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Cyber Security Programs and Majors Explained: Degree Levels, Specializations, and Common Cyber Security Courses

Esa Landicho - June 03, 2022


As many transactions facilitated by companies are now online, cyber security professionals are in high demand to analyze, build, and test systems to keep information and data safe from cyber criminals and other external threats. The first step to building your career in this field is to know what core skills are needed and learn what a cyber security degree is.

A cyber security degree helps you identify different cyber attacks such as ransomware, phishing, malware, and viruses. Professionals like security architects and cyber security analysts learn how to handle these situations by getting a cyber security degree. In this guide, you’ll discover the different associate, bachelor’s, and master’s degree cyber security programs, as well as cyber security jobs.

What Is Cyber Security?

Cyber security is the means to protect networks, data, and devices from criminal use or intrusion. Cyber security ensures integrity, confidentiality, and availability of information. It is also known as information technology security. Cyber security deals with cyber threats like malware.

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Cyber Security Quick Facts: Job Outlook and Average Salaries

Is Cyber Security Hard?

No, cyber security is not hard to learn .It doesn’t involve a lot of advanced math. As long as you put commitment and effort into learning, you’ll be able to understand the concepts and strategies quickly. If you like technology and love to problem solve, you will find cyber security challenging, interesting, but very possible to learn.

Is Cyber Security a Good Major?

Yes, cyber security is a good major because these professionals are in high demand as they are needed to protect companies’ online presence. Cyber security professionals are needed when it comes to safeguarding organizations’ data and systems. Not only are these jobs abundant, but they are high paying, as well.

Why Should You Get a Degree in Cyber Security?

You should get a degree in cyber security because it opens up a lot of opportunities for career advancement. Not only that, a cyber security degree prepares you for a field where your skills would be enhanced and thoroughly utilized. Below is a non-conclusive list of the growing benefits of this type of degree.

  1. Graduates can earn a high salary. Cyber security is among the highest-paying information technology jobs. According to PayScale, the annual salary of a cyber security engineer is $97,841.
  2. It is a growing field. According to BLS, information security analyst careers are projected to grow 33 percent from 2020 to 2030. This is considered to be a much faster increase than the average job.
  3. There are flexible programs. A lot of universities offer cyber security degrees through different methods, be it in person, hybrid, or 100 percent online. Flexible programs are an advantage, especially for working professionals. This degree gives you the freedom to continue your education and enhance your technical skills while working.
  4. The curriculum is up to date. A cyber security degree ensures that everything you’re learning is current and in demand. You’ll learn about network scripting, digital forensics, and cyber security law.
  5. It is a very impactful job. People with cyber security degrees get the validation of defending and protecting an organization. A lot of companies need a strong cyber security defense against intrusions. Earning your cyber security degree will equip you to help organizations save billions of dollars by preventing attacks.

Cyber Security Major: What Degree Can You Get in Cyber Security?

The degrees you can get in cyber security include associate degrees, bachelor’s degrees, and master’s degrees. These cyber security degrees are different from each other, but all equip students for varying levels of cyber security careers. Below are the cyber security degrees you can pursue.

Types of Associate Degrees in Cyber Security

The types of Associate Degrees in Cyber Security are an associate of science, an associate of applied science, and an associate of arts. While these three degrees are pursued for different purposes, they all serve as a good foundation for a cyber security education or career.

1

Associate of Science (AS in Cyber Security)

An Associate of Science in Cyber Security focuses on technical skills, like coding. What differentiates this degree from others is the focus on math and science. Students learn about Linux, Python, and network security analysis.

Common Associate of Science in Cyber Security Curriculum

  • Linux Essentials
  • Cyber security Operations
  • Enterprise Networking, Security, and Automation

2

Associate of Applied Science (AAS in Cyber Security)

An Associate of Applied Science (AAS) in Cyber Security is not intended for transfer, like an associate of science does. Although you can transfer credits to a bachelor’s degree, the AAS primarily aims to prepare students for entry-level jobs after school. An AAS has a technical and more hands-on approach to cyber security.

Common Associate of Applied Science in Cyber Security Curriculum

  • Principles of Operating Systems
  • Managing Network Servers
  • Computing and Network Security

3

Associate of Arts (AA in Cyber Security)

An Associate of Arts in Cyber Security is more general and flexible than other degrees. An associate of arts is geared toward liberal arts coursework. This degree also prepares students for further education in cyber security.

Common Associate of Arts in Cyber Security Curriculum

  • Windows Server
  • Visual C#
  • Cyber Security Essentials

Types of Bachelor’s Degrees in Cyber Security

The types of Bachelor’s Degrees in Cyber Security are a bachelor of science, a bachelor of arts, and a bachelor of business administration. These degrees usually require the completion of 120 credits, but differ in curricula. Below, we’ll discuss these degrees in more detail.

1

Bachelor of Science (BS in Cyber Security)

A Bachelor of Science in Cyber Security is focused on the mathematics and science courses that build the technical understanding of cyber security. The requirements of this degree are more constricted compared to others.

Common Bachelor of Science in Cyber Security Curriculum

  • Malware Analysis
  • Defensive Network Security
  • Web Development

2

Bachelor of Arts (BA in Cyber Security)

A Bachelor of Arts in Cyber Security is broader than other degrees. It is designed to give students a comprehensive education that balances major courses with general education courses focused on liberal arts. Students are also given more elective courses.

Common Bachelor of Arts in Cyber Security Curriculum

  • Database Management Systems
  • Cloud Security
  • Wireless and Mobile Security

3

Bachelor of Business Administration (BBA in Cyber Security)

A Bachelor of Business Administration in Cyber Security is focused on the business elements and strategies of cyber security. Students develop skills necessary to manage and secure big businesses and corporations.

Common Bachelor of Computer Science with an emphasis in Cyber Security Curriculum

  • Statistics
  • Finance
  • Accounting

Types of Master’s Degrees in Cyber Security

The types of Master’s Degrees in Cyber Security are a master of liberal arts, a master of science, and a master of public administration. All of these degrees have advanced courses that can help students become security systems administrators, security managers, and cyber security experts.

1

Master of Liberal Arts (MA in Cyber Security)

A Master of Arts in Cyber Security focuses on theoretical understanding and humanities. This type of degree has a three-week pre-capstone course that should be taken on campus. Students are also asked to take cyber security electives.

Common Master of Liberal Arts, Cyber Security in Cyber Security Curriculum

  • The Law and Cyber Security
  • Information System Forensics
  • Applied Network Security

2

Master of Science (MS in Cyber Security)

A Master of Science in Cyber Security is different from others as it not only focuses on building a solid foundation and technical knowledge in information security, but also focuses on network security, software security, and computer security. This degree helps students understand and appreciate the ethical, legal, and social aspects of privacy and security.

Common Master of Science in Cyber Security Curriculum

  • Information Security Management
  • Digital Forensic Techniques
  • Cryptology

3

Master of Public Administration (MPA in Cyber Security)

A Master of Public Administration in Cyber Security program teaches the basics of policy management in the area of cyber security. Students who have this degree will be taking the MPA core curriculum as well as a choice of electives. Students learn to secure an organization’s operational information systems through the course.

Common Master of Public Administration in Cyber Security Curriculum

  • Database Management and Policy
  • Cyber Security Theory and Practice
  • Enterprise Architecture Planning, Strategy, Security and Policy

What Will You Learn in a Cyber Security Degree Program?

In a cyber security degree program, you will learn about applied networks and security, discrete mathematics, and discrete structures. This degree program teaches students about basic data analysis, cyber defense, cyber threats, and IT systems components. In addition, they will encounter cloud computing, forensic accounting, and cryptography.

What you will learn about cyber security depends on the degree level and type you are pursuing. For example, an associate degree is only a two-year program, while a bachelor’s degree is a four-year program. You might encounter more major courses as you pursue and complete higher levels of education.

Popular Specializations for Cyber Security Degrees

Cyber security programs allow specialized areas of study throughout your schooling. These concentrations teach equally important subjects. The one you choose depends on your desired career path. We’ve included a list below of the most popular concentrations available for cyber security below.

The 5 Most Popular Cyber Security Concentrations

  1. Ethical Hacking
  2. Information Security Management
  3. Computer Forensics
  4. Network Security Management and Operations
  5. Cryptography

Common Cyber Security Courses Across All Specializations

Before choosing a specialization, you need to secure all the foundations and core courses required for cyber security. Below is a list of courses that every cyber security student must take across all specializations. The course title might differ in each program but tackles the same focus.

  • Data Structures I. In this course, students learn about data structures using programming languages like Java. The course introduces recursion, asymptotic notations, and linear data structures.
  • Computer Systems. A computer systems class teaches machine-level programming and architecture, as well as their relevance to application programming. Students will learn assembly language C, process architecture, debuggers, and C programming.
  • Applied Networks and Security. Students in this course learn about the networking and security technologies needed to build and maintain a small-office network. Networking topics include network connectivity, client/server application software configuration, basic IP addressing, and server application software configuration.
  • Fundamentals of Cyber Security. This course presents the fundamental principles and security concepts related to information systems, such as workstation security, communications security, and system security. This course also discusses ethical, legal, and human factors associated with cyber security.
  • Algorithms and Data. Students are taught the techniques and principles used to analyze, design, and implement data representations and efficient algorithms. Students learn about asymptotic analysis and formal methods for instituting the correctness of algorithms.

Best Minors for Cyber Security Students

The best cyber security minors set you up for the major courses you’ll have to take, regardless of your degree type and level. Minor courses are not as demanding as major courses, but they allow students to cover a wider range of subjects. Minor courses complement your academic studies.

The 5 Best Cyber Security Minors

  1. Mathematics
  2. English composition
  3. Applied Statistics for Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics
  4. Computer Science
  5. Finance

Best Major for Your Chosen Career Path

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How to Choose the Right Cyber Security Degree Program for You

Choosing the right cyber security degree program can be determined using a number of factors. It’s important to evaluate if a program and school are right for you. By considering factors such as career goals, accreditation, cost, curricular content, and career services, you’ll be able to pick the best cyber security degree for you.

1

Career Goals

Cyber security has different concentrations and offers various career opportunities once you graduate. You must know what you want and where you want to see yourself. If you see yourself in a business position, consider a bachelor of business administration. If you would prefer to learn core math and science concepts and hop right into the field, an associate of applied science is better suited to you.

2

Accreditation

Knowing that the program is accredited means that the university undergoes a process that ensures the education they deliver meets the proper standards. As you choose the right cyber security degree program, verify that the school or program is accredited. Employers prefer candidates emerging from these programs.

3

Cost

The cost of the program differs from one school to another. Each student also has a different financial capacity. You must check the cost of the programs you’re interested in and compare them with other universities. You might see an institution that offers cyber security at a much lower cost while still having almost the same curriculum.

4

Curricular Content

You must consider the major courses, electives, and general education requirements offered by your program of choice. The major courses offered should be relevant and teach in-demand skills. It’s important that your courses cover strategies on how to handle security breaches and security issues.

5

Career Services

Career services are a great way for students to get the preparation they need, especially when it’s their first time entering the workforce. Career services can include helping students practice for the interview and supporting students when it comes to writing resumes. These services can connect students with partner companies of the school.

Best Cyber Security Colleges and Universities: Where to Find the Top Cyber Security Degree Programs

Finding the best college or university for a cyber security degree can be challenging. The list of schools and universities below can help you get started in finding the best in-person and online degrees. These schools are known for having a current curriculum, excellent specialization choices, and great reputations.

Best Schools to Get an Associate in Cyber Security

  1. Western Nebraska Community College
  2. Umpqua Community College
  3. Southern Maine Community College
  4. Rio Hondo College
  5. Northern Virginia Community College

Best Schools to Get a Bachelor’s in Cyber Security

  1. Regent University
  2. Robert Morris University
  3. Southern New Hampshire University
  4. University of Maryland
  5. University of North Dakota

Best Schools to Get a Master’s in Cyber Security

  1. University of Houston
  2. Northeastern University
  3. Carnegie Mellon University
  4. Stratford University
  5. George Mason University

Best College and University Cyber Security Schools

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How Can I Pay for a Cyber Security Degree Program?

You can pay for a cyber security degree program in various ways, especially if you don’t have the means to pay for college. Below is a list of the ways you can apply for financial assistance to help cover your school expenses.

Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA)

FAFSA is a form students fill out to get financial aid from the federal government to help them pay for college. The form is free, and you have to submit it before every academic year. Filling out this form also means you qualify for a low-interest federal loan.

Work-Study Programs

Work-study programs are provided to students with financial needs that allow them to take part-time jobs offered by the school or through its partnerships. This is for both graduate and undergraduate students. The work is often focused on community service work and work relevant to the student’s chosen course of study.

Scholarships

A scholarship is awarded to a student based on academic achievement or other criteria. Scholarships don’t need to be repaid. There are merit-based scholarships, which means the recipient was able to meet or exceed the standards set by the scholarship giver. Merit scholarships are awarded because of exceptional academic performance or special talent or interest.

Loans

Loans are money borrowed by the government to help you pay for college. The types of loans are federal student loans and private student loans. Private loans are given by private organizations like banks, schools, or credit unions. On the other hand, federal student loans are funded by the government. Federal loans often have lower interest rates and allow students more flexibility throughout the repayment process.

Grants

Grants are very similar to loans except they don’t have to be repaid. Grants can come from your school, the federal government, the state government, or a private entity. Grants given include federal Pell Grants and Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grants (FSEOG), among many others.

Cyber Security Scholarships

Cyber security scholarships are a great way for you to pursue your education and achieve your dream without going into financial ruin. Each scholarship has its own unique requirements. Below are some of the scholarships you consider.

1

The Coca-Cola Scholarship

This is an achievement-based scholarship given to senior high school students. It is granted to students who want to make a change in the tech industry. The foundation has already given 6,450 scholarships, equivalent to more than $75 million for educational support.

  • Eligibility Requirements: Current high school student enrolled in the US, expecting to receive a high school diploma during the current year, planning to pursue a degree in an accredited US post-secondary institution, overall 3.0 GPA
  • Amount: $20,000

2

The Gates Scholarship

This scholarship is highly-selective. The scholarship will cover the full cost of attendance, including room, board, books, transportation, and other personal costs for students from low-income households. This is given to 300 students, yearly.

  • Eligibility Requirements: High school senior, is of African, Asian, Pacific Islander American, Hispanic, American Indian, Native Alaskan descent, Pell Grant-eligible, US citizen, GPA of 3.3, planning to enroll full-time
  • Amount: Full cost of attendance

3

U.S. Presidential Scholars Program

This is given to the most distinguished graduating high school seniors. In the year of 1979, it was extended to students who were also excelling in visual, creative, and performing arts. They give this scholarship to 161 students yearly. This scholarship is awarded by invitation only, meaning you cannot apply.

  • Eligibility Requirements: US citizen or legal permanent resident, graduate or will receive a diploma within January to August of 2022, exceptional score in SAT or ACT
  • Amount: Unknown

Most Popular Scholarships by Specialization

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Student Loans for Cyber Security Majors

On your road to becoming one of the best cyber security experts, the right education is important. To get that quality education, you may need to apply for a student loan, especially if you don’t qualify for financial aid. Below is an overview of student loans at different degree levels.

What Is the Average Student Loan for Cyber Security Associate Degrees?

According to the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), the average student loan for a cyber security associate degree is $18,550. For a federal loan for this degree, the average is $18,060. On the other hand, the average private loan for students is around $9,950.

What Is the Average Student Loan for Cyber Security Bachelor’s Degrees?

The average student loan for a cyber security bachelor’s degree is $29,910, according to NCES. The average federal loan for students is 27,050. On the other hand, the average private loan for students is $18,700.

What Is the Average Student Loan for Cyber Security Master’s Degrees?

NCES states that the average student loan for a cyber security master’s degree is $69,920. For students enrolled in public school, the average loan is $57,730. For students enrolled in private nonprofit schools, the average loan is $76,210. For students enrolled in private for-profit schools, the average loan is $97,740.

How to Get Into the Best Schools for Cyber Security

To get into the best schools for cyber security, you must plan ahead. It’s important to maintain good grades during your high school years as some schools have a minimum GPA requirement. Many schools ask students to provide records of their ACT or SAT scores, as well.

Regardless of whether you’re getting an associate, bachelor’s, or master’s degree, you should plan ahead to ensure that you’ll meet the qualifications to get into the best schools. Personal statements and strong letters of recommendation are often required of students. It’s also recommended that you apply to multiple schools.

Top 5 Tips to Get Into the Best Programs at Cyber Security Schools

  1. Earn good grades while in high school.
  2. Write a strong personal statement and include your academic and professional ambitions.
  3. Apply early to multiple schools.
  4. Get recommendation letters from teachers or professional colleagues who can attest to your skills and experiences.
  5. Practice and prepare for admission interviews.

How to Get Into the Best Colleges and Universities

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How Can You Get a Cyber Security Internship While in College?

You can get a cyber security internship while in college by checking job boards, utilizing your school’s career services, and attending career fairs. Internships allow students to practice what they are learning in their cyber security program through real-life situations. Read below for tips on how to get a cyber security internship while in college.

1

Check Job Boards

You can check websites like Indeed, LinkedIn, Glassdoor, and ZipRecruiter for postings of relevant internships. You can narrow your search by choosing the field, location, and duration of your preferred internship. You can also filter the results by experience, salary, and level of education.

Utilize Your School’s

5

Career Services

If your school offers career services, inquire about internship options with one of its partnered organizations. Most colleges and universities have a unique arrangement with partnering organizations that allow students exclusive access to their employment and internship opportunities.

3

Attend Career Fairs

Employers often search for interns during career fairs. The best thing you can do is show up and prepare your resume. Some employers screen, recruit, and hire qualified interns through these career fairs. Prepare a quick introduction that highlights your skills and any questions you might have about these companies.

What Jobs Can You Get With a Cyber Security Degree?

The jobs you can get with a cyber security degree include penetration tester, cyber security engineer, cyber security specialist, software developer, and security architect. As you earn higher-level degrees, you’ll qualify for higher positions.

If you get an associate degree, you can become a cyber threat analyst or source code editor. If you are pursuing a bachelor’s degree, you can apply for a cyber security analyst or cyber security consultant position. If you are pursuing a master’s degree, you can become a cyber security director.

Cyber Security Degree Salary Outlook

Cyber security degree salaries vary greatly depending on if you have an associate, bachelor’s, or master’s degree. As you get more advanced levels of education, you become eligible for higher-earning positions.

Degree Level Average Salary
Cyber Security Associate Degree $52,000
Cyber Security Bachelor’s Degree $73,000
Cyber Security Master’s Degree $90,000

Cyber Security Degree Jobs and Career Outlook: What Can You Do With a Cyber Security Degree?

With a cyber security degree, you can land different types of jobs that require you to expose the weaknesses of a company’s security and implement strategies to enhance its cyber defense. There is a wide range of career options available to associate degree, bachelor’s degree, and master’s degree holders.

Top Cyber Security Associate Degree Jobs

  1. Penetration Tester
  2. Web Developer
  3. Cyber Data Analyst
  4. Computer Support Specialist
  5. Information and Assurance Engineer

Top Cyber Security Bachelor’s Degree Jobs

  1. Incident Responder
  2. Cyber Security Engineer
  3. Security Tester
  4. Cyber Security Operations Analyst
  5. Vulnerability Analyst

Top Cyber Security Master’s Degree Jobs

  1. Chief Information Security Officer (CISO)
  2. Cyber Security Architect
  3. Cyber Security Director
  4. Cyber Security Specialist
  5. Software Developer

Highest-Paying Cyber Security Jobs

Highest-Paying Cyber Security Jobs Entry-Level Salary (0-12 Months) Early-Career Salary(1-4 Years) Mid-Career Salary (5-9 Years) Experienced Salary (10-19 Years)
Security Architect $78,612 $93,627 $120,759 $136,284
Cyber Security Engineer $77,735 $84,421 $104,414 $117,938
Penetration Tester $69,543 $82,829 $106,415 $120,728
Software Developer $64,291 $71,316 $84,439 $94,613
Cyber Security Specialist $56,229 $61,224 $72,000 $87,272

Professional Cyber Security Organizations and Resources

As a future expert in cyber security, it is essential that you are part of an organization that provides resources on cyber security and the current trends in the field. The organizations below can help you in your career and expand your knowledge as future cyber security personnel.

1

National Initiative for Cybersecurity Careers and Studies

This website provides online resources for cyber security training, career information, and education. They aim to educate those in the field with the right tools and training. Some of the training they provide are AWS Security Essentials, Cisco Administering and Positioning Cisco Umbrella Operations (ADMUMB), and AZ-500: Microsoft Azure Security Technologies.

2

Cloud Security Alliance

2

Cloud Security Alliance

is an organization that teaches the best practices in the cloud computing environment. It is a provider of a cloud security certification program, as well. They manage the CSA Global Consulting Program. They released Security Guidance for Critical Areas of Focus In Cloud Computing, a practical road map for managers who want to securely and safely adopt the cloud paradigm.

3

Security Industry Association

This organization is a leading trade association for global security providers with over 1,200 innovative member companies. These security leaders are shaping the security industry and advocating for pro-industry policies. It is also the prime sponsor of ISC conferences and events.

Cyber Security in 10 Years: Is Getting a Cyber Security Degree Worth It?

Yes, getting a cyber security degree is worth it. The profession is impactful as you get to be part of the company’s leading experts in fighting cyber crime. You save companies by identifying vulnerabilities of the existing systems and networks. According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, jobs in cyber security are expected to grow by 33 percent by 2030.

This projected growth suggests job security. Regardless of whether you are pursuing an associate degree, bachelor’s degree, or master’s degree, this field offers high-paying positions with opportunities for advancement. As you gain more experience, a cyber security degree can earn you as much as $136,149 , according to PayScale.

Additional Reading About Cyber Security

[query_class_embed] https://careerkarma.com/blog/cyber-security-best-practices/ https://careerkarma.com/blog/introduction-to-cyber-security/ https://careerkarma.com/blog/cyber-security-projects/

Cyber Security Degree FAQ

Is cyber security a two-year degree?

Yes, cyber security is a two-year degree if you get an Associate Degree in Cyber Security. A bachelor’s or master’s degree takes more time. An associate degree is usually composed of 60 credits. Topics included are Linux essentials, cyber security operations, enterprise networking, security, and automation.

Can I get a job in cyber security without a degree?

Yes, you can get a job in cyber security without a degree. Through massive open online courses (MOOCs) and cyber security bootcamps , you can qualify for entry-level positions. However, you should be aware that without a degree, your options for employment are much more limited.

Is there a lot of math in cyber security?

No, there isn’t a lot of math in cyber security. However, the level and amount of math in cyber security depend on the level of cyber security education you pursue. The higher the degree program you enroll in, the more math there will be.

How long does it take to get a cyber security degree?

It takes between two to six years to get a cyber security degree, on average. For an associate degree, you can finish within two years. You can complete a bachelor’s degree in four years. If you want to advance in your career and get a master’s degree, you can complete it within two to three years if you already have a bachelor’s degree, or six to seven years if you don’t.

About us: Career Karma is a platform designed to help job seekers find, research, and connect with job training programs to advance their careers. Learn about the CK publication.

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Esa Landicho

About the author: Esa is a content writer who has extensive experience talking to students about their careers and life choices. She holds a Bachelor of Science in Psychology and a Master’s Degree in Guidance and Counseling.

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