Is a Cybersecurity Master’s Degree Worth It? [Salaries + Career Outlook]
If you are considering furthering your career and are interested in a master’s degree in cybersecurity, there could not be a better time to enter or advance in the field. The job outlook is fantastic, cybersecurity salaries are high and demand is soaring.
But to land some of the best jobs in cybersecurity with the best companies, a master’s degree is often preferred and sometimes required. Whether you’re just getting started or looking to advance your career, a master’s degree can help ensure high pay, job security and expanded career opportunities.
Some of the largest companies in the country have been victims of cybercrime, including Facebook, Equifax and Home Depot among countless others. Government agencies are also a prime target, with a list of victims that includes the IRS, the FBI, the NSA, Department of Defense and the Department of Homeland Security.
In response, there has been a sharp uptick in the demand for cybersecurity professionals across almost every sector. This spike in demand has caused a severe talent shortage. And this high demand for talent, coupled with extraordinarily high stakes posed by the ongoing threat of cybercrime, means six-figure salaries are common throughout the industry.
Cybersecurity Job Outlook
If there ever was a time to enter the cybersecurity field, it’s now. With cyber threats and attacks continuing to increase, the demand for cybersecurity professionals is far outpacing the supply. Projections by industry analyst Cybersecurity Ventures indicate there will be 3.5 million unfilled cybersecurity jobs globally by 2021, up from one million positions in 2014.
Looking specifically at the position of information security analyst, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports job growth of 32%, much faster than in other industries. The BLS cites an annual median salary of $98,350 for information security analysts, noting that the highest 10 percent earned more than $156,580.
Where are the Jobs Concentrated?
The increase in demand has been the greatest in industries managing increasing volumes of consumer data such as Finance (+137% cybersecurity job growth over the last five years), Health Care (+121% cybersecurity job growth) and Retail Trade (+89% cybersecurity job growth).
Perhaps not surprisingly, California, home to Silicon Valley, the tech capital of the world, has the most cybersecurity job postings of any state in the U.S., with 72,000 total job postings for cybersecurity professionals, according to recent data. Trailing California are Virginia, Texas, Maryland, New York, Florida, North Carolina and Illinois. California and the Washington D.C./Virginia/Baltimore, Md., area have become the leading cybersecurity hubs in the nation due to the national security and defense agencies that already exist there.
In San Diego, home to some of the largest Navy and Marine bases in the nation and more than 150 cybersecurity-related companies, the industry generates local economic impact of more than $2 billion.
In response to the urgency for increased cybersecurity education and talent and the growing need for collaboration between the public and private sector to fight cybercrime, the city is also home to the Cyber Center of Excellence (CCOE), a public-private partnership founded by a collection of world-class cyber companies with operations in San Diego.
Cyber Security Salaries and Career Opportunities
Cyberseek.org, an outstanding resource for cybersecurity job seekers, offers an elaborate profile of the U.S. cybersecurity employment landscape, complete with an interactive supply-and-demand heat map and a Cybersecurity Career Pathway section that offers continually updated information and average salaries for such key cybersecurity jobs as:
- Cybersecurity analyst — $95,000
- Cybersecurity consultant — $100,000
- Penetration & vulnerability tester — $103,000
- Cybersecurity engineer — $106,000
- Cybersecurity manager/administrator — $105,000
- Cybersecurity architect — $133,000
But no matter what industry you work in, if you are an experienced and educated cybersecurity professional, companies want you, both in the private and public sector. And they want you today, as the severe lack of talent in the war on cybercrime continues to threaten every person and business across the United States and world. Because of this, career opportunities can be found in:
- Private companies across all industries
- Government: federal, state, county and local agencies.
- Law enforcement
- Cybersecurity insurance
- Software development
- Cybersecurity training
- Consultants/freelancers: including penetration testers and bug bounty hunters
The Cyberseek.org resource cited above also offers information related to how a earning a master’s degree in cybersecurity engineering or in operations and leadership can help position you for success. (Example: 15% of those hiring for a cybersecurity consultant role required candidates to hold a master’s degree.)
Of course, not all cybersecurity jobs require a master’s degree; however the benefits of earning your degree are considerable:
- You’ll develop sought-after technical and industry leadership skills
- Valuable networking opportunities are built in
- You will have a competitive edge in the robust cybersecurity job market
- Your job security is practically guaranteed (since the field is experiencing a zero percent unemployment rate)
- And perhaps most important, your earning potential increases significantly
For more information:
Master of Science in Cyber Security Operations and Leadership | University of San Diego
Master of Science in Cyber Security Engineering | University of San Diego