Much needs to be done to shore up computer security in both the private and public sector, and the demand for qualified cyber security professionals to do this crucial work has never been greater.
Image description
Lucien Formichella
Noodle Expert Member

May 12, 2022

There are hundreds of thousands of available high-paying cyber security jobs, yet hiring managers are struggling to find qualified candidates. Will earning a master’s of cyber security prepare you for success and advancement in this field? Read on to find out.

When hackers shut down the Colonial Pipeline in May of 2021, it highlighted a gaping hole in our national security, like the previous hacks of SolarWinds and JBS. Cyberattacks are becoming more common and sophisticated, leaving companies, governments, and individuals, scrambling to ramp up their cyber defenses.

According to Yahoo Finance, 78 percent of surveyed senior information technology (IT) and computer security professionals are not confident in their company's current cyber security systems. Much needs to be done to shore up computer security in both the private and public sector, and the demand for qualified cyber security professionals to do this crucial work has never been greater.

Currently, there are hundreds of thousands of high-paying cyber security jobs available to qualified professionals. The key word in that sentence, however, is 'qualified.' Half of the organizations surveyed by the Information Systems Audit and Control Association (ISACA) report being understaffed and 70 percent noted that a majority of applicants lacked the cyber security skills to fill the positions. According to CNN Business, the cyber security workforce gap is projected to widen by 20 to 30 percent annually for the next several years, even with the federal government investing billions into new cyber security training programs and initiatives.

This article on Is a master's in cyber security worth it? outlines how the earning the right degree will prepare you to qualify for top jobs that command high salaries in the cyber security field. It covers:

  • The ROI of a master's in cyber security
  • What is a master's in cyber security?
  • Top online master's in cyber security programs

The ROI of a master's in cyber security

A master's in cyber security is unquestionably worth it; the ROI has a high floor and an even higher ceiling. Of course, an advanced degree does not automatically qualify you for top positions. However, many of the top cyber security jobs require an advanced degree and it is one of the most effective ways to upgrade your expertise and enhance your value to employers.

While no single assessment tool can adequately quantify the ROI of a master's in cyber security program, graduating from a top program with good grades typically qualifies you for the best cyber security positions. If you develop soft skills—such as leadership, communication, and management—you also can be well-positioned for management roles. The threat of cyber attacks will be ever-present for the foreseeable future, and investing in your education now can pay huge dividends over the course of your cyber security career for years to come.

Master's in cyber security career paths (plus who's hiring and what they're paying)

Cyber security professionals can be divided broadly into two camps: managers and specialists. Management roles require candidates with excellent project management skills and the ability to successfully motivate teams of employees to complete projects. A master's program can prepare you for management roles like:

  • Chief information security officer (CISO)
  • Computer information systems manager
  • Consultant
  • Cyber security administrator
  • Cyber security director
  • Cyber security manager

Cyber security specialist roles that you’ll be eligible for with your master’s include:

  • Cybercrime analyst/investigator
  • Cyber security architect
  • Cyber security engineer
  • Cyber security sales engineer
  • Incident analyst/responder
  • Information security analyst
  • IT auditor
  • Network architect
  • Penetration tester
  • Software developer

Cyber security professionals work across many different industries, since everyone needs more robust defense mechanisms these days. According to University of San Diego, top industries requiring cyber security experts include:

  • Finance
  • Government
  • Healthcare
  • Manufacturing
  • Retail

Organizations can hire hundreds of cyber security professionals at a time; if you work for the United States Army, you may be one of thousands. Companies that employ substantial numbers of cyber security talent include:

  • Accenture
  • Amazon
  • Apple
  • Deloitte
  • JP Morgan Chase
  • Lockheed Martin
  • Northrop Grumman
  • Oracle
  • PayPal

Cyber security jobs typically command high salaries. According to PayScale, those with a Master of Science in Cyber Security earn an average annual salary of over $87,000. However, many aforementioned positions come with six-figure salaries. Experienced cyber security professionals in management roles can expect to earn nearly $150,000 per year. The very best cyber security professionals—including high-end specialist hackers and CISOs of major corporations—can earn around $500,000 per year, especially if they work in metropolitan areas like San Francisco or New York.

What is a master's in cyber security?

A master's in cyber security is a means for professionals with several years of relevant work experience to advance their careers. This degree also is for people who may have an existing cyber security background—through a bachelor's degree—or have been working in a related role, such as in IT or computer science.

You don't necessarily need a master's degree to advance your cyber security career or to enter the field, but it's helpful. Many professionals choose to complete skill certifications from Microsoft and Cisco. Top certifications include:

How long does it take to earn a master's in cyber security?

Like most master's degree programs, a master's in cyber security typically takes two years to complete on a full-time basis—though you can shave off a year if you enroll in an accelerated program.

If you pursue your studies in a part-time program, it may take you between three and five years to earn your cyber security degree. Spending more time in school may be a good thing. Part-time programs allow you to work while you study and be able to help pay for the program. You also can apply what you’re learning immediately, which can improve your job prospects more quickly. It’s also good to note that employers are more likely to provide tuition reimbursement for a part-time online program than a full-time on-campus one.

Online programs are known for being more flexible beyond accommodating family and work obligations. For instance, at University of California, Berkeley, students are able to work through self-paced course content that is accessible 24/7, and complete the entire online program in 20 months.


Prerequisites can differ by school, but programs primarily attract students with computer science backgrounds and experience. SUNY Polytechnic Institute targets those "who have the equivalent of an undergraduate degree in network and computer security, computer science or systems, electrical engineering or a related field." This doesn’t mean you must have a bachelor's degree in one of those fields—just prove that you know the content. That said, the school does accept students without relevant backgrounds if they take "appropriate prerequisite coursework under the guidance of a faculty adviser." Similarly, the University of Tulsa expects that applicants have taken calculus in addition to having basic computer science skills. In both instances, the school asks unprepared students to complete supplemental coursework before starting the program.

If you are planning to enroll in a cyber security master's program, you need to be well-versed in one or more programming languages, such as C++, C, Python, and Java, and have experience with information systems architecture. If you’re not already working in IT or don’t have a computer science background, completing undergraduate computer science courses in algorithms, computational theory, computer systems, and programing languages will help fill any gaps in your knowledge and fulfill master’s program prerequisites.

Admission requirements

Beyond cyber security-specific prerequisites, programs follow the common master's degree admissions requirements. These include submitting:

  • Graduate Record Examinations (GRE) scores
  • Letters of recommendations
  • Personal statement(s)
  • Resume
  • Undergraduate transcript (and transcripts from any previous graduate programs)

International students will need to complete the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) test to demonstrate English proficiency.

This may seem like a laundry list, but each requirement is a great way to illustrate your readiness to program admissions officers. For instance, letters of recommendation from a computer science professor will hold more weight than a history professor's. A personal statement that highlights your previous computer science or cyber security work experience with ideas about utilizing what you'll learn in the master's program will be of more significance than one discussing how you want to start learning about cyber security. A compelling resume showcases your academic achievements and relevant work and expertise.

When looking through these admissions requirements, you can see how difficult it is for prospective students without applicable backgrounds and experience to be admitted to cyber security programs. If you’re in this category, you need to demonstrate in your statement of purpose that your previous academic or professional experience has adequately prepared you to pursue a course of study—and career—in this field. Ideally, you will have a few computer science classes on your undergraduate transcript. For this reason, students may find it beneficial to complete computer science courses and bootcamps prior to applying to a master’s program to demonstrate their knowledge and interest in cyber security.


There's no universal master's in cyber security curriculum, but many share common coursework, which may include:

  • Assurance for information systems
  • Cryptography
  • Cyber law and ethics
  • Defensive technologies
  • Digital forensics
  • Hardware security
  • Network security
  • Penetration testing
  • Security auditing
  • System administration
  • System security

To a certain extent, what you learn depends on the focus of the program. Tulane offers a MS in Cyber Security Management that addresses many of these same subjects, but is for students who intend to fulfill managerial roles. For instance, you'll learn to conduct digital forensics from a managerial standpoint—developing a plan of action and leading a team to implement it.

You can study these subjects in other programs as well. In an information security program, which can lead to many of the same careers, you'll typically explore similar topics, like:

  • Applied cryptography
  • Computer networks
  • Designing and implementing operating systems
  • Digital forensics
  • Network security
  • Packet switching
  • Risk modeling


Though many cyber security master's degree programs focus solely on cyber security, the field itself is a computer science specialization. Many computer science degree programs offer a cyber security or computer security track. Other programs, such as engineering, also offer a concentration in cyber security.

MBA programs are beginning to offer cyber security specializations, where one studies management techniques in the cyber security field. This MBA prepares you for upper-level management roles, but this course of study is not as focused on the technical aspects of cyber security.

Top online master's in cyber security programs

You don't want to pay too much attention to school rankings because, ultimately, the best school depends more on fit than a ranking matrix. However, rankings can help you compare options. Many online cyber security programs have emerged in recent years and are a good alternative to on-campus programs.

Top online cyber security master's degree programs include:

Questions or feedback? Email