Is a Cyber Security Degree Worth It? [2021 Guide]

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Is a cyber security degree worth it? Cyber crime has quickly become one of the U.S.’s fastest-growing security problems.

Cyber Security Degree

As a result, more cybersecurity experts are needed now than ever before.  If you have an interest in this field, a traditional, or an online bachelor’s degree in cyber security could give you access to higher-paying jobs.

The Value of a Cyber Security

software developers working in the office

If you’re interested in the field of cyber security, you may be wondering if/why you need to earn a degree – especially a bachelor’s degree or higher – to get a job. It’s true that you can find someone every now and then who was self-taught and found his way into a cyber security job. This is not the norm.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the market for cyber security jobs will likely increase by 32% through the year 2028, which is impressive. The BLS also shows that most jobs within the cybersecurity field require employees to have at least a bachelor’s degree to obtain them.

The annual salary is also significantly higher for people with bachelor’s degrees in the field as opposed to those with associate’s degrees or no degree. For example, the Bureau of Labor Statistics lists the median annual salary of someone with a Bachelor of Science in Information Security as being about $99,730.

Someone with an Associate of Applied Science degree in the same field can only expect a median annual salary of about $55,000.

software developers working together in the office

An Associate of Science in Information Technology has an annual average salary of about $58,000. A bachelor’s degree in the same field leads to about $73,000 a year.

Those are fairly large differences in pay. Additionally, you’re much more likely to get a job with a bachelor’s degree, and you’ll have access to a much larger job pool than you would with no degree or only an associate’s degree.

Top 5 Things You Can Do with a Cyber Security Degree

After you’ve earned your bachelor’s degree in cyber or information security, there are several different careers for which you could be eligible.

1. Cyber Security Analyst

cyber security analyst working in his office

If you decide to become a cyber security analyst, you’ll need to have excellent problem-solving and teamwork skills, a strong work ethic, and a highly adaptable nature. Strong attention to detail and grace under pressure are also good traits to have.

As for technical skills, you should understand many aspects of computer science. Specifically, you need to know your way around Linux and have a good grasp of cryptography, risk assessment, computer information systems, and project management.

Your main function will be to protect your company’s computer networks and digital systems.

You may be required to design new protection software and implement new safety features to protect against malicious cyber attacks. You’ll probably also be required to teach other employees to understand and use the new software.

2. Cyber Security Consultant

Cyber Security Consultant working on her computer

Many of the same attributes that make a good cyber security analyst also make a good cyber security consultant. The jobs are similar in both scope and in the skills they require.

The difference is a cyber security consultant almost always works exclusively as a third party contract employee, whereas cyber security analysts work within a business or organization.

Another big difference between the two is that a cyber security consultant doesn’t just design and set up protections for a company’s computer system.

Consultants also work on the other side and act as threats to a company’s network. In this way, they can test and expose a company’s weaknesses. Then they can tell the company how to repair those weaknesses before it’s threatened by an outside attacker.

3. Vulnerability Analyst

Vulnerability Analyst checking data center

In short, a vulnerability analyst is someone whose sole job is to test and find weaknesses in a company’s computer system. They then advise the company on how to repair and strengthen the weaknesses.

As a vulnerability analyst, you might be asked to track weaknesses and breaches in the system, conduct scans of the company’s network, and occasionally train employees to use new security software.

You could work for one single company or act as a third-party consultant. You’ll also be expected to know a lot about ethical hacking because you’ll have to behave and think like a hacker to thoroughly test systems. Penetration testing is another part of the job.

4. Computer Research Scientist

Computer Research Scientists working together on a project

If you earn your degree in cyber security, there are plenty of cyber security jobs for which you should be eligible. There are also potential job opportunities in other computer science-related, non-cyber security fields. One of these is a job as a computer research scientist.

Computer research scientists work with existing technology and try to find new and innovative ways to use it. For this job, you should be creative and inventive as well as logical and analytical. Good leadership and teamwork skills are also imperative.

5. Software Developer

Software Developers working together in the office

In a cyber security degree program, you’ll take a lot of programming, programming languages, and software development courses. As a result, by the time you graduate, you should have everything you need to become an actual software developer. As a software developer, you’ll actually be designing and creating new software.

You could be making computer games, operating systems, security programs, and more. You’ll be the creative force behind new and evolving technology.

You may choose to focus on developing system software or software applications. Although this job is strictly focused on cyber security, having a cyber security degree can help you design stronger, better protected software and programs.

Cyber Security Careers & Salaries

Entry Level Jobs for Cyber Security

Because the potential careers in cyber security vary widely for people with different degrees and at different points in their careers, it’s hard to lump all cyber security jobs together. Instead, it’s easier to group cyber security jobs into entry-level jobs, mid-career jobs, and jobs that pay the highest.

Below, we list some potential careers and associated salary data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Entry Level Jobs for Cyber Security

Here are a few of the careers available to graduates with a bachelor’s degree in this field.

Careers Annual Median Salary
Computer Programmers $86,550
Network and Computer Systems Administrators $83,510
Web Developers $73,760
Computer Support Specialists $54,760

These jobs usually require a bachelor’s degree or higher to qualify.

Mid-Career Jobs for Cyber Security

Software Developers working together in the office

If you earn your bachelor’s degree and have a few years of experience under your belt, you can often move into other, higher-paying cyber security jobs.

Here are some of the most popular mid-career jobs available in this field.

Careers Annual Median Salary
Information Security Analysts $99,730
Database Administrators $93,750
Computer Systems Analysts $90,920
Computer Programmers $86,550
Network and Computer Systems Administrators $83,510
Web Developers $73,760

Salaries may vary depending on the employer, work experience, regional location, and other factors.

Highest Paying Jobs for Cyber Security

Senior Security Consultant giving instructions to other Security consultants

Many of the highest paying jobs in cyber security require a graduate degree or a bachelor’s degree plus years of experience. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the top 10% of earners in this field make the following salaries:

Careers Annual Salary
Computer and Information Systems Managers $208,000
Top Executives $208,000
Computer and Information Research Scientists $189,780
Computer Network Architects $168,390
Software Developers $164,590

There is a slight difference in average pay for those considered mid-level, experienced, and late-career. These salaries are listed at the “experienced” level.

Is Cyber Security a Good Major

Is Cyber Security a Good Major?

This is a subjective question, but overall, yes, cyber security is a very good major. There are literally thousands of open cyber security jobs in the United States alone that need people to fill them.

The BLS estimates a 32% growth projection through the year 2028, and the pay for most cyber security jobs is excellent. If you have any interest in this field at all, this could potentially be a great major for you.

Is it Worth Getting a Degree in Cybersecurity?

If you’re trying to break into the cyber security field, earning a degree in cyber security can be a good first step to doing that.

Some entry-level cyber security positions only require an associates degree, thus making an associate degree in cyber security worth it.

However, the best jobs with the best salaries are usually given to people with bachelor’s degrees or higher.

What Can You Do With a Cyber Security Degree?

cyber security analyst working in the data center

There are all kinds of things you can do with a cyber security degree. Most of them are going to be in the cyber security field. These include jobs such as penetration tester, cyber security analyst or consultant, ethical hacker, and other similar titles.

Because you take a wide variety of computer science classes while working towards your cyber security degree, though, there are also several jobs you can get that aren’t strictly related to cyber security. These include many jobs in the IT department. Network administrators, software developers, and computer research scientists are options as well.

How Difficult is a Cyber Security Degree?

How difficult it will be for you to earn your degree in cyber security largely depends on you – your strengths, weaknesses, interests, and dislikes.

If you’re a detail-oriented person who enjoys working with computers and solving complex problems, this shouldn’t be that hard for you. Still, as with any other degree, there will be tougher classes and easier classes. It’ll be up to you to find a balance between them.

What Are a Cyber Security Degree’s Requirements?

cyber security degree student studying on his laptop

To earn a bachelor’s degree in cyber security, you’ll have to take about 120 hours worth of college credit.

You’ll take some general core education courses, a few electives, and several computer science courses, with a heavy emphasis on programming, information technology, and cyber/information security.

What Jobs Can You Get with a Masters in Cybersecurity?

At the master’s level, you have access to all the cyber security jobs for people with associate’s and bachelor’s degrees.

Additionally, you also have access to some other jobs available only to people with graduate degrees. These include a chief information security officer, IT auditor, cyber security manager, and many other manager/director/senior-level computer science and cyber security jobs.

Do You Need A Graduate Degree For A Cyber Security Job?

software developer working at home

While some of the highest paying jobs in the cyber security field will be easier to get if you have a master’s degree, you don’t actually have to have a graduate degree to work in the cyber security field.

In fact, according to the BLS, most of the available cyber security jobs require only that candidates have bachelor’s degrees.

What is Cyber Security?

Simply put, cyber security is a field dedicated to protecting computers, computer networks, computer systems, and other digital and technological devices against hackers, cyber crime, and malicious attacks.

Cyber security professionals protect individuals’ and companies’ systems and devices from hacking, theft, blackmail, identity theft, and other types of damage caused by digital attacks.

Getting your Cyber Security Degree Online

cyber security analyst working on his computer

Every year, more and more businesses suffer from cyber attacks, hacking, and other cyber crime. As a result, the need for cyber security professionals is greater now than it’s ever been. If you have an interest in cyber, computer, or information security, there’s never been a better time to find a job in this field.

The easiest way to do that is to earn your cyber security degree. There are several entry-level jobs that will let you in with an associate’s degree. For the higher-paying jobs, though, you’ll want to work towards your bachelor’s degree. Being able to do this online makes earning your degree faster and easier than ever.

You can take online classes on your own schedule, without interfering with your job or other responsibilities. Enroll in an online program today, and make those dreams a reality.

Sarah Walker
WRITTEN BY
Sarah Walker