Computer Security Major and College Degree Program Information
Find out about college degree programs in computer security. Read about degrees that students can earn, educational prerequisites at each level and courses likely to be taken. Get employment outlook and salary information, and find out what continuing education options are available.
Computer security specialists are in growing demand as hackers and cyber-attacks become ever-larger problems. Computer security is a sub-field within the larger discipline of computer science, though there are some stand-alone programs in network security or information security. The two most popular computer security degrees are the associate's and bachelor's degrees. These result in an Associate of Science or Bachelor of Science degree.
These programs can instruct students 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, as is general education coursework in math, science and English. These studies can prepare graduates to pursue 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. The legal and ethical issues affecting computer security are also covered. An associate's degree program in computer security generally involves some amount of math courses. The math courses teach students the methods of analyzing and interpreting the large amounts of computer data generated by network security checks.
The educational prerequisites for an associate's degree program in computer security vary between institutions. Most colleges will require a high school diploma or GED equivalent. Some institutions will also expect to see standardized test scores, such as ACT or SAT scores.
Computer security associate's degree programs involve a core curriculum of computer science or information science courses. In addition, most programs require a number of liberal arts or humanities electives, designed to reinforce the strong oral and written communication skills necessary for the computer security specialist. Core courses may cover the following topics:
- The structure of firewalls
- Introductory network security
- Web design
- Computer forensics
- CGI/Perl programming
- Network security design
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
Continuing Education Information
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.
Bachelor of Science in Computer Security
A Bachelor of Science program in computer security 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. Students study computer programs and networks, examining the ways in which hackers manipulate program and network weaknesses to access sensitive information. Strong math and communication skills are necessary for the successful computer security expert, and the program also emphasizes those subjects. Bachelor's degree programs typically take four years to complete.
While some community colleges only require a GED or high school diploma for admission, 4-year institutions typically require high school transcripts as well as SAT or ACT scores; applicants may need to meet minimum scores for admission. In addition, letters of recommendation and an admissions essay are almost always required.
In addition to the core computer security courses, students pursuing a bachelor's degree in computer security 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
- Introductory programming
- Advanced computer forensics
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, web developers and network architects. Employment in this field is projected to grow by 22% between 2010 and 2020, which the BLS considers faster than average for all occupations. In May of 2012, the median annual wage for workers in this category was $86,170.
Continuing Education Information
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.
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