What is Cyber Security?
Are you considering earning a degree in cyber security? If you enjoy working computers and have an interest in keeping networks secure, this may be a good subject area to study. Most professionals in this career field fall under the umbrella of information security analysts, who are responsible for planning and carrying out security measures that protect a company, organization, or government’s computer systems. Cyber-attacks can occur frequently and are constantly changing, however, which means cyber security jobs are constantly changing and expanding.
The daily tasks and responsibilities of cyber security professionals can vary significantly, depending on the type and size of the industry that employs them. The primary focus, however, will be protecting data, devices, and networks from criminal activity, as well as preventing unapproved access. They may also monitor networks for security breaches, investigate violations, install/utilize firewall and data encryption software, and prepare reports documenting security issues and the damage they caused. Additionally, many professionals conduct penetration testing, research information technology trends, develop security standards, and recommend potential enhancements.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, job availability for information security analysts is expected to increase by 31% from 2019 to 2029. This is significantly faster than the average for all occupations and will add approximately 40,900 new jobs to the market nationwide. This projected growth is primarily due to an increasingly high demand for information security analysts as a result of the growing frequency of cyber-attacks. Companies and organizations in every industry will need qualified professionals to develop innovative solutions to prevent hackers from stealing critical information or creating problems for their computer networks.
Cyber Security Education in Connecticut
A degree in cyber security can prepare graduates for a wide variety of employment opportunities. Information technology expertise is valuable to companies and organizations in every industry, making it possible for graduates to find employment in various places.
Some of the most common employment opportunities include:
- Information Security Analyst
- Penetration Tester
- Forensic Computer Analyst
- Security Architect
- Chief Information Security Officer
The use of technology, as well as attempts to exploit those who use it, are becoming more and more prevalent, which is leading to an increased demand for individuals with computer and information security skills. With people using electronic devices and the internet for more tasks, from posting on social media platforms and shopping for groceries to sending work correspondence and managing finances, cyber security professionals play a vital role in society today. In fact, they are often involved in stopping and catching criminals who seek to misuse network accounts and data. Some of the greatest and most common threats graduates will be trained to combat include malware, password theft, traffic interception, phishing, social engineering, and ransomware.
Cyber security jobs are usually best suited for individuals who enjoy problem-solving and are detail oriented. The most successful professionals in the field are also likely to possess great analytical skills, as well ingenuity.
Information is the seventh largest industry in Connecticut. It accounts for $13.6 billion in revenue each year. Additionally, all five of the top industries in the state rely on cyber security professionals to keep their employees and clients safe. Real estate, finance, insurance, business, manufacturing, education, health care, and social assistance account for a significant amount of Connecticut’s revenue and require extensive network protections.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) also reports that information security analyst occupations are quite prominent in Connecticut. This sector accounted for 880 jobs in May 2020, which is more than about half of other states. The annual mean wage for local professionals in this field was $103,230, which is significantly higher than the national median wage of $41,950 as reported for all occupations. Additionally, there are many other titles, which the BLS does not track, that cyber security specialists can find their way into with a degree.
There are a wide range of companies and organizations that benefit from hiring graduates with cyber security degrees, which makes demand for qualified individuals high in Connecticut. The state has many notable academic programs available, both on-campus and online, for those interested in pursuing this major. Those planning to work in Connecticut after graduation should strongly consider enrolling in one of these programs, as local colleges and universities tend to offer the most geographically relevant educations.
There are a wide variety cyber security career paths available to those who are interested. Some jobs are very specialized, necessitating extensive formal and on-the-job training. Others, on the other hand, require only minimal preparation. While some positions call for less formal instruction than others, it is important to note that almost every employment opportunity in this field requires some level of a higher education.
Those interested in earning a degree in cyber security, computer science, or a related field can choose to enroll in associate, bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral programs. Each option has benefits and drawbacks, so it’s imperative that you carefully consider your personal and professional goals prior to submitting applications.
Degree titles and curriculums are also likely to vary from institution to institution. Always review program details, admissions requirements, and course selections thoroughly.
Some of the most common cyber security degree titles at every level include:
- Cyber Security
- Information Assurance
- Information Security
- Information Systems Security
- Cyber Operations
- Computer Forensics and Digital Investigations
Associate Degree in Cyber Security (AS)
An associate degree in cyber security is designed to prepare graduates for further education or for entry-level positions in the field. Most programs provide students with a foundational introduction to computer science and information technology. The majority of employers, however, expect candidates to have bachelor’s degrees, making it difficult to find jobs after graduation. This is especially true when competing against other professionals with more education.
Associate degrees in cyber security do take less time to complete. In most cases, programs consist of approximately 60 credit hours of coursework, which full-time students can complete in as little as two years. Every program is different, but those enrolled should expect course topics to include computer forensics, cyber-crime, networking, database security, and CompTIA security.
While bachelor’s degrees often lead to more employment opportunities, associate degree graduates can still find employment. Some common career options include computer support specialists, computer programmers, and database administrators. Alternatively, accredited programs are ideal for helping students prepare to enroll in further education. Credits can often be transferred to other institutions and applied towards bachelor degree program requirements. Doing this can decrease the number of classes needed by half.
Bachelor's Degree in Cyber Security (BS)
An associate degree in cyber security may be enough to qualify candidates for some entry-level positions in the field, but most professionals choose to pursue a bachelor degree. This level of education provides students more opportunities and often leads to increased pay. Programs typically explore information technology in greater depth and allow students to specialize in a particular sub-field.
Bachelor degrees usually consist of 120 credit hours of coursework and take full-time students approximately four years to complete. There are ways to shorten this timeframe, however. Candidates can transfer credits from prior education or enroll in accelerated programs. Graduates can either continue their education or find employment. Those who choose to pursue advanced degrees will need a minimum grade point average and GRE scores in order to apply to graduate programs.
Every program will have a slightly different curriculum, but most will cover similar topics. Some of the most common required courses tend to focus on the fundamentals of networking, installing and configuring windows servers, ethical hacking, and information systems. While graduates can pursue various employment opportunities, most become cyber security analysts, information security analysts, or computer forensic analysts.
Master's Degree in Cyber Security (MS or MC)
While master’s degrees are not a common requirement among employers in the cyber security field, choosing to earn one is likely to open many doorways. Not only does attaining this level of education often result in more employment opportunities, but it makes candidates significantly more competitive in the job market, often leads to higher salaries, helps with faster promotions, and increases overall job security.
Most cyber security master degree programs consist of 30 to 60 credit hours of coursework and can be completed by full-time students in about two years. Curriculums vary, but are generally more specialized in order to prepare graduates for more administrative positions. Common courses include penetration testing and vulnerability analysis, applied cryptography, digital forensics, and information security strategy and policy.
Graduates can choose to pursue employment as security application programmers, penetration testers, and vulnerability analysts. They may also consider continuing their education further by applying for and enrolling in a doctoral program.
Enrolling in a master’s in business administration (MBA) degree could also prove beneficial, especially for individuals interested in opening their own cyber security businesses. Graduates also tend to qualify for supervisory roles within the companies and organizations they work for. This could lead to more promotion opportunities and higher pay.
Most master’s degrees in business administration range from 30 to 60 credit hours of coursework and take full-time students approximately two years to complete. Accelerated programs are available, however, and often require less time. Coursework tends to explore business fundamentals at a much deeper level and helps students develop a comprehensive understanding of how businesses and organizations operate.
PhD Degree in Cyber Security (PhD)
A doctoral degree in cyber security is rarely necessary, but it can be beneficial for some. These programs are generally ideal for current professionals seeking to attain the research, analytical, and advocacy skills necessary to be an active leader in the information technology field or looking to enter academia. Graduates often enjoy some of the best employment opportunities, promote faster, and earn higher salaries.
Cyber security programs at the doctoral level usually consist of about 60 credit hours of graduate-level coursework and take between two and three years to complete. Coursework is rigorous and research-based, covering topics such as security testing, advanced malware analysis, theory of computation, and advanced algorithms. Students are often offered opportunities to specialize their instruction in a particular area of interest such as embedded systems, cyberinfrastructure, or human-centered computing.
After finishing the necessary coursework, passing all qualifying exams, pursuing independent research, and prepare a dissertation, graduates can expect to find employment in highly technical positions or as educators. Some potential career pathways include corporate researcher, policy advisor, and university professor.
Become a Cyber Security Professional in Connecticut
The first step to becoming a cyber security professional in Connecticut, because the state does not require any specific certification or licensure, is determining which area of the field you are most interested in. There are a wide variety of options available and some will require more specialized training than others. Knowing your ultimate career goals will help you determine which academic program will serve you best.
It’s important to consider your options carefully when selecting a cyber security program in Connecticut. Your career aspirations will often dictate the level of higher education you require – associate’s, bachelor’s, master’s, or doctoral – as well as which concentration may be necessary. Depending on your preferred career, you can also choose to pursue an education in a related field, such as information technology or computer science. In some cases, these programs may be more beneficial.
Additionally, keep in mind that some employers offer tuition assistance for current employees who are earning advanced degrees. As a result, it’s not uncommon for bachelor’s degree graduates to find employment prior to enrolling in master’s degree programs. It’s always worth checking whether or not such assistance is available at your place of employment.
Once you have earned the necessary degree(s), it may also be helpful to pursue various certifications and/or licensures in the cyber security field. There are numerous companies and organizations with programs that are designed to help boost specific skills related to information technology. Many can be completed while working full-time, making it easy to specialize within the field and stand out among other professionals. While the state does not require this for professionals to work in the state, most companies have specific certification requirements for their employees in this field.
Some employers may also require additional security clearances for information technology professionals. This typically applies most to those who will be working with classified data within a government agency. If you plan to apply to positions like this, expect the Department of Defense to perform a background investigation. The process generally takes several months or even a year to complete.
Careers for Cyber Security Graduates
After earning a cyber security degree and acquiring any needed or preferred certifications, you will be qualified to apply for a wide variety of positions in Connecticut.
Salaries and daily duties will vary, but some of the most common career options in this field include:
- Security Analyst
- Information Security Engineer
- Information Technology Manager
- Information Security Manager
- Network Engineer
- Network Administrator
- Systems Administrator
- Information Technology Director
- Cloud Information Security Engineer
- Information Security Analyst
- Security Engineer
- Security Architect
- Penetration Tester
- Chief Information Security Officer (CISO)
- Information Security Analyst:
Information security analysts are responsible for providing security solutions to the companies and organizations they work for. They regularly perform research, collect data, and develop security strategies for implementation. These professionals also document, prioritize, and analyze security threats and incidents as well as ensure other employees are taking the appropriate measures to keep information safe. According to PayScale, information security analysts make an average base salary of $73,100 per year.
- Information Security Engineer:
Information security engineers are responsible for ensuring the integrity of all data that is communicated, shared, and stored by company employees who may be spread over multiple locations. They also develop and maintain protocols dictating the safe use, entry, transmission, and retrieval of potentially sensitive data. According to PayScale, information security engineers make an average base salary of $94,600 per year.
- Chief Information Security Officer (CISO):
Chief information security officers (CISOs) are responsible for overseeing information systems and security for the companies and organizations they work for. They regularly review, report on, and recommend solutions to current threats in order to provide better protection. These professionals also maintain the various procedures, standards, and policies set in place to ensure all private data is kept safe. According to PayScale, chief information security officers make an average base salary of $165,900 per year.
- Penetration Tester:
Penetration testers are responsible for conducting cyber security assessments for the companies, organizations, and government agencies they work for. They use a wide variety of tools to probe networks in order to find potential areas of vulnerability. These professionals then report their findings, as well as any recommendations for mitigating future problems, to leadership so that the necessary changes can be made. According to PayScale, penetration testers make an average base salary of $86,350 per year.
- Security Architect:
Security architects are responsible for creating network and computer security systems for the companies and organizations they work for. They often oversee the planning, research, and design processes that lead to various security developments. These professionals also often delegate specific programming tasks to other team members and work to address any problems within the system when reported. According to PayScale, security architects make an average base salary of $125,450 per year.
- Security Engineer:
Security engineers are responsible for developing technological solutions to increase the security of the companies and organizations they work for. They often create ways to solve existing security issues, as well as protocols to address possible risks in the future. These professionals tend to work extensively with applications and production equipment that is experiencing technical problems. According to PayScale, software engineers make an average base salary of $94,200 per year.