What degree is best for a career in Cybersecurity?

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The Cybersecurity Market Report is published quarterly by Cybersecurity Ventures. They cover the business of cybersecurity, including market sizing and industry forecasts from consolidated research by IT analyst firms, emerging trends, cybercrime, and employment. This publication predicts that cybercrime will cost the world $6 trillion annually by 2021. In conjunction with this statistic is their anticipation that there will be a 12-15% year-over-year growth through 2021 in profession related to cybercrime. The U.S. government is increasing its budget from $14 billion in 2016 to !19 billion in 2017 for cyber protection.

These figures should pique the interest of anyone contemplating a career in the field of cyber crime. But what is the best degree or is there one? First, we need to look at three key terms, as defined by the National Institute of Standards and Technology: Information Technology Security, Information Systems Security and CyberSecurity (aka cyber security):

IT Security:  The process of implementing measures and systems designed to securely protect and safeguard information utilizing various forms of technology.

Information Systems Security: Protection of information systems against unauthorized access to or modification of information, whether in storage, processing, or transit, and against the denial of service to authorized users, including those measures necessary to detect, document, and counter such threats.

Cyber Security: The ability to protect or defend the use of cyberspace from cyber attacks.

The job functions and degree curriculum may overlap in IT Security and Cyber Security. According to the cyber risk rating company, Bitsight, Information Security is concerned with protecting a company’s data from unauthorized access. Whereas cyber security’s function is to protect the data against electronic access. Since most cyber attacks involve electronic access, the two professions meld together.

Therefore, it appears that a degree in Cybersecurity or IT would be appropriate to begin a career in cyber crime. For example, Western Governors University (WGU) offers a Bachelor of Science in IT Security. The course material emphasizes: Network & Security, Data Management, Operating Systems, Business of IT, and Scripting & Programming. Another example is Colorado Technical University offers a Bachelor of Science in Cybersecurity. Their program entails: Computer Forensics, Security Compliance, Software Assurance, and Vulnerability Assessment. The CTU curriculum is more specific to the topic of cybersecurity.

RELATED: The 20 Best Masters in Cyber Security Online

The United States Intelligence Community Intelligence Careers (IC) lists the following education preferences for jobs in Computer Science:

  • Computer Engineering
  • Computer Networking and Security
  • Computer Networking or Information Assurance
  • Computer Science or Computer Engineering
  • Computer Science or Computer Programming
  • Data Science & Analysis
  • Electrical Engineering
  • Information Assurance Certification
  • Information Technology or Information Systems

Under their IC list for jobs in the category of Cyber, the education stipulated is exactly the same, except omit Data Science & Analysis. This means that entities such as the National Security Agency (NSA) seem to prefer the IT or computer science/engineering degrees over the cybersecurity degrees.

An important consideration when selecting your degree and college of choice is to focus on those deemed National Centers of Academic Excellence (CAE). The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and The National Security Agency (NSA) jointly sponsor the CAE program. These agencies designate specific 2 and 4-year colleges and universities as CAEs in Cyber Defense (CD). According to the National Institute for Cybersecurity Careers and Studies, over 200 top colleges and universities across 44 states, the District of Columbia, and the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico are designated CAEs for cyber-related degree programs. Many of these colleges/universities offer bachelor’s degrees and master’s programs online in cybersecurity.

Related Resources: 

What Degree Do I Need to Be an Intelligence Analyst?

What Degree Do I Need to Be a Crime Analyst?

What Is the Benefit of a Degree in Cybersecurity vs. Network Security?