What is Cybersecurity?
Cyber security professionals are the defenders and protectors of all online information, systems, technology infrastructure, devices, and so much more. These individuals fight every day to prevent bad actors and cyber-criminals from breaching networks, devices, and systems. They also stop the theft of protected data and information that can destroy people’s livelihoods and bankrupt businesses in mere moments. Cyber security professionals are truly today’s superheroes. With the growing threat of imminent cyber-attacks on a daily basis, the need for cyber security professionals to protect nearly every aspect of technology is greater than ever.
Bad actors are relentless in their pursuits, and they come in the form of criminal enterprises, nation states, lone wolves, and more. These individuals have only one agenda and that is to break through cyber protections to get what they want, which is typically financially based. In 2020, the FBI stated that cyber-attacks cost US businesses and individuals $3.5 billion. These criminals need to be stopped to secure the quality of life for the innocent people and businesses being attacked. Unfortunately, the US has a massive talent shortage and skills gap in the cyber security field. The country needs more cyber security education programs.
California is particularly concerned with these issues given that it has the fifth largest economy in the world, and it is often considered the tech capital of the world. The state is also the nation’s leader in passing policies relating to cyber-crime. At this time, California is doing more to protect its people and businesses, as well as all consumers of tech manufacturers, from these crippling invasions than the US government. Cyber security schools in California are influenced by their industry and current trends. Some of the biggest industries in the state are real estate, business services, manufacturing, information, healthcare, and others. As a result, it is possible to find cyber security degree programs that specialize in these industries.
Cyber Security Education in California
A cyber security specialist is just one of many cyber security career possibilities. These individuals assist with information systems security through analyzing, detecting, investigating, monitoring, and responding to various cyber security events. They will also work to minimize the threat, risk, and vulnerability of systems. These individuals might work independently, as a consultant, or as part of a dedicated team. Regardless, all cyber security specialists will work with other tech professionals and business departments to ensure a cyber security strategy is in place and that it is being followed and updated regularly.
Large corporations have been the primary employers of cyber security specialists over the years. However, today, the employer demographics of these individuals is rapidly changing. Because these individuals are necessary at all stages of development within data centers, networks, and software systems, all types of businesses and industries are in desperate need of these cyber professionals. Essentially, every industry and every type of business is in search of professionally trained and qualified cyber security team members including farmers, tech companies, small businesses, manufacturing, business services, and everything one can possibly imagine. This career is expected to grow by over 30% in the coming years.
Online Associate Degree in Cyber Security (AS)
Because cyber security is a fast-growing industry, a cyber security associate degree will be enough for most to secure a good job in the cyber security field. Most employers will require at least a bachelor’s degree for career advancement. As such, it is a good idea to pursue a two-year cyber security degree from a higher learning institution that has a transfer pathway established with four-year colleges and universities. This will save time and money in the end as well as to greatly improve one’s chance of being accepted into a four-year cyber security program.
It’s possible to apply for many different cyber security roles with an associate degree in cyber security such as web developer, cyber data analyst, information security associate, penetration tester, computer support specialist, and many others. Most positions available with this degree will be entry-level and in a support capacity. For those with an associate degree and several years of experience, more advanced positions may become an option.
Online Bachelor's Degree in Cyber Security (BS)
A bachelor’s degree in cyber security is the most desired education level for employers today. This degree level not only allows for a greater understanding of cyber security as a whole, but it also provides the option for specialization. With a cyber security bachelor’s degree, colleges and universities are starting to offer more specific degrees such as computer forensics, information systems, computer engineering, and others. Keep in mind that these programs often offer paid internships with potential long-term employers. This type of experience and networking connections can become crucial in securing a job after graduation.
The types of jobs one is qualified for with this type of degree will often have greater responsibilities than those roles that only require an associate degree. Graduates can also secure management roles with a bit of experience and a bachelor’s degree. For those with management and executive aspirations, be sure to take business course electives during a cyber security degree program. Cyber security roles available for a bachelor’s degree will vary based on years of experience and employer but can include information security manager, information assurance engineer, IT security consultant, information security analyst, and others.
Online Master's Degree in Cyber Security (MS or MC)
Cyber security master’s degrees and MBAs in cyber security can provide distinct advantages over those with simply a bachelor’s degree. Individuals with a graduate degree in cyber security will be heavily recruited and sought after to fill the highly lucrative and imperative leadership roles in any organization.
Basically, if someone wants to become a manager or executive at a highly reputable or influential organization, a master’s degree will be necessary. At this level, students will choose niches and specializations. An MBA is ideal for roles that work with both business and cyber security. The demand for these qualifications is rising rapidly.
However, master’s degrees are not just for management. Highly technical roles might also require a graduate degree. Individuals who plan to work within the engineering and architecture of systems, networks, and devices will also benefit from a master’s degree.
The types of employers and jobs for people with cyber security master’s degrees is as vast as the potential job titles. Some jobs might include a computer information system manager, a cyber security architect, cyber security director, information security analyst, or a chief information security officer.
Online PhD Degree in Cyber Security (PhD)
For now, a PhD or doctorate degree in cyber security is really only necessary for individuals who plan to become professors or researchers. These roles are becoming just as important as all other cyber security jobs in the fight against cyber-attacks. Individuals in research and education might just be the first line of defense in this digital war as they work tirelessly to discover new techniques and methodologies in protection and to educate future cyber security professionals.
Graduates can also secure additional jobs with a doctorate or PhD in cyber security. These are the highest level of degrees possible. As such, anyone who holds such a prestigious degree title will almost always have a competitive advantage in the cyber security job market, particularly given that nearly half of managers looking for career advancement already have a master’s degree. It’s possible to become an information security manager, information security director, C-suite officer, and more. Keep in mind that with this degree level also comes a substantial pay increase.
Become a Cybersecurity Professional in California
California is lacking half of the cyber security workforce necessary to protect all homes, businesses, organizations, and government agencies. Much like all states, California is eager to provide higher education opportunities in cyber security to fill the millions of vacancies. To begin, the proper education will provide the best competitive advantage in the marketplace for the best jobs. Experience is also important. It’s possible to complete an associate degree while gaining essential work experience at the same time. Many people will also secure internships while completing a bachelor’s degree. And those in pursuit of a master’s degree will often keep their full-time position while completing the program.
Both graduate certificates and professional certificates may be necessary for some individuals, particularly those who are switching careers from a non-tech field to cyber security. At the same time, certifications may be a requirement made by some employers due to the nature of the job and the fact that technology changes so quickly. The exact certification necessary will be different for every employer but might include CompTIA Security+, Cisco Certified Entry Networking Technician (CCENT), Cisco Certified Network Associate, Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP), Certified Ethical Hacker (CEH), or Microsoft Technology Associate (MTA).
Cyber security jobs are available in every aspect of technology, including systems, networks, peripherals, IoT devices, and more. It’s important that people with an understanding of each part of the business process are employed in cyber security for the best results; this includes operations, logistics, marketing, sales, etc. These professionals can also specialize in specific industries, from healthcare and clothing to school districts and corporations. A career in cyber security means that one will have to continually update their skills to remain employable. The best candidates for cyber security jobs will have a drive and passion for learning.
Careers for Cyber Security Graduates
Once you have earned a degree in cyber security, there are a wide variety of careers you may be qualified to pursue. Salaries and responsibilities vary, depending on the job you ultimately select.
Some of the most common options include:
- Security Analyst
A security analyst focuses on the overall infrastructure security of a company from the perspectives of IT and networks. These individuals must remain vigilant and up to date on the latest cyber-attacks regardless of their forms and points of origin. They may also study cyber-criminal behavior as a way to anticipate and thwart any future actions of bad actors.
- Security Engineer
A security engineer establishes a process to incorporate security controls within various information systems. These steps allow for greater performance throughout its operational abilities. Part of the job may also include breach prevention, data supervision, and regular tests and screenings.
- Information Technology Manager
An information technology manager oversees all resources and actions related to the whole of IT. These cyber-focused IT professionals will have years of experience working within various areas of cyber security and information technology including operations, applications, computer systems, hardware, software, and more. In this role, it will also be beneficial to have a solid understanding of business in general.
- Information Security Manager
An information security manager prioritizes specific security measures and controls for an organization. These individuals determine strategies and plans of action for implementing protocols and policies. They will focus on the protection of data, computers, and networks while also planning for database protection, disaster recovery, etc.
- Network Engineer
A network engineer, who might also be referred to as a network architect, is responsible for planning, constructing, and managing networks in all capacities. This might include designing, building, implementing, and maintaining various computer networks for an organization to use. These individuals will create the core foundation of a company’s IT system.
- Network Administrator
Network administrators are often a position that leads to leadership roles and management positions. These cyber security pros are responsible for managing the whole of the computer infrastructure with careful consideration for local area networks. They may also provide regular updates and monitor all activity.
- Systems Administrator
Systems administrators are similar to network administrators. The primary difference being that systems administrators are the gatekeepers and facilitators of all systems rather than networks. These individuals ensure that systems, servers, devices, etc., are all in healthy working order. They might also be in charge of user permissions.
- Penetration Tester
A penetration tester, which is also referred to as a pen tester or ethical hacker, is primarily responsible for attempting to breach the system of their employer. They will do their best to penetrate the existing cyber security infrastructure as a way to find weaknesses and repair them before bad actors find them. These IT professionals will examine networks, web-based applications, software programs, devices, and more for any areas that might be exploited.