The case is not any different once you decide to advance your education with a cyber security degree. Should you pursue an MBA in cyber security or an MS in cyber security? You want to know the best choice for your return on investment.

While it’s clear that either of these two degrees can help you advance your cyber security career, the programs are quite different when it comes to the content of the courses and the opportunities a master's degree opens up for you. In this article, we will compare an MBA in cyber security to an MS in cyber security, their core course components, and things you should consider before you decide to choose one or the other.

What is an MBA in Cyber Security?

An MBA in cyber security is a master’s-level professional degree for business administration with a focus on industries involving cyber security. A few key facts about this degree include:

  • It is primarily a graduate business and management degree that offers a handful of cyber security courses.

  • The cyber security courses in this degree usually focus on policy, management of technical talent, ethics, and the selling of cyber security products.

  • It takes 2-3 years to complete.

  • It prepares MBA students for a wide range of business positions in cyber security departments and technology companies.

What is an MS in Cyber Security?

An MS in cyber security is a highly technical master’s-level degree for cyber security professionals. This degree allows cyber security professionals to become highly specialized in the cyber security niche. A few key facts about this degree include:

  • It is primarily an information technology and engineering degree that offers a handful of management courses.

  • Core units in the degree tend to focus on technical aspects of cyber security.

  • It takes 1-2 years to complete.

  • The course prepares students for a wide array of cyber security positions and a few management positions

Why Choose an MBA in Cyber Security?

With increasing reliance on technology for business across all industries, the frequency of cyber crimes has risen dramatically. The economic impact of these attacks has also increased exponentially. Global cybercrime damages are expected to hit $6 trillion by 2021.

While the federal government’s new legislation to increase pressure on companies to protect the data they have been entrusted with is a step in the right direction, it’s still not enough. Managers and executives well-trained in cyber defense are essential in the public and private sector to protect data from a growing number of threats. This is where an MBA in cyber security management comes in.

If you are interested in mastering your e-commerce, management, and other core business skills while also having a meaningful understanding of technical issues in your business and services, then this is the right degree for you.

There are common core courses that you will undertake in an MBA in cyber security, and for any other MBA. They include:

  • Marketing Strategy

  • Financial Accounting

  • Corporate Finance

  • Statistics for Business

  • Economics for Business, Leadership, Operations, or Supply Chain Management

  • Analytics for Business

  • Global Business

An MBA concentration in cyber security adds onto these core units with courses like:

  • IT and Cyber Security Technology for Managers

  • Data Warehousing and Security

  • Cyber Security Law, Policy, Compliance, and Ethics

  • Penetration Testing, Monitoring and Auditing in IT

  • Global Cyber Security

  • Management of Information Security Systems

  • Human Elements in Cyber Security

  • Policy in Cyber Security

  • Privacy in Cyber Security

Therefore, an MBA specialization will help you explore in-depth business principles from a management angle, as well as be proficient in cyber security practices. In short, you will benefit from the best of both worlds.

This degree will give you specialized knowledge when it comes to the intersection of enterprises and security solutions, secure networks, and communication. You will also benefit from gaining experience in issues surrounding host-based computer security.

Furthermore, you will be in a position to analyze cyber security policies and trends at a firm. You will learn intelligence skills that will help you identify emerging and current cyber threats in your line of business. This way, you will be better placed to evaluate and review cyber security practices in your organization to minimize and prevent cyber attacks.

Why Choose an MS in Cyber Security?

If you are already a working professional, and you are looking for an edge in your cyber security career, an MS in cyber security is a great option.

Research findings by cyber security Ventures reveal that there will be about 3.5 million cyber security job openings by 2021. They further predict that cyber threats will be more than triple the number of job opportunities over the next five years.

Despite vast opportunities and job openings in the cyber security space, being highly qualified is the only way to find a lucrative job. And this is where an MS in cyber security comes in. A recent report by Burning Glass Technologies reveals that 84% of jobs in cyber security require at least an undergraduate degree, and that 23% of cyber security roles require at least a master’s degree.

While becoming a graduate student in cyber security means investing a significant amount of both money and time, a master's degree is worth it in the long term. You’ll not only gain expertise in advanced cyber security skills, but also the networking and administrative skills required to operate cyber security platforms on a broader scale.

Graduates do more than just analyze and maintain cyber security strategies. The degree equips you with skills to plan and strategize with customers to deliver the best cyber security product possible. By the time you graduate, you will be better equipped to serve as a leader for a cyber security team.

Core courses you will undertake in an MS cyber security program include:

  • Host-Based Vulnerability Discovery

  • Security of Embedded Systems

  • Secure Web Development

  • Secure Mobile Development

  • Network-Based Vulnerability Discovery

  • Applied Cryptography

  • Security of Embedded Systems

  • Penetration Testing and Vulnerability Analysis

  • Secure Web App Development

  • Secure Mobile Development

  • Trusted System Design, Analysis, and Development

  • Intrusion Detection

  • Digital Forensics

Interdisciplinary courses you are likely to encounter in this degree include:

  • Business Continuity and Disaster Recovery and/or Information Technology Governance and Compliance

  • E-Commerce Security

  • Computer Security Management

  • Information Security Policy and Ethics

  • IT Audit and Control/Information System Auditing

Here are a few reasons why you should consider taking an MS in cyber security:

High Salary

Technical cyber security professionals are amongst the most highly valued people in computing careers. A cyber security salary has a premium of about 9% over other computing careers. The average annual salary of a cyber security engineering professional is $233,333, and a chief information security officer earns up to $225,000 annually.

Job Security

Technology and computers are here to stay, so there are no risks of IT jobs fizzling out in the future. What’s more, cyber security has become a priority for many organizations. Perhaps most notably, government cyber security efforts in homeland security are being stepped up. Cyber security professionals working on securing sensitive information systems are therefore in high demand, and earning an MS in cyber security will make you eligible for more opportunities than an individual with a bachelor’s degree.

What Career Paths Does an MBA in Cyber Security Enable?

An MBA in cyber security does not guarantee a specific career path within a technology company. Instead, it bolsters your competitive edge across professions by providing an avenue for professionals to bridge a gap between business disciplines, managerial concerns, and cyber security practices.

As businesses become more and more reliant on technology for business processes, the role of cyber security professionals who grasp how cyber security objectives intersect with broader organizational challenges is becoming more prominent. Reliance on business personnel skilled in thwarting cyber attacks is increasing.

Roles requiring both business acumen and cyber security fall into three general categories:

  • General management of information technology and cyber security teams

  • Analysis and Auditing Roles

  • Senior cyber security policy advisor roles

Common cyber security jobs stemming from an MBA specialization include but are not limited to the following:

  • Operations Manager

  • Implementation Manager

  • Administrative Services Manager

  • Senior Project Manager

  • Management Analyst

  • Chief Information Security Officer (CISO)

  • Chief Information Officer (CIO)

  • cyber security Consultant

  • Security Systems Administrator

  • Vulnerability Assessor

What Career Paths Does an MS in Cyber Security Enable?

In contrast to a cyber security MBA, an MS specialization has a more predictable job path for the professionals who undertake it. They majorly fill highly technical and specialized positions in cyber security departments.

However, cyber security is a broad field, and within it are a wide range of roles and responsibilities. Businesses predominantly requiring cyber security specialists include banks, government agencies, retailers, hospital cyber security departments, technology companies, and other business sectors that have highly sensitive and vulnerable data.

Professionals undertaking an MS in cyber security can expect to perform the following roles in an organization:

  • Safeguard an organization’s data, computers, and networks

  • Create security plans and monitor activities

  • Manage cyber operations

  • Identify the cause of a security breach

  • Finding a solution to a security breach

  • Design security systems

  • Head a security design team

The most common cyber security careers as listed by The University of Texas at Tyler after completing an MS in cyber security include:

  • Security Specialist

  • Cryptographer

  • Security Administrator/Manager

  • Incident Responder

  • Security Architect

  • Cryptanalyst

  • Penetration Tester

  • Security Architect

  • cyber security Consulting

There are also more specialized roles such as Intrusion Detection Specialist, Source Code Auditor, Virus Technician, and Vulnerability Assessor.

Should I go for an MS in Cyber Security or an MBA in Cyber Security?

Having seen what each degree entails and the career paths each can open up for you, you are now better placed to decide whether to go for an MS in cyber security or an MBA in cyber security.

A case for and against an MBA in cyber security

An MBA in cyber security is going to be highly relevant if you want to keep your career choices open, and you aren’t ready to commit to a specialized path in cyber security. The University of San Diego emphasizes this, stating that the degree offers flexibility due to its lack of high-level specialization, and its applicability in a broad range of roles.

It is also important to note that an MBA-regardless of the specialization-is the most common graduate degree in the US and across the world. While it is a valuable degree, you are less likely to be able to differentiate yourself from a pool of competitive applicants when it comes to landing a job.

If you want to stand out, an MBA in cyber security will not necessarily help you achieve this. Also, if you are aiming at a high level position in cyber security, you might need to supplement your course with relevant cyber security certifications and years of experience.

Therefore, if you are gunning for a highly technical role in cyber security, an MS in cyber security will align better with your goals than an MBA in cyber security.

A case for and against an MS in cyber security

By achieving an MS in cyber security, you will benefit from specialized, high-level skills in a field that is scrambling for professionals with your qualifications and experience. Martin Libicki, a lead author of the study H4cker5 Wanted and a senior management scientist at RAND Corporation, states that the cyber security manpower shortage is primarily at the high end of the capability scale. It commands yearly salary figures that lie between $200,000 and $250,000.

This means that an MS in cyber security will compensate you financially if you go for a specialized role. The federal government especially is suffering from a shortage of highly skilled and trained cyber security professionals. This puts national security at risk.

The downside of getting an MS in cyber security is if you decide to get into a leadership or managerial position at work. You might be required to go back and get an additional executive MBA to spruce you up for this role. While this is not an entirely bad thing, someone with an MBA in cyber security will have avoided the hassle of undertaking two master’s programs.

The best of both worlds

You can’t go wrong with either an MS in cyber security or an MBA in cyber security. However, you should choose the one that aligns most clearly with your cyber security career goals and your current skill level. But do you really have to choose? Career experts suggest you don’t necessarily have to.

A 2015 report by Burning Glass Technologies reports that, “The hardest-to-fill cyber security jobs call for financial skills, such as accounting or knowledge of regulations associated with the Sarbanes-Oxley Act, alongside traditional networking and IT security skills. Because finance and IT skills are rarely trained for together, there is a skills gap for workers who meet the requirements of the ‘hybrid jobs.’”

Fortunately, there are now institutions filling this gap. With options such as an MS in Cyber Security Operations and Leadership and M.S. cyber security/M.B.A. dual degree, you can benefit from the best of both worlds, all under the umbrella of a single program. These kinds of master’s degrees allow you to study in-depth concepts for cyber security practices as well as management and leadership. This eliminates the need for you to supplement your MBA with cyber security certifications, and the need for cyber security specialists to go back to school for an MBA when they get to a managerial position.

Can You get an MBA and an MS in Cyber security Online?

Although many students who are considering a master’s degree in cyber security know there are many online degrees, they may never have taken an online course before, and therefore they may be skeptical of them. However, there are a lot of online degrees concentrating in cyber security, both MS and MBAs.

Some of the universities that offer online MBAs in cyber security include:

  • James Madison University's College of Business

  • The College of Business at Missouri State University

  • The University of South Florida, Muma College of Business

  • The College of Business and Management at Cardinal Stritch University

  • The Walker School of Business and Technology at Webster University Florida Institute of Technology's Nathan M. Bisk College of Business

  • The Robert A. Foisie Business School at Worcester Polytechnic Institute

  • University Of Dallas Satish & Yasmin Gupta College Of Business - Irving, Texas

  • Bellevue University College Of Business - Bellevue, Nebraska

  • American University Kogod School Of Business - Washington, District Of Columbia

Some of the universities offering an online MS in cyber security include:

  • Webster University Online

  • Syracuse University College Of Engineering And Computer Science

  • Mercyhurst University

  • San Jose State University - School Of Information

  • Lewis University Online

  • Saint Mary's University Of Minnesota

  • Utica College

  • Norwich University Online Programs

  • Kennesaw State University

  • Dakota State University

  • American National University

Online degrees present numerous benefits. They charge lower fees as compared to on-campus programs. They also eliminate the need to commute, move, or change localities, thus giving you the opportunity to take your degree from the comfort of wherever you are based. Most of these courses are also asynchronous, meaning you can attend them at any time. Furthermore, with the use of technology, many support services are available.

However, online programs aren’t for everyone, and you should weigh up your options to make the best possible choice. Some of the most cited problems with online programs are a lack of access to on-campus events such as career fairs, and these often require students to have a self-starter mentality. It is also harder to know your professors and classmates, and difficult to interact with them.

How Much Technical Knowledge Does an MBA vs an MS in Cyber Security Require?

Students undertaking either of these two cyber security master’s degrees need to have a strong background in mathematics, computer science, business studies, ethics, and philosophy. Essential computer science courses include programming, computer architecture, database administration, and data structures. For the MBA in cyber security, a background in business management or considerable experience is recommended.

Most colleges offering these courses require a bachelor's degree in a technical computing discipline from an accredited university.

Closing Remarks on the MS in Cyber Security vs MBA debate

An MS in cyber security and an MBA in cyber security can set you on the path to a successful cyber security career. However, the focus points of these two degrees vary. An MS in cyber security is more concentrated in highly specialized technical skills while an MBA in cyber security is more concentrated on the business aspect. This makes the former more suitable for specialized technical cyber security professionals while the latter is more suited for people who aspire to fill managerial positions and do not want to commit to a career in cyber security just yet.

We hope this guide helps you choose the course that most aligns with your career aspirations, skill level, and endeavored specialization that will set you on the path to success.

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