Cybersecurity Experts: A Career in High-Demand

Online shopping carts. Electronic medical records. Mobile money transfer apps.

Society is becoming ever more reliant on technology. But with all that sensitive information being exchanged across the web and stored on servers around the globe, ensuring those priceless troves of personal information remain secure from cyber attacks is posing an increasing challenge to businesses and governments alike.

According to the Identity Theft Resource Center’s annual report on cyber attacks, the number of U.S. data breach incidents tracked in 2017 hit a new record high of 1,579 breaches - a drastic increase of 44.7 percent over the record-high figures reported for 2016. Once again, of the five industry sectors tracked by the ITRC, the business category topped the Data Breach List list with 55 percent of the overall total number of breaches. The Medical/Healthcare industry followed in second place with 23.7 percent of the overall total number of breaches, and the U.S. Banking/Credit/Financial sector came in third with 8.5 percent of the overall total. As the evidence makes clear, cyber attacks pose a continuing threat to information caches across the economy.

Despite the increasing demand for well-qualified individuals to help protect companies, governments, and other entities against cyber attacks, the harsh reality is that there are not enough candidates to meet demand.

Set Yourself Up for a Successful Career in Cybersecurity

As companies become increasingly dependant on technology for everyday operations, protecting those systems is a top priority. Therefore, companies are willing to pay top dollar for highly qualified IT security professionals. But in order to secure a job as a cybersecurity expert, most companies require you have at least a bachelor’s degree in computer science, cybersecurity, or a closely related field.

Fortunately, there are many options for earning your degree in Computer Science or Cybersecurity. Depending on your situation, you have the choice of completing your studies on-campus or online. Either way, expect your program to require at least 120 credit hours; the equivalent of four years of full-time study.

After graduation, the most competitive candidates for these critical jobs will have completed internships during their undergraduate studies and will have earned at least one specialized security certification. When deciding on your course of study, be sure to find a program that offers its students access to relevant internships, certification test prep courses, and specialized areas of concentration (e.g. Healthcare Information Security, Software Development, Computer Networks, Wireless and Mobile Security).

Top 10 Undergraduate Computer Science Programs

1. Massachusetts Institute of Technology (Cambridge, MA)
2. California Institute of Technology (Pasadena, CA)
3. Stanford University (Stanford, CA)
4. Carnegie Mellon University (Pittsburg, PA)
5. Georgia Tech (Atlanta, GA)
6. University of California at Berkeley (Berkeley, CA)
7. Princeton University (Princeton, NJ)
8. Cornell University (Ithaca, NY)
9. Harvard University (Cambridge, MA)
10. Duke Unversity (Durham, North Carolina)

Top 10 Accredited Online Cyber Security Degree Programs

1. Western Governors University
2. Excelsior College
3. Liberty University
4. Willington University
5. University of Illinois at Springfield
6. Bellevue University
7. Keiser University - Fort Lauderdale
8. Kennesaw State University
9. University of Maryland - University College
10. Champlain College

Top 5 Security Certifications for 2018

1. EC Council Certified Ethical Hacker (CEH)
2. CompTIA Security+
3. Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP)
4. Certified Information Security Manager (CISM)
5. Certified Information Systems Auditor (CISA)

Degree Requirements

As you research the various degree options for becoming a cybersecurity expert, it is important to review the degree requirements at each school. The first two years of study will typically be spent focusing on general education requirements and prerequisites for upper-level coursework. Once you reach your junior year, you can expect the majority of your courses to be dedicated to the graduation requirements of your particular major field of study and an area of concentration you may have elected to pursue.

Generally, though, most cybersecurity degree students can expect to take these six classes (or their equivalent):

1. Advanced Networking
2. Security Systems Auditing
3. Network Routing and Switching
4. Malware Reverse Engineering
5. Computer Forensics
6. Ethical Hacking

Career Outlook for Cybersecurity Experts

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the number of jobs available for information security analysts is expected to increase 18 percent from 2014 to 2024, much faster than the average of 7 percent for all occupations. Additionally, experts expect a shortage by 2022 of 1.8 million qualified workers worldview in the area of information and network security. In 2017, annual salaries for computer security specialists ranged from $39,000 to $120,000, while top-tier security analysts earn upwards of $160,000 per year.

Graduates with a degree in Cybersecurity are eligible to apply for positions in many different sectors of the economy. Their job is to monitor and protect their organization’s information networks and computer systems, and develop response plans for a data or security emergency. Cybersecurity experts are responsible for installing protective software onto employees’ computers and company networks, and may also need to train colleagues in proper security procedures. They create and review security assessments, examine infrastructure and fix security flaws to minimize threats. Not only are cybersecurity experts responsible for the proper functioning of security protocols, but they are also required to ensure the company’s information systems comply with laws and internal policies.

Top 5 Specialties in IT Security by Median Annual Salary

1. Information Security Manager ($109,000)
2. Computer, Networking, or IT Security Consultant ($85,000)
3. Information Assurance Engineer ($85,000)
4. Information Security Specialist ($75,000)
5. Information Security Analyst ($71,000)

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