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What is Cyber Security?
Cyber security is a rapidly growing part of today's technological picture. With words like malware and ransomware attacks becoming ever present in our collective vocabulary, so have cyber security professionals become ever present in today's contemporary corporate structure. Since so many of our assets are now held in a digital format, we are ever reliant on these security experts to safeguard our money, valuables, and even homes.
A cyber security specialist is a high-tech professional who specializes in keeping computer networks and databases safe from hackers, malware, and viruses, among other threats. They are specifically trained to identify weaknesses in computer systems and to help eliminate those weaknesses. This field is currently experiencing high demand and those with an accredited cyber security degree in Florida are sure to find brilliant careers in the niche of their choosing.
Cyber security specialists can focus on a number of sub-specialties such as penetration testing, cryptography, blockchain technology, and network architecture, among others. These professionals can also find employment in a variety of environments. Some work for the government in law enforcement or as IT professionals within an agency. There are also cyber security professionals who work for financial and other private institutions. Others can work as remote consultants. Almost all of them will work on computers scrutinizing computer code and security protocols.
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Online Cyber Security Education in Florida
To address this growing need for cyber security, Florida's colleges and universities have risen to the challenge and now offer first-rate cyber security training to students. Whether a school offers a degree in cyber security, most computer science and information technology programs include coursework in cyber security. There are also cyber security degree programs at the associate degree level, as offered through Florida's community college system.
While most of Florida's cyber security degree programs are top-notch, students should also look out for programs that are considered a Center of Academic Excellence, or CAE. This designation comes from a collaboration between the Department of Homeland Security and the National Security Agency, the largest employers of cyber security professionals in the United States. This credential would indicate that graduates are prepared to handle the cyber-attacks that threaten our national security. The curriculum is thus expected to be rigorous and thorough.
Upon graduation from a cyber security degree program, Florida's economy is sure to have jobs for a graduate. There are jobs available with federal law enforcement agencies that have outposts in Florida as well as state agencies that need information security professionals who can strengthen their cyber security systems and protocols. On top of this, Florida's strong private sectors need security professionals to protect their cyber assets. The financial sector in particular needs robust protection, but also the state's healthcare systems need protection. Indeed, hospitals are known to be the target of ransomware attacks. Their patient records all need to be secured so that they aren't held hostage.
All in all, Florida is a terrific state in which to start and build a successful career in cyber security. The dynamic and ever-changing economy is sure to provide challenges and rewards for a lifetime.
Online Associate Degree in Cyber Security (AS)
There are many community colleges that now offer an associate cyber security degree or other associated technology degrees. These programs are able to help students launch into the cyber security field with the knowledge necessary to help their firm achieve top security. Even the top cyber security accreditation, CAE, is available to these associate degree programs.
When students start off from a community college, they see that their up-front tuition costs are far lower than those from a Florida college or university. They also tend to find smaller class sizes and a peer group that is just as engaged with cyber security as any other student. Since many community college instructors are working cyber security professionals who love teaching, the level of instruction in a community college can often equal or surpass that found in top Florida universities. Thus, they can use their associate cyber security degree as an affordable academic launchpad for their career or as a foundation for more study including professional certifications, a bachelor’s degree, and more.
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Online Bachelor's Degree in Cyber Security (BS)
For most employers, a bachelor’s cyber security degree is the minimum requirement for their hiring process. These degrees also offer students a lot more in terms of fleshing out their cyber security education to include more programming knowledge as well as deeper explorations into specific areas of cyber security such as penetration testing, security architecture, and database security. A four-year degree that concentrates on information security offers other advantages.
For instance, a bachelor’s cyber security degree can allow students the opportunity to take on a minor concentration that informs their primary focus. Some complimentary fields include mathematics, computer science, and even philosophy. Along the way, students can find internships that will allow them to gain real-world experience in cyber security. A full bachelor’s degree is also a necessary prerequisite for a master’s cyber security degree and many professional certifications. Those professional certifications can be equally, if not more important when it comes to advancing a career.
Online Master's Degree in Cyber Security (MS)
For those who want to see their salaries and status explode, a master’s cyber security degree is vital to long-term growth and success. In fact, many will want to consider an MBA if their desire is to move into management and the C-suites. The title of chief information security officer (CISO) often requires that candidates have deep training in business as well as their technological focus. For these professionals, an MBA that is paired with an information security concentration is optimal.
Yet another option is to pursue a dual MBA. These programs have been flourishing in the past few decades as professionals need a broad base of knowledge and expertise. Cyber security experts can thus find a dual MBA program that will fast-track two graduate degrees, one in business and the other in cyber security. Dual MBA programs typically take three years to complete and will launch your resume to the top of the stack.
Online PhD Degree in Cyber Security (PhD)
High tech fields are one area where big business seems to seek out those with a PhD or doctorate degree. Cyber security experts who go the full distance and achieve a doctoral degree will find that their opportunities expand greatly. In fact, many will even leave their doctoral programs prior to full completion. That is, it's not uncommon for students to complete the PhD coursework yet not finish their dissertations. These professionals are known as ABD, or all but dissertation and this status is unlikely to have a negative impact on their careers.
If a cyber security professional can show that they have PhD level skills in areas such as cryptography, data science, or other areas pertinent to information security, they will have to fend off all of the dream job offers. Many of these offers may end up be an extension of their academic work as many of them will land positions where they conduct vital research projects that will result in new products or information security protocols.
Become a Cyber Security Professional in Florida
Cyber security is still a relatively new field as far as the mass market is concerned, but it is certainly rooted in the more familiar computer science. Youngsters who show early aptitude for computers and technology may be great candidates for cyber security jobs later in life. Once they can recognize this innate talent and desire, they can begin to build on it both in school and in their extra-curricular projects. In fact, their informal learning may be as important to long-term success as their formal, academic training. Thus, to become a cyber security professional in Florida it is important to get a start as early as possible.
Some early signs that a youngster could be a Florida cyber security professional manifest in school. Early on, kids who show strong talents in mathematics and science may be sowing the seeds for later success in technological fields. If they have courses available in computing, they might consider taking them and thus begin learning how code works. At home, budding cyber security professionals might explore free online resources that will help them with fun projects involving video game production.
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Later, in high school, students should see if there are Florida schools that focus on STEM subjects including computer science, software development, and information technology. They should also be sure to keep up their studies in mathematics, which will be vital to long-term success. During high school they will surely find friends with similar interests with whom they might begin creating fun software projects or otherwise collaborating on their common interests. When students explore their academic interests in informal ways, they are likely to find new and creative approaches.
When it comes time to apply to college, students should seek out computer science programs that focus on cyber security or degrees that focus on the field exclusively. One key indicator that a program will help launch a cyber security career is accreditation as a Center of Academic Excellence (CAE). These programs are so named by a collaboration between the Department of Homeland Security and the National Security Agency. There are CAE degree programs at all levels of higher education, with CAE degrees starting at the associate degree level. Once degreed with a CAE-approved diploma, students will find that they are on their way to long-term success in information security.
Careers for Cyber Security Graduates
- Security Analyst:
These cyber security experts spend their days analyzing the security systems and protocols for their firm or client. They also research new threats to their systems as well as new software or other solutions. Analysts may work as part of a larger cyber security team and their work will be vital when it comes to knowing what parts of a security system need work.
- Information Technology Manager:
Some firms have whole departments dedicated to information technology. The managers are often IT experts who either have master’s degrees in IT or an MBA with a concentration in IT or a related field. In their daily work, IT managers delegate workers to address matters related to efficiency, security, and maintenance of the firm's computing systems.
- Information Security Manager:
These professionals oversee a team of information security (infosec) professionals. They might also be involved in hiring new security workers or contracting with outside security professionals who can help strengthen their firm's security. For instance, if the firm has built a new information security system, they may hire an outside penetration tester to ascertain its relative vulnerability.
- Network Engineer:
Each firm needs a rock-solid network over which it can conduct its day-to-day business. These networks are designed, constructed, and maintained by network engineers who constantly strive to make the network as efficient as possible. In the case of multinational corporations, of which Florida has many, network engineers address not only matters of simple networking but also cyber security issues as well.
- Network Administrator:
These administrators work on a firm's network and see to its day-to-day operation. They help employees and special clients set up user accounts on the network and assign each account its own set of permissions. They must work with the database team to facilitate these permissions as well as meet with department heads to determine what aspects of the network need adjustments or enhancements.
- Information Technology Director:
This professional sits above their IT managers and help direct the overall trajectory of a firm's IT infrastructure. They most often have a master’s degree in IT or an MBA with an IT concentration. In some firms a person of this stature may be called the Chief Information Officer or there may be firms large enough to have multiple directors that answer to the CIO.
- Cloud Information Security Engineer:
This is an increasingly important position in any firm. Cloud computing is becoming a part of daily life for many corporations and individuals alike so there is a great need for infosec in this sector. These engineers thus are charged with creating the security systems needed to ensure everyone's safety.
- Penetration Tester:
These infosec professionals are often referred to as pentesters. They are also known as ethical hackers or white hat hackers. They are typically seasoned cyber security professionals who work as consultants in the infosec space. Their job is to attempt to break into a computer network or database as though they were a nefarious hacker. They determine what, if any, vulnerabilities exist and report to their client or boss.