This article will go into depth about these differences to help you choose the discipline that works best for your career goals and interests.

Differences between the Cyber Security and Computer Science Fields

Whether you are looking for an undergraduate or master's program in technology-related fields, it is important to choose a career path that brings the most fulfillment to your life and career. You can transition to computer science from cyber security or vice versa as most concepts tend to overlap. The course work, however, creates an important distinction equipping each set of students with the skills and knowledge they need to operate as a computer science or cybersecurity professional.

Computer scientists and cyber security professionals handle different challenges in their careers and must have an analytical mind to solve the challenges they face every day. Cyber security experts must understand big data concepts to better deal with changes and threats that data exposes. However, their primary responsibilities vary daily, with cyber security professionals primarily handling tasks such as:

  • Auditing security systems

  • Analyzing networks

  • Setting up firewalls

  • Reporting on and responding to data breaches

Computer scientists, on the other hand, are involved mostly with software. They are engaged mostly in developing features in databases, the web, or software.

The career opportunities are also varied for cyber security and computer science degree holders. Some of the career paths you can pursue with a cyber security degree program include becoming a:

  • Computer network architect

  • Computer systems analyst

  • Information security analyst

  • Network and computer systems administrators

  • Software engineer

  • Ethical hacker or penetration tester

Cyber security degree holders can also advance to become computer and information systems managers, chief technology officers, and computer network architects. Some of the industries that hire cyber security graduates include:

  • Technology and internet companies

  • Defense companies

  • Government departments including defense and intelligence departments

  • Ecommerce

  • Financial firms including banks and credit card companies

  • IT companies and IT departments of companies in different industries

  • Security software companies

A computer science career on the other hand allows you to become a:

  • Computer and information research scientist

  • Database administrator

  • Software developer

Advancing in the computer science field can allow you to become a project manager or a computer and information systems manager. Both of these careers require personal initiative, for example by seeking out cyber security or computer science projects that not only earn you valuable experience but could also earn you money to support your college tuition or upkeep.

Skills Necessary for Cyber Security Jobs vs. Computer Science Jobs

Cyber Security and computer science experts are in demand around the world. But what are the specific skills and qualifications required for computer science or cybersecurity jobs?

If you are unsure you are an ideal candidate for a cybersecurity job or want to position yourself to attract better opportunities, here are the skills needed to succeed in a cybersecurity career:

  • Strong analytical skills to help you spot trends in data

  • Decision-making skills

  • Ability to work under pressure and tight deadlines

  • Attention to detail

  • The ability to work objectively

  • Strong communication skills

  • A strong understanding of confidentiality issues and laws

  • An inquisitive nature

  • A strong interest in the IT industry

  • A high degree of adaptability

  • Detail-oriented

  • A readiness to continue learning throughout your career

You also need certain technical skills to work in a cybersecurity job. You must understand the management, administration, and architecture of operating systems. Other technical areas you should understand include networking and virtualization software, programming and software development concepts, and software analytics.

A good understanding of the common programming languages also increases your chances of succeeding in a cybersecurity career. For most people, the more experience you have, the higher the salary you earn in cybersecurity. The base annual salary for a cybersecurity expert is $77,573 per year.

Some of the skills you will need to excel in a computer science career include:

  • An understanding of the common programming and coding languages including Java, Python, C++

  • Skills in software development, project management, information systems design, business process analysis, and software engineering

  • Communication and collaboration skills

  • Presentation skills

  • Professionalism

  • Data analysis (you can take a data mining degree to increase your understanding of data analytics tools and techniques better so you can apply them in your career)

  • Technical writing

  • Mathematics

  • Creativity

  • Time management

The skills required to excel in a computer science job are closely similar to those required for a cybersecurity job. Since both fields are related, the skills and experiences sometimes overlap. For instance, both careers require a deep passion for computers and technology. They also require professionals to have attention to detail so they can pinpoint issues that another person might miss. Due to their presence in an ever-evolving field, both computer science and cybersecurity jobs require candidates to have an eagerness for learning so they can keep up with the changes in the industry.

Whether you are in cybersecurity or computer science fields, demonstrating your experience by contributing or creating projects related to your field can raise your prospects of attracting some of the best jobs with reputable companies looking for your skillset. In both of these fields, you can pursue a master's degree to open up even more opportunities to advance in your career and earn more. Like in cybersecurity, computer science salary increases as years of experience increase.

Average Salary and Career Paths for Professionals with Cybersecurity or Computer Science Degree

Cybersecurity and computer science degree programs open up opportunities for a rewarding career in different areas related to IT. With a cybersecurity degree, you can explore paths such as:

A cybersecurity analyst examines the security measures an organization has in place to ensure that these measures are working as expected. Cybersecurity analysts work with other professionals to develop protocols, policies, and cybersecurity best practices for their organizations and clients.

A cybersecurity analyst earns an average annual income of $76,409.

A cybersecurity engineer is responsible for identifying potential vulnerabilities and threats in a system. Once they identify potential threats and vulnerabilities, they can develop and deploy software to eliminate the vulnerabilities and protect the systems from potential threats from malicious actors.

On average a cyber security engineer earns $96,909 per year.

An incident responder helps an organization secure its data after a security breach occurs. They are also responsible for security monitoring, testing, and analysis to prevent these attacks from occurring and enhance an organization's protection against cyberattacks. Incident responders earn about $110,972 per year on average.

A chief information security officer manages all the security measures of an organization including policies and technical operations. They are also responsible for protecting an organization's information and assets online.

A chief information security officer requires advanced education or more experience. A chief information security officer earns $166,498 on average.

Other careers you can pursue with a cybersecurity degree include:

  • Security architect

  • Penetration tester

  • Security systems specialist

  • Malware analyst

  • Information security engineer

  • Data security analyst

  • Cybersystems administrator

  • Identity management specialist

  • Intelligence analyst

A computer science degree can also lead to a rewarding career in the following positions:

An IT specialist monitors and manages an organization's hardware, networks, and software. They provide technical support and management to an organization and could be engaged in activities such as installing new systems, updating an existing system, and offering technical support to an organization.

IT specialists make an average of $58,112 per year.

A computer information researcher explores a company's technology concerns and finds research-backed solutions to improve the efficiency of different operations within the organization.

The average annual salary of a computer information researcher is $115,740.

Computer and information systems managers analyze the technology needs of an organization and make recommendations for systems of updates that will serve that organization's needs better.

A computer and information systems manager will earn on average $151,150 per year.

A computer science degree also allows you to explore these career paths:

  • Information systems management

  • Information technology

  • Database administration

  • Data science

  • Computer scientist

  • Software development and engineering

With either degree, you can advance your education to take on higher-paying jobs or move to other related careers. Cybersecurity, however, is a more specialized path compared to computer science, therefore, if you are uncertain about your choices, going with a general computer science degree might be ideal before you decide to specialize in cybersecurity or other technology fields.

How to Determine Whether a Career in Cybersecurity or Computer Science is Right for You?

Should I major in computer science or cybersecurity? This is a question most students ask, and if you are currently in this position, read on.

Cybersecurity or information security is a lucrative and highly rewarding career for the right person. Based on the definition of cybersecurity, cybersecurity professionals can expect to work with global companies in protecting their systems from malicious actors.

Here are some indicators that cybersecurity is the ideal career for you:

  • You are willing to collaborate and cooperate with others to share ideas, information about attacks as well potential solutions to these attacks

  • You are an ethical person; cybersecurity means you have the skills to hack into an organization's systems. However, you must approach your skills ethically and use them responsibly.

  • You are dependable, especially during crises. Cybersecurity breaches are growing in their cost and sophistication, and cause panic to an organization. As a cybersecurity expert, you should be capable of remaining calm and logical despite the circumstances.

During your study, you can expect the cybersecurity coursework to cover topics such as business continuity and operations, data architecture and controls, security law and compliance, risk management, web application security, network security, and disaster recovery.

A computer science degree on the other hand is best suited for you if you are interested in programming and software development. If you love solving complex problems with software and computer systems, it is best to choose a computer science degree. You must also be strong at mathematics if you intend to pursue this program, as you will cover many advanced math courses.

Possessing a good understanding or passion for science is also important to succeed in a computer science career. If you enjoy solving puzzles or playing video games, this could be an indication that you would work well in the computer science field. Creativity and critical thinking are also important skills to possess when working in this field. If you already have an existing interest in technology, and a desire to contribute to the technological space, then pursuing a career in computer science is a great fit for you.

Some of the courses you will cover in your computer science program include:

  • Introduction to computer systems

  • Software engineering

  • Data structures and algorithms

  • Data analytics

Closing Thoughts

Cybersecurity versus computer science? Both paths can lead to rewarding careers in the technology field. Whether either of these courses is the right one for you depends on your career goals and the skills you possess. That said, anyone can succeed in either path with the right dedication to your coursework, and exposing yourself to opportunities that give you practical experience in your chosen path.

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