Cyber Security is one of the hot button technology issues of our time. As we’ve jumped into holding much of our personal information online the span of less than a decade, it seems like weekly the news of another major cyber breach hits the big time. To respond to our pressing cyber vulnerability, it was estimated that there were over 1.5 million cyber security job openings last year, and the job gap is expected to grow even more.

This need for cyber security professionals contains a wide range of underlying needs: security for internet of things, hardware security, forensic analysis, real-time response, and building security into software systems from the start. While all of these are important, cyber security threats that affect the largest number of people directly are often threats to software. For this reason, those holding computer science degrees with an emphasis on information assurance or cyber security are at the front line of this new war with cyber criminals.

Why Get a Bachelor’s in Computer Science for Cyber Security?

Bachelor’s in computer science are some of the most cost and time-effective technology degrees. Largely viewed as the standard way to enter into software and computing fields as a developer, engineer, or analyst, bachelor’s in computer science — particularly with a focus on information assurance — are a great way to enter into the cyber security field. From an industry-wide perspective, the Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that computer and IT jobs will expand by 500,000 jobs by 2024. That’s about twice the national average, and if you factor in cyber security jobs (not all of which are included in the Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates) this number jumps by well over 1 million more.

So why pursue a bachelor’s in computer science specifically for cyber security? First and potentially foremost because of it’s versatility. Many organizations will have technical and software-related tasks that require some security knowledge but also all of the general development skills of a developer or architect position. The general well-versed-ness of computer science graduates will also be an asset if you’re looking to move into management ranks. The ability to understand information systems and computing principles from a fundamental level will enable you to understand many computing products from the ground up. This is imperative for being able to manage IT professionals working on all the constituent parts, as well as for communicating with non-techie stakeholders.

Bachelor’s in Computer Science vs. Related Degrees

Still confused about what cyber security-related degree to choose? Below we’ll take a look at the nuanced differences between different cyber security-related degrees.

  • Bachelor’s in Computer Science: often require students to sample a wide base of higher level computing courses including computer programming, algorithms, data structures, computer architecture, and information theory. This degree provides the basis for a strong computational understanding of the fundamentals of cyber security. Many bachelor’s in computer science programs offer specializations in cyber security, information assurance, or at least electives in the disciplines.
  • Bachelor’s in Cyber Security: these bachelor’s-level degrees are often more interdisciplinary than computer science degrees, instead focusing on the intersection of programming, information technology, law, ethics, management, analytics, and cyber security-specific technical tools and concepts. Many cyber security bachelor’s also allow students to further specialize in cyber security disciplines including policy, management, information technology, or development.
  • Bachelor’s in Information Assurance: information assurance degrees are often similar to cyber security degrees but even more interdisciplinary, focusing on management, policy, law, psychology, and conceptual frameworks for dealing with information threats. Some technical coursework will be required, but often less than the two degrees above.
  • Bachelor’s in Information Techology: information technology are at least as technical as bachelor’s in computer science, but focus more on hardware and networking than programming, algorithms, data systems, and operating systems. Information technology bachelor’s are likelier to lead to roles as security administrator or roles that focus on IT hacking and support.

Bachelor’s in Computer Science Curriculum

As with many bachelor’s-level programs, bachelor’s degrees in computer science commonly take 120 credit hours to complete which includes general education requirements and courses within the major. For students transferring into a bachelor’s in computer science degree after obtaining an associate’s degree, the general education requirements are often waived. While all computer science degrees differe slightly, courses most commonly included in the core course progression include the following.

  • Computer programming
  • Programming paradigms
  • Algorithms
  • Data structures
  • Logic & Computation
  • Computer architecture

Most all computer science degrees also require some math, with some degrees being more math heavy than others. Common math courses at least offered in computer science degrees include the following:

  • Linear algebra
  • Calculus
  • Probability theory and statistics
  • Combinatorics and discrete mathematics
  • Differential calculus and maths

Bachelor’s in Computer Science Cyber Security Electives

Many programs also offer the ability to specialize, obtain certifices, or pursue electives in cyber security and information assurance academic offerings. Some of the most common electives in cyber security fields include the following:

  • Computer and Network Security
  • Computer Networking
  • Cryptography
  • Operating Systems
  • Ethical Hacking
  • Linux System Administration

Bachelor’s in Computer Science Cyber Security Careers

As we’ve mentioned earlier in this write up, there are an expected 1.5 million cyber security job openings. This number is predicted to continue to grow, despite many lucrative cyber security scholarships, high-paying jobs, and a wide range of cyber security degrees. While there are many ways to work your way into the cyber security position of your dreams, a bachelor’s in computer science (particularly with some specialization in cyber security) prepares you for the following roles:

  • Security Engineer: Security engineering is a specialized field of engineering that focuses on the security aspects in the design of systems that need to be able to deal robustly with possible sources of disruption, ranging from natural disasters to malicious acts.
    • Median Salary: $85,177
    • Job Outlook, 2014-24: 18%
  • Ethical Hacker: An ethical hacker is an expert who systematically attempts to penetrate a computer system or network for the purpose of finding security vulnerabilities preventing a malicious hacker from exploiting those vulnerabilities.
    • Median Salary: $72,000
    • Job Outlook, 2014-24: 18%
  • Security Software Developer: another mid- to senior-level role that builds and integrates security at every level of software development. In addition to managing malware, spyware, and intrusion detectors, security software developers design forensic tools, build prototypes, and manage junior team members.
    • Median Salary: $102,280
    • Job Outlook, 2014-24: 17%
  • Penetration Tester: Penetration testing (also called pen testing) is the practice of testing a computer system, network or application to find vulnerabilities that an attacker (malicious hacker) may exploit.
    • Median Salary: $71,660
    • Job Outlook, 2014-24: B+
  • Security Administrator: A Security Administrator is basically the point individual for cyber security systems. Individuals will likely be responsible for installing, administering and troubleshooting your organization’s security solutions.
    • Median Salary:$61,500
    • Job Outlook, 2014-24: 31%
  • Security Architect: a mid- to senior-level information assurance role that develops, implements, and manages secure networks and computer systems. This is the highest role in cyber security on the tech side, and typically requires soft managerial skills like strategy development, project and team leadership, and training and mentoring junior team members.
    • Median Salary: $98,430
    • Job Outlook, 2014-24: 13%