What Kind of Computer Degree Is Most Helpful in Getting a Job in Cyber Security?    

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 With the evolution of technology, crime has evolved, too. Today, there are numerous types of cybercrime, or crimes committed using computer technology – and that means an increased need for cyber security measures that protect against hacking and other digital offenses. It takes exceptional knowledge of computer technology to develop the security measures used to stop cyberattacks, which is why computer degrees are the best majors for aspiring cyber security personnel. Some of the computer degrees to consider when you want to work in this field include computer science, computer engineering, information technology and cyber security and digital forensics.

DegreeQuery.com is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.

Computer Science Degrees

A degree in computer science is a versatile academic option that prepares you for numerous career opportunities within and outside of cybersecurity. Generally, computer science is the field of computer studies that focuses primarily on the software used in computational systems. Algorithms, programming, computing theory, database systems and numerical analysis are all areas of emphasis found in a computer science program.

Because you will study programming languages, problem-solving algorithms and database systems that can store potentially sensitive information, studying computer science puts you in a good position to implement software-based cybersecurity measures. Some computer science programs allow for a cyber security concentration or specialization. In these specialized programs, students round out their fundamental computer science curriculum with studies in cyberattacks and defenses, cybersecurity and Internet architecture and the procedures for writing secure code that reduces vulnerability to hacking and other cyberattacks.

Computer science is closely related to mathematics and to the theory of computer systems and applications, rather than the purely practical field of programming. As a result, you are likely to take several math courses in subjects such as statistics, algebra and calculus.

Computer Engineering Degrees

Even computer buffs don’t always know whether to major in computer science or computer engineering. A major difference between these two programs of study is that computer engineering encompasses both the hardware and software that compose computer systems. Computer engineering is a great option for students who enjoy taking apart the physical components of computers to understand how they work and then putting them back together again.

To develop the practical expertise to design and build both of these components of computer systems, students take a blend of coursework. Everything from the system operations classes common in computer science programs to studies in physics and hands-on work putting together integrated circuits can appear in your curriculum.

Some computer engineering degree programs may allow students to specialize in cyber security by taking courses in computer security, computer network security or cryptography along with classes in networks and computer systems and software design.

Information Technology Degrees

The field of information technology (IT) emphasizes the use of computer technology for business purposes and problem-solving. IT has less to do with creating new software applications from a theory or with designing hardware and software components and more to do with selecting the right combinations of existing technologies to serve a purpose. Students of undergraduate IT programs often take classes in the concepts of information technology, networking, database systems and software development. Classes in project management, introduction to management and IT consulting skills reflect the program’s emphasis on business. Students also learn the principles of information systems architecture and the skills involved in system analysis and design.

Businesses must be careful about the security of their computer networks and the information they contain, so there’s some potential overlap between information technology and cyber security. In fact, there’s a subfield of IT, known as information security and assurance, that focuses on security. Students pursuing a concentration in information security may take classes such as computer forensics, digital forensics, intrusion detection and incident response and the principles of information systems security.

At the master’s level, many IT degree programs are offered as a Master of Business Administration (MBA) degree program rather than a Master of Science (M.S.) program.

Cyber Security Degrees

If you’re positive that your computer career interests lie in the field of cyber security and you don’t mind sacrificing the versatility of a broader degree option, consider a specialized cyber security degree. In a bachelor’s in cyber security program, students delve deeper into the challenges of protecting computer systems and data from cyberattacks and cybercrime.

Coursework in a specialized cyber security program may include computer forensics, digital forensics, network security concepts, information systems security, ethical hacking and cybersecurity policies. Of course, students still need to understand the basics of computer systems. However, in addition to studying, for example, the administration of a Linux system, the curriculum also would include a course dedicated to security for Linux systems.

The main drawback of a cyber security degree is that its narrower focus means that students don’t develop as strong of a foundation in other areas of computer science, computer engineering or information technology.

Additional Resources

What Is the Career Outlook for Cyber Security?

Is the Field of Cybersecurity a Growing Industry?

How Advanced a Degree Do I Need to Work in Cryptography?