With constant news of data leaks and account hacks, cyber security has become an essential aspect of the technology field. If you are completely new to information technology, you might want to consider pursuing a cyber security associate degree program. Doing so can help you gain the basic skills you need to break into the field.
At a time when true job security is tough to come by, careers in cyber security are relatively secure. According to Cyber Defense Magazine, 31 percent of organizations have dealt with a cyberattack 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 cyber security specialists is real. As cyber security attacks continue and get more severe, the demand for cyber security professionals will only increase. The best way to start your journey into this field is by learning more about associate degree programs in cyber security.
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 if taken full time and require an average of 60 credits. These may cover hours earned from the completion of general education courses.
For instance, 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 Cyber Security 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 Cyber Security 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 benefit from group instruction.
Online Cyber Security Programs
Online programs in cyber security are extremely popular. For a field that is 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 associate degree using either of the above paths, you can choose a specialization. We’ve listed some of these below.
Also known as computer forensics, digital forensics is a popular specialization in the cyber security universe. You might dip your toes into digital forensics in your associate-level coursework. However, the specialization usually requires that you hold a more advanced degree, either from 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 everything that falls under 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 cyber security.
Top Cyber Security Associate Degree Programs
|St. Petersburg College||St. Petersburg, FL|
|Western Nebraska Community College||Scottsbluff, NE|
|Palo Alto College||San Antonio, TX|
|Franklin University||Columbus, OH|
|University of Maine at Fort Kent||Fort Kent, ME|
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 cyber security 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 cyber security associate program is its only cyber security 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 Cyber Security program prepares students to secure computer networks, large and small. The program is designed specifically to train students for jobs as information security analysts.
Franklin University’s online Associate of Science in Cyber Security 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 to be well-equipped in defending companies against high-level data breaches and cyberattacks.
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.
Enrollment Requirements and Financing Options
Cyber Security Associate Degree Requirements
All associate degree programs require a high school diploma for admission. Because cyber security 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. Most universities and colleges rely on either TOEFL or the IELTS.
Cyber Security Associate Degree Financing
When considering any educational endeavor, you can’t underestimate the importance of cost. While any degree or certification program is an investment in your future, it should be an investment that works for you. An associate degree in cyber security can range from $5,000 to $25,000, excluding possible room and board or travel expenses.
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 a step-by-step process. Start off with pursuing a two-year degree, then putting in a few years of work experience, and 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, you may be required to continue working for them after upskilling through the program.
Cyber Security Associate Degree Job Prospects
The cyber security field is anything but boring. With subfields like digital forensics, AI security, cloud security, and systems administration, an entry-level cyber security professional could go in various 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 cyber security is nearly $53,000 per year. Graduates pursue jobs as systems administrators, cyber security analysts, and information security analysts.
Jobs in the field will continue to grow to fill the demand for skilled cyber security professionals. 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 associate degree below.
Information Security Analyst
This is the jack-of-all-trades of cyber security. 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.
Cyber security is both a well-established field and an emerging one. The latter hinges on the creation of more complex subfields and niches in the field. This, in turn, creates space for more cyber security professionals to thrive. Mounting security threats and the growing sensitivity of certain networks and databases are also causing an increased demand for cyber security experts.
Most large organizations have experienced at least one cyber security threat. This may range from a major breach in their highly sensitive network to a simple phishing attempt. A cyber security associate degree is a great way to break into this growing field.