CYBER SECURITY BACHELOR'S DEGREE
With the ever-increasing integration of technology into our lives—including mobile networks, Wi-Fi and cloud computing applications—there is more need to make sure that those technologies are secured from criminals. As a result, the field of cyber security is growing at a rapid pace. If you are considering a career in computer science, take a look at programs that offer a bachelor's degree in cyber security. With the rise in cyber attacks and increasingly complex cyber threats, a bachelor's degree in cyber security provides a strong foundation to be prepared for one of the many jobs available in the field.
FIND THE RIGHT PROGRAM
Look for programs that include these areas plus courses in technical writing and legal issues surrounding technology and ethics.
When you seek out a bachelor's program in cyber security, be sure to do your homework. Many programs may flaunt their emphasis on security, but the very best programs are also the most interdisciplinary. That is, they emphasize computer engineering, computer science and management skills to help you develop into the strongest professional you can be. You want to be able to diagnose the problem but also be able to propose solutions to fix it. Look for programs that include these areas plus courses in technical writing and legal issues surrounding technology and ethics. The best cyber security professionals are well-rounded individuals who can see their field through a wide-angle lens.
IS CYBER SECURITY FOR YOU?
Prior to beginning your course of study, it will be good to make sure that this is the field for you. Computer science is a very analytical field that is demanding for everyone. Those with a strong background in mathematics tend to do well, as do those who have strong logic skills. If math is not for you, you might want to try formal logic instead. Make sure you take formal logic and that the course focuses exclusively on working logical proofs, which look a lot like mathematical derivations but without the numbers.
Another great way to prepare for your cyber security bachelor's is to do a stint in the military and work in high technology. Your experience will pay off in the classroom and will enhance your professional life, particularly if you receive top secret clearance. Your clearance will expire when you rejoin the civilian workforce but you can note them on your resume, particularly when you apply to defense contractors who will appreciate that the military has placed its trust in you in the past.
There are lots of ways to prepare for computer science online, as well. You can begin learning many coding languages for free with the help of instructional websites and YouTube videos. If you are intrigued by the problem solving and creativity of coding and are having success with these resources, you will probably enjoy and thrive in a cyber security program.
CAREER PATHS IN CYBER SECURITY
Many universities offer cyber security degrees with several concentrations or specializations. It may help you find work more easily if you are trained in a niche area of the field while also having a broad understanding of cyber security across the board. Consider what your interests are beyond the technology aspect of the job.
If you wish to work with law enforcement to thwart hackers who seek to exploit our banking or defense systems, you will need an aptitude for criminal investigation and law. As a forensics expert, you will need special knowledge of the following:
- The Fourth Amendment to the Constitution.
- The rules of evidence and discovery.
- The ability to perform well under cross examination in a court of law. Here, your communication skills will be tested, as you will strive to convey highly difficult and technical jargon to laypeople on the jury.
Forensics specialists may also work as consultants who work with a defense team's law enforcement agencies. Your duty as a forensics expert in either case will be to analyze the evidence, how it was collected and how that evidence was handled. Before you work as a consultant in this capacity, you will likely need to work for several years in the field.
Other popular routes that cyber security experts take is in IT departments as network engineers, security auditors or security administrators. From these entry-level positions you might rise through the corporate ranks, or you might strike out on your own at some point and become a consultant.
One interesting direction you might pursue is that of an ethical hacker—also called a penetration tester. For this direction, you will want a special certificate as well as plenty of experience. Penetration testers need to be able to
- Sharpen their management, writing and presentation skills so that their clients receive top-notch testing.
- Compile comprehensive reports that communicate the meaning of the test outcomes.
- Penetration testers sometimes are reformed criminals as it could be beneficial to be able to think like a crook to best serve your clients.
Depending on what your area of interest is, some potential cyber security degrees to research might include:
Bachelor's in Administration with a Cyber Security Concentration:
At the core of this degree, you will learn to understand security systems and database management to provide information security and assurance.
Bachelor's in Information Systems and Technology with Cyber Security Intelligence:
This degree is more oriented towards cyber defense and understanding national security and foreign policy.
Bachelor's in Criminal Justice with a Crime Analysis and Cyber Security Concentration:
If you are interested in the technology behind criminal justice, this degree will teach you both geography and information technology to give you the foundation for solving cyber crimes.
Bachelor's in Software Development and Security:
Discover how to implement and test secure software while learning to assess weaknesses and vulnerabilities in security systems.
ONLINE CYBER SECURITY CURRICULUM
If you already have your associate's degree in computer security and are working in an IT department, or if you need an educational structure that works around your obligations, you can earn your bachelor's degree online. There are many universities that have full degree programs online, and many more that offer both in-class instruction with the option of online courses. No matter what your needs are, try to take at least one online course during your undergraduate studies. When you enter the workforce, having online experience will prove very helpful in fulfilling the technology needs of your job.
When you look into an all online course of study, make sure that the courses are structured to specifically meet your needs and that they are accredited.
Many students assume that any online course will work alongside their commitment to work and family. While online courses always have their benefits, some are easier to schedule than others. Some online schools are structured to be asynchronous and you will not need to log in for any scheduled events, such as structured chat room discussions or streamed lectures. In these classes, all course materials will be available to you at any time you need them. You will, however, be expected to meet deadlines for any assignments or projects. Make sure that you are able to effectively manage your time, and make your schooling a priority.
All cyber security undergraduate degree programs will cover the basics of the field, and some of those core courses you take may include:
- Information Systems
- Security Systems
- Information Technology
- Cyber Defense
- Ethics, Law & Policy
- Data Communications & Networking
- Digital Forensics
FINANCIAL AID AND SCHOLARSHIPS
The most important thing to keep in mind when choosing a program is to make sure that it's accredited regionally or nationally. This ensures that the curriculum is vetted by professionals, but it also means that you'll be eligible for federal financial aid, which requires your education to be accredited. In order to determine your status for financial aid, you'll need to fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA).
In addition to federal aid, you may be available for scholarships through your university or another educational organization. Some potential scholarships include:
(ISC)2 Foundation Undergraduate Cybersecurity Scholarship
Offers up to
(ISC)2 Foundation Women's Cybersecurity Scholarship
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Information Assurance Scholarship Program (IASP)
Offers up to
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The National Science Foundation Scholarship for Service
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CYBER SECURITY CALLS FOR WOMEN
While the need for people to fill the expansive cyber security roles available is on the rise, so is the need for women cyber security employees. With only 11 percent of the world's information security workforce being women, according to a 2016 Forbes article, there is overwhelming opportunity for women to find jobs in the field. For those who are interested, they can find many resources for talking to other women who have broken the barrier and stepped into a traditionally male-dominated workspace:
- SANS CyberTalent Immersion Academy for Women
- The Women's Society of Cyberjutsu
- Women in Cyber Project
- Women in Cyber Security (WiCyS)
JOB AND SALARY OUTLOOK
One of the many benefits of studying cyber security is that there are many different jobs available for computer security specialists. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) estimated that those in information security roles can look forward to a 31% job growth rate through 2029, which is much faster than the national average. Some of the top recruiters for these cyber security positions include the federal government and healthcare organizations, who are utilizing electronic health records more and more.
Job Growth Rates Compared
Information Security Roles
General Computer Occupations
Median Annual Salary
Information Security Analysts
The BLS states that the average annual pay for information security analysts is $104,210, with typical entry-level education being a bachelor's degree.
Keep in mind that if you pursue additional education and a higher degree, you can be eligible for managerial positions that account for making higher-level decisions about an organization's security system.