it fits your schedule, you can opt for attending classes in a real-world environment. However, if you find a dream program several states away and you can't move, you can opt to study information security online.
Online degrees offer many options and solutions for students, so be sure to investigate each program carefully to ensure that it will work best for you. One key feature students look for in an online course of study is flexibility. However, some will still require that you log in at particular times of the day for online chats or to stream a lecture.
When assessing the program you are applying for, make sure that you are prepared in case they do require structured elements. Keep in mind elements like your time zone. If, for instance, you live in California and your school is in New York state, there might be lectures or chats scheduled for eight in the morning. Are you able to be alert and ready to discuss course topics at five o'clock in the morning for example?
TIPS FOR RESEARCHING CYBER SECURITY PROGRAMS
No matter whether you elect an online or real-world college or university for your cyber security degree, it is important to research the individual programs. Find out whether they offer enough focus on the areas you are interested in. If you wish to be involved with law enforcement, look for courses in forensics and investigation.
If you want to work with a corporation and help to protect their financial records, you might be more interested in network and information security and how to best assess and implement new encryption technologies.
You should also look into the backgrounds of the faculty. For this industry, you might want to look at how much experience the instructors have in the field, though there is great value in instructors who are primarily academics. If you find that instructors are demonstrating their knowledge through publications and involvement with seminars and conferences, they might not need a robust corporate resume.
It is also important to research what graduates of the program are doing with their degrees. See if you can find out what alumni are doing. It might also be interesting to see what sort of alumni networking is facilitated by the school. When you are in such a rarefied field as cyber security, it can be very beneficial to keep in touch with others from your department.
If you are planning to study online, investigate what sorts of community-building efforts the school makes to connect students with one another during and after graduation. The more you collaborate as a student, the better prepared you will be in a working situation, and the more likely you are to make connections that may pay off later in your career.
The cyber security field is taking off due to the rise in cyber crime. In fact, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that job growth for information security analysts will be at 31.5% through at least 2031, which is much faster than the job growth rate for all other career fields.
The career paths open to a cyber security professional are many and varied and your cyber security degree will prepare you to work in a number of industries, including information firms, credit and financial institutions, e-commerce companies and government agencies.