All cyber security professionals are computer scientists, but not all computer scientists work in cyber security.
Students in both degree tracks need excellent problem-solving skills and fluency in multiple programming languages. Both programs lead to high-paying jobs in a market where talent is scarce. Organizations struggle to fill computer science roles, and those who find work are frequently unprepared to tackle even basic security risks, according to the Harvard Business Review.
There are distinctions as well. For example, cyber security is just one computer science specialization—meaning it can be offered as a concentration in Master of Science in Computer Science programs, as well as a stand-alone degree.
Both tracks offer considerable career benefits, but?utm_source=noodle_article_prospect&utm_medium=affiliate_cpl&utm_term=anonymous&utm_content=computer-science-vs-cyber-security-mscs-difference&utm_campaign=Computer%2520Science%252C%2520Cybersecurity?utm_source=noodle_article_prospect&utm_medium=affiliate_cpl&utm_term=anonymous&utm_content=computer-science-vs-cyber-security-mscs-difference&utm_campaign=Computer%2520Science%252C%2520Cybersecurity which should you pick? Those who like investigating data breaches, identifying malware, and improving network security usually choose cyber security. In contrast, those who want to develop software or maintain databases pursue a general computer science degree or a different specialization. But, because these two paths are so interconnected, you don't necessarily need to pick one.
For a more in-depth analysis about computer science vs. cyber security master's degrees and the way these degrees complement each other, read on. This article covers:
Similar degrees can have different focuses; looking at degree titles can be revealing. For instance, within the cyber security designation you can earn a Master of Science in:
Conversely, Case Western Reserve University calls its computer science degree an MS in Computing and Information Science. When in doubt about what a program is, it's best to compare curricula.
Computer science curricula can vary widely between schools, but there is lots of common ground—including among online programs. A typical master's in computer science curriculum, like the one at Stevens Institute of Technology, covers:
Programs that candidates lacking a comp sci background also cover such bachelor's-degree-level subjects as basic programming and data analysis. Alternatively, students may self-study equivalent undergraduate coursework, or complete a bridge program.
Computer science programs offer cyber security classes, but obviously, a master's in cyber security goes deeper. Students in the University of Tulsa program "master the theory, concepts and techniques of information assurance and network defense in real-world environments."
Typical master's in cyber security degree coursework includes:
Additionally, while there are bachelor's degrees in cyber security, applicants commonly have a general computer science background.
Most master's programs take two years of full-time study to complete. Part-time programs take longer, up to five years. Students can also complete accelerated CS master's programs, which can last about a year. Most accelerated CS and cyber security programs are what's known as 4+1 degrees. Students in these programs complete a four-year undergraduate degree, then remain an additional year to complete the master's program.
Earning a master's degree from a top school can help improve your job prospects. Top institutions have strong alumni networks, and name recognition can be beneficial in the job search. These schools also attract prestigious professors and can dedicate more resources to unique learning opportunities and experiences. Still, where you complete your degree isn't the only factor in earning potential.
Top programs look for students with relevant work experience. Experience with digital forensics or penetration testing may bolster a cyber security master's application the way a software engineering or data analytics background can help for computer science.
Schools with top master's in computer science programs include:
Schools with top master's in cyber security programs include:
Master's degrees require an investment. If you study full-time, you will likely have little or no time to earn money while you attend the program. Fortunately, it's possible to cut costs. Certain employers are willing to cover part or all of a graduate degree, usually in exchange for a postgraduate commitment with the company. Additionally, scholarships and fellowships can help reduce or eliminate costs. Public universities sometimes offer residents a tuition break, and attending one can also help alleviate the burden.
Tuition (not including additional fees) for the most costly computer science master's degrees can exceed $100,000, though most charge between $15,000 and $75,000, according to US News and World Report. Online and in-person programs typically charge similar rates.
Most cyber security degrees are offered through the computer science department and cost the same as a master's in computer science.
According to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the computer and information technology field is expected to grow by 15 percent from 2021 to 2031. This figure encompasses all computer science careers, including cyber security.
The BLS expects computer and information research scientist employment to grow by 21 percent from 2021 to 2031.
The BLS projects information security analyst employment to grow by a staggering 35 percent from 2021 to 2031.
Examining job outlook numbers is an excellent way to identify trends, but looking at career paths provides a more detailed picture. These are some top jobs you can get with a master's degree.
PayScale says the average salary for someone with a master's in computer science is $109,000. The best jobs pay considerably more.
Ultimately, you can't go wrong with either degree, assuming you have technical skills and enjoy working with computers.
A master's in computer science is worth it if you have the time and resources to dedicate to it. While master's in computer science programs exist for professionals at every level, those who use their degrees to advance or develop specific expertise typically benefit the most.
You can make a case that a master's in cyber security is more valuable than a master's in computer science. Even though professionals with a master's in cyber security earn less, on average, than their computer science counterparts, they usually have a more focused skill set and get to work in a field that is growing even faster than the rest of computer science. As attacks like the Sunburst hack and Russian interference with the US government become more common, a master's in cyber security may gain even more long-term value than a traditional computer science degree.
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