It wasn’t that long after the first computers were networked that curious—and occasionally malicious—people began chipping away at vulnerabilities in linked systems. In 1967, to be precise, a group of teens penetrated IBM’s then-experimental APL network. Their actions helped reveal security flaws in early publicly accessible networks.
In the decades following, banks, businesses, scientists, and the military began exploring the utility of networked computers—and hackers began exploiting these systems for fun and for financial gain. Fast forward to today, when everything from our medical records to our stock portfolios is stored in the cloud, and nearly 50 percent of consumers are more likely to shop online than they are to shop in a store. The sheer volume of digitized personal, professional, and financial data has created a landscape with millions of opportunities for hackers to steal money or simply cause chaos.
Luckily, there are professionals whose sole responsibility is to keep our data safe and lock down our networks. Cyber security professionals are talented computer science experts who protect internet data, keep businesses’ digital assets safe, test systems for vulnerabilities, and solve cyber crimes. They work in finance, national security, healthcare, retail, criminal justice, and even manufacturing, earning a good living in the process.
Right now, a lot of cyber security positions go unfilled. According to the ISC2, the global cyber security workforce gap will hit 3 million this year. That means there are, and will be, many jobs available for cyber security experts with the right qualifications. Becoming one of those experts is a matter of getting a bachelor’s degree related to cyber security, if not a master’s in cyber security.
These degrees are still relatively new, which can make finding the right degree program challenging. Even so, an increasing number of colleges and universities have created strong, focused cyber security programs.
In this article about the top cyber security schools, we cover:
If you’re considering an undergraduate degree in this field, you’ve probably already started looking into Bachelor of Science in Cyber Security programs. There are actually several degrees designed for aspiring cyber security professionals, including the:
These programs typically cover topics like:
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. ( )
|University and Program Name
There’s some debate as to whether earning a master’s degree in cyber security is worth the financial investment. Many higher-level professionals in this field got where they are today with computer science bachelor’s degrees and IT security certifications. There are, however, some compelling reasons to look into graduate-level cyber security degrees like the:
If you’re already working in IT or cyber security, a master’s degree can improve your job prospects, boost your earning potential, and help you qualify for management positions. It can also help you enter the field if you don’t have a BS in Cyber Security or a similar degree.
Master’s degree programs in cyber security typically cover cyber security fundamentals, as well as advanced concepts like:
The top master’s degree programs in cyber security allow students to customize their degrees by choosing a focus and then selecting from among elective classes related to that focus. They also position students to pursue professional certifications as early as possible in their cyber security careers. A student might earn the Certified Ethical Hacker credential after taking a cyber security course on penetration testing tools and techniques or the Certified Information Systems Auditor credential after completing a course on information technology and business systems.
Students graduate from these programs with in-depth knowledge of state-of-the-art security technologies and best practices, as well as the skills necessary to oversee security planning. They’re also prepared to step into higher-level management roles like cyber security director . Graduates of the Master of Science in Computer and Information Systems Security program at Virginia Commonwealth University, for example, expect “to take on leadership positions, including as chief security officer, in computer and information systems security in organizations.” Students in the online Master of Science in Cyber Security at University of Tulsa “master the theory, concepts and techniques to defend the world’s most critical networks, protect invaluable private data and strengthen core infrastructure at top organizations.”
Many of the top cyber security bachelor’s and master’s programs are offered not as standalone options, but as computer science degree concentrations (e.g., the MSCS in cyber security offered by University of Virginia (Main Campus)). Don’t assume that you’ll spend less time studying cyber security principles if you choose one of these programs. The MSCS in Cyber Security at one school may be virtually identical to the Master of Science in Cyber Security at another. Don’t get bogged down in degree naming conventions, which can vary widely from university to university. Reading course lists carefully is the best way to assess whether a program is really focused on cyber security or simply addresses it within the context of management information systems or business analytics.
The top cyber security schools offer more than just knowledge. Students attending cyber security programs at the following schools get real-world, on-the-job experience and have opportunities to work with top experts in the field. These colleges and universities also have connections to government agencies and security firms, and their students are often recruited soon after graduation.
Online cyber security programs are every bit as rigorous and include equal technical coursework as on-campus programs. The best online cyber security programs give students the same access to concentrations, expert faculty, and networking opportunities.
With a cyber security degree, you can launch a long and lucrative career. That’s because there’s great demand for these skills across businesses and institutions. There aren’t currently enough qualified professionals to fill existing cyber security jobs. Plus, more jobs are being created year by year. Companies in fields as diverse as healthcare, retail, and the emerging cannabis industry realize they can’t leave the security of their networks and data to Jeff from IT. They need trained cyber security professionals.
With a degree from a top cyber security schools, you might become a:
Keep in mind that these are averages; about half of all professionals in these fields earn more. The claim that cyber security professionals are in high demand is anything but hyperbolic. In fact, it wasn’t that long ago that there was a zero percent unemployment rate in the field.
What does that mean for anyone looking into the top cyber security schools? It means that landing a job after—or even before—graduation is almost a sure bet. And given that the average salary for cyber security jobs is almost $113,000, chances are good that job will be a high-paying one.
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