Who Gets a Master's in Cybersecurity?
October 07, 2022
A master's degree in cybersecurity opens doors in the lucrative fast-growing information and network security industries. Experienced professionals typically earn three-figure salaries.
The cybersecurity field is expanding quickly. For professionals with the right skills and a passion for computer science, network security, digital forensics and/or cryptography, cybersecurity jobs are lucrative and plentiful. Pursuing a cybersecurity master’s degree might provide the competitive edge you need to enter and advance quickly in this field.
The cybersecurity industry offers myriad opportunities. In an ever-growing digital world, it’s no surprise that the demand for experts in information security and network security is high––and getting higher. Cybersecurity, a computer science field, focuses on risk management and systems security through protecting digital content from cyberattacks, hacking, and breaches that increasingly threaten individuals and organizations.
Many industries seek candidates with cybersecurity expertise. Organizations even worry they won’t be able to find enough people to fill cybersecurity positions. Between 2020 and 2030, the US Bureau of Labor Statistics projects 33 percent growth in this field.
Who earns a cybersecurity master’s degree? The answer varies, but cybersecurity professionals with graduate degrees share a common motivation—a desire to enter or advance within a booming technical field with high salaries. Whether you’re an entry-level newbie or a mid-career professional, a cybersecurity master’s can lead to numerous post-grad opportunities.
In this article, we cover:
- What is a cybersecurity master’s?
- How do I pursue a cybersecurity master’s?
- Who gets a cybersecurity master’s?
- What can I do with a cybersecurity master’s?
- Is a cybersecurity master’s worth it?
What is a cybersecurity master’s?
Government agencies and companies in virtually every field need robust information security and network security systems. According to the FBI Internet Crime Complaint Center, cybercrime victims lost $3.5 billion in the United States in 2019. Trained experts in cyberdefense and online security act as crucial additions to any team. They work to assess security risks and create and maintain information systems, computer networks, cyberoperations and security policy for organizations. Specifically, cybersecurity professionals work to combat and implement strategy to prevent the following:
- Social engineering
Most undergraduate institutions regard cybersecurity as too narrow and specific a field to justify its own major. Typically, cybersecurity is folded into computer science or networking majors. Graduate degrees are more common; in fact, many employers require or prefer candidates with a Master of Science in Cybersecurity. Master's cybersecurity coursework covers an array of topics including these in-demand skills:
- Computer forensics
- Digital information security
- Ethical hacking
- Information assurance
- Networks and communication
- Penetration testing
- Web and data security
Although challenging, a cybersecurity master’s can provide significant rewards. Professionals can enter the field without engaging in a specialized degree program, but this certification can definitely distinguish you as a more competitive industry candidate.
How do I pursue a cybersecurity master’s?
Entry-level jobs exist for those without cybersecurity degrees, but many jobs in the field require a level of training and skill that only experience or academic study can provide. A cybersecurity master’s can give you a competitive edge and provide you with the necessary technical skills and specializations to enter this field as a qualified expert––whether you study on-campus or online.
Cybersecurity graduate programs take a few shapes and differ in length. The University of Tulsa offers a flexible online cybersecurity master’s so students can complete their degree part time in as little as 20 months or as much as four years. Virginia Commonwealth University also houses a flexible online learning cybersecurity degree program, allotting time for professionals to work while they earn their degree.
Here are some of the typical requirements you’ll find when you apply to a cybersecurity master’s program:
- Bachelor’s degree
- Minimum undergraduate GPA (usually 3.0)
- Statement of purpose
- Letters of recommendation
- Relevant work experience
- GRE scores
- GMAT scores
- Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) for international students Schools' admission requirements vary, but most cybersecurity master’s programs seek candidates who hold a bachelor’s degree in engineering, computer science, computer engineering, information technology or other STEM-related areas. Some schools are more lenient on this qualification for applicants with relevant work or field experience.
Top universities with master's in cybersecurity programs
- Boston University
- George Mason University
- Georgia Institute of Technology (Main Campus)
- Johns Hopkins University
- New York University
- Purdue University (Main Campus)
- Rochester Institute of Technology
- Texas A&M University - College Station
- University of California - Berkeley
- University of Illinois at Urbana - Champaign
- University of Maryland - College Park
- University of Washington - Seattle Campus
- Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University
A number of schools offer online programs. Here’s a list of the most affordable cybersecurity master’s programs (in-state tuition):
- Arizona State University - Tempe ($15,000 total cost of the program)
- Auburn University ($560 per credit)
- California State University - Sacramento ($8250 per credit)
- George Washington University ($1,050 per credit))
- Georgia Institute of Technology (Main Campus) ($310 per credit)
- Iowa State University ($695 per credit)
- James Madison University ($775 per credit)
- University of Louisville ($737 per credit; this is a graduate certificate that you can earn as part of the online computer science program)
- University of Nebraska at Omaha ($375 per credit)
- University of North Carolina at Charlotte ($213 per credit)
- University of South Florida (Main Campus) ($347.91 per credit)
Who gets a cybersecurity master’s?
A master’s degree makes you a more competitive candidate for cybersecurity jobs, giving you greater leverage in negotiations. You’ll attract more options and enjoy a greater likelihood of making six figure salaries early on in your career.
Like other STEM fields, the cybersecurity industry remains male-dominated, with a 78 percent to 19 percent male-to-female ratio and an average employee age at 42 years old. Seventy two percent of all cybersecurity specialists are white, 9.6 percent are Asian, 7.4 percent are Black, and 7.1 percent are Hispanic or Latino.
What can I do with a cybersecurity master’s?
In a variety of industries, organizations and individuals need cybersecurity professionals to ensure secure cyberdefense systems. The cybersecurity field The near-zero percent unemployment rate in the cybersecurity field is not changing anytime soon. The New York Times projects that 3.5 million cybersecurity jobs will remain unfilled in the United States.
Here are some roles where cybersecurity professionals have put their credentials to use.
- Chief information security officer
- Cybersecurity consultant
- Cybersecurity director
- Cybersecurity engineer
- Information security analyst
- Information or cybersecurity manager
- Information security engineer
- Information security officer
- IT director
- IT security architect
- Network security engineer
- Penetration tester
- Security engineer
- Senior network engineer
- Software security engineer
Companies in entertainment, finance, retail and healthcare fields want highly trained cybersecurity experts to protect their sensitive information The National Security Agency (NSA) and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) continually search for computer science experts to assume government positions.
In any cybersecurity position you take on, you’re likely to be compensated well. Top-paying positions in the cybersecurity field offer salaries of $300,000; $113,000 is the average salary for all cybersecurity jobs, including entry-level positions. Getting a master’s degree in cybersecurity can take you to the top in the cybersecurity field and enable you to take your pick of opportunities when it comes time to get a job.
Is a cybersecurity master’s worth it?
Absolutely. Between the lucrative salaries and positive job outlook, getting a master of science in cybersecurity can be a smart career move for anyone looking for success in a computer science field.
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