8 Reasons Why a Cyber Security Degree is Worth It
Today, cyber security professionals are in high demand. In fact, the demand for cyber security professionals is estimated to reach 6 million globally by 2019. Yet, while the job outlook looks fantastic for those in the field, there aren’t nearly enough highly educated and qualified workers to fill the demand, which is one of the many reasons a cyber security degree can be so beneficial. If you work in the technology sector you may already know this and may be weighing your options along with the pros and cons of taking the graduate school plunge. Alternatively, you may be asking yourself if a degree in cyber security is actually worth it, which is a valid question considering how fast the field moves and the importance of continual study in a field where life-long learning is paramount – skills not taught in all cyber security programs.
Is a Cyber Security Degree Worth It?
A decade ago one could have made the case that a degree in cyber security was not worth it. After all, adversarial tactics change daily. However, in recent years the education landscape has begun to change. With increasing awareness and concern over the growing cyber threats facing organizations, governments and individuals alike, many universities and colleges have created new cyber security degree programs. While many of these programs are still in their infancy others have been thoughtfully designed with input from field practitioners, local and national stakeholders, and industry thought leaders with the goal of producing cyber security professionals with life-long learning skills and the ability to defeat adversaries from theoretical as well as tactical perspectives.
Today, many employers seek a combination of both experience and education, with the most career options available to those with a master’s degree or higher. Not all cyber security education is created equal, however, which is why it is important to be especially discerning when choosing a graduate program.
Cyber security is a national priority and requires a team approach regarding education – meaning that close collaboration with the cyber security community is necessary for an effective program. When considering cyber security degree programs, look for curriculums that have been designed by a diverse group of industry leaders to specifically address life-long learning and programming skills — skills not taught in the majority of cyber security programs.
8 Reasons to Get a Master’s Degree (and Start or Advance a Career) in Cyber Security
1. Job Security is Almost Guaranteed
If there ever was a time to enter the cyber security field, it’s now. With cyber threats and attacks continuing to increase, the demand for cyber security professionals is far outpacing the supply.
By 2019, it is predicted that there will be a global shortage of roughly 2 million cyber security professionals. Even more astounding is that cyber security job openings are predicted to reach 3.5 million by 2021, according to CyberSecurity Ventures. Simply put, the job outlook for those entering the cyber security field is very, very good.
2. Salary Increases
When it comes to the technology sector, cyber security professionals are among the most highly compensated, posting a 9% salary premium over IT jobs in general. According to the U.S. Department of Labor’s O*Net OnLine, the median annual wages for cyber security professionals ranges from $70,000 to $118,000. And due to the high demand for cyber security professionals, salaries are rising.
3. It’s Worth the Investment in the Long Run
Tuition for a master’s degree varies from school to school but the total cost of a degree in cyber security will typically run anywhere from $20,000 – $70,000. While that may sound steep, the payoff proves it is worth it. There is a major shortage when it comes to qualified cyber security workers. Due to this shortage in a critical area of national security and following the law of supply and demand, those who work in cyber security can expect to earn top dollar. For instance, on average, chief security officers will make over $220,000 annually. As Alec Ross, senior adviser for innovation at the State Department said in a Washington Post article, “If any college student asked me what career would most assure 30 years of steady, well-paying employment, I would respond, ‘cybersecurity.’ ”
If you’re still not sure though you can use LearnVest’s Grad School Calculator to determine the lifetime value of your degree.
4. Career Options Open Up
A report by Burning Glass Technologies showed that 84% of cyber security postings specify at least a bachelor’s degree and 23% require at least a masters. While the opportunities and job openings in the cyber security field are many, the education level needed to land these jobs is high. Yet, for those with the right education and experience, the opportunities are vast – with job openings in almost every state and across almost every sector, both private and public. That’s why obtaining a master’s in cyber security makes so much sense for professionals in the field.
5. Networking Opportunities Abound
For anyone looking to make the most out of their graduate program, networking is key. Because graduate school attracts groups of like-minded people with similar interests in specific areas, such as cyber security, it is the perfect place to connect with peers, alumni, and faculty. The connections made in graduate school can not only help you while you are completing your degree, by offering additional knowledge, insight, and diversity of opinion but can come in extremely helpful upon graduation as you look for increased job opportunities or advancements within the cyber security field.
6. Flexible Degree Programs Are Available
Flexibility is of great importance for working adults. In order to balance school with a full-time career and family obligations, the option to obtain a degree online can present an opportunity that otherwise may have been impossible. Today, many colleges and universities offer online options, either hybrid programs or in some cases 100% online degrees. In addition to flexibility, online learning has a number of benefits for students including the ability to access the best cyber security programs, professors and universities despite physical location; pay less for materials (often times textbooks are replaced with digital content that can be viewed online or printed); and interact with students from around the country and globe.
7. Financial Incentives are Abundant for Cyber Students
With cyber crime professionals in such high demand, both in the private and public sector, there are a number of financial incentives that are now being offered to those who wish to pursue a degree in cyber security. The Center for Cyber Security Safety and Education grants a number of scholarships to those entering the field. For females, various scholarships are available for women in cyber security. Two major scholarship programs are funded by the U.S. government: the Information Assurance Scholarship Program (IASP) and the National Science Foundation Scholarship for Service (SFS). And yellow ribbon schools, such as the University of San Diego, offer support to Veterans through yearly scholarship money that is then matched dollar for dollar by the VA. At USD that equals roughly $17,000 per year.
8. Gain Leadership and Managerial Skills
The main benefit of getting a master’s degree in cyber security is the additional managerial and leadership training you will receive. In most technology undergraduate programs these type of business skills is not taught as a part of the curriculum. However, in order to advance in the field and land high-ranking leadership positions, you need to possess the right qualities including keen business acumen.
If you are considering a degree in cyber security, it is critical to find a program that prioritizes lifelong learning skills. With the right degree under your belt and the propensity for continuous learning, you’ll be able to transform your professional trajectory, increase your earning potential and make a significant impact on society. At the University of San Diego (USD) we offer a 100% online Master of Science in Cyber Security Operations and Leadership degree and a fully on-campus Master of Science in Cyber Security Engineering degree that were designed to be completed in as little as 20 months. To learn more about our nationally-ranked programs visit our program page.