Students interested in the cyber security field can pursue an Associate of Science in Cyber Security, a Bachelor of Science in Security and Risk Analysis, a graduate certificate in cyber security or a Master of Science in Cyber Security. Some common courses among different programs include computer literacy, cyber-crime, network security protocols and more. In most cases, students participate in both classroom lectures and hands-on computer lab sessions. Graduates can seek voluntary certifications after accumulating sufficient work experience.
Associate of Science in Cyber Security
Students enrolled in associate's degree programs study the basic principles of computer networking and learn how to protect the information found within network systems. Associate's degrees usually require a GED or high school diploma but may admit students who can pass math and English entrance exams. These 2-year programs provide students with an entry-level insight into computer operating systems and cyber security. Some associate's degree programs in the field provide students with a foundation in criminal justice and computer forensics to prepare them for an entry-level career in cyber-crime investigation.
Introductory courses included in an associate's degree program in cyber security are taught in classroom settings, while more advanced courses are often taught in computer laboratories. Course topics include:
- Computer literacy
- Computer operating systems and forensics
- Introduction to networking
- Principles of criminal justice and cyber crime
- Data communications
- Information security
Bachelor of Science in Security and Risk Analysis
Individuals interested in studying the aspects of computer science and cyber security at the baccalaureate level might consider enrolling in a Bachelor of Science in Security and Risk Analysis. Such programs provide students with an extensive overview of the theories surrounding risk analysis and computer security. The curriculum might cover the regulations that guide information security protocols as well as the legal and ethical issues surrounding cyber security. Such programs also include practical training courses that teach students how to recognize and then manage potential security threats and breaches. Bachelor's programs usually require a GED or high school diploma to enroll, but they also prefer students who have some college.
Many baccalaureate degree programs dealing with the subject of cyber security feature both theoretical and practical courses. Sample courses are:
- Risk management assessment
- Principles of networking
- Network security and cryptography
- Computer and cyber forensics
- Decision theory
- Programming techniques
Cyber Security Certificate
Cyber security certificate programs are primarily post-graduate programs offered by 4-year universities. They are designed for individuals who already have a baccalaureate degree or professional experience in the field of information technology. Students enrolled in such a certificate program learn how to protect computer systems and networks from hackers, viruses and other potential dangers from the Internet. Graduate certificate programs typically consist of just 12-15 credit hours.
The curriculum focuses on the principles of network security, as well as the practical skills of cryptography, authentication, public key cryptosystems, cryptanalysis and more. Specific topics covered include:
- Network security
- Information assurance
- Security protocols
Master of Science in Cyber Security
Master's degree programs in cyber security take two years to complete and are therefore more comprehensive than graduate certificate programs in the field. Students learn how to protect the computer systems of large businesses, corporations and government agencies. They study the ethical, legal and psychological ramifications behind cyber-attacks and cyber security. A master's degree program in the field may also put an emphasis on global cyber security protocols. Applicants must have a bachelor's degree and a background in computer technology.
Core courses found within a master's degree program in cyber security focus on the skills and principles in the field. Electives might allow students to specialize in cyber security in the business world or national cyber security policy. Students may take courses in:
- Cyber security and cyberspace
- Ethics and legal issues in cyber security
- Human aspects of cyber security
- National cyber security policy
- Enterprise cyber security
- Global cyber security
Certificate and degree programs in cyber security are often undertaken by professionals working in the field of information technology. With training in cyber security, individuals can advance to positions as:
- Cyber security specialist
- Cyber policy analyst
- Cyber intelligence analyst
- Information security manager
- Cyber investigator
Employment and Salary Outlook
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that information security analysts will see 18% growth in employment opportunities from 2014-2024. This is a much faster-than-average growth, and security analysts with real-world experience in a related computing field should have good job prospects. The median salary for an information security analyst as of 2015 was $90,120, notes the BLS.
Certification in the field of cyber security is primarily offered by for-profit institutions and companies that develop security systems. While certification is not required, it can act as a proof of competence for jobseekers in the field. The Global Information Assurance Certification (GIAC) offers general designation options for professionals working in the field of information security.
Undergraduate programs in cyber security provide students with the basic skills in information security needed for entry-level positions in the field, while certificate and degree programs in cyber security are designed to help working professionals advance to other careers in fields like cyber investigation and intelligence. Many programs offer specialization options and hands-on experience elements.