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What is Cyber Security?
A cyber security specialist is a high-tech worker who focuses on protecting their employer's digital assets from outside attacks. The field includes those who create cyber security systems, those who test the systems, and those who investigate any possible security breaches. Thus, the profession includes not only corporate professionals but government law enforcement agencies, as well.
Cyber security specialists who design and build information security systems are generally coders who have completed degrees in computer science, cyber security, and even mathematics. They often need strong skills in cryptography, as well as current knowledge of cyber security systems and current trends in the black-hat hacker communities. Those who test systems are often called white-hat hackers, who attempt to breach a system's security for the purposes of discovering and amending weaknesses.
Since these professionals all work on computers, they typically work from their employer's offices at computer terminals. However, it's very possible for much cyber security work to be conducted from afar. The white-hat hackers, formally known as penetration testers, often do work remotely in an effort to emulate the actions of real-life bad guys.
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Online Cyber Security Education in Missouri
Missouri is smack in the middle of the country and is something of an intersection between the nation's agricultural history and its technological future. In fact, the Show-Me state is still home to over 100,000 farms, a number that is only surpassed in Texas. Otherwise, Missouri's top industries include professional and business services, manufacturing, real estate, and social services including education, healthcare, and social assistance.
Thus, Missouri is home to a diverse economy. However, one thread that connects all of today's industries is their increasing reliance on technology to complete every day's work. Even agriculture is increasingly computerized, with huge combines being directed via satellite, inventories accounted on cloud databases, and tractors needing periodic software upgrades. Along with this computerization comes a strong need for cyber security.
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That's because any device that has a processor can be hacked by cyber-criminals. That includes tractors, mainframe servers, and even refrigerators. To help thwart the growing threat of cyber-crime, Missouri's government and private organizations have been increasingly demanding new cyber security professionals in their ranks. Naturally, this demand must be satisfied by way of education and other training. To this end, Missouri's colleges and universities have risen to the call.
The state of Missouri is home to many schools that offer fully accredited cyber security programs, as well as computer science departments that train students with skills that can be easily applied to the realm of cyber security. In fact, there are seven Missouri institutions of higher learning that are deemed Centers of Academic Excellence (CAE) by a joint agreement between the National Security Agency (NSA) and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). This distinction extends to two of the state's community colleges. Thus, students at every degree level can graduate with nationally recognized credentials in cyber security.
Online Associate Degree in Cyber Security (AS)
A two-year degree in cyber security is a perfect way to launch a career in information security. In two-years a student can learn the skills that employers seek for their entry-level workers. This degree level also qualifies students for a number of cyber security certifications that hiring managers love to see on a resume.
An online associates cyber security degree is also a solid foundation for both career and academic success. Missouri community colleges require that students complete the core college curriculum as a part of their associate degree program. They also charge a fraction of the cost per college credit. Thus, a community college student can choose to enter the working world with minimal educational costs, or they can continue into a bachelor’s cyber security degree program ready to dive into their major courses. Some students even choose to land an entry-level cyber security job and then returning for their bachelor’s degree while taking advantage of their employer's tuition reimbursement program.
Online Bachelor's Degree in Cyber Security (BS)
Employers typically seek candidates who have earned a bachelor’s in cybersecurity degree from a fully accredited college or university. During the course of this degree, students can gain classroom experience designing and building cyber security systems, testing systems, and discovering how to investigate security breaches. Students can also expand their knowledge base with coursework in mathematics, computer science, and even communications. After all, cyber security specialists must be able to effectively communicate with the business management, who may not be as savvy when it comes to matters of information security.
Some students may have long range career plans that involve business and management. They can take on a minor or double major with a business matter such as management or finance, depending on their plans. Business knowledge and experience will surely help communications issues when on the job since cyber security professionals in the private sector must report to non-technical executives. Business knowledge and coursework will also help those who later seek out an MBA.
Online Master's Degree in Cyber Security (MS)
An online cybersecurity master’s degree makes any candidate more desirable to employers. This level of academic achievement is always a strong selling point, especially for those in cyber security and other high-tech fields. With cyber security, students can seek out a program that is dedicated to security specifically, or an MS in computer science that offers a cyber security track. Then there is the option to pursue an MBA either with a concentration in cyber security or a dual-MBA that combines a purely technical degree with the business program, thus making the student a powerhouse in the job market.
Since an MBA is a defacto requirement for jobs in the C-suites of larger corporations, this credential will help a person cap their career off as a chief security officer, chief information officer, or chief technology officer. Naturally, it’s necessary to accrue relevant experience, but an MBA is always highly valued, especially in the corporate world.
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Online PhD Degree in Cyber Security (PhD)
High tech, STEM fields tend to place high value on a doctorate degree, and cyber security is no exception. Since so many of the black-hat hackers in the world are very sophisticated when it comes to their plans, a PhD in cyber security should be able to outwit these bad guys and prevent their attacks from becoming successful. Barring that, a PhD in cyber security can investigate a security breach and help law enforcement agencies track down the cyber criminals so that they can be prosecuted.
For cyber security, one specialty area that is in high demand for a doctorate is cryptography. Universities, government agencies, and private firms are all interested in doctorate level research into cryptography. After all, encrypted systems are a key part to thwarting cyber-crime. Given that many PhD candidates place a high value on research and purely academic pursuits, this is very good news. They can land private sector jobs that are highly paid, but which are functionally similar to jobs they might do for universities.
Become a Cyber Security Professional in Missouri
There are many routes to become a cyber security professional in Missouri. Since the field does not require specific licensure, the key to cyber security success is talent, experience, and deep knowledge of the field. These things are traditionally earned through academic work, but they can also be gained from independent study and on-the-job training.
To start at the beginning, cyber security professionals could be identified by their early love of technology and computing. As kids, they may be interested in doing more than playing video games. They can seek out the free and affordable online tools that help them design and build their own games. As they grow up, these technology lovers tend to seek out STEM-oriented high schools, as well as a group of friends with whom they can collaborate on computing projects. These enthusiasts may start moving towards cyber security as an area of particular interest. These focused individuals should then seek out a cyber security degree.
When it comes time to seek out a cyber security degree program, students should first look at accredited programs. They should first look for a regionally accredited program. Without that basic accreditation, their degree is unlikely to help them in the job market. Then there are program specific accreditations that indicate that their degrees will be nationally recognized and respected. For cyber security, students should look for degree programs that hold credentials from ABET or which are considered Centers of Academic Excellence.
ABET is an accrediting agency that focuses on STEM programs of all sorts. While they are not specifically focused on cyber security, students can be assured that their education will be rock-solid. CAE programs, on the other hand, are recognized by both the National Security Agency and the Department of Homeland Security as offering focused instruction in cyber security. CAE programs can be found in community colleges, bachelor’s cyber security degree programs, and graduate cyber security degree programs, including doctorate level programs.
After graduating with a cyber security degree, students should be keen on continuing their learning as lifelong learners. There are many options for these professionals that will confer credentials that increase their status in the cyber security community. Each certification is very focused on specific issues and skill sets and all of them require continuing education to maintain the credential. The longer they hold these certifications the more value they will have in the job market.
Careers for Cyber Security Graduates
- Security Analyst:
This position asks the cyber security professional to keep tabs on their firm's cyber security protocols and systems. Analysts spend their days testing their systems and researching the wider field of cyber security. They may review real-world hacked system and can research new tools they might adapt to their firm's existing systems.
- Penetration Tester:
To land this position, cyber security professionals need a lot of experience, advanced degrees, and a track record of excellence. These cyber security professionals are informally called white-hat hackers because they are called to attempt a break-in of their client's system. Since they are attempting to emulate a real-world hack, they are most often outside consultants.
- Network Administrator:
This IT position is vital to the technological life of an employer. Network administrators keep tabs on their networks on a 24-hour a day basis. They not only oversee and maintain the network functioning, but they may be called to build new networks or to perform delicate upgrades that improve performance with a minimum interruption to their firm's operations.
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- Security Engineer:
These cyber security experts spend their time performing a number of functions with regards to their firm's information security picture. They may work as penetration testers who try to break into a system, or they may work building or upgrading existing systems.
- Information Technology Manager:
IT managers have a lot on their plate. They have to oversee a team that works on the databases, networks, software issues, and hardware for their firm. To land this position most IT managers will have an MS in information technology if not an MBA with a concentration in information technology.
- Information Security Manager:
Larger firms and government agencies will employ InfoSec managers who oversee a team of cyber security professionals. To attain this position a master’s degree in cyber security and/or an MBA with a concentration in IT or information security will be very useful. Information security managers should also hold professional certifications that prove their expertise in the realm of cyber security. On top of all of this, IS managers should also have training, if not a degree, in management, which includes communicate and leadership skills.
- Cloud Information Security Engineer:
Since so many firms are using cloud computing as a key part of their information technology system, experts in cloud security are in high demand. To excel in this position, professionals can pursue credentials in Amazon Web Services, Google Cloud Computing Services, or other product certifications. Special certification will certainly help those who desire this position.
- Chief Information Security Officer (CISO):
For many cyber security professionals, this is the brass ring. That is, this may be the peak position they aspire to in their career. To earn this position, candidates need to have a long track record of excellence, top certifications, and perhaps an MBA. The MBA will help with their view of the business implications of their security initiatives while certifications will attest to their expertise in InfoSec.
- Network Engineer:
These information technology professionals are concerned with the networking solutions for their firm. They may build new networks or perform regular upgrades so that the network is both efficient, functioning, and safe. Network engineers need to be savvy on issues related to cyber security on top of day-to-day networking issues.