COMBAT RISING THREATS IN CYBER SECURITY WITH A MASTER’S IN COMPUTER ENGINEERING
As a culture, we’ve rapidly stepped into a world with more and more of our information held online. While this has led to countless services as well as economic opportunity, we’ve transitioned to our new digital world rapidly. So rapidly, that we’re largely learning as we go. Trial and error are built into all of the most popular minimum viable product methodologies. That’s what allows many new ground-breaking technologies to get off the ground. And what enables such freedom to jump from idea to reality in our digital economies. It also leads to risk for many of our most important assets that are now held digitally. Every day there are stories of products that — while great — become infiltrated in data breaches, become compromised by DDoS attacks, or that are held ransom by cyber criminals.
This is the flip side of how little capitol is needed to launch a digital product. Criminal acts occurring in cyber space require less planning, supply more anonymity, and are less costly than traditional criminal exploits. This proliferation of cyber crime — against individuals, companies, small businesses, non-profits, and government organizations — has led to the “skill gap” of over 1.5 million unfilled cyber security jobs last year. If you think you might be interested in a computing field, that should really pique your interest. All tech fields are growing rapidly. But very few as rapidly (and in as understaffed of a way) as cyber security.
WHY GET A MASTER’S IN COMPUTER ENGINEERING
Even if the above information worries you (and it should), you may still be wondering why should I get a computer engineering degree? Or more specifically, why get a master’s in computer engineering for cyber security? There are other related degrees such as master’s in information assurance, cyber security, and computer science. Well, those are great questions. First and foremost, computer engineering is at the heart of many cyber security organizations. While there are policy, forensics, management, and incident response teams in many cyber security organizations, almost any organization that needs cyber security protection are building some sort of digital infrastructure. That may be a simple website or app, or a payment portal, a connected device, or an entire platform. Almost all of these situations not only require computer engineers, but specifically those who have specialized knowledge or experience with security matters. While larger security organizations will have all sorts of cyber security roles, a degree in computer engineering with a cyber security focus enables you to be one of the first hires for organizations who want to build anything (securely).
A second reason to obtain a master’s in computer engineering for cyber security jobs is the degree’s versatility. As we mentioned a bit above, computer engineering degrees with a focus on cyber security are a great degree for a spectrum of development and architecture tasks. An employer looking to build a digital project with fundamental security features would likely seek someone with a computer engineering background. Likewise with more security-intensive tasks. Put simply, a computer engineering degree with a cyber security concentration is one of the most versatile degrees for technical cyber security positions.
Master’s in Computer Engineering Vs. Related Degrees
Still not sure why computer engineering might be a good choice? Below we’ve compared computer engineering degrees to related degree types.
- Master’s Computer Engineering with a Cyber Security Focus: focuses on hardware and software infrastructure and architecture. Other topics include protection of intellectual property, operating systems, high level computing, digital forensics, and reverse engineering.
- Master’s in Cyber Security: focuses on cyber security-specific technological applications and concepts. Interdisciplinary in nature, this degree focuses on IT and programming basics as well as forensics, management, politics, psychology, and business as they relate to cyber security.
- Master’s in Computer Science with a Cyber Security Focus: focuses on a strong technical background for cyber security tasks, but has less (often no) policy or management related coursework. Coursework includes high level computing, software engineering and architecture, advanced programming, operating systems, networking, and information assurance frameworks.
- Master’s in Information Assurance: focuses on marrying advanced technical skills with interdisciplinary coursework like management, policy, criminology, and law. This degree builds off of existing IT and software knowledge to tackle decision making and communication issues in cyber security settings.
- Master’s in Information Technology: focuses on hardware, software, and information systems in a business context. Will teach students to manage, understand the underlying technology, and analyze the efficacy of different technological solutions.
Master’s in Computer Engineering Core Curriculum
No Master’s in Computer Engineering is the same, but most consist of 30-45 credits. A typical course progression will likely focus on following ares with multiple courses in each:
- Computer Architecture:
- Embedded systems, microarchitecture, systems organization, system design, parallel and distributed systems, cloud computing, internet computing, and more.
- Communication design, intro to networking, wireless and mobile networking, computer networking analysis, network processor design and development, and more.
- Circuit design, solid-state drives, VLSI System Design, Mathematical foundations for system design, VLSI architecture and algorithms, Computer-Aided Design of Digital Systems, and more.
Master’s in Computer Engineering Cyber Security Electives
Many Master’s in Computer Engineering degrees offer a wide range of electives, and some offer labelled emphases or concentrations in cyber security. Common Cyber Security electives that may be taken in a Master’s in Computer Engineering course of study include:
- Advanced Data Structures
- Computer Communication Networks
- Fundamentals of Cryptography
- Advanced Cryptography
- Computer Networks Security
Master’s in Computer Engineering Careers
A Master’s in Computer Engineering degree qualifies recipients for any entry level and many mid-level technical cyber security career positions (depending on experience). A Master’s in Computer Engineering or another equally technical master’s degree is often preferred by large employers for lead technical positions such as security architect as well.
- Computer and Information Research Scientist: a tech-focused, non-managerial position in charge of creation and design of new approaches to computing technologies, and development of innovative uses for pre-existing tech. A cross-industry
role, professionals can be found in business, healthcare, science, or in academia.
- Median Salary: $111,840
- Job Outlook, 2014-24: 11%
- Security Architect: a mid- to senior-level information assurance role that builds, implements, and manages secure networks and computer systems. In most companies,
this is the highest role in cyber security on the tech side. Soft-skills include “big picture” strategy development, project and team management, and training and mentoring junior team members.
- Median Salary: $98,430
- Job Outlook, 2014-24: 13%
- Security Engineer: this early to mid-level position often requires advanced education or 5 years of experience to get into. Security engineers help in establishing, assessing, and maintaining security systems in hardware and software. They are also central to building security into new products from the start.
- Median Salary: $85,177
- Job Outlook, 2014-24: 18%
- Security Software Developer: another early to mid-level position that designs, develops, and integrates security at every level of software development. In addition to managing malware detectors, spyware, and intrusion detectors, security software developers design forensic tools, build prototypes and beta tests, and manage junior team members.
- Median Salary: $98,430
- Job Outlook, 2014-24: 13%
- Computer Network Architect: reserved for experienced professionals (5+ years), CNAs design and build data communication networks like local area networks (LANs), wide area networks (WANs), and intranets. Also called network engineers,
additional responsibilities include hardware and software management, information security monitoring, and research new networking technologies for future implementation.
- Median Salary: $101,210
- Job Outlook, 2014-24: 9%