Business Administration

Why You Should Consider a Cyber Security MBA

Why You Should Consider a Cyber Security MBA
To be effective agents of change within their companies, institutions, or organizations, cyber security professionals must have both high-level technical skills and business management expertise. Image from Pexels
Lucy Davies profile
Lucy Davies September 9, 2021

Cyber security professionals are desperately needed in both the public and private sector. If you’re looking to enter or advance in this field, a cyber security MBA will prepare and qualify you to take on leadership roles.

MBA/Business and Cybersecurity Programs You Should Consider

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In 2020, as the US government and the rest of the world wrestled with the COVID-19 global pandemic, Russian hackers gained access and compromised nine federal agencies and over one hundred companies, paralyzing them for much of the year. Additional high-level breaches took place across the country involving ransomware attacks on Colonial Pipeline and JBS USA, which caused significant disruptions in the gasoline and jet fuel, and meat supply chains.

In response to these threats to national security (which cost Americans nearly $1.5 billion in 2020), Senators Maggie Hassan (D-NH) and John Cornyn (R-TX) proposed the Federal Cyber Security Workforce Expansion Act, a bipartisan bill that would link an apprenticeship program co-managed by the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) and Cyber Security and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) to train veterans in cyber defence and information assurance. It’s one of many bills Congress has crafted to develop a highly skilled workforce that can deal with the increase in cyber threats and the alarming rise of the use of ransomware against both government agencies and the private sector.

Currently, the US does not have nearly enough trained personnel to fill all the open positions in this critical field. In fact, Colonial Pipeline had been advertising for a cyber security manager during the month before the cyber attack occurred.

Indeed, finding professionals with expertise in preventing and resolving cyber attacks is challenging. “We’re getting calls from organizations almost every single day,” Charles Carmakal, the chief technology officer at the cyber security giant Mandiant, told NBC News. “We’re barely able to keep up.” Mandiant turns down clients daily, as they just don’t have the capacity to tackle all the work coming their way.

Why the dearth of cyber security professionals? Khristopher Brooks explains: “After graduation, the nation’s tech students will pick jobs in software development, artificial intelligence, robotics or data science and a small percentage is going to select cyber security.” The breadth of options for computing professionals means not enough find their way to this essential profession.

You can be one of the few, provided you have or can acquire the right training. Several pathways lead to cyber security professions. If you’re most interested in digging deep into the hardware and software issues, developing code, and building algorithms, a Master of Science in Cyber Security can help you excel. If you’re more interested in leadership, management, and long-term planning, you might want to consider a Master of Business Administration with a concentration in cyber security.

Why is a cyber security MBA so in demand?

As our dependence on information technology rapidly expands in finance, healthcare, and almost every other industry, so does our need to secure it. More and more data is being housed on—and is accessible and vulnerable through—the web. Businesses and government agencies urgently need to safeguard their sensitive and important information. To be effective agents of change within their companies, institutions, or organizations, cyber security professionals must have both high-level technical skills and business management expertise.

Michael Hamilton, co-founder of Seattle-based CI Security, elaborated on this point to The San Diego Union Tribune: “There is an ever-greater pressure for those with the best real-time understanding of how cyber crime is evolving to have the same kind of access to chief executives and governing board members as those who manage finances… have long enjoyed.” He adds: “A big part of the problem is that people who have come up through this technical track need to go out and get a damn MBA. Yes, the CEO should probably learn something about cyber, but the CISO, even more so, needs to know more about business.”

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“I’M INTERESTED 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). (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)

University and Program Name Learn More

Cyber security MBA vs. a cyber security master’s

A cyber security master’s provides a solid foundation in security technology with a broad scope of coursework from design and implementation to troubleshooting and maintenance. While the focus is on soup-to-nuts security systems management, it is very much a degree program focused on risk management and how to fortify any number of system designs against attacks.

The cyber security MBA combines technological know-how with business education and is for professionals aspiring to leadership positions within companies or agencies.

Cyber security MBA career options (who’s hiring and how much can I earn?)

With virtually every business and government entity potentially vulnerable to cyber crime, everyone is seeking to hire cyber security experts. Companies realize they can no longer look to “the IT guy” to prevent and/or repair major incursions. As The Financial Times reports, “Global enterprise security spending is expected to reach more than $96bn in 2018, according to (IT services company) Gartner, an increase of 8 per cent from 2017.”

Below are several career paths available to professionals with a cyber security MBA.

An information security analyst’s salary starts in the low six-figures, with plenty of opportunity for growth. This position is focused on information security management, risk management and penetration testing—finding holes in a company’s data protection systems in order to protect it from outside hackers.

The cyber security director typically reports to the chief information security officer (CISO), and is directly involved in business operations and strategic management. Cooperation between these positions is critical in big business and commands an average salary of about $174,000 per year according to PayScale.com.

The chief information security officer (CISO) is an executive-level position with a lot of responsibility in risk, business, and personnel management, and all levels of fiscal planning. The chief information security officer is tasked with building a team of professionals to test, plan, and prevent systems failures and data breaches, evaluating and improving organizational behavior, and overseeing the network security of a large business or organization. On average, the CISO earns $236,500 per year, according to the Salary.com, though salaries can be much higher, depending on industry and location. CISOs typically earn significant incentive pay (e.g., bonuses, stock options) in addition to their salaries.

What is a cyber security MBA?

A Master of Business Administration (MBA) in cyber security graduate degree couples business administration and management coursework with technical courses focused on information systems security. This cyber security degree is for professionals planning to work in management and who need expertise in computer systems and computer security.

How long does it take to earn a cyber security MBA?

A typical MBA degree program that has accreditation from Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB) takes two years of full-time study to complete. Many MBA programs offer part-time evening and weekend classes.

An increasing number of schools are starting to offer an online version of their Master of Business Administration cyber security program. Online master’s programs allow degree candidates to apply to distant schools without having to relocate and disrupt their lives and careers. The curricula offered by online MBA programs are just as rigorous and challenging as in-person classes. These programs typically offer numerous networking and alumni opportunities as well.

Admission requirements/prerequisites

Most graduate schools will require an undergraduate degree in a relevant discipline like computer science or engineering, information technology or information systems, and a GPA of 3.0 or higher. Some schools permit candidates with other relevant work experience in criminal justice, law enforcement, or the military, or in fields like forensics, psychology, or criminology to apply.

Curriculum

The cyber security MBA degree program is designed to foster business leaders with a cyber security concentration. Core courses are split between business classes on the principles of finance and accounting, market analysis, leadership skills and ethics, and the computer science-based electives that include subjects like ethical hacking, risk management, disaster recovery, and data protection. The credit hours earned through this course of study typically culminate with a capstone project that brings theory into practice.

Top online cyber security MBA programs

The optimal cyber security MBA program is the one that fits your needs best. Your work experience, career goals, and where you live all factor into determining which program is right for you.

Online degree programs broaden your options by taking physical location out of the mix. Here are several online degree programs to consider:

  • American University offers seven pre-designed focus areas to choose from in their online MBA programs in their school of business, one of which is in cyber security. This program is designed in concert with their Kogod Cyber Security Governance Center (KCGC), which prides itself on an interdisciplinary approach to privacy and security in business.
  • The University of Tulsa launched its new online MBA in cyber security program in the spring of 2020, which features an optional added week of on-campus learning for students who choose to participate. The school’s program is designed to be completed in two years, and is specifically directed at working professionals who want to pursue their degree without interrupting their careers.
  • Stevens Institute of Technology is a STEM-oriented school whose online MBA program stresses technical mastery. It offers concentrations in information systems and in network and communication management and services. Both disciplines can prepare you for a cyber security career.

(Last Updated on February 26, 2024)

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About the Editor

Tom Meltzer spent over 20 years writing and teaching for The Princeton Review, where he was lead author of the company's popular guide to colleges, before joining Noodle.

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MBA/Business and Cybersecurity Programs You Should Consider

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