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Why You Should Study Cybersecurity in 2024

Written by: University of Tulsa   •  Mar 1, 2024
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The most surprising statistic in the 2022 Cybersecurity Almanac from Cybercrime Magazine may be this one: a World Economic Forum survey of global cyber leaders found that 59% of those surveyed would find it “challenging to respond to a cybersecurity incident due to the shortage of skills within their team.”

This cybersecurity skills gap affects businesses’ bottom lines, puts personal data at risk and presents a threat to national security. That’s what makes now such an imperative time for IT and computer science professionals to transition into cybersecurity.

Organizations in the public, private and nonprofit sectors are eager to hire well-trained cybersecurity professionals and IT and tech professionals with cybersecurity skills. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) predicts that “information security analyst” – the agency’s catch-all term for cybersecurity professionals – will be among the fastest-growing roles in the United States over the next decade.

Whether you are considering studying cybersecurity to break into the industry, move into a leadership role or learn more advanced technical skills, pursuing advanced cybersecurity education can help you achieve your goals.

You can enroll in The University of Tulsa’s 100% online Master of Science in Cyber Security program while working and earn a degree without sacrificing income. The cybersecurity master’s program is for working professionals who want to dive into or advance in this emerging and in-demand field in as little as 20 months. Still wondering why now? Here are five reasons to consider enrolling in a cybersecurity master’s degree program.

Five reasons to get a cybersecurity education

The compensation and benefits are competitive

Every year, organizations and individuals lose nearly $1 trillion to cybercrime. Cybersecurity Ventures predicts that will jump to $10.5 trillion by 2025. When businesses lose money, they start investing in risk management and mitigation solutions. Add to this the increasing ubiquity of technology in our lives, and cybersecurity is poised to become as important as home security. That means more jobs and potentially higher salaries for those who launch cybersecurity careers now.

Information security analysts can earn an average of $102,600 per year, according to the BLS, and that’s primarily in roles that don’t require master’s degrees. According to Lightcast data, cybersecurity specialists earn an average of $103,584 annually. Cybersecurity professionals in senior leadership roles requiring advanced skills and credentials may earn a median annual salary of $135,000 or more.

Unlike most cybersecurity programs that focus purely on technical competencies, the online cybersecurity master’s program at TU teaches a broad range of competencies technical and managerial leaders need. The M.S. in Cyber Security curriculum covers advanced cybersecurity concepts, including wireless and IoT device security and the design and maintenance of safe, reliable and scalable high-assurance information systems, as well as essential soft skills. Consequently, as the industry expands, Tulsa cybersecurity master’s graduates may have more opportunities to step into leadership positions in information assurance, network security, ethical hacking, etc.

Cybersecurity is a growing field

By 2023, Cisco projects that there will be 3.6 networked devices or connections for every person in the United States, and 10 devices or connections for every household. Every one of those connections is a potential point of attack for cybercriminals. As internet connectivity grows, so does the need for qualified cybersecurity professionals.

The increasing amount of sensitive data that health care, finance and governmental organizations store internally or in cloud services is also prompting cybersecurity investment. COVID-19 forced many organizations to migrate to the cloud en masse, and that transition was seldom monitored by a cybersecurity professional. In a Centrify and CensusWide survey of 150 information technology leaders, 63% said their organizations moved to the cloud three to five years ago; 25% said they began to migrate over the last two years. About 65% of those surveyed said there had been cyber attack attempts on their cloud platforms, and 80% of those respondents said the attacks were successful.

As the world becomes more connected, data more plentiful and cloud storage more standardized, the cybersecurity field continues to expand and rise in importance. “The cybersecurity landscape used to be contained within four walls,” asserts Deborah Golden, Deloitte U.S. cyber and strategic risk leader, in an interview with Fortune. “Obviously where we are today, that’s truly not the case.”

There are exciting opportunities to specialize

You can get an entry-level cybersecurity job with just a bachelor’s degree, but you may not be able to take advantage of some of the more interesting and high-paying cybersecurity career opportunities in the field without advanced cybersecurity education. According to the National Initiative for Cybersecurity Careers & Studies (NICCS), there are dozens of specialty areas and more than 50 career roles within the cybersecurity field.

The most common job titles that mention cybersecurity on are cybersecurity engineer, cybersecurity specialist, cybersecurity analyst and cybersecurity architect. But with advanced credentials, cybersecurity professionals can dive into niche cybersecurity subfields.

For example, penetration testers often have a specific interest in hacking. Their job as “ethical hackers” or “white-hat hackers” is to find security flaws before the bad guys. To do this, they simulate a hack against their own systems. Digital forensic examiners solve cyber crimes by working backward from data breaches to find the source of the theft and recover what’s been taken. Cryptographers tend to be math whizzes and spend their time cracking encryption codes via algorithms. Some professionals are drawn to the law and ethics of cybersecurity and go on to work as consultants or compliance specialists.

To help learners prepare for these and other specialized cybersecurity careers, TU offers foundational courses in cryptography, penetration testing and cybersecurity law and policy. Students also hear from professionals in a range of cybersecurity workforce specialties via interviews and at the Tulsa Cyber Summit. A combination of didactic instruction and real-world experiences helps students decide whether they want to specialize or work in cyber-enabled jobs in other areas of IT.

Your work will make a difference

Cybersecurity may not be the first thing that comes to mind when you think about meaningful work. But when you consider just how wide-reaching the cybersphere is, its impact becomes tangible. For example, health care organizations are now required to keep data on secure databases and servers after the industry suffered several devastating blows from cyber attacks. Cybersecurity experts who manage health care IT security systems protect patients’ sensitive data from HIPAA violations and malware attacks.

Cybersecurity is also an integral part of national security – one that our government leaders have made a priority. The Department of Homeland Security has said that “our daily life, economic vitality and national security depend on a stable, safe and resilient cyberspace.”

Cybersecurity professionals can also help prevent online harassment, which is often targeted at women and minority populations. Security company Malwarebytes found that 21% of women and 23% of BIPOC respondents to an online harassment survey said they experienced “substantial” stress in dealing with suspicious activity online, compared to 17% of all respondents. Cybersecurity experts who go to work for security companies can help protect vulnerable populations online.

If you want to use your degree to make a difference, cybersecurity skills can put you on the front lines of defense against financial, personal and state-level attacks. Ironically, cybersecurity specialists know they’re doing a good job when no one notices the work they’re doing.

There is copious room for advancement

Because the field is relatively new and evolving every day, it’s hard to map out a specific career path for advancement in cybersecurity. Unlike careers in medicine or law, there are no hard-and-fast stepping stones for professional growth. As of 2022, there are emerging leadership roles in cybersecurity, including:

  • Cybersecurity manager ($137,000)
  • Cybersecurity architect ($138,000)
  • Chief Information Security Officers/CISO ($230,000)
  • Director of cybersecurity/information security director ($164,000)

But the future of cybersecurity likely holds many more because organizations across industry and government will create board positions and strategic teams to solidify their cyber operations. Ambitious cybersecurity professionals will need to work hard, leverage their professional connections and stay ahead of evolving trends in this rapidly changing industry to take advantage of leading-edge leadership positions as they open up.

What will you learn if you study cybersecurity?

There are several professional development pathways in cybersecurity, including certificate programs, industry credentialing exams, bootcamps and master’s degree programs.

Certifications – such as the CISSP, CompTIA Security or Network + credentials – test skills in specific areas of cybersecurity. Unlike educational programs, these certificate options do not actually teach anything new – instead, they verify what professionals have already learned. That’s why it’s beneficial to complete graduate-level coursework to prepare for certificate exams, which can be extremely challenging. Meanwhile, bootcamps are a great way to brush up on your existing cybersecurity skills or to learn one new skill, but they aren’t as intensive as degree programs. Some cybersecurity professionals pursue degrees and then enroll in bootcamps or credentialing programs relevant to their specializations after graduating.

There is no academic experience as holistic or as comprehensive as a master’s degree program when it comes to cybersecurity. TU’s faculty members represent various specialties and interests and each bring something unique to the program. For example, Faculty Director Tyler Moore is a founding Editor in Chief of the Journal of Cybersecurity, an interdisciplinary journal published by Oxford University Press. You learn important technical skills related to network management, defensive techniques, cryptography, information systems assurance, software security and keylogging and can take advantage of unique opportunities only available in higher education.

For example, University of Tulsa students took home a silver medal in the United States Central region’s Collegiate Penetration Testing Competition (CPTC) in 2021. “Participating in CPTC and having the opportunity to attack a live network and receive feedback is so unique,” said team captain and TU student Kate Sharp. “It’s difficult to emulate this kind of experience in a typical classroom setting.”

How can you start your cybersecurity education at TU?

If you have a busy schedule and aren’t able to stop working while you earn a cybersecurity master’s degree, choosing an online program like Tulsa’s M.S. in Cyber Security makes sense.

To apply to enroll in the program, you must have a bachelor’s degree from a regionally accredited institution in the U.S. or its equivalent from a non-U.S. institution; nine course hours in mathematics and statistics at a calculus level or above, or the equivalent IT courses in Coursera and a GRE score or a waiver based on experience and previous degrees. The ideal candidate has professional experience in IT, computer engineering or computer science, but this is not a requirement. If you don’t have an academic or professional background that aligns with these areas, a high GRE score and GPA can still help your M.S. in Cyber Security application stand out.

Ultimately, the value of a Tulsa degree lies in its ROI. The University of Tulsa has a long-standing reputation for excellence in cybersecurity with on-campus and online programs supported by the federal government, National Security Agency, the U.S. Department of Defense, the U.S. Department of Energy, the U.S. Department of Transportation and the Defense Advanced Research Project Agency (DARPA). And TU has relationships with industry-leading commercial employers, such as Amazon and Google, giving students access to an array of career opportunities. Many alumni go on to secure high-paying jobs at industry-leading employers, including CymSTARGoogle, Instagram and Pacific Northwest National Laboratory.

As the demand for qualified cybersecurity professionals continues to increase, consider being among the early wave of experts to respond to that need. An advanced degree not only provides you with the skills necessary to thrive in the field but also shows potential employers that you have what it takes to juggle multiple responsibilities and succeed in a fast-paced environment.

Scholarships and financial aid are available. Apply today to start your cybersecurity journey or attend an enrollment event to learn more about admissions requirements, tuition rates and the online student experience at TU.

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