COMPUTER SECURITY MAJOR
If you're thinking about pursuing a computer security major, then you are about to make a very good decision. The field is expanding at a rapid rate—so fast that there are not enough specialists to meet the needs of the Pentagon or Homeland Security agency. Corporations too are clamoring after computer specialists who are able to help them secure their data from foreign and domestic intruders. When you graduate skills and knowledge related to cybersecurity, your resume will be a very hot ticket.
The job outlook for the field is phenomenal, and the Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that the job market for computer security majors will grow by over 31% through the next decade. These numbers are encouraging universities to develop curricula to meet the demands of both students and the nation.
A DEVELOPING FIELD
Cybersecurity as a field is currently in a state of early development. Law Enforcement and defense agencies are striving to establish standards and definitions for the profession, so this is a very exciting time to enter the arena. With that in mind, it is important to do plenty of research into the best schools at which to major in a field such as computer security, cyber security, or IT security.
SELECTING A PROGRAM
Experts who assess computer security programs view interdisciplinary programs as the best type of education program. Look for majors that include engineering, computer science, and management. Interestingly, library science is also included as part of the discussion, and you might find a robust education in computer security if you take a major in that department. The National Security Administration and the Department of Homeland Security may also have a designation for the program as a center of excellence in the field.
Before entering into computer security as a major in your undergraduate program, make sure that you are entering the field for the right reasons. While there are many high-paying jobs available for the work, it's not for everyone. Some highly technical people choose other paths, such as software development, network engineering or information technology. You'll need to be a highly analytical person with a good handle on programming, networking and hardware technology, so if these things come to you somewhat easily and if you are excited about new advances in technology, cybersecurity may be the major for you.
COURSEWORK AND SCHOOLS
Look for a school that can provide the right courses and which will offer a full major in computer security. Some may offer special concentrations in security, so be sure to investigate those as well. Since the field is still relatively new, earning your degree in the specialization may make you competitive in the market and eligible to apply to a master's level program later on. Some classes to look for include:
- Computer Forensics
- Network Engineering
- Introduction to Cyber Security
- Object Oriented Programming
- Introduction to Cryptography
Be sure to do thorough research on the programs you find. Look into how they structure their departments, and discuss with the school's recruiters and advisors how your program can help you achieve your goals. Some schools with strong computer science departments might allow you to craft independent study courses that are tailored to address issues related to computer security. In fact, you might be able to put together your own custom cyber security concentration or even major, and lead the way for your fellow students.
DESIGN YOUR OWN MAJOR
Since the field is still in its early stages, there is a chance that your local colleges and universities don't yet have a major in computer security. In fact, you may have to move a great distance for a brick-and-mortar education. However, you might be able to take your courses online. Online education is a great option and is able to connect students and teachers across the nation, and facilitate education that was not previously possible.
If the online route sounds appealing to you, make sure that it fits your life and schedule. Online classes come with their own particular set of challenges. One of these is building the connection with your instructors. Establishing this connection and engaging them in discussions through email or in chat rooms is vital to succeeding in an online program. Different schools will have individual means for interacting, and may use common tools such as Blackboard, or create proprietary tools unique to the department. When you are able to interact with your instructor as a human and more than words on a screen, the whole experience becomes more meaningful and valuable.
Before you graduate, start looking for internships. There are bound to be lots of opportunities on a federal level around Washington DC, or in Silicon Valley, and Virginia. The Department of Homeland Security, the FBI, and the National Security Administration are likely to take interns and entry-level employees who have the skills to keep our nation's digital assets safe and secure.