What Can I Do With A Masters in Cyber Security?

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Of all the pressing issues of the day, cyber security might top the list. Every week another story breaks about a cyber security breach – in government, business, and private life – and experts suggest the problem may increase in the coming years. By 2020 there will be 200 billion connected things, or 200 billion more cyber security liabilities; and no matter you look at the impact of digital technology on the modern world, it looks like it’s here to stay.

That also means a rapid expansion of cyber security employment – 6 million globally by 2019, according to Forbes – and a significant enrollment spike for bachelor’s and master’s in cyber security, particularly online cyber security degrees, because of their affordability and flexibility. (35% of cyber security jobs ask for at least industry certification, but a master’s in cyber security is particularly helpful for management roles.)

For those interested, we’ve highlighted the best online cyber security degrees elsewhere. Now let’s outline just a few possible options for what you can do with a master’s in cyber security.


Masters in Science (M.S.) in Cyber Security

Masters in Cyber Security degrees build off of the academic coursework of a bachelors-level cyber security degree. Though, more popularly, masters often welcome students with some technical background and who are looking to transition to cyber security roles. Common coursework at this level of cybersecurity training is more technical than theoretical, focusing on advanced techniques including those involved with preserving data integrity, resiliency in data architecture, disaster recovery, continuity planning and risk management. Many degree programs have also begun to focus on interdisciplinary approaches great for those looking to move into management. Interdisciplinary coursework may include work in technology, forensics, management, law, science, business, and psychology.

Masters in Science (M.S.) in Computer Science

Many universities with well established masters in computer science programs have elected to offer cyber security programming through specializations or emphases in their computer science masters. While comparable with a masters in cyber security, expect to (surprise, surprise!) focus more on high-level computing courses, and then to move into cyber security-focused courses through a few electives. For students looking to gain some serious technical chops or explore cutting edge technical applications, this can definitely be the way to go. Expect to take courses in programming, analysis of algorithms, software engineering and architecture, as well as operating systems. On the cyber security front, most programs offer courses in cryptography, digital forensics, and networking security.

Master of Science (M.S.) in Computer Engineering

As seen by a number of recent high profile hacks, cyber security is potentially as much about securing infrastructure and hardware and software. And with the exponentially increasing number of connected devices, focus on hardware security is only set to increase. This is where a Masters in Computer Engineering with a focus on cyber security comes in. Traditionally, computer engineering differs from computer science through the fact that course work focuses on both hardware and software development. Reverse engineering, intellectual property protection, operating systems, and digital forensics.

Master of Science (M.S.) in Information Assurance

An MS in Information Assurance (alternatively named information assurance and security) degree provides a unique multi-disciplinary focus on technical and managerial aspects of cyber security. Common multidisciplinary coursework topics in an IA degree might include law, the social sciences, criminology, technology, and management. Common objectives include not only building on existing technical experience as they relate to networking and computer system security practices, but learning communication methods helpful in management roles, as well as learning about the legal and ethical context of cyber security-related situations to assist in decision making.

Master of Science (M.S.) in Information Technology

Generally speaking, Masters of Science in Information Technology that provide emphases, concentrations, or focus areas in security tend to focus more on the business, ethical, and decision making sides of cyber security, and spend a little less time on the technical aspects of cyber security. Great for current IT managers, Information Technology degrees that focus on cyber security often seek to expose students to the latest cyber security trends and best practices, enhance student knowledge of managing the creation of cyber security goods, and understanding the legal and ethical conundrums surrounding many cyber security situations.


Information Security Analyst

  • Job Description: Plan and implement security measures to protect an organization’s computer networks and systems
  • Median Salary: $92,600

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, Information Security Analysts will see an 18% employment increase through 2024, which makes it among the fastest-growing job sectors in the country. For professionals with a master’s in cyber security, employment may increase as much as 26%.

Computer and Information Systems Manager

  • Job Description: Plan, coordinate, and direct all computer-related issues in an organization
  • Median Pay: $135,800

Traditionally more of an IT Manager or IT Project Manager role, the position is pivoting toward professionals with cyber security job prep, via a cyber security certificate like a CISM (Certified Information Security Manager) or CISSP (Certified Information Systems Security Professional); or better yet, a master’s in cyber security. (If you’re already in IT, it’s worth noting that cyber security expertise can notch you a 9% pay raise.)

Chief Information Security Officer

  • Job Description: Senior-level head of all cyber security and information assurance management
  • Median Pay: $204,000

The CISO is a relatively new position – and arguably the most important for the future of cyber security. According to the research firm International Data Corporation (IDC), “by 2018, fully 75% of chief security officers (CSO) and chief information security officers (CISOs) will report directly to the CEO, not the CIO.” Of course, concomitant to the role’s growth will be job competition, and most CISOs will be expected to hold, at minimum, an advanced certification in cyber security or master’s in cyber security.

Other Possible Cyber Security Roles

  • Security Engineer
  • Security Architect
  • Forensics Investigator
  • Cyber security Specialist