A master's degree in cyber security will prepare you for various career tracks. It will provide vital skills in network security, computer science, and penetration testing to make you better able to address cyber threats in any industry.
Do You Need a Cybersecurity Master's Degree for a Cyber Security Job?
If you are interested in working in cyber security, you will need education, experience, and professional cybersecurity certification. A report by Burning Glass Technologies states that 84% of job postings for a cybersecurity professional asks for at least a bachelor's degree, and a quarter of them ask for a master's degree. Therefore, it is not essential to have a master's degree in cyber security to land a job in the field.
However, according to University of San Diego, a bachelor's degree will only help you land an entry-level or mid-level cyber security job. If you have aspirations for high-level, long-term careers in cyber security, you should strongly consider enrolling for a cybersecurity master's degree. The exception to this rule is if you have 8-10 years of experience in a cybersecurity field.
Not only will a master's program give you additional theoretical and technical skills, but you will also get managerial, leadership, and business skills that are required for high-level positions. Cyber security isn't just a technical field, and it is imperative that you holistically understand how to manage organizations, people, and risks as well as make business decisions. Furthermore, a master's degree in cyber security will improve your salary and open up your career options.
Certifications may not get you a job on their own. However, they carry prestige and will boost your resume when you look for a cybersecurity job. You should consider adding these important certifications to your bachelor's or master's degree in cyber security:
CISSP - The Certified Information Systems Security Professional
CISM - Certified Information Security Manager
CISA - Certified Information Systems Auditor
GIAC - Global Information Assurance Certification
CEH - Certified Ethical Hacker
What Jobs and Career Paths Are Available after I Complete a Master's in Cyber Security?
There are different levels of career paths that are available for you after you complete a master's degree in cyber security. According to Cyberseek, there are advanced roles, mid-level roles, and entry-level cybersecurity roles. Advanced roles include cyber security engineer, cyber security administrator, and cyber security managers. These advanced roles directly impact business strategy as they involve managing teams and other security specialists.
Mid-level roles include cyber security consultant, cyber security analyst, penetration tester, and vulnerability assessors. These roles often give professionals the ability to build their own schedules and consult with several organizations, as opposed to being based in-house at a certain company. Entry level positions include incident responders, security auditor, cyber security technician, and security investigators.
Below is an outline of career paths you can expect and what you will do in each role:
Cyber Security Specialist
You help an organization come up with a secure computer system by doing an analysis of current methods. You also train personnel on how to use software and protect the security system.
Cyber Security Analyst
You dive into the data and details of a cybercrime to figure out patterns and the way a crime occurred. You use this analysis for prevention of future crimes. Your job also entails creating network architectures that prevent crimes, as well as frequently testing and probing the system for vulnerabilities.
Information Security Analyst
In this role, you mainly protect sensitive information by creating and implementing strategies for preventing a cyber attack. You also develop policies that protect the company against attacks, monitor access to data, and ensure compliance of policies. You are also tasked with training employees how to adhere to these policies.
Information Security Crime Investigator/Forensics Expert
In this role you will investigate cyber crimes and identify flaws within the system. You will also follow trails left by attackers on the system.
In this role you will investigate and resolve security incidents as soon as they happen, naming the causes and making recommendations on future prevention procedures. This role will require you to use a number of forensics tools to find the root of a problem, mitigate the damage, and ensure it doesn't occur again.
You will be tasked with probing, observing, and evaluating cyber operations and systems in a company and consequently provide autonomous reports and recommendations on how to improve security. The report should be highly detailed, explain any current problems, and suggest changes and improvements.
In this role you will be tasked with working with organizations to design and implement a new security network, or make improvements on an existing one. In this role, you will engage with stakeholders, come up with budgets, oversee teams, and dive deep into research. You will also run security tests and investigate vulnerabilities.
Source Code Auditor
This role requires you to review source code for a security system to discover potential security weaknesses, violations of code conventions, and bugs in code. This is because automated code analysis tools can only achieve so much. Humans are still required if companies endeavor to unearth hidden vulnerabilities.
Penetration and Vulnerability Tester
Identification and mitigation of threats to a network will be your everyday job in this role. It requires you to understand the mind of an attacker and use similar methods to simulate testing environments.
If developing ciphers, algorithms, and security systems for encryption of sensitive information interests you, then this is the role for you. You will analyze and decrypt hidden information in company cryptographic systems, as well as incoming information. You will be a code maker and code breaker to ensure private data cannot be interpreted by prowling cyber terrorists.
Like an architect, you will be responsible for creating an organization's security design that is in alignment with business goals and that offers best practices for security personnel and other staff in an organization. You will analyze security threats and recommend solutions to protect organizational data. You might also be involved in the development of security software and hardware, education of staff on security policies, design of security models, and installation of VPNs and firewalls.
Lead Software Security Engineer
You will lead a team of security experts in risk assessment and analysis, development of secure software, and identify security vulnerabilities.
Cyber Security Manager/Director
This senior-level role entails strategically overseeing the entire cyber security team in an organization from staffing to approving cyber security budgets. You will be the organization's expert authority on cyber protection and recovery from cyber attacks. In smaller companies, this role is equivalent to that of a CISO.
Chief Information Security Officer (CISO)
This is a senior level role that will put you in charge of development, implementation, and maintenance of security processes that protect the company from risks and threats.
What are the Highest Paying Job Titles in Cyber Security for a Person with a Master's in Cyber security?
According to the BLS Occupational Outlook Handbook, the median pay for Information security analysts in 2018 was $98,350 per year. Professionals in senior level positions such as CISO, cyber security managers, and others who have master’s degrees earned about $1,380 more than the median earnings for cyber security professionals with bachelor’s degrees. According to Cyberseek, 32% of online listings for cyber security professionals require a graduate degree.
What Is the Demand for Professionals with a Master’s Degree in Cyber Security?
Since 2013 data breaches have been on a steady increase, which means that a cybersecurity professional is in high demand. RiskBased Security reports that by 2017, there had been more than 2200 reported data breaches, exposing more than 6 billion records.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Outlook Handbook also reports that 14,800 new information security analyst jobs are likely to become available between 2014 and 2024. This is a growth rate of about 18%, which is faster than most averages across careers in the United States.
What Cities in the U.S. Have the Highest Paying Salary Ranges for Cyber Security Professionals with a Master’s Degree?
According to TechRepublic, these are the best cities to work for cyber security professionals with master's degrees:
There are many top private firms hiring cyber security professionals in the Washington D.C. area. They include PwC, General Dynamics Information Technology, CACI, and Leidos. Also government and intelligence agencies have proliferated in this area necessitating a lot of cyber crime jobs. The average cybersecurity salary for the Department of Defense is $86,313, Counterintelligence at $114,953, Top Secret Clearance at $105,938, and government contractors at $129,957.
Arlington is the home of the Pentagon, which houses the department of defense. This is one of the single biggest employers of cyber security professionals in the world-often done through private contractors. Top employers, just like in DC, include large government headquarters and big companies such as PWC, Leidos and CACI.
New York City is the global capital of some of the biggest cyber attacks. Finance firms based in the city employ thousands of cyber security assurance professionals. The city also has many large hospitals, government headquarters, and educational institutions. All these entities are big consumers of cyber security talent. The city also has a high cost of living, contributing to the reason why the average information security salaries are over $100,000.
This global tech capital on the West Coast has thousands of cyber security openings available. The top employers are tech companies, healthcare providers, schools, government headquarters, and hospitals. The average salary for an entry-level cyber security role in San Francisco is $161,286, which is more than twice the national average. The highest salary of a mid-level professional is approximately $300,000. Therefore, this is an attractive destination for cyber security professionals.
This city is one of the largest hubs in the USA, which is why its cyber security career's prominence is not surprising. It has the highest openings for CISOs and Security Architects. Top employers include Fortune 500 companies such as PWC, Marriott International, Trustwave, Howard Brown Health, and educational institutions such as University of Chicago and Northwestern University.
Seattle is home to most of the well known tech companies and big employers in ecommerce, healthcare, and government. It therefore offers thousands of cyber security jobs. In a year, there are an average of 3,000 cyber security related jobs in Seattle. Top employers include Amazon, Starbucks, Microsoft, T-Mobile, Metro PCS, University of Washington, and Dish Network.
This city is the 10th largest economy in the USA, and ranks fourth for the number of Fortune 500 companies within its limits, which makes it inevitable that there are abundant opportunities for cyber security professionals. As much as 75% of Fortune 500 companies have a presence in Seattle (mostly company headquarters). Top employers include Coca Cola, NFC Ammit Management, PWC, DISH Network, and Marriott International.
What Types Of Companies and Sectors are Hiring Cyber Security Professionals with a Master’s Degree?
According to Jose Sierra, associate director of Northeastern University Master of Science in Cyber Security program, nearly every organization in every industry needs cyber security professionals. This makes it a versatile career path for professionals with cyber security master's degrees, combined with prior experience.
Master's graduates who have a background in insurance, pharmaceuticals, or finance can use their advanced cyber security degrees to land security-related roles in those fields. Sierra states that when you have background expertise in a field and couple it with a master's, you naturally become a desirable cyber security professional in that sector.
However, there are some industries that are in more need of cyber security professionals than others. Take a look at these five industries as highlighted by Monster.com:
This seems a bit obvious. Tech companies require technical security irrespective of the company size. It could be a tech giant like Google or a modestly-sized startup. Mostly, a company that operates online needs cyber security support. With technology constantly changing, the more vulnerability that attackers can manipulate emerge. They are learning how to get around firewalls, and as such, security for tech companies needs to be ever-evolving and adaptable.
California is a hub for tech companies, and unsurprisingly, most cyber security professionals live here. Most security pros mentioned Google as the number one workplace of their choice.
As mentioned above, Washington DC is a preferable location for cyber security professionals. This is because of the high number of defense and government agencies that need security professionals. A good example is the Department of Homeland Security which takes cyber security seriously. So do federal and local governments that remain wary and vigilant of attacks from foreign entities, terrorist groups, or any individual or collective who could hurt the government by stealing privileged information.
The US government is also creating initiatives to expand its cyber security teams by coming up with programs that encourage students and IT professionals to specialize in security. For example, the DHS provides internships, programs for recent graduates as well as veteran opportunities. The National Initiative for Cybersecurity Careers and Studies (NICCS) is also working to promote the field nationwide.
Fraud and identity theft are real threats to banking systems. Banks are entrusted to keep money safe and ensure the privacy of our personal information. If any money is lost, or that information is leaked, banks are on the receiving end and they have to recover the money.
Such eventualities are expensive and inconvenient, and due to the high potential of this happening, banks and financial institutions are investing heavily in cyber security. Over the past few years, the spending for prevention by banks has hit $11 billion. This is a stark figure compared to actual losses of about $1 billion. To decrease this figure, banks are compelled to keep hiring cyber security professionals to ensure safety and security for money and information.
Every year, especially as the holidays approach, large retail companies report facing a cyber threat or being hacked with relative frequency. The amount of personal payment data at risk when a retailer undergoes an attack is reason enough to encourage retailers to invest in cyber security.
As you are likely already aware of, prevention is better than mitigation. Even though a company is able to stop an attack with minimal damage happening, news about an attack affects the brand's reputation and lowers customer confidence. As of now, only 62% of customers think that retailers are doing their best to protect their information and money.
In 2014, North Korea hacked Sony Pictures, which was a seriously unnerving incident for the media industry. Unreleased films and confidential emails were leaked, resulting in a PR nightmare. This has led to media companies actively improving their cyber security operations to avoid similar attacks. Similar to many other companies, leaked proprietary information can be disastrous.
Any media company can face a security breach. These extend from news outlets that report on sensitive subjects, to entertainment and publishing companies. They all run the risk of being targeted, necessitating them to seek cyber security professionals.
Are You Ready for Your Cyber Security Future?
Landing a role in cyber security doesn’t necessarily require one to have a master’s degree, but if you are looking for a senior role, then a master’s degree in cyber security is highly recommended. This not only makes your cyber security career options more versatile, but it also gives you a chance to earn a higher salary.
What’s more, the demand for cyber security professionals throughout the country keeps rising, and since demand is greater than supply, salaries are set to increase. A number of US cities including Washington DC, New York, Seattle, Chicago, and Arlington have a high number of cyber security opportunities for master’s graduates. Opportunities span across industries; from tech, media, healthcare, academia, government, and the banking sector.
If you are considering a master’s in cyber security, then you are on the right path to a secure future.