What Can You Do with a Cybersecurity Degree?

Written By: Jordan Beliles

Published: 4/26/2022

As the threat of cyberattacks grows each year, cybersecurity is increasingly in high demand. In 2020, over 140,000 jobs were recorded in this sector alone. Public and private enterprises rely heavily on cybersecurity professionals to protect important information systems. These organizations include corporate entities in technology and energy as well as government organizations.

To be successful in this industry, you'll first need a degree in cybersecurity. With this degree, you'll have the opportunity to join the workforce and help protect companies from vulnerabilities in their network, analyze threats, and prevent data security breaches. Companies will depend on you to come up with creative solutions to defend against emerging cybersecurity threats. There are a wide variety of cybersecurity roles: Some positions focus on preventative computer systems, while others only come in after a security threat has been detected. Other roles require the application of both skill sets.


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In-Demand Cybersecurity Skills

Among the many skills required to be a successful cybersecurity expert, having a strong foundation of technical knowledge is among the most important. A cybersecurity degree will prepare you for many of the challenges you'll likely face when working with networks and information systems. Here are some of the most in-demand cybersecurity skills:

Computer Networking Skills

Understanding network security and computer networking is a crucial foundational skill that employers will rely on you to fully comprehend. Network security refers to a set of rules that you should follow in order to defend the integrity, confidentiality, and accessibility of the information you are protecting. You'll be required to analyze network security threats to protect a company's assets as well as their information and administration systems.

Forensic Skills

Many cybersecurity careers revolve around investigation. Once an incident occurs, forensic experts come in to assess the damage, determine the issue, and attempt to recover any lost or stolen information.

Platform Security Skills

Aside from network and administration systems, other platforms also require a high level of skill to protect from breaches and hacks. Having a basic sense for problem-solving and a solid understanding of cloud-based networks, mobile devices, operating systems and SaaS platforms will put you ahead of the pack.

Ethical Hacking Skills

To fully understand the threat that a hacker poses, it's important to know exactly what a hacker might do to the system you're in charge of protecting. Many cybersecurity experts are trained in ethical hacking. This means executing the exact pathway a hacker might take to infiltrate a system, then creating roadblocks to prevent the incident from ever occurring in the first place.

People Skills

It's important to let a potential employer know that you not only have technical expertise but team development and communication skills as well. This will help set you apart from the increasing number of cybersecurity job candidates. These skills range from presenting ideas to departments outside of IT to overseeing organizational structures as well as training and onboarding new team members.

Risk Assessment Skills

Assessing risks is a major part of any cybersecurity job. There are a nearly infinite number of ways an attack can occur. Therefore, it's important to understand where the biggest risks lie in the system or network you oversee. Identifying vulnerabilities and potential holes in security will help decrease the risk in a system. The more skilled you are at risk management and implementing appropriate security measures, the better prepared you'll be for whatever cyber breach lies ahead.

Cybersecurity Tools

There are a growing number of tools used in professional cybersecurity. This is especially true in recent years as many jobs move to remote-only. For penetration and vulnerability testing, you might be asked to understand tools such as Kali Linux or Wireshark. To remotely secure networks, there are platforms like Argus or Splunk. There are also a wide variety of tools for tasks, such as encryption, web vulnerability scanning, network intrusion detection, and firewall security management.

Types of Cyber Attacks

Cybersecurity attacks are becoming all too common. Not only are they increasing in frequency, but hackers are coming up with more and more inventive ways to infiltrate information systems. Some attacks are more familiar to everyday computer users — such as phishing or malware. Phishing often involves a hacker sending out mass emails to trick unsuspecting users into clicking a malicious link. Malware, on the other hand, includes attacks such as viruses, ransomware, and spyware. These types of attacks are often focused on stealing personal information for future cyber crimes or selling the information on the black market.



Not only are cybersecurity attacks increasing in frequency, but hackers are coming up with more and more inventive ways to infiltrate information systems.

Denial-of-Service attacks are when information systems are flooded with traffic — whether real or not — to overwhelm its resources. This renders the system useless by making it unable to perform basic functions. Then there's the Man-in-the-Middle attack, which involves a hacker inserting themselves between a transaction. This allows them to steal, or even change, valuable information.

The Internet of Things (IoT) is a particularly worrying way that hackers can infiltrate networks. IoT refers to everyday devices that are connected to the internet. These products include fitness activity trackers, home security systems, and smart devices, such as refrigerators, watches, door locks, and fire alarms. Hackers can use these devices as access points to your home network, where they can steal personal information through your WiFi.

Many more cybersecurity threats exist than we can list here — such as SQL injections, password attacks, cross-site scripting, and zero-day exploits — and more emerge every day.

Cybersecurity Careers

While it's clear that a lot of skills and training are required to have a successful cybersecurity career, if you're interested in one specific area of expertise, you'll be better prepared to land a position in this ever-growing field. For example, cybersecurity consultants are a niche in this profession. Companies hire them to ensure their systems are up-to-date and meet all regulatory requirements and security protocols. These security consultants investigate the risk factor of networks and data systems and often engage in ethical hacking to detect vulnerabilities. You may also choose to specialize in cybersecurity engineering, but these senior roles often require several years of experience, as they design systems that protect against cyber attacks.

Before choosing a career path in cybersecurity, it's best to learn more about the potential roles, future job projections, and how much you can earn with a cybersecurity degree. Below are some other job titles in this field, which include salary and job outlook data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS):

Information Security Analyst

An information security analyst is responsible for the overall protection of an employer's data and network systems. As with many all-encompassing cybersecurity careers, this one requires proactive and reactive skills. These analysts review data on a regular basis to search for vulnerabilities. If a breach occurs,they are responsible for communicating the attack to the executive team and offering creative solutions.

  • Median Annual Salary: $102,600
  • Job Growth: 33%
Cryptanalyst

Cryptanalysts study the codes that act as the lines of defense for information security systems. They decipher and understand the encryption codes that systems use to protect data. These are often long and complex lines of code, such as siphers and algorithms, which make it difficult for an attacker to penetrate a system. This position involves a lot of mathematics making it one of the most analytical cybersecurity jobs. According to the BLS, cryptanalysts fall under the job category of mathematicians and staticians.

  • Median Annual Salary: $96,280
  • Job Growth: 33%
Computer and Information Systems Managers

If you prefer to work at all levels of cybersecurity and information technology within an organization, a computer and information systems manager might be the best cybersecurity career for you. They're responsible for creating and maintaining all networks, data, and information systems. This sometimes means designing the systems themselves. They work alongside all levels of a company including the executives and entry-level employees.

  • Median Annual Salary: $159,010
  • Job Growth: 11%
Penetration and Vulnerability Tester

A penetration and vulnerability tester works to investigate and define flaws in a security system. They scan code and perform exploits to see if they can find ways that a hacker might attack. If an exploit is found, a penetration tester creates a report that outlines how dangerous the defect is and list any associated risks.

  • Median Annual Salary: $92,870
  • Job Growth: 5-10%

Where Can I Work With a Cybersecurity Degree?

Cybersecurity degrees will allow you to work in a wide variety of enterprise businesses and public organizations that rely on complex information systems and networks. If you're curious what you can do with a cybersecurity degree, take a look at all the opportunities you'll have to join different sectors of the IT workforce.

Government Agencies
Many government agencies are recognizing the need for cybersecurity. In May of 2021, the White House released a jobs plan fact sheet that outlined increased spending for cybersecurity roles. Graduates will be in high demand for positions at the Department of Homeland Security, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and Cyber Security and Information Security Agency.

Law Enforcement
Law enforcement agencies are also a part of the local and federal government. However, positions in this field focus more on criminal threats. As such, hackers who penetrate private and public information systems are treated as criminals. With a cybersecurity degree focused on forensic investigation, you'll be in high demand for a role with the Federal Bureau of Investigation or Department of Homeland Security.

Finance
The finance sector receives one of the highest rates of cyberattacks each year. It's no surprise that hackers are interested in infiltrating this industry. With millions of transactions happening every day around the world, there is a strong need for trained experts with a degree in cybersecurity.

Manufacturing
According to IBM's Data Breach Intelligence Index for 2022, manufacturing is now the most attacked industry in the world. Hackers often use phishing and malware attacks to disrupt supply chains and other tricky tactics involving cloud-based messaging and storage services. Cybersecurity degrees help prepare you to analyze and prevent the increasing network and information threats in the manufacturing sector.

Infrastructure and Energy
Infrastructure systems are vast and ever-expanding. Transportation alone consists of a large number of individual systems, such as freight, postal, rail, shipping, and public transit. These systems are what keep society functioning properly. Security threats to energy utilities systems, for example, can disrupt daily life for citizens around the world. Hackers can stall freight lines, shut off electrical grids or gas lines, and steal information from postal and shipping companies. These threats make cybersecurity jobs in infrastructure and energy an important line of defense.

Cybersecurity Certifications

Cybersecurity certifications may bolster your chances of landing a high-paying job. You can apply to complete a certificate as a working professional who's seeking a higher paid role or as a student who's interested in exploring cybersecurity before committing to a more lengthy degree.

Professional Certifications

Once you graduate with a degree and spend some time in the workforce, you can apply for a professional certification in a specific cybersecurity field. Keep in mind, many require years of work experience before you can qualify. Here are some of the most common certificates for professionals:

Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP)

Certified Information Systems Auditor (CISA)

Certified Information Security Manager (CISM)

Security+

GIAC Security Essentials Certification (GSEC)

Certified Ethical Hacker (CEH)

Offensive Security Certified Professional (OSCP)

GIAC Security Essentials Certification (GSEC)

Systems Security Certified Practitioner (SSCP)

CompTIA Advanced Security Practitioner (CASP+)

The Bottom Line

Cybersecurity roles are in high demand across the board. With a bachelor's in cybersecurity or a master's degree in this field, you'll likely have job opportunities that allow you to join established corporations, growing start-ups, government agencies, and non-profit organizations. You can choose from various roles in digital forensics, analytics, and engineering, with each playing a very important role in protecting computer security, including data, information, and networks.

Still undecided? Consider similar degrees, such as a bachelor's degree in homeland security, law enforcement, or computer science.

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