Master of Science in Cyber Security

An MBA vs. a Master of Science in Cyber Security: What’s Right for You?

So you work in cyber security or a related field and want to move up the ladder to a more prominent, better paying position. You’ve decided your experience combined with a master’s degree is the best path to your dream job. But what master’s degree will be the most lucrative and appealing to employers? Oftentimes, for those in cyber security the choice comes down to a master of science in cyber security or an MBA.


If you are considering an MBA you are likely considering an MBA with a technical specialization. This degree can be a good option for those interested in gaining management and e-commerce skills while staying up to speed on the all-important technical side of business and the ever-growing concern over information systems security.

An MBA is the most common graduate degree in the country. This means that many, many people have found value in obtaining such a degree. However, it also means that the likelihood of standing out from the crowd with an MBA is slim. If you are looking to differentiate yourself from the competition and know that you want to work in cyber security, an MBA might not give you a huge boost over fellow applicants. Plus, in order for an MBA to get you a high-level position in cyber security, you will likely need to supplement a relevant bachelor’s degree and years of experience in the field with certain cyber security certifications.

On the positive side, if you want to keep your career options open and aren’t ready to commit fully to a career in cyber security, an MBA offers greater flexibility because it is not as specialized (as a master of science in cyber security) and can be applied to a broad array of fields.

A Master of Science in Cyber Security

By obtaining a master of science in cyber security, you are gaining specific high-level training in a field desperate for employees with your caliber of education and experience. According to Martin Libicki, senior management scientist at RAND Corporation and lead author of the study H4cker5 Wanted: An Examination of the Cybersecurity Labor Market, “The cybersecurity manpower shortage is primarily at the high end of the capability scale, commanding salaries of more than $200,000 to $250,000.” This means that obtaining a master’s in cyber security literally pays off. “There is a shortage of highly trained cybersecurity workers, especially in the federal government, with potential negative consequences for national security,” Libicki said in a CBS News article.

The main difference, of course, between an MBA and a master’s degree in cyber security is the major focus of the program – where students will spend the majority of their study time and gain the most thorough training. In a cyber security program the focus will be on computer science and information systems, while an MBA will be primarily focused on policy, practice and leadership.

The Best of Both Worlds

But why should you have to choose? According to a 2015 report from Burning Glass Technologies, “The hardest-to-fill cybersecurity jobs call for financial skills, such as accounting or knowledge of regulations associated with the Sarbanes-Oxley Act, alongside traditional networking and IT security skills. Because finance and IT skills are rarely trained for together, there is a skills gap for workers who meet the requirements of the ‘hybrid jobs.’”

Fortunately, you don’t have to choose. If you want to combine the leadership and management aspects of an MBA with the technical, theoretical and tactical components of a cyber security degree, your best option may be a degree in Cyber Security Operations and Leadership. This degree gives you the best of both worlds by building on your bachelor’s degree and your field experience to give you a deeper understating of tools and tactics for defeating adversaries plus leadership and management skills specific to the cyber security field.

Other Degree Options

Of course an MBA or master’s in cyber security are not your only options. Other degrees that you may consider are:

  • MS in Computer Science
  • MS in Computer Engineering
  • MS in Information Assurance
  • MS in Information Technology

Deciding what degree is right for you depends largely on your objectives and goals. By looking closely at what each program offers and aligning the objectives of each program with your own career and educational goals, you will be able to find the best degree path for you.

At the University of San Diego we offer a 100% online Master of Science in Cyber Security Operations and Leadership that is designed to be completed in as little as 20 months. Learn more about our nationally ranked program by visiting our program page.

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