Most people have had to deal with some type of cyber threat at some point. Whether it comes from malware invading the computer, online identity theft, or something even more serious, cyber crime is everywhere. Even large institutions, such as banks and IT corporations, face cybersecurity threats. Because of the ongoing increase in cyber crime in this field, including cyber espionage and cyber terrorism, a greater need for cybersecurity professionals who know how to prevent attacks exist. Indeed, results from a 2013 survey released by PricewaterhouseCoopers, shows that these attacks are becoming more “pervasive and hostile.” That’s why cybersecurity can be an exciting field, presenting new and different challenges to those who wish to pursue it.
Completing one of the cybersecurity degree programs available may enable individuals to seek work in a number of different fields. They could seek employment through law enforcement agencies at local, state and federal levels as well as at private firms hiring specialists. Employment could also be found at major financial or tech companies that want to prevent hacker attacks. A master’s degree from one of the cybersecurity schools could open up even more doors, enabling graduates to seek employment opportunities as a cybersecurity architect, cybersecurity operations analyst, secure software assurance engineer, and other positions. In fact, both undergraduate and graduate level training can help students to become very knowledgeable in the field and gain greater insight into cybersecurity.
For those wanting to develop a cybersecurity career, a number of educational options from cybersecurity colleges do exist, including bachelor’s and master’s degrees. The most typical way for people to make an educational start is by working toward a bachelor’s degree in computer forensics or computer science, with an emphasis on cybersecurity. These degrees typically take four years to complete, but might be done quicker through one of the online cyber security degree programs or schools offering hybrid learning through a combination of online and campus-based classes.
Those wanting to expand their knowledge beyond a bachelor’s degree, and, perhaps, even become involved in research in the field could pursue a master’s degree in cybersecurity. Generally, master’s degrees take two years to complete and may have specific and niche requirements. Many of these programs are geared toward mid-level professionals, and draw from many different fields, including business, law, management, psychology and technology, into instruction about cybersecurity.
Of course, some people may enter the field in other ways. They may have passed through a police academy and have been working on a police force or team for some time. There, some of their work or cases may have pushed them toward cybersecurity, and they may have first-hand knowledge about threats that exist. Of course, these police officers, too, can benefit from cybersecurity college by enhancing the on-the-job knowledge they already have with the widespread knowledge about cybersecurity available through higher-level learning.
Students who are interested in the cybersecurity field will need to take different courses depending on the degree they are working toward and the overall focus of that degree. Some programs may offer very specific concentrations while others may not. At the undergraduate level, when working toward an associate or bachelor’s of science degree, students typically need to take math classes, of course, as well as introductory courses that cover many of the basic concepts of information technology, technology, cybersecurity, networking, security policy and implementation, and network security. At the graduate level, students will begin to look more intensely at the crossroads of IT with areas such as business, legal issues, criminality, and so on. As an example, the University of Maryland University College offers a Master of Science in Cybersecurity that takes a multi-disciplinary approach to its curriculum.
It is possible to earn a cybersecurity degree online today thanks to the advances of technology and the fact that a number of schools are on board with distance learning for this career. Utica College in New York is able to offer both online and campus-based study for the career, and their courses cover many areas of cyber crime investigation and forensics. In fact, as far as distance learning is concerned, the school is one of the few within the U.S. to provide a cybersecurity degree online at the undergraduate level, according to its website. Its cybersecurity degree program also offers two concentrations, including cyber crime investigations and forensics and information assurance. Virginia College is another school that offers online study that could be right for many students. Its program is a master’s degree in cybersecurity that focuses on foundational knowledge in cryptography, forensics, intrusion detection, and firewall devices among other areas.
No matter the type of cybersecurity degree students are pursuing or whether they already possess substantial on-the-job knowledge, certification from a formal association is going to be important. A number of different types of certification are available today. Two popular certificates are the Cisco Certified Network Associate (CCNA), and the Certified Computer Forensics Examiner (CCFE) certification from the Information Assurance Certification Review Board (IACRB). These certifications test the knowledge of computer forensics and security professionals, and ensure that they are knowledgeable about techniques and learning in the field.
Accreditation is important for those who want to obtain one of the traditional, hybrid or online cybersecurity degrees. Students should look for professional organizations, such as the American Academy of Forensic Sciences (ACFS), to accredit schools offering a cybersecurity degree to assure proper rigor and instruction in the program. This is true whether receiving a campus-based degree or one of the online cybersecurity degrees from a school of higher learning.