What You’ll Pay vs. What You’ll Get: Examining the Lifetime Value of a Master’s Degree in Cyber Security

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masters degree in cyber security

Cyber security is one of the fastest growing careers. The job outlook is fantastic, pay is high and the opportunities are vast. But in order to advance in the field and land one of these desirable jobs, you need a solid education, which usually means obtaining a graduate degree in the field. And a graduate degree costs money and takes time. So how do you know if the investment is worth it? By examining average salaries and tuition to determine the lifetime value of an information security degree, you will be able to gain a clearer picture of what you’ll pay vs. what you’ll get if you decide to go back for your master’s degree in cyber security.

Value of Degree Over Time

Determining the value of a master’s degree and its ultimate worth is almost always the number one question every prospective student asks him or herself before taking the next step in their education. While it’s true that more education has never hurt anyone, understanding the true value of your degree in relation to how much you will have to invest to obtain that degree can help you realize the true payoff (or not) of a master’s degree.

CNBC reported, “An analysis by Georgetown University’s Center on Education and the Workforce found a graduate with a top-paying college major can earn an average of $3.4 million more over a lifetime than someone who graduates in the lowest-paying major. Not surprisingly, STEM majors — science, technology, engineering and math — are featured prominently at the top of the pay scale.”

And US News reported, “Among the 15 fields of study analyzed in the report [by the Georgetown Center on Education and the Workforce on the economic value of college areas of study], median earnings of those with a graduate degree in the field, irrespective of tenure, are an average of 38.3 percent higher than those who only possess a bachelor’s degree in the same field.”

Determining if Grad School is Worth It For You with the Grad School Calculator

Still, while master degree holders may earn more on average, the lifetime value of a master’s degree can vary greatly depending on major. This is why it’s important for prospective graduate students not to rely solely on average statistics but to calculate the lifetime monetary value for themselves.

LearnVest has created a Grad School Calculator that lets you enter your earnings, tuition, loans, scholarships, retirement and additional relevant details to determine whether or not graduate school is worth it for you. In the cyber security field, where the job outlook is extremely positive, pay is high and highly educated, experienced workers are in demand, the question of whether or not a degree is worth it isn’t as hard as someone looking to get a master’s in journalism, say, where the job outlook and pay don’t necessarily pay off.

Of course money shouldn’t be the only factor when looking and deciding upon furthering your education. But it helps to have a clear picture of the finances before making such a big commitment. Once you have a clear picture of how much you will be paying and what you will be earning in return, you can determine what you will require in terms of loans, scholarships and grants to make grad school possible. Further, you will be able to breathe easy knowing that the tuition you are paying today will pay off handsomely in the long term.

See What a Cyber Security Masters Program Looks Like for Working Professionals

Tuition for a Master’s in Cyber Security

When considering a degree program, be it undergrad, grad or PHD, finances usually play heavily into the ultimate decision. Tuition varies from school to school but the total cost of a master’s degree in cyber security will typically run anywhere from $20,000 – $40,000. Here’s a snapshot of tuition at seven different schools from Massachusetts to California, as of October 2015.

SchoolDegreeTotal Cost
BrandeisMaster of Science in Information Security$32,250
University of San DiegoMaster of Science in Cyber Security Operations and Leadership$28,675
University of Washington, TacomaMaster of Science in Cybersecurity and Leadership$19,968
University of Washington, BothellMaster of Science in Cyber Security Engineering$34,830
USC ViterbiMaster of Science in Cyber Security Engineering$37,254
University of FairfaxMaster of Science in Information Security Management (MSISM)$32,220
University of Maryland, Baltimore CountyMaster of Science in Cyber SecurityNon resident- $32,820;
Resident – $21,330

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 crime. The ICS Foundation grants a number of scholarships to those entering the field, including the graduate scholarship and the women’s scholarship, which awards a full year of tuition up to $40,000. The SWISS program offers scholarships to women entering the field of cyber security in an effort to close the growing gender gap in the field. Two major scholarship programs are funded through the U.S. government: the Information Assurance Scholarship Program (IASP) and the National Science Foundation Scholarship for Service (SFS).

Financial Incentives, Scholarships and Grants

Furthermore, many employers will cover the cost of a master’s degree for their employees and there are a number of programs that have been created to relieve the financial burden for veterans who wish to pursue their education. 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 $14,896 per year.

And then of course, there are federal and state loans such as FAFSA—which help millions of students pay for higher education every year.

Cyber Security Salaries

Burning Glass Technologies reported in their 2015 Job Market Intelligence: Cybersecurity Jobs report that cyber security workers earn on average 9% more than all other IT workers which equates to a roughly $6,500 premium per year.

According to 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. “In our survey 49% of respondents make $100,000 or more—mostly attributed to those with management roles, while the largest single group (23%) selected the $80,000–$99,999 range, representing those with administrator or engineering roles,” said the SANS Institute in their Cybersecurity Professional Trends Survey. What’s more the survey concluded, “Formal education is still a key factor in salaries. Respondents with a bachelor’s degree or higher again made up 75% of the sample.”

Salaries in cyber security are high and they are only getting higher as demand for highly educated and experienced professionals in the space soars, making it hard to deny the value of a master’s degree in cyber security.

The University of San Diego offers a 100% online Master of Science in Cyber Security Operations and Leadership that was designed to be completed in as little as 20 months. To learn more about our nationally accredited program visit our program page.

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