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What is Cyber Security?

Many industries rely on cyber security professionals. While this means earning a degree in this field can lead to a wide variety of employment opportunities, it also makes it difficult to summarize exactly what the occupation entails. Responsibilities tend to vary significantly from one position to another. Typically, the daily tasks assigned often depend on the type and size of the employing business or agency. Specifics differ, but the general focus for experts in this field usually related to protecting data, devices, and networks from criminal activity by preventing access to unapproved entities.

Cyber security specialists also regularly work to stop and catch criminals who seek to misuse network accounts and data. They usually achieve these tasks by 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. Other common responsibilities include conducting penetration testing, researching information technology trends, developing security standards, and recommending potential enhancements. They also have the knowledge and skills necessary to combat threats like malware, password theft, traffic interception, phishing, social engineering, and ransomware.

While specific job titles and responsibilities vary, most security professionals play vital roles in maintaining general societal safety. From ensuring social media platforms are secure and protecting sensitive work correspondence to safely storing patient records and preventing fraud, cyber security experts allow individuals, businesses, and agencies of all kinds to complete important tasks every day.

Individuals who are best suited for jobs related to cyber security are often detail oriented and enjoy solving problems. The most successful professionals in the field also tend to be highly analytical and creative.

It’s important to realize, however, that a career in cyber security is not for everyone. Those best suited to this field often have an aptitude for working with computers and network security. An interest in planning and carrying out security measures that protect computer systems is also necessary, as this is the service utilized by companies, organizations, and government agencies most. This profession also requires an ability to adapt to fluctuating technologies, as cyber-attack methods change regularly and can occur at any time.

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Online Cyber Security Education in Kentucky

Are you considering enrolling in a cyber security degree program in Kentucky? If you want to work as a cyber security professional in this state, it’s important to give preference to colleges and universities located in the state. Online degree programs are often convenient, offering flexible scheduling options, but those who anticipate working in Kentucky may be better served by attending a school in state, even if they attend online. Not only will the coursework and training be more geographically relevant, but many local institutions have pre-established relationships with nearby businesses and organizations interested in hiring field experts. A degree from an institution based in Kentucky ensures you have the knowledge and skills necessary to meet employer expectations in the region and can give you an edge over competing job candidates.

Demand for qualified cyber security professionals is relatively high throughout the entire nation, as almost every industry has need for their expertise. As a result, there are many colleges and universities in Kentucky offering degree programs in this field. Those interested in pursuing a career in cyber security should have little difficulty finding a suitable option.

Some cyber security professionals are able to gain entry-level employment with only relevant work experience and self-taught knowledge, but this is no longer typical of the field. In general, employers expect job candidates to have some form of formal education in cyber security, computer science, or a related topic.

In most cases, this means earning, at minimum, a bachelor’s degree. It’s worth noting, however, that colleges and universities offer programs at every level, from associate degrees to doctorates. The type of degree you should pursue will depend on your ultimate career goals, with top positions often requiring more education.

As academic institutions have control over their own cyber security program titles and curriculums, it’s important to carefully review admissions requirements and course selections.

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
  • According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, job availability for information security analysts is expected to increase by 33% from 2020 to 2030. This is significantly faster than the average for all occupations and will add approximately 16,300 new jobs to the market nationwide each year. This projected growth is primarily due to the increasing frequency of cyber-attacks in the world. To prevent information and asset breaches, corporations and government agencies will need to hire more and more professionals capable of developing innovative solutions to combat hackers.

    Information security is one of Kentucky’s top industries, but professional and business services is the fourth largest revenue-producer in the state. This sector accounts for $17.9 billion in revenue each year and is highly dependent upon cyber security professionals. Almost every company and organization take steps to mitigate information and network-related risks, however. Other top industries in the state, such as manufacturing, real estate, healthcare, and education services also rely on experts in this field to keep their employees and clients safe.

    The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics also reports that Kentucky offers information security analyst occupations competitive salaries. In May 2020, the annual mean wage for professionals in the state was $82,830. Notably, this figure is significantly higher than the annual mean wage of $56,310 reported for all occupations in the nation.

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Online Associate Degree in Cyber Security (AS)

Associate degrees in cyber security may be a good option for individuals seeking entry-level employment. Graduates typically receive a general overview of the field that qualifies them for jobs related to computer support, computer programming, and database administration. While this type of education takes less time to complete, securing employment can sometimes be difficult. This is largely because many bachelor’s degree graduates are also competing for the same positions.

Most associate degree programs in cyber security consist of approximately 60 credit hours of coursework, which full-time students can complete in as little as two years. While curriculums vary, instruction is usually intended to provide students with a foundational introduction to the computer science field. This is likely to include, but is not limited to, classes in computer forensics, cyber-crime, networking, database security, and CompTIA security.

A popular alternative to applying for jobs after graduation is enrolling in further education. Graduates can choose to transfer course credits earned to another institution and have them applied toward their bachelor’s degrees. As most associate degree programs are offered by community colleges that charge lower tuition rates, this is often a cheaper option. It also gives students the opportunity to explore the field before committing to it as a career.

Online Bachelor's Degree in Cyber Security (BS)

The majority of cyber security professionals choose to earn bachelor’s degrees. Graduates often qualify for the employment opportunities mentioned above, as well as jobs as cyber security analysts, information security analysts, and computer forensic analysts. Individuals with degrees at this level do tend to have more success, as they can apply for more positions with higher salaries.

Bachelor degrees in cyber security 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. They are also often offered the option to specialize in related sub-fields by selecting concentrations.

Again, graduates have the option to pursue further education by enrolling at the graduate level. Those interested in this course of action should plan to meet additional admittance requirements, including having a minimum grade point average and meeting the school’s minimum GRE score threshold.

Online Master's Degree in Cyber Security (MS)

There are many employment opportunities in cyber security that do not require candidates to have master’s degrees. This level of education can, however, be extremely beneficial to professionals in the field. Graduates tend to have more knowledge and skills within the content area, making them highly competitive when applying to jobs. It is also common for those with graduate-level degrees to make more money, promote faster, and enjoy increased job security. Some of the most sought-after careers include security application programmer, penetration tester, and vulnerability analyst.

Most master degree programs in cyber security consist of 30 to 60 credit hours of coursework and can be completed by full-time students in one to two years. Course requirements are often more specialized than those at the undergraduate level, with students completing focused assessments of a variety of topics, including penetration testing, vulnerability analysis, applied cryptography, digital forensics, and information security strategy and policy.

Prospective students interested in opening their own cyber security businesses may also benefit from enrolling in master of business administration (MBA) degree programs. Coursework varies, but typically explores more deeply the fundamentals of business. MBA graduates often develop a comprehensive understanding of how businesses and organizations operate and are prepared for a variety of supervisory roles in the field.

Online PhD Degree in Cyber Security (PhD)

Doctoral and PhD degrees are rarely necessary in cyber security. Earning this type of degree can, however, offer unique career opportunities to graduates. Students focus on developing their research, analytical, and advocacy skills, which can help them qualify for some of the best employment options in the field. The best positions earned with this degree tend to be highly technical or related to academia. Some potential career pathways include corporate researcher, policy advisor, and university professor. Additionally, many doctorate and PhD graduates 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. While curriculums vary from institution to institution, most coursework relates to advanced topics that require extensive research. Some common subjects include security testing, advanced malware analysis, theory of computation, and advanced algorithms. Students should also expect to pursue independent research, as well as prepare and present dissertations in order to qualify for graduation.

It’s also worth noting that many colleges and universities offer students opportunities to select related concentrations in the field. Pursuing a specialization like this can help hone skills in particular areas and may lead to jobs of more interest. Some common concentration related to cyber security include embedded systems, cyberinfrastructure, or human-centered computing.

Become a Cyber Security Professional in Kentucky

There are several ways to become a cyber security professional in Kentucky. In most cases, those interested in the field will start by completing the necessary education. While there are positions available to associate degree-holders, the majority of positions require candidates to possess bachelor’s degrees. As the degree type needed will primarily depend on the job pursued, it’s important to identify your ultimate career goals before selecting an academic program. This is particularly relevant if the profession necessitates more education and training than others.

Alternatively, some cyber security professionals take steps to learn the necessary skills on their own or by taking online classes that are not associated with a specific degree program. Yet another option is enrolling in bootcamp programs, which offer crash-courses to the field and generally provide some form of certification to those who successful finish. Individuals who choose this route must rely solely on their knowledge, skills, and experience to gain entry-level employment and advance their careers.

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After completing the necessary education and/or gaining the needed experience, cyber security professionals can also choose to pursue a wide variety of certifications and/or licensures relevant to the field. There is no single license or certification deemed essential for success in the field. Instead, various information technology companies and organizations offer programs designed to boost skills in specific areas or concentrations. Some common examples include operating systems, coding languages, and software. Earning credentials like these often provides an edge over others when applying for jobs, as they tend to make candidates more appealing to potential employers. Many cyber security certifications can also be completed while working full-time, making it relatively easy to advance. Some employers even pay for or provide financial assistance to those seeking relevant credentials.

Top credentials in this field include:

  • CompTIA Security+
  • Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP)
  • Certified Information Security Manager (CISM)
  • GIAC Security Essential Certification (GSEC)
  • System Security Certified Practitioner (SSCP)

Some companies and organizations may also require cyber security professionals to have security clearances. This is because many jobs require working with classified data, especially those within government agencies. If you plan to apply to positions like this, you should expect to need a background check before you can start working with this data. This 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 Kentucky.

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 for the companies and organizations that employ them. These professionals are responsible for a wide variety of related tasks including performing research, collecting data, and developing security strategies for implementation. They document, prioritize, and analyze security threats. Additionally, they verify all other employees are taking the appropriate measures to keep information safe. According to PayScale, information security analysts make an average base salary of $73,150 per year.
  • Information Security Engineer
    Information security engineers maintain the integrity of all data that is communicated, shared, and stored by company employees. Methods for doing this may vary, as employees who need access to the information may be working from various locations. These professionals are also responsible for developing and maintaining associated 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 the security of information systems for their employers. They frequently review, report on, and recommend solutions to current and potential threats. It’s also common for these professionals to maintain related 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 companies, organizations, and government agencies. They utilize a variety of tools and tactics to probe networks, exposing potential areas of vulnerability to be addressed in the future. These professionals then report their findings to leadership, along with potential mitigation recommendations. According to PayScale, penetration testers make an average base salary of $86,350 per year.
  • Security Architect
    Security architects create secure network and computer systems for companies and organizations. These professionals generally research, plan, and design processes that lead to pertinent security developments. They are also often responsible for addressing issues within the system and/or delegating 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 develop technological solutions to increase the security of the companies and organizations they work for. They work closely with applications and production equipment that is experiencing technical problems. These professionals are also responsible for creating protocols to identify and address possible security risks, as well as solving existing concerns. According to PayScale, software engineers make an average base salary of $94,150 per year.

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