The master's in cyber security is a STEM-based program that teaches how to identify and combat security threats.
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Lucien Formichella
Noodle Expert Member

January 20, 2022

There's a global shortage of cyber security professionals; projections indicate that nearly two million jobs will be unoccupied by 2022. Earning a master's in cyber security should ensure excellent employment opportunities.

Cyber security is among the fastest-growing fields worldwide. And for good reason: approximately 25 percent of all Americans have experienced cybercrime at some point. Even more staggeringly, a 2018 study found that 43 percent of businesses were victims of cyberattacks during the previous year. Most took more than six months to realize their businesses had been compromised.

Any organization that collects data—including national security organizations, healthcare companies, dating apps, and social media platforms—needs qualified cyber security professionals. The US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) estimates that the demand for information security analysts (just one career path in the field) will grow by 32 percent between 2018 and 2028. Compare that to the overall rate of job market growth—between 5 and 6 percent—and you get a sense of just how hot the cyber security job market is.

There are currently not enough applicants to fill these positions. According to a 2017 study, there will be 1.8 million empty cyber security jobs by 2022.

So, is now a good time to get a master's degree, or a good time to go look for a job? It's both, actually. Yes, you should be able to find an entry-level position with a bachelor's degree, and you'll learn while you earn on the job.

You won't learn as much or advance as far, however, as you would by earning a master's degree. If you have your sights set on a high-paying job with lots of responsibility, you will eventually need a master's degree. If you can pursue the degree while continuing to work, so much the better. If not, committing a couple of years to a master's program should advance your career faster than two years at a low-level gig.

In this article on cyber security master's jobs we will cover:

  • What is a master's in cyber security, and how do programs differ?
  • What do you learn in a master's in cyber security?
  • What admissions requirements do master's in cyber security programs have?
  • What are the best master's in cyber security jobs, and how much do they pay?

What is a master's in cyber security, and how do programs differ?

The master's in cyber security is a STEM-based program that teaches how to identify and combat security threats. Like most master's programs, a cyber security degree focuses on helping graduates attain senior jobs. The online Master of Information and Cybersecurity program from University of California - Berkeley, for example, "prepares students with the cybersecurity skills needed to assume leadership positions in private-sector technology companies as well as government and military organizations."

Cyber security is a massive field with many specializations. You can concentrate in one of these areas at some—but not all—cyber security degree programs. For example, if you are interested in the legal aspects of cyber security, Tufts University offers a Master's of Science in Cybersecurity and Public Policy. It prepares students to become specialists in cyber security policy.

The University of Arizona offers two concentration options in its Master of Science in Cybersecurity: information systems and physical systems. Students on the information track focus on topics like managing system security, data mining, and ethical hacking. Physical systems students complete machine learning, cloud security, and systems engineering coursework.

Not every program offers every concentration. In fact, it's safe to say that none offers all possible concentrations, and most offer only a handful. Before you commit to a program, make sure that it provides adequate instruction in your area of interest. If it doesn't, keep looking. Another one surely does; you just have to find it.

What do you learn in a master's in cyber security?

All master's in cyber security students must understand how to protect computer systems against cyber attacks and resolve data breaches. That means you'll complete core coursework in security—no matter your specialty track. For example, the University of Tulsa's required classes cover:

  • Assessing vulnerabilities
  • Cryptography
  • Cyber security law and policy
  • Cyber security technologies
  • Designing and maintaining safe systems
  • Foundational cyber security methods
  • Security audits and penetration testing

The course catalogue in your master's in cyber security program might include titles like:

  • Application Security
  • Applied Cryptography
  • Computer Networking
  • Computer Security and Information Assurance
  • Design and Analysis of Algorithms
  • Information, Security and Privacy
  • Introduction to Operating Systems
  • Network Security
  • Security Engineering

Finally, some programs offer cyber security education, even if it isn't the main focus. Virginia Commonwealth University covers cyber law and cyber security in its Master of Arts in Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness program. Students learn about the law and policy issues that surround cyber security, in addition to taking courses on counter-terrorism and public health preparation.

What admissions requirements do master's in cyber security programs have?

The best candidates for a master's in cyber security have a background in computer science. New York University, for one, prefers students with an undergraduate degree in computer science, mathematics, science, or engineering, according to its program's website. Successful applicants usually have some background in all these areas.

Most programs require calculus, and many want all their applicants to have a working knowledge of computer programming and data structures. This means knowing at least one programming language, such as Java or C++, and understanding machine organization.

Many programs consider applicants with other degrees and backgrounds, but students often need to demonstrate their aptitude by completing supplemental education. If you're attempting to transfer from another field, you may be asked to complete foundational math or computer science classes.

Finally, many programs seek applicants with work experience—often beyond the entry-level job stage. Arizona University requires at least three years, excluding internships. Alternatively, the Fordham University program welcomes current students, as well as professionals.

Some schools seek students with industry certification. Consider earning the Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP) certification, which measures your ability to "effectively design, implement and manage a best-in-class cybersecurity program." Certifications can also be useful during your job search.

Other certifications you can earn include:

Each certificate confirms that you have the necessary skill set to succeed in a particular area of cyber security. Some employers look for candidates with one or more of these certifications.

What jobs can you get with a master's in cyber security?

Though landing a job—especially a high-paying one—is never easy, there is a lot of opportunity in the cyber security field. The demand for experienced and educated cyber security specialists exceeds the supply. Having an advanced degree can push your resume to the top of the pile.

Jobs available to those holding a master's in cyber security include:

  • Chief information security officer (CISO)
  • Computer information systems manager
  • Computer network architect
  • Cybercrime analyst/investigator
  • Cyber security analyst/consultant
  • Cyber security architect
  • Cyber security director
  • Cyber security engineer
  • Cyber security manager/administrator
  • Cyber security specialist/technician
  • Incident analyst/responder
  • Information security analyst
  • IT auditor
  • Penetration and vulnerability tester
  • Software developer

What are the best master's in cyber security jobs, and how much do they pay?

Below we provide brief synopses of some of the best job opportunities available to graduates of a master's in cyber security program.

__ Computer information systems (CIS) manager__

Median anual pay: $146,360

CIS managers are integral to the IT department. They are responsible for ensuring that a company's network runs at optimal efficiency. Because information security management and protection are critical aspects of IT, a master's in cyber security represents an excellent qualification. These professionals work in the government, private enterprise, or the nonprofit sector. The highest-paid CIS managers work in biotech and insurance.

_Cyber security architect_

Median annual pay: $112,690

With a master's in cyber security, you are practically made for a job as a cyber security architect, which is one type of computer network architect. To succeed in this position, you will need to know how to create and maintain a company's computer system. You may be asked to manage other employees. This job requires someone well-versed in hacking who can anticipate and block malicious intrusions.

_Chief information security officer_

Average annual salary: $162,129

The CISO is an executive-level position, which means you oversee security policies on a company-wide level. Keep in mind that it might take quite a few years of experience to get this career, even with a master's degree. CISOs need excellent analytical and risk management skills to evaluate and eliminate threats, or potential threats, to their organization's system. A CISO needs to be well-versed in data privacy, including relevant laws. Finally, good CISOs have financial training because they are also in charge of securing project funding. They must be able to perform an accurate cost-benefit analysis of their programs.

_Cyber security director_

Average annual salary: $119,000

The cyber security director is in charge of day-to-day security operations. They typically report to the CISO or CIO.

_Information security analyst_

Median annual salary: $99,730

These professionals monitor a company's security, overseeing encryption and firewall functions. Information security analysts must be up-to-date on the latest security trends. They also need expertise in penetration testing, the process of finding a weakness in the company's system before someone else does. Though it is possible to become an information security analyst with just a bachelor's degree and work experience, a graduate degree, such as a Master of Business Administration (MBA) with an information systems concentration, or an MS in cyber security, is typically preferred. Having one can even lead to a raise or the opportunity to manage your own security team.

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