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Is Getting a Master's Degree in Cyber Security Worth It?
Major crimes like espionage, theft, blackmail and fraud used to be perpetrated by people on the ground in companies and governments around the world. Now, all of these crimes and more can be committed sitting behind a computer screen.
Cybercrime is the new battlefront for companies and governments across the globe. The majority of these crimes are motivated by money—and according to Cybercrime Magazine, cybercrime is expected to cost the world $6 trillion dollars by 2021.
As the prevalence and damage caused by cybercrime rapidly grow, so does the demand for cybersecurity specialists. But do you really need a master’s degree to get ahead in this profession.
The Rapid Growth in Demand for Cybersecurity Professionals
Job projections for cybersecurity are staggering. The Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts that careers in the cybersecurity field will grow by 32% by 2028. That makes cybersecurity one of the top 10 fastest-growing jobs in the country.
“Cybersecurity is a field that’s in demand in nearly every industry,” says Todd Whittaker, Department Chair of Computer and Information Sciences and Program Chair of the Master’s Degree in Cybersecurity at Franklin University, “Because cybercrime has a real impact on finances, brand reputation and trust, and everyday people’s lives, corporations large and small, governments, and academic institutions—they’re all looking for cybersecurity experts to keep up with the rapid change and sophistication of cybercrime.”
In the United States alone, jobs for Information Security Analysts are expected to grow by 15% by 2024.
Not only is demand growing, but there’s also an expanding gap between supply and demand. Cybersecurity Ventures synthesized dozens of employment figures from the media, analysts, job boards, vendors, governments, and organizations globally to predict there will be 3.5 million unfilled cybersecurity positions by 2021.
A bachelor's degree and experience is a great start. But, a master's degree in cybersecurity can really set you ahead by leveling up your skills and opening up new opportunities.
What matters most when choosing a master’s program? Compare features, benefits and cost to find the right school for you.
5 Reasons a Master’s in Cybersecurity is Worth It
A master’s degree is a big investment in time, energy and finances. But if you’re committed to completing your master’s degree in cybersecurity, it can have an extremely positive impact on your career.
These are five of the top reasons to invest in a cybersecurity master’s degree.
- A master’s degree teaches you cutting-edge skills. Cybersecurity is a constantly changing field. If you’ve been in this profession for a while or don’t currently specialize in cybersecurity, a master’s program can refresh your technical skillset while improving your critical thinking, problem-solving and management skills.
- A master’s degree makes it easier to change careers. Take advantage of growth opportunities and job stability by transitioning to a career in cybersecurity. If you’re working in computer science or a related technology field but don’t specialize in cybersecurity, a master’s degree is a great way to prove your expertise and get a job in the field.
- A master’s degree opens the door to advancement opportunities. Employers are looking for highly-qualified professionals to lead their cybersecurity efforts. Whether you want to work for a large corporation, an independent consultancy or in high-levels of government, a master’s degree can be key to setting yourself apart and advancing to management and executive positions.
- A master’s degree increases your salary expectations. While cybersecurity roles command high median salaries overall, with information security analysts earning $98,350 per year. With a master’s degree, you’re preparing yourself for leadership opportunities, where the top 10% of cybersecurity professionals earn $156,583 per year.
- A master’s degree is a lifelong credential. A master’s degree shows dedication to your career and to sharpening your skillset. It’s a tangible way to show your expertise to employers and an investment that continues to pay off throughout your career.
Master’s Degree in Cybersecurity vs. Certifications: Understanding the Value of Each
Another consideration when pursuing cybersecurity credentials is professional certifications. Many professionals wonder if they should get a master’s degree, a professional certification, or some combination of the two. Here is a high-level explanation of the benefits and/or drawbacks of each type of credential.
Certifications are generally good for people with little practical experience because they are known quantities in the industry and can help you get your foot in the door. They set a minimum knowledge bar. But some certifications are viewed more favorably than others. Certifications with renewal requirements are viewed better by hiring managers, but they also more costly in the long run because of the need for continuing education.
Certifications are also good for showing in-depth expertise in a specialization within cybersecurity. Depending on your career goals, it may be advantageous to have a master’s degree—which shows your breadth of knowledge, critical thinking and leadership skills—and a certificate—which shows specific skill competency.
Here are three of the most sought-after professional certifications in cybersecurity:
- Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP): To become CISSP certified you have to have at least 5 years of on-the-job experience in cybersecurity, making this an elite professional certification. Earning the CISSP proves you have the skills to effectively design, implement and manage a best-in-class cybersecurity program.
- Certified Information Security Manager (CISM): This is a management-focused cybersecurity certification that promotes international security best practices and recognizes people who manage, design, oversee and assess a company’s information security.
- Certified Ethical Hacker (CEH): Learn to think and hack like a cybercriminal. Then, use your skills for good to help identify and fortify security weaknesses to protect your company’s or clients’ information.
Five Cybersecurity Career Paths for Master’s Degree Graduates
Growth in the cybersecurity field not only increases the number of opportunities but also the variety. A master’s degree gives you the most flexibility when it comes to choosing a cybersecurity career path, showcasing your ability to master both the technical and interpersonal sophistication required at senior, management and executive levels.
Here are five different career paths that are well-suited to master’s education in cybersecurity.
- Chief Information Security Officer (CISO): This c-suite management position selects, oversees and provides leadership for any initiatives that concern the overall security of an organization. An MBA with a specialization in IT used to be the go-to for CISOs, but with specialized master’s degrees in cybersecurity, these professionals are able to get an advanced degree that is tailored to their careers.
- Senior-Level Penetration Tester: A penetration tester, or an ethical hacker, exploits vulnerabilities in computer systems. While entry-level penetration testers may not have a specialized degree, job requirements for mid-level professionals are increasing, requiring at least a bachelor’s or preferably a master’s degree in cybersecurity.
- Security Consultant: This role designs and implements the best security solutions based on an individual organization’s needs. From talking to stakeholders and developing budgets to supervising teams and conducting security tests, this role is ideal for someone with a master’s in cybersecurity who has honed both their technical and interpersonal skills.
- Security Engineer: Identifies IT threats and software vulnerabilities, builds and tests security systems and serves as the point person on security policies and procedures. Because of the highly technical nature of this role, companies look for a minimum of a bachelor’s degree in cybersecurity and favor candidates with a master’s degree in cybersecurity for advancement.
- Security Architect: These senior-level employees design, build and oversee the implementation of network and computer security for an organization. You’ll also be responsible for providing technical guidance, assessing costs and risks, and establishing security policies and procedures. The balance of technical and managerial responsibilities of security architects make a master’s in cybersecurity the ideal education to prepare you for this role.
Find a Cybersecurity Master’s Program Designed to Help You Meet Your Goals
Increasing demand, job security, and high salaries all make a career in cybersecurity a promising option for technology professionals. Getting a master’s degree in cybersecurity can set you apart from other IT professionals who don’t have specialized credentials.
If you’re a working professional who wants to advance—without taking time away from your career—Franklin University’s Master’s Degree in Cybersecurity provides a flexible, online, and hands-on program that’s designed and taught by cybersecurity experts. Franklin University is also the only private, nonprofit university in Ohio with any program designated by the NSA for excellence in cybersecurity education. Explore Franklin’s cybersecurity master’s program to see how it can set you up for career success.