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Securing Your Future: Is a Master’s in Cybersecurity Worth It?

A woman working on a tablet representing the worth of a cybersecurity master's from the Tulane School of Professional Advancement in New Orleans, LA

The digital revolution has transformed entire industries, such as banking and health care, and completely changed the way consumers buy products and services. This shift has led to a proliferation of innovation, such as the internet of things (IoT) and artificial intelligence (AI). With these advancements also come new threats to organizations, governments, and consumers alike.

A recent cybersecurity survey from 1E found 60% of organizations in the U.S. and U.K. had experienced a serious cybersecurity breach in the last two years, and even worse, hackers had breached 31% of organizations more than once. These attacks can come in the form of malware, viruses, and full-on cyberwarfare.

As such, cybersecurity professionals have come to play a critical role in preventing and protecting organizations against these attacks. This presents an opportunity for IT and cybersecurity professionals to make an impact on enterprise, consumer, and government safety. As their work gains importance, many cybersecurity professionals may wonder if a master’s in cybersecurity is worth it.

WHAT DOES A CYBERSECURITY PROFESSIONAL DO?

Many consumers are familiar with common cybersecurity tools, such as passwords, antivirus software, firewalls, encryption, and two-factor authentication. In broad terms, Techopedia defines cybersecurity as the prevention of threats against critical, private, or sensitive information from theft, compromise, or attack via hardware and software technologies. Professionals can resist cyberattack through strategies such as managing user identity, risk, and incidents.

Cybersecurity experts are responsible for strategizing and executing detailed cybersecurity plans, especially for organizations and companies that manage highly sensitive data. Information security analysts, or cybersecurity engineers, protect organizations’ computer networks and systems in numerous ways, and their roles and responsibilities expand as the number and types of cyberattacks increase. They must monitor organizations’ networks for breaches, investigate security alerts, install and run software such as firewalls to protect sensitive information, and prepare reports to document security breaches in detail, including the damage caused.

Other aspects of a security analyst’s role include testing to simulate attacks and identify vulnerabilities in the system, keeping up with the latest IT security trends and technologies, and developing and implementing security standards and best practices across an organization. A security analyst also helps his or her organization’s employees install and maintain security software on their workstations. IT security team members must collaborate with IT operations to prevent security breaches. Many large companies employ a chief security officer (CSO) or a chief information security officer (CISO) to oversee the cybersecurity efforts.

STEPS TO BECOMING A CYBERSECURITY PROFESSIONAL

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), most information security analyst positions require a bachelor’s degree in information technology or a computer-related field. Students who complete such a degree will learn the fundamentals of information security, including computer forensics, risk assessment, and security infrastructure design. In addition to applying technical skills in their work, security analysts will also employ soft skills, such as problem-solving, communication, and leadership.

They may advance these skills pursuing a master’s in business administration in information systems, which typically requires an additional two years of study following the completion of a bachelor’s degree. Alternatively, an online master of professional studies in cybersecurity management allows students to hone both the technical and business skills needed to pursue a leadership role in information security and learn how to tackle real-world cybersecurity challenges.

Cybersecurity professionals must cultivate strong analytical skills in order to improve security policies and protocols, be detail-oriented in order to spot subtle changes in performance that could indicate a security breach, and have problem-solving skills in order to respond to and mitigate damage from a cybersecurity attack.

It is also important to note that many employers prefer to hire analysts who have previous experience in a related role, such as network or computer systems administrator. Employersmay consider industry experience when hiring; for example, if the role is in systems security, a computer systems analyst could make for a strong candidate.

SALARY OF A CYBERSECURITY PROFESSIONAL

You may be wondering if a master’s in cybersecurity is worth it. According to the BLS, the median annual wage for information security analysts was $98,350 in May 2018. The BLS also reports that the bottom 10% earned less than $56,750, and the highest 10% earned more than $156,580, signifying a wide butcompetitive range. The salary of a cybersecurity professional may vary depending on one’s level of education, experience, and additional qualifications, such as certifications and licenses. The salary may also depend on the employer and geographic area.

The industry a cybersecurity professional chooses can also impact compensation. The BLS reports the median annual wages for information security analysts in the top industries as follows:

  • Computer systems design and related services: $102,620
  • Finance and insurance: $101,130
  • Information: $96,580
  • Management of companies and enterprises: $94,180
  • Administrative and support services: $94,120

Cybersecurity professionals, such as information security analysts, may advance to positions as computer and information systems managers, or IT managers, who are responsible for implementing and directing the computer systems within an organization. According to the BLS, the median annual wage for IT managers was $142,530 in May 2018. Many organizations require prospective IT managers to have a graduate degree to qualify for the position —helping address the question “is a master’s in cybersecurity worth it?” There may be an opportunity for advancement, especially for business-minded IT managers who set their sights on becoming chief technology officers (CTOs) or chief information officers (CIOs).

FUTURE GROWTH OF A CYBERSECURITY PROFESSIONAL

As cybercrimes and attacks continue to proliferate, so too does the demand for qualified cybersecurity professionals. According to the BLS, employment opportunities for security analysts will grow 28 percent from 2016 to 2026, much faster than the average of 7 percent for all occupations.

According to the Information Systems Audit and Control Association (ISACA), there exists a skills gap in the cybersecurity industry, and 69 percent of organizations report their cybersecurity teams are understaffed. Moreover, according to research from (ISC)², there is a shortage of 3 million cybersecurity professionals worldwide, and 59 percent of respondents say their organizations are at extreme or moderate risk due to cybersecurity staff shortage.

From banking and finance to health care and more, many industries require cybersecurity professionals. They are critical in helping organizations protect personal data and safeguard against cyberattacks.

LEARN MORE

If you are interested in joining the rapidly growing cybersecurity industry, and you would like to play a role in protecting consumers, governments, and enterprise from cybersecurity attacks, you may be wondering if a master’s in cybersecurity is worth it. Tulane University’s School of Professional Advancement can offer the training you need. You will learn directly from industry professionals and cybersecurity experts how to tackle real-world challenges with powerful, relevant, and effective IT solutions —and acquire the knowledge you need to advance in this dynamic field.

Sources
(ISC)², “Cybersecurity Workforce Study, 2018”
1E, “Getting Your House in Order”
Information Systems Audit and Control Association (ISACA), “State of Cybersecurity 2019”
Techopedia, “Cybersecurity”
Tulane University, Online Master of Professional Studies in Cybersecurity Management
Tulane University, Tulane School of Professional Advancement
U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Computer and Information Systems Managers
U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Information Security Analysts

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