Master’s in Cyber Security Degrees & Schools Guide

Master's Degree in Cybersecurity Career Options & Salary

Why Earn a Master’s in Cyber Security?


The field of cybersecurity is growing extremely fast; according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics employment is projected to grow by 28% in the next decade. As technology advances, colleges and universities are trying to keep up with the demand and are now offering master’s degree programs that are specific to the field. With the high demand for skilled security workers, you may be wondering if a graduate degree is worth the time and effort; in a word the answer is yes. With a master's degree you can reach the top of the field in cybersecurity and find job security and excellent wages wherever you choose to live and work. Here are some details to help you with your educational questions about a master's degree in cyber security.

Criminal Justice & Law Degrees & Career Paths


PROS

  • When you hold a master's degree in cyber security you will qualify for the best positions at the best companies and can easily find a job you love.
  • A master's degree in any subject means you will most likely earn more than someone working the same job that only has a bachelor’s degree; in cyber security you will earn much more.
  • Your graduate degree demonstrates you are an expert in your field and showcases your knowledge and skills.
  • Earning a master's degree expands your job options, as you will qualify for many more positions as well as many more fields aside from cybersecurity.
  • Once you have your master’s degree, you will qualify for the highest certifications in the field as well.
  • A master's degree program also teaches leadership skills and you'll be qualified for positions in upper management or to launch your own consultation business.
  • Many companies have employee education programs that will reimburse you for college tuition.

CONS

  • a master's degree takes time and, if you're working full-time, you may only be able to take one or two courses a semester.
  • It may take quite a while to see a return on your educational investment.
  • Earning your master's degree doesn't mean the end of your education. Because cyber security is constantly evolving, you'll need to stay on top of new developments and earn new certifications as they arise.
  • The higher on the corporate ladder you climb, the more hours you'll probably work and it's easy to get burned out.
  • Higher positions mean more stress as the pressure to perform will rise.

Overview of a Cyber Security Master's


What Cyber Security Master’s Degrees are Available?


Cyber security falls within the science of computers and your degree will reflect that status. Because the field is relatively new, you'll find quite a variety of program titles and specialties to choose from. It's important to research two areas when choosing a school: whether all of your bachelor’s degree credits and certifications will be accepted for transfer, and the specialties and curriculum offered within each program. Make sure the courses offered are in line with your long-term goals and network with experts in the field to verify the program is a respected base for your master’s degree.

Here are some examples of degree titles you will find:

  • MS in Applied Information Technology: Concentration in Cybersecurity
  • MS in Computer Engineering: Specialization in Network and System Security
  • MS in Data Analytics Engineering: Concentration in Digital Forensics
  • MS in Digital Forensics and Cyber Analysis
  • MS in Information Security and Assurance

Admission Requirements


Each university sets its own standards for admission and you'll find that, the more prestigious the school, the more stringent the admission requirements. For the most part, you'll need a solid academic background in computer science with a grade point average (GPA) of at least 3.0. You'll also need to submit a personal statement of purpose, several letters of recommendation, and your GRE or other entrance exam scores.

Depending on the program, or your choice of specialization, there may be prerequisite courses or certifications required as well. Check the admissions page of the school program you're considering for a full list of requirements for each program you're interested in.

How long does it take to earn a Master’s Degree in Cyber Security?


Your master's degree will take approximately two years of full-time school. At most universities it is a four-semester program, although you will find some programs that can be completed in a year and a half.

If you haven't earned your bachelor’s degree, you might consider looking for a combination five-year program that combines the two degrees as a fast track to the graduate level.

Many people enter the workforce with their bachelor’s degree and continue attending school part-time to earn their master's degree. One advantage to this path is that many employers have educational programs that will pay for or reimburse you for your graduate degree tuition.

Potential Careers in CyberSecurity with a Master’s


With a master's degree you'll have a wide range of career choices within the field of cyber security and the more experience you gain, the more career choices you'll have. The following examples of careers also show the average salaries nationwide for each position.

  • Computer and Information Research Scientist:
    A computer and information research scientist works behind the scenes to gather new information and data that relates to the field of cybersecurity. They may oversee the research of others, apply concepts to computer models, and share large-scale information with others in the field of cyber research.
    The average pay for a computer and information research scientist is $110,000 per year.
  • Computer Network Architect:
    The network architect is responsible for the design and review of network capabilities and requirements within an organization. They validate designs at the highest level and periodically report their progress to a department manager. Network architects are charged with verifying network settings and security requirements and may test for flaws and possible threats.
    The average pay for a network architect is $118,200 per year.
  • Chief Information Security Officer (CISO):
    The CISO is in charge of development, implementation, and maintenance of security processes within a company's network. It is a senior level executive role and the CISO must ensure that the technologies and assets of a company are safe from outside threats.
    Their average annual salary is $192,500.
  • Information Security Crime Investigator/Forensics Expert:
    As the title suggests, an information security crime investigator or forensics expert tries to identify the flaws within a system that allowed criminal activity to infiltrate a system. They may focus on theft by illegal download, copyright infractions within a corporation, or identity theft and similar personal computer crimes.
    Their annual average salary is $87,400.

Options to Advance


As mentioned above, you will need to continue your education as new technology and other advances arise within the field of computers and cyber security. If you enjoy the research area of the field, you may decide to continue your education to earn a PhD; a Doctorate is not so advantageous if you plan to work in the field.

Your best chance for advancement after earning your master's degree is to gain experience and certifications. With 5-10 years’ experience, you may qualify for the highest paid position in the field of cybersecurity: Lead Software Security Engineer. This position leads a team of cyber security experts to analyze and assess threats and identify weaknesses within a system. The lead software security engineer earns an average annual salary of $233,300, which is currently number one in the field of cyber security.

Best Master’s of Science in Cyber Security Programs


  • Georgia Institute of Technology
    Atlanta, Georgia

    Georgia Tech has three track programs in cyber security: Information Security, Energy Systems, and Policy. Each program includes a five-credit practicum and emphasizes applicable skills that will prepare you for upper-level employment in the corresponding field of cyber security. Georgia Tech is one of the best schools in the South for computer science.

    Degrees Offered:

    • MS in Cyber Security
  • Purdue University
    West Lafayette, Indiana

    Purdue offers an MS with two specializations: forensics or information security. The cyber forensics program is part of the Cyber Forensics Lab in the Department of Computer and Information Technology and covers topics such as homeland security, while the information security program is part of the College of Technology.

    Degrees Offered:

    • MS in Computer in Information Technology with a specialization in Cyber Forensics or Specialization in Infosecurity
  • University of Maryland-College Park
    College Park, Maryland

    The University of Maryland master's program is part of the Maryland Cyber Security Center and is an immersive program that covers networks and protocols, secure programming, and similar topics relevant to cyber security, as well as hands-on technical electives within the field of cyber security. The close proximity to D.C. is an excellent opportunity to network with professionals in the nation's capitol.

    Degrees Offered:

    • Master’s of Engineering in Cyber Security
  • University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
    Urbana, Illinois

    The University of Illinois is part of the Illinois Cyber Security Scholars Program and offers unique scholarship benefits for those entering a degree program in online security. The master's degree, MS with a concentration in Cyber Security, requires a graduate project or thesis as well as a summer internship as part of the scholarship agreement.

    Degrees Offered:

    • MS with a concentration in Cyber Security
  • Rochester Institute of Technology Center
    Rochester, New York

    RIT has a fairly new Center for Cyber Security and is part of the NSA and DHS sponsored National Centers of Academic Excellence in the Cyber Education field, making it a prime school choice for networking. They also offer a combined BS/MS in Computer Security that lets you earn your graduate degree in five years.

    Degrees Offered:

    • Master of Science in Computing Security
    • MicroMasters in Cyber Security (Part of a larger professional studies master’s degree)

Traditional Schools Offering a M.S. in Cyber Security


  • University of Pittsburgh-Pittsburgh
    Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

    The University of Pittsburg is one of the few schools that holds five Committee on National System Security (CNSS) certifications, which means this degree program is one of the best in the country. In-depth coverage of technology and systems as pertains to security is one of the prime features of this program.

    Degrees Offered:

    • MS in Information Science (MSIS) with a specialization in Information Security
  • Texas A&M University-College Station -
    College Station, Texas

    The Texas A&M cyber security program is part of the College of Engineering. The broad curriculum allows you to choose electives best suited to match your career choice in a 30 credit hour program. Alternatively, you may opt to enroll in a computer science program with a minor in cyber security. The online program can be completed in as little as 20 months.

    Degrees Offered:

    • Master of Engineering in Engineering with a Specialization in Cyber
  • University of California - Davis
    Davis, California

    UC Davis allows you to customize your Computer Science Master's Degree program to include a minor in cyber security. At one of the few California schools with an excellence in cyber research rating, you'll enjoy the latest developments and subjects within this field. The Computer Security Lab is one of the best in the nation and, although you're earning your degree online, you will still be able to access the lab for your courses and projects.

    Degrees Offered:

    • MS in Computer Science: Information Assurance Focus
  • Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University (Virginia Tech)
    Blacksburg, Virginia

    One of the best graduate schools in the country, Virginia Tech has an award-winning cyber security program that is supported by the National Security Agency’s (NSA) National Centers of Academic Excellence (CAE) and focuses on hands-on learning to master the field of cybersecurity.

    Degrees Offered:

    • MS of Information Technology
    • MS in Engineering with a Minor in Cyber Security
    • (Major in Networks and Security coming soon)
  • George Mason University
    Fairfax, Virginia

    Located within 10 miles of the Dulles Tech Corridor, George Mason offers a wide range of master’s degree programs that cover the full spectrum of the field of online security. Although the degrees are offered online, you will have opportunities to network with the finest experts in the field and gain valuable contacts while earning your graduate degree.

    Degrees Offered:

    • MS in Applied Information Technology
    • MS in Digital Forensics and Cyber Analysis
    • MS in Data Analytics Engineering: Concentration in Digital Forensics
    • MS in Information Security and Assurance
    • MS in Computer Engineering: Specialization in Network and System Security