A Master’s in Cyber Security Broadens Your Job Prospects, Earning Potential

A Master’s in Cyber Security Broadens Your Job Prospects, Earning Potential
Cyber security experts work just about everywhere these days. Image from Unsplash
Christa Terry profile
Christa Terry July 21, 2020

Will you earn good money after earning an MS in Cyber Security or a related master's degree? Absolutely. You might make just as much without one, though, if you have the right experience or certifications.

Cybersecurity Programs You Should Consider

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More and more personal, professional, and financial data is being digitized, creating a vast networked landscape of sensitive information vulnerable to attack. Simple identity theft is the most common form of cybercrime. However, hackers and other criminals do more than just drain bank accounts. They shut down entire networks, destroying businesses and hamstringing governments. They exploit minors. They launch terrorist attacks.

The havoc they wreak each year can be measured in hundreds of billions of dollars in losses and damage. The only thing standing between them and total computerized chaos is a small army of cyber security professionals.

The keyword here is small. According to one Center for Cyber Safety and Education ISC 2 study, the global cyber security talent gap will hit 3 million in 2023. Jobs in information security are growing much faster than the workforce needed to fill them.

As a result, qualified cyber security professionals command high salaries right out of school. The average salary for cyber security jobs is almost $111,000, and top-paying positions like chief information security officer can generate paychecks totaling $300,000 per year or more.

‘Qualified’ can mean having a master’s in cyber security, but doesn’t always. There are other ways to boost your earning potential in this industry. It’s up to individuals to decide whether a cyber security master’s is worth it based on earning potential and other factors.

In this guide to the average master’s in cyber security salary, we cover:

  • What is a master’s in cyber security, and who usually pursues this degree?
  • What kinds of jobs can you get with a master’s in cyber security?
  • Are there many jobs available for cyber security professionals?
  • What factors influence how much someone with a cyber security master’s will earn?
  • Are there salary-boosting certifications for cyber security professionals?
  • How can someone earn as much as possible after pursuing this degree?

What is a master’s in cyber security, and who usually pursues this degree?

Master’s in cyber security programs prepare experienced IT or cyber security professionals to step into higher-level positions and management roles. These programs can confer many degrees, including the:

While the names of these cyber security degree programs suggest that they differ, the core coursework in them almost always covers advanced cyber security fundamentals along with:

  • Advanced networking and protocols
  • Algorithm analysis
  • Application security
  • Biometrics
  • Cryptography
  • Cyber security architecture and design
  • Digital forensics
  • E-commerce security
  • High-level networking concepts
  • Information security strategy and policy
  • Intrusion detection
  • Recovery planning
  • Security code development
  • Security governance and compliance

IT security analysts, architects, engineers, and other information security professionals can get a lot out of a master’s in cyber security program. What they might not get is a big bump in income—at least not right after graduation. Established cyber security pros are out there earning upwards of $100,000, but simply having an MS in Cybersecurity only correlates with an average salary of about $85,000. Figuring out why cyber security professionals earn what they do involves a lot more than merely tallying up degrees (more on this below).


“I’m Interested in Cybersecurity!”

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). (source)

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. (source)

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What kinds of jobs can you get with a master’s in cyber security?

Cyber security experts work just about everywhere these days. You’ll find them in tech, finance, retail, entertainment, healthcare, travel, and manufacturing, in roles like:

Are there many jobs available for cyber security professionals?

The answer to this question is a resounding yes. Cyber security job openings are “skyrocketing”, according to ZipRecruiter. One Burning Glass study found that the number of cyber security jobs nearly doubled from 2013 to 2019. The same study found that it takes employers longer than usual to fill those roles because the labor pool is so small.

There’s no longer a zero percent unemployment rate in the field as there once was. Still, there is a significant shortage of cyber security professionals in the US. A recent (ISC)2 Cyber Security Workforce Study estimated that the cyber security workforce would need to grow by 62 percent to fill all the positions that are currently open.

It’s not an overabundance of caution that’s driving growth in this field. Rather, it’s a genuine need. Cybercriminals perform 80 billion malicious scans and destroy 780,000 digital records every single day. People share highly sensitive information online, from their banking info to their gene sequences. Businesses and governments alike want to assure people that their data is as safe as possible.

What factors influence how much someone with a cyber security master’s will earn?

Title can play a big role in earning potential, as can location. Cities and regions where cyber security professionals earn the most include:

  • Fremont, CA
  • Long Island, NY
  • Marysville, WA
  • San Jose, CA
  • Santa Clara, CA
  • San Francisco, CA

In these cities, average salaries for cyber security professionals range from $125,000 to more than $136,000.

The industry you work in will also have an impact on your paycheck. There are more openings for cyber security specialists in finance, insurance, manufacturing, and defense than in retail, healthcare, and education. You should be able to negotiate for higher pay in one of those higher-demand sectors.

Are there salary-boosting certifications for cyber security professionals?

There are a lot of certifications for cyber security professionals. Some of them can boost your salary as much as a master’s degree. Certifications like the Offensive Security Certified Professional credential and Certified Ethical Hacker credential can open doors. If earning as much as possible is your goal, these are the best certifications to pursue:

Salary isn’t the only reason to get certified, however. According to IBM, 59 percent of all cyber security positions request at least one certification, which “opens the door for entry-level employees who can build solid skills and earn verifiable credentials at a faster pace.” Having a master’s degree is a must for cyber security professionals who want to transition into management positions. The right certifications can help you earn more money and advance more quickly in most cyber security jobs.


How can someone earn as much as possible after pursuing this degree?

Cyber security professionals already earn a little more than twice the national median, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Chances are that a lot of them have master’s degrees, but plenty don’t. An MS in Cyber Security is only one of the inroads into this high-paying field, and it’s no guarantee that you’ll earn top dollar. You might get beat out for the best-paying cyber security jobs by people with more experience or better connections. Rod Rasmussen, VP of Cybersecurity at Infoblox, put it this way: “With the lack of manpower in the industry right now, just getting your basic credentialing and having at least some aptitude is sufficient to get an entry-level job. Those that are proficient will rise rapidly.”

A cyber security graduate degree will almost certainly make you more attractive to potential employers, now that the number of employers looking for cyber security professionals with advanced degrees has grown. Even so, certifications and especially experience probably matter just as much when it comes to earning potential. In other words, what can you bring to the table? Your degree might get you an interview, but once you’re sitting across from an interviewer, it will be your technical expertise and credentials that get you an offer—and give you bargaining power to counter that offer with a higher number.

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Cybersecurity Programs You Should Consider