In today’s society, the everyday activities and services we take for granted are inextricably intertwined with complex and sometimes susceptible computer systems, making cybersecurity careers and the professionals who fill them ever more important. Today, a financial institution can be robbed, a government agency breached or a military operation sabotaged without anyone having to set foot on the physical premises, through cyber attacks that can be conducted from anywhere in the world. For these reasons and others, the demand for security specialists in sectors such as finance, energy/utilities, government and homeland security will continue to increase. A career in cybersecurity can open up truly global opportunities, as the need for qualified professionals exists wherever vital computer systems are vulnerable to attack — in other words, all over the world. For individuals with a passion for problem-solving and a commitment to keeping on the cutting edge of technology, an academic focus on cybersecurity can lead to a rewarding career in an explosive field.
The concept of a degree program centered on cybersecurity studies is still relatively cutting edge, although it should become more common as the demand for this skill set grows increasingly apparent. At present, many of the universities offering specialized cybersecurity degrees tend to be located around the Washington, D.C. area, where government agencies and military-related organizations seek the aid of security specialists in the battles they wage against cyber enemies. Academic options include George Mason University, located in Fairfax, VA, which offers an M.S. in Secure Information Management. GMU is known for its top-notch IT faculty and its research in the cybersecurity field, and is designated a “National Center for Academic Excellence in Information Assurance Education” by the National Security Agency and the Department of Homeland Security.
Of course, location should never be an obstacle to achieving educational and career aspirations, nor does it have to be when pursuing a cybersecurity degree and resulting Cybersecurity Careers. There are several distance-based degree programs available, each of which enable students to study cybersecurity from anywhere with Internet access. One such program is offered by the Florida Institute of Technology, a nationally ranked, independent technology institution with an M.S. in Information Technology, Cybersecurity degree track that can be completed online. Another option is the University of Maryland University College. The largest public university in the United States, UMUC has online cybersecurity degree programs at both the baccalaureate and master’s level, in addition to shorter certificate programs. Possible areas of focus include network security, cybersecurity policy or cyber investigations and forensics.
Details of Cybersecurity Careers
Many cybersecurity professionals work in government sectors, including NASA and the military. A degree in cybersecurity also prepares graduates for homeland security jobs. For those interested in a Cybersecurity Careers in the private industry, high-profile employers such as AT&T, Boeing, Microsoft and Wells Fargo also seek to hire cybersecurity specialists. Possible job titles include information security analyst, information security manager and database administrator.
Information security analysts defend an organization’s computers and systems from cyber attacks. They do so by researching security trends, developing security standards, installing software such as firewalls and data encryption programs and by making security recommendations to their department’s management or senior IT staff. They are also responsible for monitoring an organization’s systems and networks for signs of a possible breach. According to Payscale.com, a typical salary for an information security analyst is $45,459 to $96,713.
Information security managers oversee all of the security processes and procedures that take place to protect an organization’s computer systems from cyber attacks. They create and document security procedures, provide training to other employees, perform security risk assessments and adjust procedures as necessary, and prepare disaster recovery plans. Information security managers typically earn $62,635 to $123,973, as reported by Payscale.com.
Database administrators protect an organization’s databases, and the vital and sensitive information contained therein. They are responsible for ensuring that a company’s data remains both accessible to authorized users and safe from attacks by hackers. Other duties include testing and repairing databases, maintaining the integrity of data and performing data backup or restore procedures as needed. Payscale.com reports that database administrators typically earn between $42,117 and $98,297.
According to a recent report in the Washington Post, the U.S. Government sees a need to fill 10,000 security positions. The private industry sector is projected to have four times that many openings in the near future. As businesses and organizations across all sectors continue to recognize the critical nature of today’s cybersecurity challenges, a growing number of cybersecurity careers will become available to individuals with the training and knowledge to solve these problems.
Additional Resource: What is a Homeland Security Degree?