What to Expect from a Cybersecurity Degree Program
A degree may open the door to a variety of opportunities and diverse career paths. The degree programs offered at CTU will not necessarily lead to the featured careers. This collection of articles is intended to help inform and guide you through the process of determining which level of degree and types of certifications align with your desired career path.
Cyber threats are a part of modern life. They are a danger to us as individuals, to businesses and to governments.
In response, cybersecurity—defined by CISA as “the art of protecting networks, devices and data from unauthorized access or criminal use and the practice of ensuring confidentiality, integrity and availability of information”1—has also become a part of modern life. Continuous advancements in cybersecurity have become critical in fending off increasingly sophisticated cyberattacks and cyber threats carried out by hackers and other criminals. Multifactor authentication (MFA), firewalls and logging into a VPN (Virtual Private Network) when we get to work are just a few everyday examples of cybersecurity measures that many of us are at least somewhat familiar with.
And yet, despite the importance of cybersecurity, many employers are struggling to find enough qualified individuals to fill these roles. According to the 2022 Cybersecurity Workforce Study conducted by the International Information System Security Certification Consortium (ISC2), an international, non-profit membership association for information security leaders, the global cybersecurity workforce gap is over 3.4 million people, with a gap of 410,695 in the United States alone.2
A cybersecurity degree program could offer an opportunity for you to study the knowledge and skills needed to prepare yourself to pursue a cybersecurity career path. However, because what you study in a cybersecurity degree program or concentration will vary not only by school but by the primary field of study you choose, you might not know what to expect. In this article, we’ll go over different types of cybersecurity degree programs, the courses you might take, the benefits of pursuing a degree program and several potential cybersecurity career paths. And we’ll start with the most basic question: What is a cybersecurity degree program?
What Is a Cybersecurity Degree Program?
While there are different routes you might take to prepare yourself to pursue a cybersecurity career path, a common route taken to get into the cybersecurity field is through formal education, that is, by earning a bachelor’s or master’s in cybersecurity or a closely related subject area. While some schools do offer cybersecurity degree programs, many others offer computer science, information technology or management degree programs that give you the option to concentrate or specialize in cybersecurity. Which type of cybersecurity degree program is the right one for you will depend in large part on the career path you wish to pursue and the cybersecurity skills you want to focus on.
If you’re wondering how to earn a cybersecurity degree without putting your personal and professional obligations on hold, an online degree program that lets you study on your own schedule might be the answer. Colorado Technical University offers the following types of online cybersecurity degree-related programs:
CTU’s Bachelor of Science in Computer Science (BSCS) degree program is designed to cover a range of methods, skills, techniques and practical knowledge relevant to understanding how software works, its development and its design.
- The BSCS concentration in Cybersecurity Engineering offers an opportunity to explore various topics related to the design and implementation of software solutions to protect against cyber threats. Courses provide an opportunity to study the analysis, design and implementation of security activities that help maintain software integrity; ethical hacking; compliance with government rules and regulations involving digital security; and more.
- At the graduate level, we offer a Master of Science in Computer Science—Cybersecurity Engineering and a Doctor of Computer Science in Cybersecurity and Information Assurance.
Our Bachelor of Science in Information Technology degree program is designed to help students work to develop a solid technical background and analytical, critical-thinking and problem-solving skills relevant to various IT field and the high-tech industry.
- Students interested in cybersecurity may wish to pursue the BSIT concentration in Software Systems Engineering, which offers an opportunity to study not only software design and testing but also to explore tools and techniques designed to detect intrusion into an organization’s computer systems as well as effective and efficient security management practices.
- Another option is the BSIT concentration in Security, which is designed to offer an opportunity to explore security threats and system vulnerabilities used by hackers to exploit computer systems; procedures involved in investigating computer and cybercrime; disaster recovery; and more.
- We also offer a Master of Information Technology in Security Management, for students who already possess a solid IT background.
The Master of Science in Management with a concentration in Information Security Systems degree program is intended for technical leaders in security management who wish to expand their understanding of security management, network security principles and certification and accreditation requirements. The MSM degree program is designed to provide an opportunity for students to study and develop business leadership skills, while the Security Systems concentration makes it possible to study a range of topics including network security issues and decision making, cybercrime, legal and ethical issues, incident reporting, security-driven lifecycle development models, security standards for programming and scripting languages, and more.
What Courses Are Required in a Cybersecurity Degree Program?
The specific cybersecurity courses you take will differ by school and field of degree. Although not an exhaustive list, a cybersecurity degree program or concentration may include course coverage of the following topics:
- Ethical Hacking
- Vulnerability Assessment and Management
- Security Risk Management
- Computer Forensics
- Principles of Network Security
- Business Continuity and Disaster Recovery Planning
Benefits of a Cybersecurity Degree Program
Not all cybersecurity programs are degree-conferring programs. Cybersecurity bootcamps, for instance, are short, intensive programs designed to help students develop skills needed for cybersecurity in less time than it typically takes to complete a degree program. They may or may not grant a certificate upon completion and are often designed to help students prepare to sit for a cybersecurity certification exam. But while these programs might be attractive to students hoping to enter the cybersecurity field in terms of cost- and time-savings, the fact is that employers tend to prefer candidates for cybersecurity roles who have at least a bachelor’s degree.3
But there are additional benefits to pursuing an undergraduate or graduate degree program apart from the piece of paper you earn after successfully fulfilling all of your program’s requirements. The courses you take in a cybersecurity degree program or concentration can provide an opportunity not only for hard skills development but also soft skills development. Communication, analytical, critical-thinking and problem-solving skills are all important qualities to have, and your classes and coursework may often require you to use or develop these skills.
Another benefit of pursuing a degree program is the access you gain to your institution’s career center/career development services center. CTU offers various online career search resources, such as career exploration tools, resume assistance, interview preparation and assistance in finding a mentor.
What Can You Do With a Cybersecurity Degree? — Potential Cybersecurity Career Paths*
Cybersecurity professionals are needed in virtually every industry. Banking and financial institutions, healthcare facilities and government agencies all have an interest in protecting their data and information from cyber threats and unauthorized access.
The following are just a few examples of cybersecurity career paths you may wish to explore.
Information Security Analyst
- What They Do: Information security analysts plan and implement various measures to protect an organization’s computer networks and systems from threats. On a day-to-day basis, they monitor for and investigate network security breaches, check for computer and network systems vulnerabilities, use and maintain software to protect sensitive information and recommend security enhancements to the organization’s management or IT staff, among other responsibilities. They also play a major role in developing their organization’s disaster recovery plan, which outlines procedures for the IT team to follow in an emergency (such as a cyberattack).3
- Education & Work Experience: Although some may enter the occupation with a high school diploma, relevant training and information security certifications, most aspiring information security analysts need a bachelor’s degree in computer and information technology or a related field, such as engineering or math, in addition to relevant work experience.3
- Job Outlook: The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that employment of information security analysts will grow 32 percent from 2022 to 2032.3
Computer and Information Systems Manager
- What They Do: Computer and information systems managers, also known as information technology (IT) managers or IT project managers, plan, coordinate and direct an organization’s computer-related activities. Although their duties will vary depending upon the size and structure of an organization, on a daily basis these managers may be responsible for analyzing an organization’s computer needs and recommending upgrades; ensuring computer network and electronic document security; staying up to date on new technology; and planning and directing the work of IT department employees.4
- Education & Work Experience: Computer and information systems managers typically need to have a bachelor’s degree in computer and information technology or a related field, and many organizations also prefer candidates with a graduate degree, such as a Master of Business Administration (MBA). Relevant work experience is generally required, although how much is needed can vary.4
- Job Outlook: The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that employment of computer and information systems managers will grow 15 percent from 2022 to 2032.4
Computer Network Architect
- What They Do: Computer network architects, also known as network engineers, design and build data communication networks that can range in complexity from small connections between offices to a complex cloud infrastructure that serves more than one customer. On a day-to-day basis, their duties may include creating plans for data communication networks, pitching their plans to management, upgrading hardware and software needed to support computer networks and taking information security into account while designing networks. They also try to project future network needs by analyzing and estimating how growth will impact the current network.5
- Education & Work Experience: Computer network architects typically need at least a bachelor’s degree in computer and information technology, engineering or a related field. Some employers prefer applicants to have an MBA in information systems. Typically, computer network architects must also have at least five to ten years of experience with information technology (IT) systems in addition to having certification in the products their organization uses.5
- Job Outlook: The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that employment of computer network architects will grow 4 percent from 2022 to 2032.5
* CTU cannot guarantee employment, salary, or career advancement. The list of career paths related to these programs is based on a subset from the Bureau of Labor Statistics CIP to SOC Crosswalk. Some career paths listed above may require further education or job experience.
Which Cybersecurity Degree Program Is Right for You?
Because there are so many cybersecurity-related degree options out there, it’s easy to start feeling a bit overwhelmed. But think of it this way—having more options means that there are more opportunities for you to tailor your academic experience to your interests and goals: If you’re interested in building the skills necessary for designing and creating computer programs, then maybe computer science is the right fit for you. But if you’d prefer to focus on developing skills needed to evaluate and meet an organization’s data security needs, then perhaps information technology is the better fit. Researching individual programs and potential career paths as well as considering your own personal academic strengths and weaknesses are all great places to begin narrowing down your choices.
1 CISA, “Security Tip (ST04-001): What Is Cybersecurity?,” https://www.cisa.gov/uscert/ncas/tips/ST04-001 (last visited 9/14/2023).
2 ISC2, “Cybersecurity Workforce Study 2022,” https://www.isc2.org/research (last visited 9/14/2023).
3 Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, “Information Security Analysts,” https://www.bls.gov/ooh/computer-and-information-technology/information-security-analysts.htm (last visited 9/14/2023). This data represents national figures and is not based on school-specific information. Conditions in your area may vary.
4 Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, “Computer and Information Systems Managers,” https://www.bls.gov/ooh/management/computer-and-information-systems-managers.htm (last visited 9/14/2023). This data represents national figures and is not based on school-specific information. Conditions in your area may vary.
5 Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, “Computer Network Architects,” https://www.bls.gov/ooh/computer-and-information-technology/computer-network-architects.htm (last visited 9/14/2023). This data represents national figures and is not based on school-specific information. Conditions in your area may vary.
CTU cannot guarantee employment, salary, or career advancement. Not all programs are available to residents of all states. REQ1963882 9/2023