With constant news of data leaks and account hacks, cybersecurity has become an essential aspect of the technology field. If you are completely new to information technology, you might consider pursuing an associate degree program in cybersecurity. An associate degree can help you gain the basic skills you need to break into the field.
In a time when true job security is tough to come by, careers in cybersecurity are relatively secure. According to Cyber Defense Magazine, 31 percent of organizations have dealt with a cyber attack of some kind. With the amount of viruses, phishing scams, and malware out there, that statistic isn’t surprising. On top of that, it typically takes six months for a company to detect that they have experienced a data breach.
The need for more cybersecurity specialists is real. As cybersecurity attacks continue and get more severe, the demand for cybersecurity professionals will only increase. The best way to start your journey into this field is by learning more about associate degree programs in cybersecurity.
What Is an Associate Degree?
An associate degree is the most basic and shortest college degree a student can pursue. Programs typically last two years and require an average of 60 credits. While an Associate of Arts degree requires more liberal arts or general distribution requirements, an Associate of Science focuses on the sciences.
An associate degree is a good introduction to the skills required to succeed in a particular field. It can help students launch their careers and set themselves up for employability in entry-level positions. Associate degree programs may also give additional security qualifications to those already working in entry-level IT positions.
An associate degree program is a stepping stone to those who eventually want to pursue a bachelor’s degree. This 60-credit, two-year degree program lets students transfer credit to bachelor’s programs and prepares them for higher-level studies.
Remember that though an associate degree is a great place to get started in entry-level positions, many high-level security positions require a bachelor’s degree.
Types of Cybersecurity Associate Degree Programs
The majority of associate degrees in cybersecurity are Associate of Science degrees. They typically focus on the hard sciences and their applications.
There is a wide range of programs to choose from in the cybersecurity associate degree space. You can find both traditional classroom-based programs and increasingly popular online programs. All programs will prepare students with a general foundation in the field. Other programs also offer specializations and even preparation for professional certification exams.
In-Person Cybersecurity Programs
The benefit of an in-person program is closer contact with peers and professors. There are also greater opportunities for experiential learning and often, collaborative research projects. An in-person program may be a good option for you if you thrive in a collaborative environment and if you benefit from group instruction.
Online Cybersecurity Programs
Online programs in cybersecurity are extremely popular. For a field that is so based in the world of computers, why not get your degree right through your computer? Though online degrees make group work more difficult, project management tools and technology are making virtual programs much easier. What was once only possible to do in-person can be simulated online, making the potential downfalls of online degrees less relevant.
While earning your cybersecurity associate degree using either of the above paths, you can choose a specialization, some of which we have listed below.
Also known as computer forensics, digital forensics is a popular specialization in the cybersecurity universe. You might dip your toes into digital forensics in your associate-level coursework, but you usually can’t specialize in it until you pursue a more advanced degree, like a bachelor’s or a master’s program.
Network Security and System Administration
Some programs offer an Associate of Science in Network Security. These programs allow students to prepare for an entry-level position in system administration. The main focus here is all things networks, including installation, maintenance, and troubleshooting.
Cyber defense is a specialization that focuses specifically on defending networks against possible attacks. Northeast Lakeview College’s Associate in Applied Science in Cyber Defense trains students in industry-wide systems like Cisco, Windows, and Linux. San Antonio, Texas, where the college is located, is a national hub of cybersecurity.
Top Cybersecurity Associate Degree Programs
A takeaway from this post should be that you have options. You can choose in-person or online programs. You can choose one specialization over another or opt for a program with no specialization. But, what about choosing the program itself?
It’s important to choose a program that prepares you for entry-level positions in cybersecurity and information technology security. To help narrow down the options, below is a list of a few programs around the country and online.
Formerly a community college, St. Petersburg College is now a four-year institution that offers both associate and bachelor’s degrees. The cybersecurity associate program is its only cybersecurity degree. The Department of Homeland Security and the National Security Agency has designated St. Petersburg College as a National Center for Academic Excellence in Cyber Defense.
This Associate of Arts in Cyber Security degree sets students up to pursue a four-year degree in the future. The online program promises to deliver hands-on learning opportunities virtually. Its coursework also includes industry certifications including Network+, Security+, and Linux+.
As one of the Alamos Colleges District colleges, Palo Alto College is well-positioned to offer excellent educational opportunities in tech. Its Associate of Applied Science in Information Assurance and Cybersecurity program prepares students to secure computer networks, large and small. The program is designed specifically to train students for jobs as information security analysts.
This online Associate of Science in Cybersecurity program is a great option for students looking for a broad-based technology curriculum. The program promises to teach data security from a “360 perspective.” It is focused on training professionals that will be well-equipped to defend companies against high-level data breaches and cyber attacks.
This Associate of Science in Information Security program here is a great option for students prioritizing affordability. This four-year university offers two-year programs with competitive rates for budget-conscious students. The program includes coursework in network security, cyber defense, and operations systems security.
Cybersecurity Associate Degree: Enrolling and Paying
Cybersecurity Associate Degree Requirements
All associate degree programs require a high school diploma for admission. Because cybersecurity programs require a lot of mathematical and scientific analysis, strong high school grades in math and science are also key.
Most two-year programs don’t require standardized test scores like the SAT or ACT. But, if you have high math component scores, it doesn’t hurt to send them to strengthen your application.
Finally, if you’re an international student or a non-native English speaker, you may be required to submit an English language proficiency test like the TOEFL or the IELTS.
Cybersecurity Associate Degree Financing
When considering any educational endeavor, you can’t underestimate the importance of cost. Though any degree or certification program is an investment in your future, you also need to make sure it’s an investment that works for you. An associate degree in cybersecurity can range in cost from $5,000 to $25,000, not including possible room and board or travel costs.
A major plus to an associate degree is that it’s only two years long. Fewer courses mean a lower overall cost. So, if financing your education is something you’re particularly worried about, you might want to consider starting off with a two-year degree, working a few years, and then when you’re ready, continuing with a bachelor’s degree.
Most programs also have financial aid options available, often a mix of grants and loans. Remember to speak to your program’s financial aid advisor before getting started to make sure you can responsibly finance your education. Beyond what your school may offer, there may also be federal, state, and local scholarship opportunities available to help get you started.
If you’re already working in the networking and security field, you may want to talk to your employer. Some workplaces may finance all or part of your degree in exchange for the promise that you will continue to work for them after you have gained new knowledge and skills through the program.
Cybersecurity Associate Degree Job Prospects
The cybersecurity field is anything but boring. With subfields like digital forensics, AI security, cloud security, and systems administration, an entry-level cybersecurity professional could go in many different directions.
New professionals in the field can gain experience as freelancers in different specializations, whether it’s networking and security or information security analysis. Then, based on their experience, they can more narrowly pursue a specific aspect of this exciting and growing field.
According to Payscale, the average salary for someone with an associate degree in cybersecurity is nearly $53,000 per year. Graduates pursue jobs as systems administrators, cybersecurity analysts, and information security analysts.
Jobs in the field continue to grow without enough professionals to fill the demand. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, information security analyst positions alone are projected to grow 32 percent through 2028.
A 2019 Cybercrime Magazine article also stated that by 2021, there will be 3.5 million new jobs in the field. These jobs exist in practically any sector you can think of. Any business or organization needs someone who understands how to protect them from cybercrime.
We’ve listed some exciting career prospects after earning your cybersecurity associate degree below.
Information Security Analyst
This is the jack-of-all-trades of cybersecurity. This person should be an organization’s network expert. They install protective software and create plans to recover networks or systems that have been compromised.
IT Security Consultant
This is a good freelance career path if you want to work in a variety of sectors and organizations. An IT security consultant meets with individual client organizations and advises them on how to best protect their data.
Security Specialists and Security Architects
Security specialists have a big responsibility. They manage the security policies and protocol for their organization and establish measures to protect an organization’s data. Security architects are also responsible for analyzing breaches and creating a defense plan for any possible breach or attack.
Cybersecurity is both a well-established field and an emerging one, as more complex subfields and niches create more space for more cybersecurity professionals to thrive. Mounting security threats and the growing sensitivity of certain networks and databases are also causing an increase in the overall demand for cybersecurity experts.
Most large organizations have experienced at least one cybersecurity threat, ranging from a major breach in their highly sensitive network to a simple phishing attempt. A cybersecurity associate degree is a great way to break into this growing field.