8 Reasons to Get a Master's in Cybersecurity
January 27, 2023
Cybersecurity is a rapidly growing field, with 35 percent job growth between 2021 and 2031. A master's degree can position you for leadership roles and accelerated career advancement.
Cyberattacks threaten everything from your credit card data to a nation's infrastructure. Strikes around the world over the past few years have included the second-largest crypto hack ever, data theft from the Mexican Defense Ministry, and a ransomware attack against the Colonial Pipeline, a major fuel artery.
Millions of cybersecurity experts around the world work to prevent such attacks and study successful ones to craft new defense strategies. It takes training and experience to combat cybercriminals; a master's degree in cybersecurity can provide both. This article reviews compelling reasons to get a master's in cybersecurity. It explores:
- What is a master's in cybersecurity?
- 8 reasons to get a master's in cybersecurity
- Career paths for master's in cybersecurity graduates
- Is a master's in cybersecurity right for you?
What is a master's in cybersecurity?
A master's degree in cybersecurity is a graduate-level degree that offers a deep dive into cryptography, digital forensics, hardware and network security, information assurance, penetration testing, risk management, and system administration. Master's programs teach students how to identify and combat online security threats, protect computer systems and boost network security, resolve data breaches, and soften the impact of attacks when they do happen.
The STEM-based Master of Science in Cybersecurity is geared toward people with a BS in cybersecurity, computer science, or a related field looking to further their education. Students also include experienced computer science or information systems professionals hoping to advance their careers.
8 reasons to get a master's in cybersecurity
Jobs! Jobs! Jobs!
It's no myth: Unemployment in the cybersecurity world is virtually nonexistent.
The annual Cybersecurity Workforce Estimate from (isc)2, an international organization for cybersecurity professionals, tells the tale: "We estimate the size of the global cybersecurity workforce at 4.7 million people – the highest we've ever recorded. According to our research, however, the cybersecurity field is still critically in need of more professionals."
The world needs a whopping 3.4 million additional cybersecurity workers, (isc)2 says. North America employed an estimated 1.9 million in 2022 (1.2 million in the United States alone), but needs another 436,000 to fill the gap.
Numbers from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statisticstell a similar tale, predicting that employment for information security analysts will grow 35 percent from 2021 to 2031. That's about seven times the rate at which the job market as a whole is growing.
Return on investment
Not only are cybersecurity jobs plentiful, they also pay well–particularly for those with a master's degree. Numbers vary among sources, but an advanced degree clearly provides a financial advantage. Payscale.com offers average salaries for various cybersecurity jobs. Here are the numbers for someone with a master's degree vs. someone with just a bachelor's degree:
- Cybersecurity engineer: $99,804 vs. $92,621
- Cybersecurity analyst: $85,110 vs. $72,399
- Security engineer: $98,526 vs. $88,037
- Information security analyst: $76,984 vs. $69,462
- Security analys t: $78,813 vs. $65,467
The (isc)2 report showed that the median 2022 salary for cybersecurity professionals in the United States was $142,000, which is $12,000 higher than their counterparts with only a bachelor's degree.
Earning a master's degree in cybersecurity may open doors at more prestigious companies in a wider variety of locations. The University of Tulsa offers a 100 percent online cybersecurity master's program, whose graduates have found jobs at companies such as Google, Amazon, CymSTAR, and Pacific Northwest National Laboratory. According to the program webiste "One of the major benefits of earning a cybersecurity master's from The University of Tulsa is that you'll be able to land higher-profile jobs in areas where salaries are highest, fields where the market for cybersecurity talent is more competitive, and companies known for being highly selective."
A recent snapshot of jobs listed by Indeed for people with cybersecurity master's degrees included:
- Program Manager 2 – Space Security, Northrop Grumman, Dulles, Va.
- Manager, Cyber Security Analytics, Navy Federal Credit Union, Pensacola, Fla.
- Cloud Security Architect, Intel, Saint Helens, Ore.
- Cybersecurity Analyst, City of Austin, Texas
- Information Security Manager, Narragansett Bay Commission, Providence, R.I.
- Security Engineer, Netflix, remote
Choose your own backdrop
Want to work in education? There's a cybersecurity job for that. Healthcare? Check. Government? You bet.
Virtually every walk of life needs cybersecurity pros these days. Not only are jobs widely available across the globe, but they're also available in almost any professional setting imaginable, including finance, manufacturing, military, social media, entertainment, transportation, law enforcement, and e-commerce.
Earn while you learn
The availability of online degree programs and programs with flexible schedules means you won't need to quit your day job to earn a master's. The University of San Diego is one of many schools offering a variety of online options. Its website notes: "Online degree programs are a great choice for those looking for a flexible schedule to accommodate work/life responsibilities. Some programs are 100 percent online, while others are hybrid."
Diana Xu of Atlanta appreciates the flexibility offered by the online cybersecurity master's program at New York University. "A lot of the courses are asynchronous, so if you are working full-time like I am, it's very easy for you to keep up with your studies in addition to working," she observes.
Fight for truth, justice, and the American way
Many cybersecurity jobs represent a higher calling, a way to make a positive difference in the world. Georgia Institute of Technology presents the opportunity to fight bad guys as a selling point for its online cybersecurity master's program. Its website explains: "Cybersecurity isn't just about keeping your individual computers and devices safe, it's about safeguarding our society and our world. Whether that's from rogue criminals and gangs who want to steal your money or identity, or nation states and terror groups who want to disrupt defense systems, elections, or cripple our energy infrastructure, the need for well-trained cybersecurity professionals who can stop these attacks has never been greater."
The bad guys aren't going anywhere
The year 2023 dawned with a series of cyberattacks around the globe, including:
- A ransom attack that halted British shipping
- Russian cyberattacks as part of its war against Ukraine
- An attack that shut down schools in Iowa's largest city
Cybercrime will be a problem as long as there are systems and networks to target. This may be bad news for society, but it's good news for cybersecurity professionals, as Medium reports: "A growth rate of 28 percent far exceeds the average growth rate for all occupations combined. This elevated expected growth rate translates into an extremely strong cybersecurity job marketplace for now and the foreseeable future."
No risk of routine
Technology constantly evolves. So do the threats against it. If you're looking for a challenging career that always requires learning new skills and trying new approaches, cybersecurity will keep you on your toes.
Richard Hummel works as ASERT Threat Research Lead for Netscout, a Massachusetts company and self-proclaimed Guardians of the Connected World. He sees no room for complacency in his field. "Stagnation in a cybersecurity career will quickly invalidate your ideas and authority as you struggle to adapt to the constantly changing landscape," Hummel says. "A smart, dedicated person who is a self-starter is often much more valuable in this career field than someone with decades of education who refuses to adapt to the changing threats and technology."
Career paths for master's in cybersecurity graduates
With cybersecurity jobs available across the country in virtually every sector of the workforce, you have many potential paths to follow once you earn a cybersecurity master's degree. There are a number of subspecialties within cybersecurity, including:
- Cloud security
- Digital forensics
- Governance, risk, and compliance
- Security automation
A master's can position you for such jobs as:
- Cybersecurity analyst
- Cybersecurity director
- Cybersecurity engineer
- Ethical hacker
- Security architect
- Vulnerability test manager
__Is a master's in cybersecurity right for you?
Do you have the time, energy, and resources to pursue an advanced degree? Do you want a challenging job that's constantly evolving? Do you like knowing the work you do makes a difference? Do you have aptitude in computer science, data analytics, computer networks, internet protocol, and cybersecurity management? If so, a master's in cybersecurity may be the right choice for you. It will provide the training, experience, and professional contacts you need to more rapidly initiate and advance to the many career opportunities in this essential growing tech field.
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