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Is Cybersecurity a Promising Career?

Written by: University of Tulsa   •  Dec 8, 2023
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By 2023, there will be more than 29 billion networked devices globally. Every one of those networked devices will be a point of vulnerability cybercriminals can exploit to steal from businesses and individuals, intimidate people and interfere with government operations. But cybercriminals already attack us at staggering rates. In the United States alone, there is a cyberattack every 11 seconds – twice as many as in 2019 and four times as many as in 2016. Unless something changes, that number is sure to climb because there still are not enough qualified professionals in the cybersecurity and information security industries to implement the security measures to defend against data breaches, zero-day exploits, Internet-of-Things (IoT) exploits and other attacks.

This worldwide shortfall of cybersecurity professionals is a significant cause for concern. Data released by IBM shows that 207 days was the average time it took to identify a breach in 2020 – and organizations spent 280 more days on top of that managing and containing breaches. That gives cybercriminals over a year to wreak havoc on computer systems, networks and data. Incidents such as the nine month-long Sunburst hack and the Colonial Pipeline attack – which took down the largest fuel pipeline in the country – highlight the vulnerability of state secrets and physical infrastructure in the digital age.

The upside of the ongoing talent shortage in cybersecurity is that opportunity abounds in the field. The 2020 (ISC)² Cybersecurity Workforce Study found that the global cybersecurity workforce would need to increase by 89% to respond adequately to growing cybercrime rates. The U.S. workforce did increase by 30% in 2021 from about 880,000 cybersecurity workers to more than 1.1 million, but many organizations still face immediate risks due to workforce shortages. As a result, professionals with cybersecurity skills, experience and degrees tend to be high earners with better-than-average prospects.

Earning an online, part-time M.S. in Cyber Security from The University of Tulsa is an ideal way to launch a cybersecurity career or advance in this exciting field. The University of Tulsa was one of the first institutions designated a National Center of Academic Excellence in Information Assurance and Cyber Defense Education and continues to offer technically challenging programs that give students the high-level skills and knowledge they need to fill cybersecurity positions.

How difficult is cybersecurity?

Whether people find the field academically or professionally challenging tends to have more to do with their interests and aptitudes than the content of a degree program or the work itself. Computer security and information security are still relatively new disciplines, and there can be significant variation in both what graduate programs cover and employers expect.

The online M.S. in Cyber Security program at The University of Tulsa focuses on the techniques, concepts and theories that form the foundation of network defense and modern information assurance. The core coursework explores auditing and testing methodologies, defensive cybersecurity techniques and technologies, high-assurance information systems design and maintenance, human factors in information security, computer systems security and network security, information systems and network security, penetration testing methodologies and more.

Careers in cybersecurity can vary as much as the content of different cybersecurity master’s programs. Professionals in the field might secure a for-profit organization’s digital assets or work as part of a government sting operation to help locate and catch cyber terrorists. Some cyber and information security specialists spend their days strengthening systems against attacks. Others investigate or respond to attacks after they happen.

One unifying thread is that professionals in every subfield of cybersecurity commit to becoming lifelong learners. Keeping up with the evolution of both cyber attacks and the strategies used to guard against them is part of the job.

What’s the cybersecurity job outlook?

The answer to the question “Is cybersecurity a good career?” is complex. In 2021, there was unemployment in the field, but it was relatively low. Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, cybersecurity professionals have remained in demand, despite the economic downturn and rising job losses in certain sectors. In 2022, there are more than 464,000 cybersecurity job openings in the private sector and 36,000 cybersecurity positions in the public sector across all areas of government but not enough qualified cybersecurity professionals to fill them. Recent trends suggest 200,000 open cybersec and infosec positions will remain empty in 2022. Three million cybersecurity positions will go unfilled around the world.

However, that doesn’t mean organizations will start hiring underqualified candidates. Positions stay open not for want of applicants but because companies are unwilling to entrust their systems and sensitive data to just anyone. Many professionals in this field still lack the qualifications needed to advance in it – especially in large organizations that hire the bulk of cybersecurity talent, such as Intel, Apple, Boeing, Capital One and General Motors.

Cybersecurity jobs are also unevenly distributed, so it is challenging to accurately quantify the demand for cybersecurity professionals across the U.S. In 2021, Raleigh, North Carolina, Augusta, Georgia, Denver, Colorado, and Silicon Valley had thousands of open cybersecurity positions. Washington, D.C., had more than 70,000 openings on top of 100,000 filled positions for cybersecurity specialists. Meanwhile, cybersecurity jobs were relatively scarce in Vermont, Montana and South Dakota. However, geography may play a minor role in the cybersecurity job outlook moving forward as more organizations embrace remote work.

Further complicating matters is the fact that while various sources predict there will be another hiring boom in the field of cybersecurity in the next few years, there is no telling how large it will be. However, whether employers add tens of thousands of new jobs or millions of new jobs, professionals with graduate-level cybersecurity degrees from TU have the credentials and skills to stand out in the most competitive job markets for cybersecurity professionals.

How much do cybersecurity jobs pay?

Cybersecurity professionals earn an average salary of around $90,000, although some sources report that specialists in the field may earn anywhere from $65,000 to $145,000. That level of variation makes it challenging to establish how earning a master’s degree impacts cybersecurity salaries. Employers calculate cybersecurity salaries based on location, experience, title, job responsibilities and numerous other factors. For example, a cybersecurity professional working in San Francisco for a large firm is likely to earn more than one working in Montana for a smaller company, regardless of experience or education. On the other hand, an experienced director-level cybersecurity specialist might earn more in Vermont than in Raleigh because there is less competition for open positions in the former locale.

Looking at average salaries for specific roles in cybersecurity is one way to get a more accurate picture of how graduating from a cybersecurity master’s program affects earnings in this field. For example, the average information security analyst earns about $73,000, while the typical cybersecurity manager earns a median of $133,000. Other average salaries for common cybersecurity positions include $74,000 for digital forensics analysts, $93,000 for ethical hackers, $98,000 for incident handlers and $122,000 for cybersecurity architects. Chief information security officers often earn more than $166,000 per year.

The highest earners in cybersecurity are usually those who proactively take specific steps to boost their earning potential. They might earn a cybersecurity master’s degree in order to have more bargaining power in salary negotiations. Many pursue one or more cybersecurity certifications, such as the Global Industrial Cyber Security Professional or Offensive Security Certified Professional credentials. They also understand the value of reskilling and upskilling. In 2022, the most in-demand cybersecurity skills involve public cloud security and the IoT, but the highest salary premiums correlate with automation skills.

How to launch a cybersecurity career

Overseeing network and information security in a complex digital world requires advanced skills. Certificate programs and boot camps teach only basic skills and are usually limited in scope. In contrast, master’s programs in cybersecurity and information security give students practical skills and a deep understanding of the theoretical concepts that form the foundation of cybersec and infosec. In as little as 20 months or spread over four years, cybersecurity master’s candidates enrolled in The University of Tulsa learn everything they need to know to transition into this field, advance more quickly and boost their earning potential.

Many TU students move into cybersecurity after working in related fields, such as information systems management, IT management, networking, risk management and analysis, software development, systems administration and systems engineering. Because the field of cybersecurity is so broad, there is not yet a standard career path, and this lack of consistency in job titles can make getting into cybersecurity more challenging – even with a master’s in cybersecurity.

The crux of the matter is that cybersecurity is an exceedingly broad field. The discipline encompasses the many technologies, systems and processes used to detect, respond to and prevent attacks against devices, data and networks. And according to the National Initiative for Cybersecurity Careers & Studies, there are more than 50 distinct career roles in cybersecurity representing dozens of specialty areas.

The most common job titles in cybersecurity are cybersecurity architect, cybersecurity analyst, cybersecurity specialist and cybersecurity engineer. However, many job titles in the field do not have the word “cybersecurity” in them, such as incident response engineer, security analyst, penetration tester, security IT director and forensics investigator. Cybersecurity is often built into other IT jobs and these “cyber-enabled” jobs make up 56% of all cybersecurity-related job openings. Cybersecurity skills are useful in various information technology and cybersecurity positions, in fields as diverse as systems engineering and homeland security.

Do you need a master’s in cybersecurity?

The master’s in cybersecurity is increasingly a must-have degree in this quickly growing and fast-evolving field. An M.S. in Cyber Security from The University of Tulsa can help you maximize your earning potential, advance more quickly and set you on the path to a long, stable career in the cybersecurity industry. While the part-time program is geared toward working professionals with some experience in cybersecurity, network security or information assurance, it also supports those new to the field. TU’s expert faculty are active in cybersecurity innovation, and the university has been at the forefront of cybersecurity research and education for more than 20 years.

Earning a master’s degree in cybersecurity will do more than improve your professional prospects. An M.S. in Cyber Security from The University of Tulsa will empower you to make a positive impact on individual well-being as well as our nation’s economy and security.

Is cybersecurity a good career? The answer is an unequivocal “yes” for those passionate about this high-demand discipline. The world needs skilled cybersecurity experts with advanced credentials, and people with the drive, curiosity and dedication to leverage those skills in health care, law enforcement, finance, government and manufacturing. If those attributes resonate with you, a Master of Science in Cyber Security will help you go far and make a difference.

Apply now to earn a cybersecurity master’s degree at The University of Tulsa, or visit the Online M.S. in Cyber Security FAQ for more information about admission requirements, financial aid and student resources.

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