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What is Cybersecurity?

Businesses are becoming more and more dependent on affectively storing customer information both in house and in the cloud. Businesses store countless pieces of customer data whether it's on a mainframe in the main office or a developed application that works in the cloud. Because of this, special security protocols have been created to help keep this information safe. Most businesses have these measures put into place to protect consumer information, but some are lax in their protection. When a company doesn't do everything it can to protect its customers information such as their name, Social Security number, or credit card numbers; if a breach occurs it can be catastrophic for both the customers and the business.

Cyber security specialists are trained monitors of these risks. When a risk is identified, a specialist is tasked with stopping it in its tracks, tracing the risk back to its source, and creating solutions so that the same breach never occurs again. They also assist programmers and developers in creating more tamper proof data systems to help prevent cyber-attacks from ever occurring. To some, cyber security is considered a branch of information technology, but it's really more of an umbrella term because cyber security is used to keep all parts of IT running smoothly and safely. Those who work in this field are important in all industries, including and especially the financial industry. If working to help keep a company’s private information safe sounds like a career you would like to pursue, then keep reading. Below is information regarding how to break into the industry, the education needed, and the types of careers a person with an educational background in cyber security can expect to find.

Cyber security specialists help keep personal information safe. Many businesses store the personal information of their customers so that they can contact them in the future or allow easy online checkout. For example, a department store might keep a customer's name, address, or cell phone number in order to contact them when there are sales, discounts, or special events. Although the company itself has the best of intentions for the use of the information, there are bad actors out in cyberspace that thrive on stealing this information and using it for nefarious reasons. To combat this, cyber security specialists put gateways and tools in place to lessen the chances that a cyber-attack will result in a breach of this information. If customers know that a company cannot keep their information safe, they will refrain from providing the company that information and this will negatively impact the company's overall ability to connect with its customers and, ultimately, affect the company's bottom line. This is why having experienced and talented cyber security specialists is a must for any business that wants to store personal information for future use.

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Online Cybersecurity Education in Kansas

A cybersecurity specialist can start their career with little to no formal education. However, if the person wants to progress in the field, additional education may be required. This is mainly because of the fact that many of the certifications that cyber security specialists attain require a certain level of education. Below are the four major levels of education that cybersecurity specialists can strive for.

Online Associate Degree in Cyber Security (AS)

A two-year degree in cybersecurity can get a person in on the ground level of an IT department, but not much further than that. However, it's a good start and a great way to determine if a person is truly interested in the career field.

Some of the classes included in an associate degree in cybersecurity include:

  • Computer Science
  • Database Administration
  • Foundations of Cyber Security
  • Operating System Security

Associate degrees typically take four semesters and two to three years to complete. If a person decides that cybersecurity is a viable career option for them, then the associate degree can easily be transferred as part of a four-year college program at another school.

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Online Bachelor's Degree in Cyber Security (BS)

A bachelor’s degree in cybersecurity is the most common degree level that a person who wants a long-term career in cyber security achieves. With a degree at this level, graduates can vie for entry-level cyber security positions or other information technology positions in small and midsize companies. It is also with a bachelor’s degree that graduates can begin to earn certifications in information technology and cybersecurity.

Some of the classes covered in a four-year cybersecurity degree program include:

  • Security Systems
  • Information Technology
  • Statistics
  • Ethics, Law, & Policy
  • System/Database Administration

Bachelor’s degrees typically take eight semesters, or four to six years, to complete. The amount of time needed to complete a program will vary depending on the students of their personal responsibilities. An internship with a local company in their IT department is often required, but some schools have in-house programs for hands on learning.

Online Master's Degree in Cyber Security (MS)

At the graduate level, students choose specific areas of study for their career goals. For example, someone who wants to become a cyber security specialist will take courses framed around programming and/or network management. Graduate programs in cyber security vary by school, so there is no set curriculum to pinpoint, but it's safe to assume many of the courses that were studied in a four-year program will also be revisited at the higher level and more vigorously.

Most people enrolled in graduate degree programs have been working in information technology or cyber security for several years and have started to accumulate the required certifications to advance in their careers. The graduate degree will help them further advance as well as open up other opportunities such as teaching at a community college or technical school. Graduate degrees take roughly three to five years to complete, and either a capstone or comprehensive exam are required for completion.

Online PhD Degree in Cyber Security (PhD)

For the most part, a cyber security specialist does not need a doctorate degree to advance to the top of this field. However, if you plan to transition to the classroom and teach full-time, a doctorate will make you eligible for tenured positions at colleges and universities or to run research labs at a college. The terminal degree can take up to seven years to complete and a dissertation and the successful defense of it is required to attain the degree.

Become a Cyber Security Professional in Kansas

Information technology and cybersecurity have some of the most linear paths to success of all careers. There are different paths you can take to get to the upper echelon but, for the most part, each path is parallel to the others and therefore someone can hop from one area to another without derailing their career.

Most people who work in cybersecurity start as database administrators. It’s in this entry-level position that a person learns the basic parts of information technology and lays the groundwork for understanding how cyber security works and its importance. While in this position, a person should continue their education, as well as beginning to attain certifications needed to advance. After a few years of experience working as an administrator, a person can take the Computer Information System Security Professional (CISSP) exam and apply for acceptance into the (ICP)2 organization.

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For those who are still focused on becoming cyber security specialists (at this point, some people decide they want to become senior administrators in other areas such as database administration), the next step is to become a security engineer, security analyst, security auditor, or security consultant. Several years of experience as a database administrator as well as a CISSP certification is required. Another certification that would be a good next step is the Management Information System (MIS) certification. After several years or work experience, management opportunities should begin to present themselves. After several more years in these middle management positions, a person can seek senior management positions. The combination of work experience, as well as continuing your education up to and including a terminal degree will put a person in a position to achieve the highest level in cybersecurity.

Careers for Cyber Security Graduates

There are a lot of career options for those who want to work in cyber security or information technology. Below are some of the positions a person with a cybersecurity or IT background can seek.

  • Security Analyst
    Security analysts monitor network and computer systems for risks and create preventative tools and processes to identify and prevent cyber-attacks and data breaches. Mitigating risks is a large part of a security analyst job. They run diagnostic checks and see if there are weak points that need to be shored up by designers of the system. This helps developers design more secure systems so that information remains safe.
  • Information Technology Manager
    IT managers oversee a company’s information technology department. They run the teams that keep the IT networks up to speed and safe. They maintain the staff and ensure that the department runs smoothly and with the most knowledgeable people. If there is an issue, the IT manager is in charge of gathering the information and staff needed to correct the situation in as timely a manner as possible.
  • Network Engineer
    Network engineers design, build, and oversee all of an organization’s computer networks. They are usually a pay grade and experience level above network administrators. Engineers can work alone, but usually they have a team of administrators that work with them to ensure the data, voice, wireless, and video networks run smoothly and without complications.
  • Information Technology Director
    An information technology director manages, strategizes, and executes the IT infrastructure of an organization. A director oversees the creation, implementation and maintenance of the IT infrastructure and leads teams when there are issues and needs such as disaster recovery or catastrophic failures in the system.
  • Information Security Analyst
    An information security analyst tests networking and data systems to ensure they are operating safely. The analyst may deliberately try to breach the system and cause damage so developers know where the trouble spots are and how they can be addressed. However, in larger organizations, the breach event may be caused by a penetration tester. In the event of an actual breach, a security analyst will assist with stopping the attack and will also assist with creating a solution, so the breach won’t happen again in the future.
  • Chief Information Security Officer (CISO)
    A chief information security officer is the head of the entire Information department. All of the directors and analyst report to the CISO. A CISO has to have the entire vision if the information systems department and be aware of the needs of each department. A CISO tracks the progress and performance of each department (Networking, IT, Data, etc.) and makes note of any issues that are brought to them by the directors, analysts, or architects and attempts to find solutions.

Other career opportunities in cyber security or information technology include:

  • Cloud Information Security Engineer
  • Information Security Manager
  • Network Administrator
  • Security Engineer
  • Systems Administrator
  • Security Software Engineer
  • Security Architect
  • Penetration Tester

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