What is a Cyber Security Degree?

The field of cyber security emerged and continues to grow because of concerns about cyber attacks. Cyber security is about protecting and recovering computer networks, devices, and programs from any kind of cyber attack. The field is of equal importance to government and industry, both of which rely on the protection and transmission of secure data.

Degree programs in cyber security provide students with foundational knowledge and skills in computer science, computer programming, cloud computing, information technology, big data, and digital forensics. Within the discipline are specializations such as database applications, systems and network administration, and data recovery.

Program Options

Bachelor’s Degree in Cyber Security – Four Year Duration
A Bachelor’s Degree in Cyber Security prepares students for jobs such as cybercrime investigator, information security analyst, security software developer, forensic science technician, security systems administrator, and web developer.

The typical concentration options available at this level of degree are computer systems security, software development and security, wireless and mobile security, and healthcare information security. Core coursework, regardless of concentration, tends to include:

  • Principles of Network of Security – how to detect and prevent cyberattacks; how to identify common software weaknesses; various security mechanisms
  • Computer Forensics – how to identify, collect, and analyze digital evidence; related legal implications
  • Secure Software Development – how to develop secure software applications
  • Cybercrime – how sensitive data and information can be misused; the growth of cybercrime and the legal efforts to fight it
  • Security Risk Management – identifying and reducing weaknesses in software and networks

Master’s Degree in Cyber Security – Two Year Duration
In addition to the career options listed above in the Bachelor’s Degree section, graduates with a Master’s Degree in Cyber Security generally qualify for roles as computer and information research scientists, computer network architects, and network and computer system administrators.

At this level of education, concentration options also expand to include cyber intelligence, digital forensics, and compliance/network auditing. These are samples of core master’s program courses:

  • Cryptology – the science concerned with data communication and storage in secure and secret form
  • Intrusion Detection – different kinds of software and methods used to detect cyber intrusion
  • Ethical Hacking – how to use the techniques of hackers to identify the weaknesses of a system and then find ways to improve its strength
  • Algorithms – examination of the processes and sets of rules used in intrusion detection and network monitoring
  • Digital Forensics – the investigation of cyber breaches; the collection of evidence; how to use this information to strengthen networks and prevent intrusions

Degrees Similar to Cyber Security

Computer Forensics
While cyber security is the process of protecting information systems from threats like system misuse, data theft, malware, outages, and attackers, cyber forensics is about collecting and analyzing digital data for use in legal proceedings. The two degree fields are obviously closely aligned.

Computer Science
A degree in computer science has a wider focus than a degree in cyber security. Programs that teach cyber security students about network, wireless, cloud, and mobile security; as well as cyber laws. Those in computer science focus on subjects like programming languages and algorithm analysis.

Computer Programming
Majors in computer programming learn how to write programming languages, how to create the code needed to run software based on specifications received from software engineers. The core curriculum covers program testing, debugging, and customization.

Computer Software Engineering
Students of computer software engineering learn how to plan and create software solutions based on specific user needs and demands.

Information Technology (IT)
IT refers to anything related to computing technology: the Internet, computer hardware, computer software, and computer networks. It is the design and use of computer networks for data processing and communication. Cyber security, therefore falls under the IT umbrella.

Network Systems Administration
This degree program teaches students how to manage the computer operations of a business or organization; in other words, how to coordinate and connect different systems and keep a network up-to-date and operating.

Web Design
This degree field teaches students the technical skills and the design concepts required to create websites.

Skills You’ll Learn

In addition to the technical know-how they gain, graduates of a cyber security degree program come away from their education with numerous transferrable soft skills. These abilities are the result of studying for a complex career that continues to evolve and challenge its practitioners to find new ways to outthink and outsmart hackers.

  • Problem-Solving – diagnosing problems and analyzing data to come up with solutions are everyday parts of the job for cyber security experts
  • Attention to Detail – overlooking the smallest of details could leave an opening for hackers
  • Tenacity – giving up on a security challenge is not an option
  • Analysis and Logical / Critical Thinking – the technical nature of the cyber security curriculum sharpens these skills in students
  • Time Management – juggling several projects is not uncommon in the cyber security field
  • Collaboration – the complexity of the cyber security field necessarily calls for communication and sharing of knowledge
  • Adaptability and Creativity – new viruses and worms mean that the IT threat landscape is constantly changing and that cyber security professionals are always learning
  • Research – conducting exhaustive research and working with system users is key in cyber security

What Can You Do with a Cyber Security Degree?

Almost every business, organization, and government agency relies to some extent on computer technology to store, transmit, and manipulate data and information. What this means is that for graduates with a degree in cyber security the job market is potentially limitless. Cyber security job interview preparation can be daunting — this resource can help: cyber security job interview preparation.

Below is a list of the primary occupational sectors in which graduates may find employment:

Computer Systems Design
These firms integrate hardware and software to create computer systems for their businesses, organizations, and agencies.

Educational Services
Schools, colleges, and universities hire cyber security specialists to protect institutional data that includes student grades, transcripts, and financial information.

Finance and Insurance
Insurance companies, banks, and other financial firms rely on cyber security professionals with expertise in risk management, ransomware, ethical hacking, and wire transfer and fraud vulnerabilities.

The healthcare field continues to transition to a fully developed electronic records system, which involves collection and storage of patient health information; immediate electronic access to this information by authorized users; and electronic availability of resources that support quality healthcare and healthcare delivery.

Law Enforcement and Criminal Justice
The role of cyber security in law enforcement and criminal justice is paramount. Without it, arrest, corrections, and prosecution records are susceptible to compromise and intrusion.

Big Business and Small Business
Cyber security breaches threaten every kind of company, big and small. There is an ongoing need for these enterprises to protect their operating systems, secure their networks, and educate their employees on safe practices.

Career Paths

Learn about your career prospects after graduation.

Read about Career Paths