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What is Cyber Security?
Because so many industries rely on cyber security professionals, demand for qualified job candidates in the state is relatively high. A wide range of companies and organizations benefit significantly from hiring graduates with degrees in this field. As a result, there are numerous colleges and universities in Georgia that offer notable academic programs, both on-campus and online. While remote learning allows you to enroll in nearly any institution you want and take classes from anywhere with an internet connection, choosing a local program is best if you plan to work in the state after graduation. Schools in the area often have better relationships with local companies and offer the most geographically relevant educations.
A degree in cyber security can prepare graduates for a wide variety of employment opportunities across numerous industries. This does, however, mean that job descriptions and responsibilities can vary significantly.
The daily tasks of cyber security professionals often depend on the type and size of the industry that employs them. In general, the primary focus tends to be protecting data, devices, and networks from criminal activity, as well as preventing unapproved access. In fact, they often work to stop and catch criminals who seek to misuse network accounts and data. Other common tasks include monitoring networks for security breaches, investigating violations, installing/utilizing firewall and data encryption software, and preparing reports documenting security issues and the damage they caused. Additionally, these professionals sometimes conduct penetration testing, research information technology trends, develop security standards, and recommend potential enhancements.
Cyber security professionals play a vital role in society today. People utilize and depend on electronic devices and the internet continuously to complete a wide variety of tasks, from posting on social media platforms and shopping for groceries to sending work correspondence and managing personal finances. As the use of technology, and the subsequent attempts to exploit those using it, becomes more prevalent, familiarity with computers and information security will only become more valuable over time. Notably, most program graduates are trained to combat common threats like malware, password theft, traffic interception, phishing, social engineering, and ransomware.
Individuals who are best suited for cyber security jobs tend to be highly detailed oriented and enjoy solving problems. The most successful professionals in the field also likely possess great analytical and ingenuity skills.
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Online Cyber Security Education in Georgia
Are you considering enrolling in a cyber security degree program in Georgia? You may enjoy studying this subject area if you like and have an aptitude for working with computers and network security. Most professionals in this career field play a big part in planning and carrying out security measures that protect computer systems. They often become information security analysts who work for various companies, organizations, and government agencies. Because cyber-attacks can occur at any time and attack methods change so regularly, those in this profession generally must adapt to fluctuating responsibilities.
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. While there are several factors expected to impact this growth, the primary cause is likely the growing frequency of cyber-attacks. This directly correlates to an increased demand for cyber security experts capable of developing innovative solutions to prevent hackers from stealing critical information or creating problems for computer networks.
Information is the fifth largest industry in Georgia. It accounts for 46.2 billion in revenue each year. From real estate and business services to education and healthcare, most of the top industries in the state rely on cyber security professionals to keep their employees and clients safe. Regardless of industry, however, companies and organizations throughout the country can fall victim to cyber-attacks, resulting in significant losses.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics also reports that information security analyst occupations are quite prominent in Georgia. This sector accounted for 4,850 jobs in May 2020, which is more than many 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 $102,670, which is significantly more than the median reported for all occupations.
As previously mentioned, a cyber security degree can lead to a wide variety of career options. The level and amount of formal education required for each job can differ significantly, especially for highly specialized employment opportunities. Some necessitate extensive training, while others require only minimal preparation. Ensure you are familiar with the expectations for your particular career of interest prior to enrolling in a program.
Whether you are considering a cyber security, computer science, or related degree, you will find colleges and universities offering associate, bachelors, masters, and doctoral programs. Degree titles and curriculums often vary from institution to institution, making it imperative to review program details, admissions requirements, and course selections thoroughly.
Some of the most common cyber security degree names at every level include:
- Cyber Security
- Information Assurance
- Information Security
- Information Systems Security
- Cyber Operations
- Computer Forensics and Digital Investigations
Online Associate Degree in Cyber Security (AS)
An associate degree in cyber security is ideal for individuals seeking entry-level employment opportunities or who plan to pursue further education in the future. It’s important to realize, however, that few employers consider candidates with less than a bachelor’s degree in a related field. It can be particularly difficult for graduates to find employment when competing against others with more education.
Most cyber security degree programs consist of approximately 60 credit hours of coursework, which full-time students can complete in as little as two years. Those enrolled generally receive a foundational introduction to computer science, as well as learn about information technology concepts. Curriculums can differ quite a lot, but some common course topics include computer forensics, cyber-crime, networking, database security, and CompTIA security.
While bachelor’s degrees often lead to more employment opportunities, associate degrees take less time to complete. Some of the career options that may be available to graduates at this level include computer support specialists, computer programmers, or database administrators. Additionally, academic credits earned at accredited colleges and universities can often be transferred to four-year institutions and applied toward bachelor degree program requirements.
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Online Bachelor's Degree in Cyber Security (BS)
Most cyber security professionals choose to pursue bachelor’s degrees. Graduates can either continue their education or find professional employment. Because programs at this level tend to explore information technology in greater depth, graduates typically enjoy more employment opportunities, job security, and pay. They are also often offered the option to specialize in related sub-fields.
Bachelor degrees usually consist of 120 credit hours of coursework and take full-time students approximately four years to complete. Every program is different, but most cover topics related to the networking fundamentals, the installation and configuration of 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. Those who choose to pursue advanced degrees will need a minimum grade point average and GRE scores in order to apply to graduate programs.
Online Master's Degree in Cyber Security (MS)
It’s not necessary to have a master’s degree in cyber security to attain most jobs in the field. Choosing to complete this level of education can, however, be extremely beneficial. Not only will it result in more employment opportunities, but graduates are significantly more competitive in the job market, often make higher salaries, promote faster, and enjoy increased 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. Every curriculum is different, but coursework tends to be specialized, focusing more on topics such as penetration testing, vulnerability analysis, applied cryptography, digital forensics, and information security strategy and policy. As a result, graduates are generally better prepared for administrative positions. Other common career options include security application programmer, penetration tester, and vulnerability analyst.
Depending on your ultimate career goals, earning a master’s in business administration (MBA) degree could also prove beneficial. This is particularly true for individuals interested in opening their own cyber security businesses. Graduates tend to qualify for supervisory roles within the companies and organizations they work for. This could lead to more promotion opportunities and higher pay. Coursework tends to explore business fundamentals at a much deeper level and helps students develop a comprehensive understanding of how businesses and organizations operate.
Online 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 designed to help develop research, analytical, and advocacy skills for current professionals. Graduates often enjoy some of the best employment opportunities in the field, promote faster, and earn higher salaries than their counterparts.
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. Classes are heavily research-based, difficult, and cover advanced topics. Students often receive instruction on security testing, advanced malware analysis, theory of computation, and advanced algorithms. Most colleges and universities also offer opportunities to select a specialization or concentration such as embedded systems, cyberinfrastructure, or human-centered computing.
Earning a doctoral degree is far more involved than other degree types. In addition to completing coursework and passing all qualifying exams, students are also expected to pursue independent research and prepare a dissertation. Employment options after graduation tend to be highly technical or in education. Some potential career pathways include corporate researcher, policy advisor, and university professor.
Become a Cyber Security Professional in Georgia
Before becoming a cyber security professional in Georgia, it’s important to determine which area of the field you are most interested in. Some specializations require more education and training than others. Knowing your ultimate career goals ahead of time can make it easier to select a relevant academic level and program. It can also direct concentration preferences in the future.
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While cyber security degrees can be extremely beneficial, taking time to explore various career options in the field now can help you realize that a different, yet related, program major may be more beneficial. Information technology and computer science degrees, for example, can lead to similar but distinctly different professions.
After earning the necessary degree(s), you can also choose to pursue various certifications and/or licensures relevant to the cyber security field. Many information technology companies and organizations offer programs designed to boost professional skills in specific areas. Earning additional credentials can make you more marketable while searching for employment. Most certifications can be completed while working full-time, making it easy to specialize within the field and stand out among other professionals. Some employers even pay for or provide financial assistance to those seeking relevant credentials.
It’s important to realize that professional working with classified data within government agencies are required to obtain further security clearances. If you plan to apply to positions like this, you should expect the Department of Defense to perform a background investigation. The process can take 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 Georgia. 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 provide security solutions to the companies and organizations that employ them. They are often responsible for a variety of tasks including performing research, collecting data, and developing security strategies for implementation, as well as documenting, prioritizing, and analyzing security threats. These professionals may 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 ensure the integrity of all data that is communicated, shared, and stored by company employees who may be working from various locations. These professionals also develop and maintain protocols to keep potentially sensitive data safe during entry, transmission, and retrieval. According to PayScale, information security engineers make an average base salary of $94,550 per year.
- Chief Information Security Officer (CISO)
Chief information security officers (CISOs) oversee information systems and security for the companies and organizations they work for. These professionals are generally responsible for providing data protections by reviewing, reporting on, and recommending solutions to current and potential threats. They also maintain various procedures, standards, and policies 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 conduct cyber security assessments for the companies, organizations, and government agencies they work for. These professionals utilize various tools to probe networks with the goal of identifying potential areas of vulnerability. They are responsible for reporting their findings, as well as any recommendations for mitigating future problems, to leadership. According to PayScale, penetration testers make an average base salary of $86,350 per year.
- Security Architect
Security architects create network and computer security systems for companies and organizations. These professionals are generally in charge of the planning, research, and design processes that lead to pertinent security developments. They may also work to address problems within the system or delegate specific programming tasks to other team members. According to PayScale, security architects make an average base salary of $125,450 per year.
- Security Engineer
Security engineers increase the security of the companies and organizations they work for by developing various technological solutions. These professionals create protocols to address possible risks in the future and solve existing security issues. They spend a lot of time working with applications and equipment that is experiencing technical problems. According to PayScale, software engineers make an average base salary of $94,150 per year.