Studies in computer security are often a concentration within the larger discipline of computer science, though there are some stand-alone programs at the undergraduate level. Those interested in a degree specifically in computer security typically earn an Associate of Science or Bachelor of Science. Students are trained in the use of firewalls, practices in computer forensics and applications in network security. Other computer courses addressing programming, operating systems and Web design are also taken, in addition to general education classes. These studies can prepare graduates to pursue entry-level careers as security specialists or consultants.
Associate of Science in Computer Security
This degree can also be referred to as an Associate of Science in Network Security or Information Security. These 2-year degree programs teach students the basic skills behind recognizing and preventing computer and computer network security breaches. Math courses are also emphasized in the curriculum so students can learn to analyze and interpret the large amounts of computer data generated by network security checks. Core courses may cover the following topics:
- The structure of firewalls
- Introductory network security
- Computer security law and ethics
- Computer forensics
- CGI/Perl programming
- Network security design
Bachelor of Science in Computer Security
This 4-year degree program is designed to provide students with a comprehensive understanding of the ways in which computer security is compromised and the methods of preventing computer security attacks. In addition to the core computer security courses, students need to enroll in a specified number of electives in subjects such as public speaking, English, math and the life sciences. Other requirements may include study of a foreign language. Core security topics include:
- Information security analysis
- Basic operating systems
- E-commerce security
- Systems analysis and design
- Advanced computer forensics
Popular Career Options
The field of computer security is developing at a rapid pace due to the presence of hackers, malware and other information systems threats. Employment opportunities for computer security specialists include the following positions:
- Network security coordinator
- Data security specialist
- Internet security specialist
- Computer forensics consultant
- Information systems officer
Employment Outlook and Salary Info
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS, www.bls.gov) classifies computer security specialists under the larger category of information security analysts. Employment in this field is projected to grow by 18% between 2014 and 2024, which the BLS considers much faster than average for all occupations. In May 2014, the median salary for workers in this category was $90,120.
Continuing Education Information
Associate's degree graduates may choose to pursue computer security certification, which is offered by many software companies and computer manufacturers. These certification programs allow professionals to earn a credential that demonstrates their skills with computer security technology. For example, Cisco offers four levels of network security certification. Graduates may also choose to pursue a 4-year degree; many associate's degree programs in computer security are designed to allow the student to continue his or her studies in pursuit of a bachelor's degree.
A bachelor's degree in computer security is the terminal degree for many of the career paths involved with computer security. Students may decide to continue their studies in pursuit of a graduate degree in a related technological field in order to seek a management or executive position. Also, working professionals in the computer security field will find it necessary to take supplementary certification courses offered by computer manufacturers and software companies in order to stay on top of the rapidly changing computer security industry.
The path to a computer security career begins with a degree program at the associate's or bachelor's degree level. These programs prepare students to pursue in-demand jobs protecting computer systems and networks from cyber threats.