Fight Threats in Cybersecurity with a Bachelor of Science (B.S) in Information Assurance

Our modern economy and exchange of information depends on the interconnectivity of computers, systems, organizations and individuals. This intertwined existence can lead to serious vulnerabilities that expose governments, companies and ordinary people to cyber attacks. These attacks can wreak havoc on our finances, infrastructure, and perhaps most importantly, our information. A recent report by Cybersecurity Ventures found that by 2021 cyber attacks could cost the world $6 trillion. A lot of that money will be spent trying to recover information that wasn’t properly protected. In 2014, the World Economic Forum found there were 2.5 billion exposed records in the previous five years due to cyber attacks.

To make matters worse, the affects of cyber attacks are blooming exponentially. After the recent Equifax cyber attack, experts estimated that at least 143 million Americans’ data was stolen, and the Identity Theft Resource Center found that approximately 825 million records have been traded on the black market. In the Equinox hack, cyber criminals were able to gain access to people’s Social Security numbers, drivers licenses, names, birthdates and addresses. With those records, cyber criminals can repeatedly damage people’s lives, and there’s no real mechanism to stop it. By studying Information Assurance, you can help devise new ways to protect people from these kinds of attacks, devise systems to nullify subsequent affects of attacks and demonstrate how easily information can be stolen from individuals, government agencies, and large corporations.

Too many organizations are cutting corners, or just don’t understand the threats involved in a cyber attack, how cyber attacks work, and how much damage they can cause. And far too often, an organizations’ budget to protect vital information is only increased after an attack occurs. To try and help organizations take preemptive action against cyber attacks, IBM has worked with the Ponemon Institute to estimate the Cost of a Data Breach. So what can you do about this?

As an Information Assurance professional, you’ll protect digital information for businesses, nonprofits, government agencies or even individuals. In Information Assurance programs, you’ll build a strong foundational understanding of cyber security and computers, to fully grapple with the techniques used to damage, steal or compromise them. You’ll then use that expertise to design and create strategies to protect your employers information through cryptography, authentication, and much more. You’ll also understand how to preemptively build shields, fail safes and recovery points for computers to fend off attacks and retain information in the case of an attack. Throughout, you’ll focus on making sure attacks don’t happen in the first place, by anticipating where attacks come from (whether it be an internal criminal within the organization, or an external bad actor), by implementing effective checks and balances that control online transactions or interactions. You’ll incorporate organizational needs and find ways to work with them in the design of computer networks and infrastructure. You’ll also work to detect intrusion and control it, even in the midst of an attack. And throughout, you’ll be among the most desirable professionals in the already booming tech economy.

Why Get an Bachelor’s in Information Assurance?

There are few burgeoning fields that promise high pay, swift advancement for competent professionals, constantly growing positions, with so few qualified people for them. That describes the IT world at large. Between 2009-14, a Massachusetts government report found that demand for people working in cyber security has grown 3.5 times faster than overall IT work, and twelve times faster than all other jobs. At the same time Cybersecurity jobs on average also paid about $12,000 more than the average for all computer jobs ($100,733 versus $89,205). In 2015 more than 209,000 cybersecurity jobs in America were unfilled, and postings for these jobs had gone up 74% in the past five years. That number is expected to rise, according to The ISACA, a non-profit activist organization specializing in information security, who predicts there will be a global shortage of two million cyber security professionals by 2019. A large part of the deficit is a scarcity young people and women interested in the field, the Massachusetts report found. So with a Bachelor’s degree in Information Assurance, you’ll be qualified for potentially millions of unfilled positions.

Currently, there’s a good deal of overlap between professionals working within cyber security, who specialize in aspects of it like network security, and information assurance. Because cyber security is so undervalued, experts are being called upon to wear multiple hats to help underprepared organizations, while cyber attacks grow in sophistication and magnitude. That’s led to our current situation. But as more people enter the field, and it cyber security becomes more ubiquitous in our lives, there will likely be a greater need for larger teams of cyber security professionals that are specialists in related, yet distinct aspects of the field. One thing’s certain: employers want qualified, accredited professionals. Looking at Cyber Security job postings, Rasmussen noticed that the minimum educational requirements for 86% of them were a Bachelor’s degree.

Bachelor’s in Information Assurance Vs. Related Degrees

Bachelor’s in Computer Science: students build thorough skills in programming, computer architecture, algorithms, data structures, and information theory.

Bachelor’s in Cyber Security: Students gain experience in programming, information technology, law, ethics, management, analytics, and how they set parameters for protecting information, stopping cyber attacks, and investigating them.

Bachelor’s in Information Assurance: Contains aspects of a cyber security degree but more focused on the macro aspects of attacks, as well as management, policy, law, psychology, and communication.

Bachelor’s in Information Technology: Somewhat similar to Computer Science and Cyber Security, this degree focuses heavily on hardware and networking.

Bachelor’s in Information Assurance Curriculum

Every program is different, but Bachelor’s in Information Assurance often require 120-180+ credit hours, and take 3-4 years to complete. Common core courses include:

  • Principles of Network Security
  • Introduction to Computer Security
  • Web Technologies
  • Data Analytics
  • Fundamentals of Networking
  • Ethics in Information Technology
  • Cybersecurity Processes and Technologies
  • Advanced Information Systems Security
  • Computer Forensics

Bachelor’s in Information Assurance Electives

Information Assurance Bachelor programs often give students the opportunity to specialize in different aspects of the field, and common electives are often:

  • Cryptography
  • Operating Systems
  • Ethical Hacking
  • Linux Systems
  • Information Assurance Risk and Compliance
  • System Vulnerability Assessments
  • Introduction to Malware Analysis
  • Network Defense
  • Information Security Policy

Bachelor’s in Information Assurance Careers

What occupations do graduates holding Bachelor’s in Information Assurance end up in?

  • Information Security Analyst: In this role, you’ll create and implement a security strategy to protect networks and systems. You’ll often work for tech companies, consulting firms, financial companies, and many more organizations.
    • Median Salary: $92,600
    • Job Outlook, 2014-24: 18%
  • Security Engineer: Security Engineers look at operational goals, potential security systems and either create them or fix them, while ruthlessly inspecting how they could be circumvented.
    • Median Salary: $85,177
    • Job Outlook, 2014-24: 18%
  • Ethical Hacker: You’ll search for vulnerabilities systems, networks and organizations, then help your “targets” fix weaknesses that allow these attacks.
    • Median Salary: $72,000
    • Job Outlook, 2014-24: 18%
  • Security Software Developer: In this position you’ll build and write software that is naturally antithetical to malware and looks for attempted attacks. You’ll also work with and build digital forensic tools, and be responsible for more junior cyber security professionals.
    • Median Salary: $102,280
    • Job Outlook, 2014-24: 17%
  • Computer Forensics Investigator or Analyst: You’ll work with law enforcement or private organizations to find evidence of attacks, identify criminals, and recover lost or stolen information.
    • Median Salary: $85,800
    • Job Outlook, 2014-24: 21%