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What is Cyber Security?

Cybersecurity is a common phrase bandied about in the world of information technology. Whenever a company has a credit card breach, or a bad actor hacker takes over a computer network and Facebook goes down, or your banking app stops working, the people who fight of the attack and restore the systems are part of a cyber security team. There are specially trained information technology professionals that know how to recognize attacks and attempt the mitigate the damage hackers can cause. Cyber security professionals know how to think like hackers, and that helps them create systems and networks that are less accessible to hackers. And, in the event of a breach, these pros know how to track down the breach and put an end to it.

Cyber security specialists are trained to monitor risks and potential data breaches. When a risk is identified, a specialist is tasked to stop it, trace the risk back to its source, and create solutions so that a breach of that kind never occurs again. They also assist programmers and developers in creating tamper proof systems to help prevent cyber-attacks from occurring in the first place. To some, cybersecurity is considered a branch of information technology, and 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 and healthcare industries.

Cybersecurity specialists are in charge of keeping an organization safe from cyber-attacks. A business needs to be able to keep personal data safe, and cyber security specialists set up the processes and procedures that accomplish this. They also coordinate with other members of the information technology department to create a system of checks and balances. These steps not only monitor for attacks, but they also create a system that fights off attack and tracks attackers. Specialists are often experts in database administration as well as computer programming. The combination of these skills, as well as the experience of recognizing the areas where attacks are most likely to occur, ensure that a cybersecurity specialist’s day is never dull.

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Online Cyber Security Education in Oregon

In the state of Oregon, there are roughly 11,000 people employed in some sort of computer or information technology field. According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the need for workers in information technology, including cybersecurity, will increase through 2030.

Oregon’s top two industries are real estate and manufacturing. Both of these industries are required to collect sensitive and personal data from their customers and clients, so it’s important that this information is kept as secure as possible. No real estate agent wants to find out that their potential client’s financial information was leaked, and a housing manufacturer would be in serious violation if sensitive banking information of home buyers was leaked. So, a solid information technology department with top notch security professionals are a must for both industries. Not only do the systems have to be built to match the needs of an organization, but there needs to be a team that can address issues immediately, as well as a team that is constantly creating new ways to better protect data. There are even cyber security professionals who are dedicated to attempting to breach these systems so stronger ones can be created.

If this sounds like a career you might enjoy, keep reading. There is information below on the educational requirements, how to break into the field, and the types of jobs available in the industry.

A person interested in pursuing a career in information technology or cyber security has a lot of options depending on the level of education they want to pursue. As with most professions, the more education attained, the further a person can progress in their career, but even a two-year degree can land a person a decent job in information technology. The degree levels you can earn are outlined below.

Online Associate Degree in Cybersecurity (AS)

An associate degree in in cyber security can be obtained from tech training schools and community colleges This degree is a start but won’t allow for much advancement in a cybersecurity career. It will open some doors of an information technology department and, once you’ve gained employment in the field, you can continue your education so you can achieve the goal of working as a cyber security specialist.

Classes in the programs can vary, but in general, a student can expect to take the following courses:

  • Introduction to Computers, Networking, Security, Programming, and Databases
  • Security Vulnerability Analysis
  • Offensive Security Exploitation
  • Cloud Computing
  • Network Security Architecture
  • And More

Online Bachelor's Degree in Cybersecurity (BS)

An online bachelor’s degree in cyber security is the first rung on the ladder to working as a cyber security specialist. For most certifications, a minimum of a bachelor’s degree and work experience are required to apply and sit for any required exams. For those who have already attained a two-year degree, the bachelor’s degree builds on the education. Between the additional education and work experience, positions on a cybersecurity team may become available, especially if you’ve added specific certifications.

However, while working on your four-year degree, you will study the following areas:

  • Data Security
  • System Administration
  • Ethical Hacking
  • Incident Response and Malware Analysis
  • Digital Forensics
  • Business Processes and Information Systems

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Online Master's Degree in Cybersecurity (MS)

Graduate school students choose areas of study that match their career goals. For someone who wants to become a cyber security specialist, the masters classes will be based on cyber security for programming and networks. These programs vary by school, so there isn’t a set curriculum to point to but it is safe to say that prior courses will be revisited at a higher level. At this stage, a person enrolled in a graduate program probably has several years of work experience as well as several certifications in the information technology field. Enrollment in a graduate program should create additional career opportunities. Work experience, as well as the graduate degree, will open up the option of teaching at local colleges and universities. Finally, many cybersecurity specialists that are employed in the finance industry couple their IT experience with a Master of Business Administration (MBA), which can give graduates an advantage since they understand both the information technology side as well as the business side of the importance of cyber security.

Online PhD Degree in Cybersecurity (PhD)

For the most part, a cyber security specialist does not need a doctorate degree to advance to the top of his 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 or university.

Those who wish to earn a degree at this level must be prepared to complete coursework and a dissertation or thesis over several years. Luckily, these programs are designed for working professionals and are usually nearly 100% accessible through distance education.

Become a Cyber Security Professional in Oregon

Information technology and cybersecurity have some of the most varied paths to success of all careers. There are different paths you can take to get to the upper echelon, but for the most part, general and specific degrees in computer science, database administration, or cyber security and all lead to success, and professionals may be able to hop from one area to another without derailing their career.

Most people who work in cybersecurity start as database administrators. It’s in these and other entry level positions that they gain experience focused on the information technology groundwork laid during their degree programs. While working in entry-level or next-level positions, you should continue your education in the form of certifications, which are often needed to advance in the field. After a few years of experience of working as an administrator or support specialist, you might be able to take the Computer Information System Security Professional (CISSP) exam and apply for acceptance into the (ICP)2 organization. Or, if you are focused on a different area of computer science, then you can take whatever certification exam works for your chosen career path. There are a huge number of certifications available across the spectrum of available IT roles.

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), your next step might be to become a Security Engineer, Security Analyst, Security Auditor, or Security Consultant. Several years of experience as well as a CISSP certification may be required for these positions.

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Careers for Cyber Security Graduates

  • Cyber Information Security Analyst:
    A security analyst examines a company’s security system and looks for flaws or possible breach areas in security systems and computer programs; they then assist the company by creating solutions that address the problems that are found. They also help companies create more secure solutions from the start so there are fewer chances of a breach going forward.
  • Security Engineer:
    A security engineer keeps a company’s security systems up and running. Engineers are tasked with creating and implementing system for the network, computer hardware, and software systems. They test for errors and inaccuracies, and in the event that there is a problem, they are the ones who identify the issue and create a fix.
  • Information Systems Manager:
    IT managers oversee a company’s information technology department. They run the teams that keep the IT networks running and safe. They maintain the staff, ensure that the department runs smoothly, and hire 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.
  • Cyber 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 admins that work with them to ensure the data, voice, wireless, and video networks they are responsible for run smoothly and without complications.
  • Information Technology Specialist:
    An information technology specialist manages, strategizes, and executes the IT infrastructure of an organization. The director oversees the creation, implementation, and maintenance of IT infrastructure and leads teams when there are issues and needs such as disaster recovery or catastrophic failures in the system.
  • Penetration Tester:
    If you’ve ever wanted to become a hacker but were afraid of breaking the law, then a career as a penetration tester could be right for you. Also referred to as pen testers, these individuals deliberately attempt to hack into a business’ computer and network system. The point of this sanctioned hack is to look for weaknesses in the system and correct them so that a bad actor hacker cannot gain access.

Other careers that a person with a cyber security education include:

  • Network Administrator
  • Systems Administrator
  • Information Security Manager
  • Cloud Information Security Engineer
  • Information Security Analyst
  • Security Software Engineer
  • Security Architect
  • Chief Information Security Officer (CISO)

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