CYBER SECURITY EDUCATION

In today's paperless society, cyber security is more important than ever, as the people who choose to earn an education in the field provide reassurance to a public threatened by data breaches and identity theft on a daily basis. Just about any sort of business wants to protect its databases, users, and websites from outside interruption, particularly financial institutions, high-volume retailers who store credit card information, government and insurance agencies, and anyone else with a valuable or sensitive database.

DEGREES OFFERED

You cyber security education can come in the form of an associate's degree, as part of a bachelors in information technology, or from a certificate program. An associate's degree can be achieved in about two years of full-time school, while a bachelor's may take around least four years. A certificate program is likely to take less time, but can take as much as a year to complete. Two-year master's degree programs are also available once you finish your undergraduate education. If you already have a bachelor's degree and are considering a certificate, check to make sure that your credits can apply towards a master's degree.

Keep in mind that the vast majority of roles require a four-year bachelor's degree. An associate's degree may land an entry-level position, but be prepared to continue your education at least through the bachelor's level for more advanced careers, or management positions.

RESEARCH PRIOR TO ENROLLING

Many schools offer programs in cyber security, and there may even be a good fit in your immediate area. When you seek out a school, do your research before jumping in. If you are already in the IT field, it's likely that your colleagues know a lot about programs in the area. Use your networking skills and ask them about their experiences with their cyber security programs and classes. If they are already working in the field, it may give you an indication of whether the school has programs in the area you're interested in, and has an accredited status from a professional agency or regional accreditation office.

As you research schools and ask questions, you may discover that you are more drawn to cyber security policy and a multidisciplinary approach to the subject of cyber crime. Other people might be more interested in a hands-on approach and seek coursework in forensics and investigating cyber crimes. When you research programs, you can begin to determine which path interests you more. If you are uncertain, you might look at programs that offer classes in programming and other areas of information technology so that you have a strong base upon which to support your eventual career.

ONLINE OR REAL-WORLD

Another key element to investigate is whether to pursue your schooling online or in a real-world classroom setting. Both have merits, but you'll need to assess which will work best for you. The online route is appealing because it opens up the field of colleges and universities to select from. If you live in a remote area, have work or family responsibilities, are stationed elsewhere for military service, or need a flexible schedule, you won't need to move, change jobs, or alter your lifestyle to receive a quality education.

If you're the type of student that does better with in-person instruction, seek out colleges and universities in your local area. You might even consider moving to another town to complete your education if a school offers a program in your specialized area of interest in cyber security.

PRIORITIZE EDUCATION

No matter which avenue you pursue, make sure that you make your education a priority. And if you are currently working in IT, your employer might make allowances for you to study, attend online lectures or discussions—or may even offer tuition assistance benefits to help you pay for school. If you need to work while going to school, discuss this matter with your boss. Some companies actively encourage their employees to advance their learning in hopes that it might benefit the company later on.

WHAT CAN YOU DO IN CYBER SECURITY?

Once you have completed your cyber security program and begin working in your area of interest, you may see the benefits of your hard work. Though salaries may vary according to your city and state, and level of experience, some professionals earn solid salaries.

There are a wide range of jobs available to those with cyber security training. Plus, the job market for this field is expected to grow at more than twice the rate of the average IT field through at least 2030. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics' Occupational Outlook Handbook states that they expect growth to reach 33% for information security analysts through 2030. Additionally the 2021 BLS reports a median annual wage of $102,600 for these professionals. Depending upon the type of education program you pursue, you may be able to consider one of these other tech careers:

  • Computer forensic specialist
  • Information security analyst
  • Computer forensic examiner
  • Government cyber security manager
  • Cyber intelligence analyst
  • Chief security officer
  • Cyber security manager or administrator
  • Cyber security architect
  • Cyber security operations analyst
  • Cyber security engineer