What is Cyber Security?
Are you considering cyber security colleges and degree programs in New Mexico? This major is often a good choice for individuals who enjoy problem-solving, technology, and analytical thinking. The demand for qualified professionals in this field is also high, as the knowledge and skills they possess tend to be valuable in almost every industry. This is especially true for energy, healthcare, marine transportation, and other companies and organizations. As a result, graduates from cyber security degree programs often experience decent employment prospects.
One of the most commonly sought occupations in this field is information security analyst. Based on data provided by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment for information security analysts is also expected to rise. Growth for this profession is expected to be significant, with a projected increase of 33% from 2020 to 2030. This is significantly faster than the average for all occupations in the nation and will add approximately 16,300 new jobs to the market nationwide each year. The rising demand for these professionals and other cyber security experts can be attributed to the increasing number of cyber-attacks reported throughout the world.
Information, technology, and security are not among New Mexico’s top industries. It’s worth noting, however, that many of the state’s most profitable sectors do depend on cyber security professionals for success. In fact, almost every company and organization in the country takes at least some steps to mitigate information and network-related risks. The professional and business services industry, for example, accounts for $10.5 billion dollars in revenue each year in the state and often employs graduates from cyber security programs. Other top sectors in New Mexico that depend on these professionals include finance and insurance and educational services, healthcare, and social assistance. This means that those who obtain cyber security degrees in the state should have relatively good employment prospects.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics also reports that New Mexico offers competitive salaries for computer and mathematical occupations. In May 2021, the annual mean wage for these occupations was $83,170, which is significantly higher than the median annual wage of $45,760 for all occupations. Additionally, information security analysts in the state had an annual mean wage of $119,650.
As many different industries with varying needs rely on cyber security specialists, it can be difficult to identify all of the expectations for professionals in this field. Job descriptions can vary significantly from one position to another, even when they share similar titles. This makes it extremely important for graduates to carefully review employment details prior to submitting applications and/or accepting employment.
Online Cyber Security Education in New Mexico
Online program specifics vary from institution to institution, and some professions require more advanced degrees than others. In general, however, cyber security degrees qualify graduates for a wide variety of information technology positions. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment in computer and information technology occupations is projected to grow 13% from 2020 to 2030. This is faster than the average for all occupations assessed in the United States and will account for the addition of about 667,600 new jobs. Employment increases in this sector will be mostly due to a greater emphasis on cloud computing, the collection and safeguarding an organizations' data.
It's important to realize that careers in cyber security are not optimal for everyone. Degree program candidates should at least have aptitude for working with computers and an interest in network security. The most successful entrants will also remain familiar with fluctuations in the technology industry, as cyber-attack methods and trends change regularly as capabilities shift. Many companies, organizations, and government agencies require professionals in this field to plan and carry out various measures designed to protect their computer systems. While knowledge in this area is not required prior to entering a degree program, it can be highly beneficial.
Online cyber security degree programs are offered by colleges and universities throughout the nation, but prospective students who plan to seek employment in New Mexico should give preference to local institutions. Distance learning makes it easy to attend classes and complete coursework from nearly anywhere in the world with internet access; however, schools in other states may not provide students with the most geographically appropriate educations. Institutions in New Mexico offer instruction that is more likely to meet employer needs and expectations in the region. Additionally, many local colleges and universities establish relationships with nearby businesses and organizations, which can make it easier for students to find internships and graduates to find employment.
Generally, cyber security specialists are responsible for maintaining information safety. While the execution of this may differ, many of these professionals perform work meant to protect data, devices, and networks from criminal activity. By using various tools and resources, they are able to prevent unapproved entities from accessing valuable information and items. Specialists in this field also take action to combat threats like malware, password theft, traffic interception, phishing, social engineering, and ransomware.
Some cyber security positions even involve stopping and catching criminals seeking to misuse network accounts and data. In these cases, professionals spend time 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. They may also conduct penetration testing, research information technology trends, develop security standards, and recommend potential enhancements to stakeholders.
To ensure graduates are properly prepared for employment in varying work settings, most colleges and universities create curriculums that cover numerous topics within the field. They may also offer opportunities to select concentrations in related subjects, which can further differentiate instruction.
While self-taught knowledge and/or work experience may be sufficient for some entry-level positions in the field, most cyber security professionals must obtain some form of higher education to qualify for employment. Even if it’s not required, employers also tend to give preference to candidates who possess academic degrees. For some jobs, a viable alternative to this major is computer science.
Prospective students can choose from academic programs in cyber security at every level: associate, bachelor’s, master’s, and doctorate. The type of degree necessary will depend greatly upon the intended profession, as requirements can vary.
Online Associate Degree in Cyber Security (AS)
Online associate degrees in cyber security generally consist of around 60 credit hours of coursework, which full-time students can complete in as little as two years. Every program is different, but most provide foundational introductions to the field of computer science and technology. Students can also expect to enroll in several general education classes in addition to field-specific courses in computer forensics, cyber-crime, networking, database security, and CompTIA security.
This degree is ideal for those who plan to seek entry-level employment cyber security professions as quickly as possible. While the knowledge and skills gained may be rudimentary, graduates tend to understand basic concepts well enough to qualify for jobs related to computer support, computer programming, and database administration.
Graduates can also continue their educations by enrolling in bachelor’s degree programs. Most four-year colleges and universities accept up to 60 or 90 hours of transfer credits from properly accredited institutions. This means that those with associate degrees often enter as juniors rather than freshmen and only require two additional years of instruction before graduation. Many students find this beneficial, as community colleges often charge lower tuition rates.
Online Bachelor's Degree in Cyber Security (BS)
Online bachelor degrees in cyber security generally consist of 120 credit hours of coursework, which takes full-time students approximately four years to complete. Every institution is different, but most offer curriculums that include both general education and major-specific courses. Students can expect instruction to cover topics related to networking fundamentals, ethical hacking, windows servers, and the installation and configuration of information systems. Additionally, it’s common for this major to offer concentrations. Students can select these to further differentiate coursework in order to specialize in related sub-fields.
This type of degree is prevalent. In fact, most cyber security professionals have complete programs at this level. Graduates often qualify for the same employment opportunities as those with associate degree, as well as jobs as cyber security analysts, information security analysts, and computer forensic analysts. Not only do bachelor’s degrees look better on resumes, but they frequently lead to higher earning potentials.
Graduates can also choose to continue their educations further by enrolling in master’s degree programs. Those interested in more advanced degrees should be prepared to meet minimum grade point average (GPA) and Graduate Record Examinations (GRE) score standards set by colleges and universities.
Online Master's Degree in Cyber Security (MS)
Online master’s degrees in cyber security generally consist of 30 to 60 credit hours of coursework, which can be completed by full-time students in one to two years. While program specifics still vary, most are designed to provide more focused instruction and lack general education courses. Students can expect thorough instruction in penetration testing, vulnerability analysis, applied cryptography, digital forensics, and information security strategy and policy.
This type of degree may not be required for many types of employment in the field, although it often serves graduates very well. In addition to qualifying for employment as security application programmers, penetration testers, and vulnerability analysts, those with graduate degrees often experience greater job stability and mobility. Earning a master’s in cyber security can also lead to faster promotion and higher earnings.
Alternatively, prospective students may benefit from earning a Master of Business Administration (MBA) degree. These programs focus more on various business fundamentals, but may still be useful to professionals in the field. This is particularly true for those interested in pursuing management and leadership roles. Students may also be able to choose a concentration in their field, such as cyber security, so that they can gain a better-than-foundational education in business while also improving their education in cyber security or computer science.
Online PhD Degree in Cyber Security (PhD)
Online PhD and doctoral degrees in cyber security generally consist of about 60 credit hours of coursework, which takes full-time students between three and seven years to complete. Every college and university is different, but most programs focus on advanced topics in the field such as security testing, advanced malware analysis, theory of computation, and advanced algorithms. Extensive research is typically required, with dissertation presentations and defenses required before graduation.
This type of online degree is most appropriate for individuals who want to further develop their research, analytical, and advocacy skills. It’s also necessary for those planning to pursue jobs as postsecondary academic professors. Additionally, graduates will qualify for employment as corporate researchers and policy advisors.
Become a Cyber Security Professional in New Mexico
The first step to becoming a cyber security professional in New Mexico is identifying your preferred profession in the field. With so many different employment opportunities to consider, you should spend some time researching options and considering the type of work you would like to do. Once you know your intended job, it becomes significantly easier to determine the type and extent of education needed, as well as whether or not additional credentials are needed to be successful.
The majority students choose to enroll in higher education programs that align with their personal and professional goals. While requirements vary, many information technology employers expect candidates to have bachelor’s degrees. Some entry-level positions may be available to non-degree-holders, however, especially for those who possess sufficient work experience in the field. As previously mentioned, higher-level degrees can lead to more prestigious and better-paying jobs.
Prospective students should be aware that there are alternatives to earning cyber security degrees. Those interested in this field may also learn the necessary skills by enrolling in online classes offered by other educational and professional entities. Additionally, some institutions offer bootcamp programs, which are often crash-courses intended to provide students with the basic knowledge and skills needed. These typically culminate with a certificate of completion instead of a diploma. While bootcamps and self-education can both lead to professional employment, prospective employers may still give preference to candidates who possess higher education degrees.
In addition to obtaining one or more degrees in cyber security, many professionals choose to pursue other relevant credentials. Certifications and licenses help to further distinguish you among competition for jobs. Notably, this field does not have a single preferred credential. Instead, there are many certifications available, most offered by well-known information technology companies and organizations. Obtaining one or more of these credentials demonstrates a higher level of professional knowledge and skills in specific areas or concentrations.
Some common examples include:
- CompTIA Security+
- Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP)
- Certified Information Security Manager (CISM)
- GIAC Security Essential Certification (GSEC)
- System Security Certified Practitioner (SSCP)
There are many benefits associated with earning certifications. In addition to enhancing resumes, these credentials can qualify professionals for promotions. They may also lead to higher salaries.
Those interested in this field should also realize that some employers require their cyber security professionals have certain security clearances. This is fairly common for professionals who work with classified data. Additionally, many government agencies require the Department of Defense to perform thorough background investigations prior to employment. Be advised that this process can take several months or even a year to complete.
Careers for Cyber Security Graduates
Those with degrees in cyber security will qualify for a wide range of employment opportunities in New Mexico.
While job titles, responsibilities, and salaries will vary, some of the most common career options in this field include:
- Chief Information Security Officer (CISO)
- Cloud Information Security Engineer
- Information Security Analyst
- Information Security Engineer
- Information Security Manager
- Information Technology Director
- Information Technology Manager
- Network Administrator
- Network Engineer
- Penetration Tester
- Security Analyst
- Security Architect
- Security Engineer
- Systems Administrator
- Chief Information Security Officer (CISO)
Chief information security officers (CISOs) oversee information security systems. They are responsible for maintaining all related procedures, standards, and policies to ensure that private data is kept safe. These professionals must constantly review and provide reports on current threats, as well as recommend potential solutions to prevent problems in the future. According to PayScale, chief information security officers make an average base salary of $165,900 per year.
- Information Security Analyst
Information security analysts provide security solutions for companies and organizations. They often research and collect relevant data in order to develop actionable security strategies. These professionals also document, prioritize, and analyze security threats, as well as verify that other employees take the appropriate measures to keep information protected. 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 data that is stored, communicated, and shared within businesses and agencies. They often develop and maintain protocols to keep potentially sensitive data safe during entry, transmission, and retrieval. These professionals also ensure employees can easily and safely access all necessary information. According to PayScale, information security engineers make an average base salary of $94,550 per year.
- Penetration Tester
Penetration testers utilize a variety of tools and tactics to conduct cyber security assessments. They intentionally probe networks, exposing potential areas of vulnerability so that they can be properly addressed. These professionals regularly report their findings and mitigation recommendations to leadership. 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 and address any issues that may arise. They also research, plan, and design procedures pertinent to security. These professionals frequently delegate specific programming tasks to other team members. According to PayScale, security architects make an average base salary of $125,450 per year.