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What is Cyber Security?

Are you considering pursuing a cybersecurity degree in Oklahoma? Demand for qualified professionals in this field is high, making it a good choice for many prospective students. Those who enjoy problem-solving, technology, and analytical thinking are particularly well-suited to this major. Programs help students develop and hone related knowledge and skills, which can then be applied in almost any industry. Energy, healthcare, and marine transportation companies and organizations, in particular, value cyber security professionals.

It's important to realize that some professions require more education than others. In general, however, cybersecurity degrees qualify graduates for a wide variety of information technology positions. According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), 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 throughout the nation. The largest factor impacting this rise is increased societal emphasis on cloud computing. The collection and storage of big data has also brought to light the great importance of information security.

There are many different types of cybersecurity professionals. This is because almost every industry utilizes their knowledge and skills to some extent. As a result, it’s difficult to specify exactly what you can expect from a career in this field. Job descriptions can vary significantly from one position to another, even when they share similar titles. Generally, however, cyber security specialists are charged with maintaining the safety of important information for businesses and organizations. In most cases, this means working to ensure data, devices, and networks are protected against potential criminal activities. Depending on the scope of their responsibilities, these professionals may use a wide variety of tools and resources in order to prevent unapproved access to valuable information and assets. It’s also common for cyber security specialists to combat various technological threats such as malware, phishing scams, ransomware, social engineering, and password theft.

Some cybersecurity positions actually revolve around stopping and catching criminals who seek to misuse the network accounts and data stored by individuals and corporations. These professionals often monitor networks for security breaches, investigate violations, install/utilize firewall and data encryption software, and prepare reports documenting security issues, as well as the damage caused. They may also conduct penetration testing, research information technology trends, develop security standards, and recommend potential enhancements to stakeholders.

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Online Cyber Security Education in Oklahoma

Many who graduate with cyber security degrees choose to pursue careers as information security analysts. Based on data provided by the BLS, employment for this profession is expected to rise significantly, with a projected increase of 33% from 2020 to 2030. This is much faster than the average for all occupations in the nation and will add approximately 16,300 new jobs to the market nationwide each year. Demand for these professionals and other cybersecurity experts can be largely attributed to the increased risk of cyber-attacks and slow increase of professionals in the field.

Information, technology, and security are not among Oklahoma’s top industries, however, many of the state’s most profitable sectors depend on cyber security professionals. 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 in Oklahoma, for example, accounts for $16.9 billion dollars in revenue each. Many of these businesses employ cyber security professionals. Other top sectors in the state that depend on these professionals include real estate, manufacturing, education, healthcare, and finance. As a result, cybersecurity graduates should have relatively good job prospects in the state.

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According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), Oklahoma employed 32,700 computer and mathematical professionals in May 2021. Data also indicates that the state offers competitive salaries for these occupations. The annual mean wage reported was $77,500, which is significantly above the annual mean wage of $48,360 for all occupations in Oklahoma. Those interested in information security analyst jobs specifically can expect even higher pay, with professionals in the state earning an annual mean wage of $88,770.

While job prospects in this field are promising, it’s important for prospective students to realize that cyber security degrees are not ideal for everyone. Those interested in this type of profession should possess aptitude for working with computers and, ideally, an interest in network security. Once hired, professionals must also be willing to dedicate a significant amount of time to remaining familiar with various technology changes throughout the years. This is especially true for cyber security experts, who must understand the constantly evolving methods used to ensure data safety.

Many colleges and universities throughout the nation offer cybersecurity degrees. While online programs makes it easy to enroll, attend classes, and complete coursework from nearly anywhere with internet access, prospective students planning to find work in Oklahoma will benefit most from attending schools located in the state. Local institutions have the most geographically relevant curriculums, which will help develop the knowledge and skills nearby employers look for most. It’s also common for these colleges and universities to establish relationships with local businesses and organizations, often allowing for more internships and employment opportunities.

Notably, most colleges and universities create cybersecurity curriculums that cover various aspects of the field. This ensures that graduates have the knowledge and skills needed to work in many different settings. Additionally, most programs allow students to select concentrations, which differentiate instruction and target advancement in certain sub-fields.

Some cyber security professionals are able to find entry-level employment utilizing self-taught knowledge and/or work experience in the field. This is not, however, typical these days. Most employers expect job candidates to have at least some amount of higher education or, at the very least, give preference to those who do.

It’s also important to realize that some professions may warrant degrees in other, but similar, majors. Depending on your goals, computer science may be a viable alternative.

Prospective students in Oklahoma can choose from academic programs at every level: associate, bachelor’s, master’s, and doctorate. Many colleges and universities also offer undergraduate and graduate certificates. Consider your options carefully before selecting which type of degree is best suited to your career aspirations.

Online Associate Degree in Cyber Security (AS)

Associate degrees in cybersecurity generally consist of around 60 credit hours of coursework, which full-time students can complete in as little as two years. Students can expect to take both general liberal arts education and major-specific classes. Programs typically provide a foundational introduction to the field, covering various important topics related to computer science and technology. Some common topics covered include computer forensics, cyber-crime, networking, database security, and CompTIA security.

This type of degree is ideal for those seeking entry-level employment in the cybersecurity field without committing to four years of undergraduate education. The knowledge and skills gained may be rudimentary, but these programs allow graduates to find work faster. Jobs most readily available at this level often relate to computer support, computer programming, and basic database administration.

Many graduates choose to pursue further online education instead of employment. This is a highly viable option, as the academic credits earned from associate degrees can often be transferred to other accredited institutions and applied toward bachelor’s degrees. Most colleges and universities accept between 60 and 90 hours of prior coursework, making it possible for students to enter as juniors instead of freshmen. As the cost of attending community colleges is often less than bigger, four-year schools, this can make earning degrees less expensive.

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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. Curriculums are similar to those at the associate level, which students enrolling in both general liberal arts and major-specific classes. Instruction is, however, more extensive. Topics commonly covered include networking fundamentals, ethical hacking, windows servers, and the installation and configuration of information systems. It’s also worth noting that many online colleges and universities allow students to designate concentrations within the field. This serves to differentiate coursework and makes it easier to specialize in certain aspects of cybersecurity.

The majority of cybersecurity professionals possess this type of degree. While graduates tend to qualify for many of the same employment opportunities as those with associate degrees, they are much more competitive and frequently receive preference from prospective employers. Additional employment opportunities available include cyber security analyst, information security analyst, and computer forensic analyst. These professions generally lead to more job security and higher pay potential.

Some graduates opt to continue their education instead of seeking employment right away. By enrolling in master’s degree programs, students can improve their jobs prospects even further. Those interested in graduate school should be prepared to meet minimum grade point average (GPA) and Graduate Record Examinations (GRE) score standards in order to qualify.

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Online Master's Degree in Cyber Security (MS)

Online master’s degrees in cybersecurity generally consist of 30 to 60 credit hours of coursework, which can be completed by full-time students in one to two years. Curriculums are much more focused, with no general education classes required. Instead, students can expect to receive highly thorough instruction pertaining to penetration testing, vulnerability analysis, applied cryptography, digital forensics, and information security strategy and policy.

While this type of degree is rarely required to attain entry-level employment, it allows graduates to seek more advanced professions in the field. Those who possess master’s degrees will receive preference when applying for work as security application programmers, penetration testers, and vulnerability analysts. They will also experience greater job stability and mobility, with more promotion opportunities and higher earning potential.

Depending on the profession sought, some students and current professionals may benefit more from enrolling in a Master of Business Administration (MBA) degree. While these programs tend to focus more on business fundamentals, the knowledge and skills gained can prove useful in many jobs within this field. MBAs are particularly useful for those seeking management and leadership roles.

Best Ranked Online Masters in Cyber Security

Online PhD Degree in Cyber Security (PhD)

Online PhD and doctoral degrees in cybersecurity generally consist of between 60 and 90 credit hours of coursework, which takes full-time students between three and seven years to complete. Curriculums vary significantly between academic institutions but most programs focus instruction on advanced topics in the field. Students can expect to study security testing, advanced malware analysis, theory of computation, and advanced algorithms. Additionally, extensive research is typically required. Students must write and defend dissertations prior to graduation.

Rarely required for even higher-level professions in the field, this type of degree is most appropriate for individuals seeking to further develop their skills in research, analytics, and advocacy. Graduates will also be qualified to apply for jobs as postsecondary academic professors teaching cybersecurity courses, as well as employment in corporate research and policy.

Become a Cyber Security Professional in Oklahoma

Before becoming a cybersecurity professional in Oklahoma, you will need to consider the various employment opportunities available. Researching the options will make it easier for you to identify which profession you prefer. As jobs in this field have different requirements, this will ensure you pursue the right education, training, and experience.

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Notably, not all cyber security professionals possess degrees. In some cases, you may be able to learn the necessary skills by enrolling in online classes offered by educational and professional entities that do not award academic degrees. Some colleges and universities also offer bootcamp programs, which are designed to provide students with the knowledge needed to complete basic tasks related to information technology. These typically culminate with certificates of completion rather than diplomas.

Although a limited number of entry-level positions may be available to non-degree holders who possess sufficient information technology knowledge and/or experience, many larger companies and organizations expect candidates to have bachelor’s degree. Those with some level of higher education generally receive preference when competing for jobs. They also tend to enjoy more job security and higher pay.

Regardless of the type of education you receive, you can choose to pursue various certifications and/or license related to cybersecurity. Obtaining one or more of these credentials demonstrates a higher level of professional knowledge and skills in specific areas or concentrations, distinguishing you from others and often providing an edge when competing for jobs. Most relevant certifications are offered by well-known information technology companies and organizations. Notably, there is no single credential preferred by employers in the field. Rather, you can pick the one(s) that appeal most to your personal interests and are appropriate for your intended profession.

There are many certifications available, but 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)

Depending on your employment goals, you may also need to obtain certain security clearances. This applies most to jobs that require professionals to handle classified data. Additionally, many government agencies will want to run Department of Defense background checks prior to finalizing work offers. It’s important to realize that these processes can cause hiring delays, as they can sometimes take several months to complete.

Careers for Cyber Security Graduates

Graduates with degrees in cybersecurity will qualify for a wide range of employment opportunities in Oklahoma.

Specific job titles, responsibilities, and salary potential will vary depending on education level, but some of the most common career options available include the following.

  • 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) are responsible for general oversight of information security systems. These professionals maintain the procedures, standards, and policies associated with assigned systems, ensuring all private data remains properly protected. They also often review reports and provide feedback on current threats before recommending solutions to solve and/or prevent related problems. According to PayScale, chief information security officers make an average base salary of $165,900 per year.
  • Information Security Analyst
    Information security analysts are responsible for providing companies and organizations with appropriate security solutions. These professionals regularly develop and execute various security strategies, using research and collected data to guide their decisions. They also spend time documenting, prioritizing, and analyzing security threats. Additionally, information security analysts ensure other employees are taking all 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 are responsible for maintaining the integrity of systems related to data storage, communication, and sharing. These professionals often develop and enforce the various protocols associated with keeping potentially sensitive data safe. They may also be tasked with ensuring that other employees can easily and safely enter, transmit, and retrieve data relevant to their jobs. According to PayScale, information security engineers make an average base salary of $94,550 per year.
  • Penetration Tester
    Penetration testers are responsible for performing cyber security assessments for companies and organizations. These professionals utilize a variety of tools and tactics to intentionally probe networks in order to expose potential areas of vulnerability. They then provide detailed reports of their findings to leadership so that any concerns can be properly addressed. According to PayScale, penetration testers make an average base salary of $86,350 per year.
  • Security Architect
    Security architects are responsible for establishing secure network and computer systems for their employers. These professionals often research, plan, and design security procedures, as well as addressing any issues that arise. They often work with teams of professionals and delegate specific programming tasks to others. According to PayScale, security architects make an average base salary of $125,450 per year.
  • Security Engineer
    Security engineers are responsible for developing applicable technological solutions to enhance overall company or organization security. These professionals work to solve various security concerns, as well as creating important protocols designed specifically to identify and address potential risks. They also deal with applications and production equipment experiencing technical problems. According to PayScale, software engineers make an average base salary of $94,150 per year.
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