Tangible skills for entering the cybersecurity field are often not found in a degree program — but the business, management, strategy and communication skills you need to complement those tactical abilities are. While it is possible to teach yourself some cybersecurity skills through books, websites, and online courses — there are many benefits to pursuing a cybersecurity degree or certificate program (or both!).
Top 7 Cyber Degree & Certificate Programs
Cybersecurity degrees are offered at many traditional universities — and many offer their campus programs through online coursework.
You can pursue a cybersecurity specialist career through several different degree paths. The right program for you will depend on your goals, current level of education, and technical background.
- Bachelor’s Degree
A bachelor’s degree offers a comprehensive education. It addresses both technical implementation and academic theory. This is the most broad-based option. It will provide you with a well-rounded understanding the cybersecurity industry.
- Master’s Degree
A master’s degree in cybersecurity is more specialized. It’s focused on in-depth knowledge of specific topics. If you already have a bachelor’s degree in cybersecurity, a master’s degree may not be necessary. This is more appropriate for someone with an IT background who wants to develop specific cybersecurity skills. Acceptance into a master’s degree program may require a technical background.
Certifications are ideal for developing skills in a specific area. This is most appropriate if you already have a strong cybersecurity background.
1. Bachelor’s of Science in Cybersecurity
Once you’ve completed your bachelor’s degree in cybersecurity, you’ll have valuable skills like:
- Evaluating an organization’s information security needs
- Assessing critical information protection policies
- Measuring and troubleshooting performance of the security system
- Implementing solutions for cybersecurity and network monitoring
- Developing short-term and long-term cybersecurity strategies
Prior cybersecurity or computer science experience is not usually required for admission.
As one of the few online Bachelor’s degree in Cyber Security in the U.S. – Some of Utica College’s Bachelor of Science in Cybersecurity program outcomes include:
- Protect computer systems and secure online data or combat crimes using digital evidence
- Learn latest techniques for accumulating evidence in prosecuting cybercrimes
- Understand wide range of vulnerabilities of government and corporate computer networks
2. Bachelor’s of Science in Forensics and Digital Investigations
A BS in Forensics and Digital Investigations prepares you to do all of the following:
- Analyzing and presenting digital evidence
- Assessing legislation and its application to digital forensics
- Applying to the ethical standards of the profession
- Identifying common methods of white-collar crime
- Evaluating effectiveness of digital forensics tools
This degree typically requires electives courses in the chosen area of specialization. Some schools also require an internship or senior project. The purpose is to demonstrate your ability to practically apply your academic learning.
3. Master of Science in Cybersecurity
This master’s degree will prepare you to provide the following services:
- Secure system design
- Mobile, web, and critical infrastructure protection
- Analyzation and detection of malware and other cyber attacks
- Data mining and anomaly detection for identification of suspicious cyber behavior
Some programs require a bachelor’s degree in computer science or engineering.
4. Master’s of Science in Digital Forensics
An MS in digital forensics prepares you to provide expert advice in the following areas:
- Evidence management evaluation
- Assessment of legal issues as they apply to digital forensics
- Software development for automated data processing
- Development of digital device analysis methodologies
- Forensic analysis of network traffic, operating systems and server software
- Analysis of malware, digital devices, portable devices, and data
- Evaluation of forensics tool effectiveness
5. Master’s of Science in Information Security Operations
Upon completion of your M.S. in Information Security Operations, you’ll be prepared to:
- Develop criteria for system and data classification
- Evaluate and strategically respond to systems and data resources
- Analyze and assess attack strategies
- Identify enterprise system vulnerabilities and recommend remedial solutions
- Propose strategies to improve system and network protection
- Identify potential attack vectors by analyzing common intrusion patterns
- Develop cutting-edge methods for detecting cyber attacks
- Detect suspicious system and network behavior and suggest appropriate controls
The online MS in Information Assurance Policy Management is a similar program offered by Regis University that details how to take a leading role in the efforts to keep sensitive data safe by planning for physical security breaches and disaster recovery, implementing enterprise and architecture security systems, instituting risk management techniques and auditing best practices.
6. Undergraduate Cybersecurity Certificate
Excelsior College offers an undergraduate cybersecurity certificate. It gives working adults a practical cybersecurity education in a short amount of time.
This 18-credit course is entirely online, in an interactive format. This course provides knowledge and skills related to the following topics:
- Security risk and vulnerability assessment
- Cybercrime investigation
- Attack management best practices
- Effective incident response handling
The credits can also transfer into Excelsior’s Bachelor’s degree program.
7. Online Short Course: Managing Risk in the Information Age
This cybersecurity certificate program is offered through Harvard VPAL/HarvardX. It’s completed entirely online and is very interactive. Once you’ve completed the eight-week course, you’ll have developed the skills that prepare you to:
- Evaluate and assess critical systems and data threats and vulnerabilities
- Understand an organization or sector’s compliance and legal risks
- Recommend a cybersecurity leadership plan
- Propose cybersecurity breach incident response plans
- Develop strategies for cyber risk management
The course is self-paced and presented in weekly modules. Expect to spend six to nine hours per week studying the course materials.
Top Cybersecurity Industries
A cybersecurity specialist commonly works in industries that deal with sensitive information. This includes:
- Banking, insurance, and finance
- Information technology and management
- Government defense
- Government non-defense
- Consulting and professional services
The top locations for cybersecurity specialist careers are New York, Washington, DC, and Silicone Valley.
Potential Cybersecurity Specialist Careers
The cybersecurity industry is expected to experience a severe workforce shortage. By 2021, there may be as many as 3.5 million unfulfilled cybersecurity specialist positions.
The average salary for a cybersecurity specialist typically ranges from $100,000 to $160,000. There is also plenty of room for negotiating benefits and perks. It’s clear to see that a cyber degree can be an excellent investment in your future.
Cybersecurity Engineer – Average Salary $94,000
A cybersecurity engineer needs a technical background in development. Knowledge of Java and Python is also helpful.
Cybersecurity engineers need to be able to take a deep dive into code. The job involves identifying and repairing potential vulnerabilities and performance issues.
This position may also require keeping employees up-to-date on security best practices. The current median salary for this position is about $94,000 per year.
Penetration Tester – Average Salary $47,000 – $130,000*
Recent increases in ransomware attacks have created a new focus on corporate security. Many companies now hire penetration testers to evaluate their system for vulnerabilities.
Depending on the scope of the position, the tester may be responsible for fixing discovered vulnerabilities. In other cases, he or she would submit a formal report describing the issue. The company would then hire a cybersecurity engineer to mitigate vulnerabilities.
*Penetration tester salaries and bonus structure can vary. Total compensation typically ranges between $47,000 and $130,000.
Chief Information Security Officer (CISO) – Average Salary $155,000
CISO is a leadership position responsible for coordinating various cybersecurity specialists. This position typically requires a significant amount of experience in the industry. Many who hold it have worked their way up over the years.
To become a CISO, you will need to be a subject matter expert with a forward-thinking mindset. This position requires a constant evaluation of new approaches to security. You must stay on top of the most cutting-edge cybersecurity tools and technologies.
The median salary for a CISO is approximately $155,000 per year.
Forensics Investigator – Average Salary $68,000
Forensics investigators analyze computer systems, storage devices, and electronic documents. This information may be used to support legal cases regarding unauthorized hacks. Job duties may also include:
- Developing computer protection systems
- Recovering deleted or encrypted files
- Providing reports and feedback as needed.
Computer forensic investigators work within many different industries. This may include:
- Law firms
- Accounting firms
- Government institutions
- Software development companies
The median salary for a computer forensics investigator is approximately $68,000 per year.
Are You Ready to Take the Next Step?
If you’re ready to move forward with pursuing a career in cybersecurity, check out our Career Roadmap. We’ve made things easy for you by providing a simple checklist to guide you down your new career path.
Review the top cybersecurity schools for more information about degree options and specializations.