We might not immediately realize it but The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, Lisbeth Salander, gets her comeuppance by being a dynamo of a cyber security expert. She makes quick work of an email encryption scheme, installs malware to defuse a bad guy’s evil tendencies and emerges a hero. While Hollywood usually adds a healthy sprinkling of glitter dust to every profession, the takeaway from Lisbeth’s case still remains relevant: to understand how to defeat a hacker, you must be a hacker.
Given that worldwide cybercrime costs an estimated $600 billion USD annually, the demand for cyber security experts is only expected to increase. Indeed, spending on cyber security is expected to hit a whopping $1 trillion by 2020.
And it’s not just consumer data companies that are boosting the cyber security jobs market. With the rise of connected devices (Industrial Internet of Things) even in B2B applications such as manufacturing, data challenges abound in a variety of industries. So, even for those looking at entry level cyber security jobs can pretty much choose the vertical (retail, finance, etc.) they want to work in.
Cyber security jobs also tend to pay really well, with Glassdoor pegging the median salary at $124,637 per year. But while it used to be that professionals with skills in lateral areas such as computer science and programming could easily land cyber security jobs, the landscape has evolved to prioritize individuals who have their master’s in cyber security. Still on the fence? Here are the top problem-solving skills you’ll learn with master’s degree in cyber security, to help land your dream job.
While this is a skill that’s vital in today’s job market across all disciplines, it is especially relevant in cyber security as, like Lisbeth Salander, you are trained to put yourself in the mind of a hacker. A cyber security degree will teach you to look at the problem from the other person (even the villain’s) point of view and that is always a good thing.
People with cyber security jobs also need empathy in working closely with colleagues across departmental silos. Software programmers and engineers, for example, might balk at what they perceive as overly restrictive security protocols. Understanding the pain points from the other side and working collaboratively to ensure freedom of movement while still meeting security standards is a vital skill you can learn from a master’s in cyber security.
In its 2022 Cybersecurity Workforce Study, (ISC) estimates the size of the the global cyber security workforce at 4.7 million. It also indicates that the current workforce is 3.4 million workers short. That’s over 3 million positions waiting to be filled by qualified cyber security experts (nearly half a million of them in North America alone). (
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, top-paying employers in cyber security analytics include those in:
- Information services: $149,500
- Securities, commodity contracts, and other financial instruments: $142,000
- Research and development in the physical, engineering, and life sciences: $129,000
- Scientific research and development services: $128,500
- Software publishers: $126,000
- Publishing: $125,700
The average salaries of professionals with a Master's degree are between $91,000 and $109,000, respectively. About half of all professionals in this field hold a graduate degree. ( )
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Being a cyber security expert means understanding the mechanics of how large data systems are interconnected. People in cyber security jobs must often configure Windows and Linux-based systems and also develop appropriate protocols for cloud-based architectures. Installing firewalls and access controls are all part of the job. Earning a master’s in cyber security teaches you the intricacies of present-day systems and also how to step back and look at the big picture, so you can easily zero in on vulnerabilities and fix them.
Since the technologies available to combat cyber attacks and cyberterrorism are the same ones exploited by hackers, a cyber security professional evolves with changes in the landscape, while also being a quick study. A master’s in cyber security will teach you to relish the constant arms race and become an expert in the cat-and-mouse game that the field demands.
Since cyberterrorism is also a global threat against geopolitical powers, if you expect to work for the government, you will not only need a security clearance but a whole checklist of training specifically designed for these roles. A cyber security degree will keep you abreast of these requirements, including the Risk Management Framework necessitated by the Department of Defense and the guidelines set out by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST).
The training that comes with a cyber security degree also teaches you how to solve problems while under fire. You will learn how to catch the latest updates to security protocols and put out problems sometimes in multiple departments. Since the job is pretty much like being on the frontlines in a hospital emergency room, studying cyber security will train you how to drink water from a firehose.
Because cyber security professionals have to be all-hands-on-deck all the time, they need to understand where to focus their energies and where not to. A master’s in cyber security teaches you how to be creative and automate routine tasks through intelligent use of machine learning and other contemporary technologies.
As much as you don’t want a cyber attack to happen on your watch, it is usually not a matter of if, but when. You learn how to be a forensic expert and track down the port of entry for the malware. Remember that cyber attacks don’t just happen on grander, multinational corporation levels. Even small businesses are vulnerable to cyber attacks so as a professional, you need to be able to follow the breadcrumb trail to solve the crime.
Given the market for cyber security jobs, a master’s in cyber security might be a sound investment to pave the way for a thriving career.
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