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Is a Cybersecurity Degree Worth It? | #hacking | #cybersecurity | #infosec | #comptia | #pentest | #ransomware

The field of cybersecurity is growing rapidly, with diverse job opportunities available across many different industries. But with so many ways to build technology skills, is a cybersecurity degree worth it? 

The value of a cybersecurity degree depends on the specific credentials you get and the type of job you want. But no matter what path you hope to take in the cybersecurity field, building industry knowledge and skills can help you stand out when applying for jobs, said Adam Goldstein, an online IT team lead and adjunct instructor at Southern New Hampshire University (SNHU).

“Numerous reports and studies have shown that there are hundreds of thousands of cybersecurity job openings and that demand is on the rise,” said Goldstein, who has more than 20 years of experience in information security. “And while educational programs are increasing, the number of trained professionals is significantly below that demand, so there will be continued opportunities for years to come.”*

So, is a degree in cybersecurity right for you? The first step toward making that determination is to better understand what a cybersecurity degree is and how it prepares you for the career you want.

What is a Cybersecurity Degree?

A cybersecurity degree is a higher education credential designed to give you skills, knowledge and experience in key areas of the information technology (IT) field. Cybersecurity degree programs can prepare you to respond to cyber threats, assess risk and apply security techniques to keep software, data and digital infrastructure safe from cyber attacks.

Depending on your past educational and professional experience, there are different types of cybersecurity degrees that may be right for you, including:

  • Associate of Science in Cybersecurity
  • Bachelor of Science in Cybersecurity
  • Master of Science in Cybersecurity

Cybersecurity degree coursework can vary, but most programs include a mix of general education courses and degree-specific classes, such as:

  • Application Security
  • Computer Networking
  • Computer Operating Systems
  • Network Security
  • Operating System Security
  • Security Risk Management

Are Cybersecurity Degrees Hard? 

An icon of a computer with a lock on the screen.Cybersecurity degrees do require time and effort, but they are not necessarily harder than any other degree program.

“With evolving and innovative education models, aspiring professionals can develop strong technical skills in areas such as network security, cryptography and ethical hacking, as well as understanding legal and ethical considerations,” Goldstein said.

He also noted that cybersecurity can sometimes be a challenging field because it’s changing all the time and requires students to build skills across a broad range of subjects. But this rapid evolution is also what makes the field exciting and results in a diverse range of jobs available.

Is a Cybersecurity Degree Enough to Get a Job?

In 2024, there are many cybersecurity positions available in the U.S. that still need to be filled. According to Cyberseek, there are only enough cybersecurity workers to fill 82% of the jobs employers need.*

An icon indicating a process with three circles, two of which are checked off, connected by two linesThe specific cybersecurity jobs available after earning a degree will depend on your program and the knowledge, skills and abilities (KSAs) you gain during your education, said Goldstein.

“Degree programs are a great way to acquire the wide range of KSAs that are needed for a cybersecurity position,” he said.

A degree in cybersecurity can also open up career opportunities across many fields. While you could work for an information technology company, Goldstein said that many other industries also rely on cybersecurity professionals to secure their networks and digital assets, including:

  • Education
  • Finance
  • Healthcare
  • Insurance
  • Manufacturing
  • Retail

“The job types are varied from security engineers focused on building and maintaining secure systems to auditors and compliance experts, and to those working in incident response who help organizations deal with cyber incidents,” Goldstein said.

What Branch of Cybersecurity Pays the Most?

According to Terrance Winn, an adjunct faculty member in cybersecurity at SNHU, and a cybersecurity professional with 30 years of experience, cybersecurity has become an umbrella term that covers many specialty jobs.

These jobs include:

  • Cybersecurity Analyst
  • Governance, Risk and Compliance (GRC)
  • Incident Responder
  • Vulnerability Analyst
  • Security Consultant

The earning potential within cybersecurity depends on the industry you work in, your specific role and your level of education and experience –and, quite often, the geographic region of the organization for which you work.

As an information security analyst, for example, you could help plan and carry out security strategies designed to protect an organization’s computer networks and systems.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), information security analysts earned a median annual salary of $120,360 in 2023.* BLS data projects jobs for information security analysts will grow 32% by 2032.*

Is a Cybersecurity Degree Worth the Investment?

Your earning potential and the job opportunities available to you will depend on the type of cybersecurity degree you pursue and the skills and experience you build as a result. But data from BLS and other organizations shows that there are many benefits to earning a cybersecurity degree.

In-Demand Field

According to Cyberseek, there were 448,033 cybersecurity job openings in the United States between February 2023 through January 2024, many of which required a bachelor’s level degree or higher.*

For cybersecurity specialist jobs, for example, 42% of online job listings requested a bachelor’s degree, and 44% requested a master’s degree, according to Cyberseek data. Jobs for incident and intrusion analysts were similar. Cyberseek reported that 52% requested applicants with a bachelor’s degree, and 46% requested applicants with a master’s degree.

“The demand remains high and will undoubtedly stay that way for the foreseeable future,” said Winn.*

Higher Earning Potential

Earning a cybersecurity degree could also help you earn more. According to BLS data, bachelor’s degree holders earned a median weekly income of $1,493 in 2023, compared to just $899 per week for workers with a high school diploma.*

Master’s degree holders saw an even bigger boost in salary potential, earning a median weekly income of $1,737 in 2023, according to BLS.

Lower Unemployment Rates

Stable employment is another potential benefit of earning a degree in cybersecurity. BLS data shows that in 2023, master’s degree holders had an unemployment rate of just 2%, while bachelor’s degree holders experienced 2.2% unemployment.* Workers with a high school diploma, on the other hand, had unemployment rates of 3.9%, according to BLS.*

Opportunities for Personal and Professional Growth

One of the biggest benefits of earning a cybersecurity degree is the growth you can experience in your personal and professional life. 

Remus Figueroa Orozco wearing a graduation cap and gown to celebrate his bachelor’s degree in cybersecurity from SNHURemus Figueroa Orozco ’23 earned his bachelor’s degree in cybersecurity while balancing a career in the military, parenthood and a cancer diagnosis. Figueroa Orozco said that while the journey to earning his degree was sometimes challenging, knowing he has an in-demand cybersecurity credential has helped make his transition to civilian life easier after an 8-year military career.

His advice for other students considering a cybersecurity degree program is simple.

“My advice would be to just do it,” he said. “Time is not slowing down for anybody. Don’t give up on yourself, because at the end of the day, you are your best support system. Do what’s best for you, and don’t let anybody stop you.”

What is the Best Cybersecurity Degree? 

An icon of a graduation cap.The best cybersecurity degree isn’t a simple decision. Instead, it’s important to consider your prior technology experience, personal and professional goals and the time and money you have to invest in your education.

A bachelor’s degree is the typical entry-level education for cybersecurity roles like information security analysts, according to BLS. But two-year degrees, certificate programs and graduate-level degrees can also help you reach your goals.

“Any degree … shows a potential hiring manager or recruiter that there is an interest in the field,” said Winn.

Is it Better to Get a Cybersecurity Degree or Certificate? 

Terrance Winn, an adjunct faculty member in cybersecurity at SNHUWhile a full degree can open up more job opportunities, Winn said that pursuing a cybersecurity certificate might be worthwhile for someone trying to change fields. A certificate program can help you determine if you want to pursue a degree and can give you a key credential faster, opening up employment opportunities to build real-world experience.

If you decide to pursue a degree after earning a certificate, your courses should apply toward the program, said Winn.

Read more: Is a Cybersecurity Certificate Worth It?

Is a 2-Year Degree in Cybersecurity Worth It?

Earning an associate degree in cybersecurity can also be a good starting point for professionals in the field, said Goldstein — particularly if the program incorporates hands-on learning.

“Programs with a strong commitment to hands-on and applied learning are beneficial,” he said. “Practice working with technology is going to make you stand out to employers.”

Are Cybersecurity Master’s Degrees Worth It?

If you’ve already earned a bachelor’s degree and want to advance your career even further, earning a master’s degree in cybersecurity can help, said Goldstein.

Master’s degrees can give you more advanced technical skills and help you build key leadership skills employers look for when hiring for management positions in cybersecurity.

But no matter what degree program you pursue, Winn said it’s important to ensure you attend a university with a proven track record of providing high-quality cybersecurity education.

According to Winn, one way to do this is to look for institutions that have important designations. For instance, SNHU has been designated a National Center of Academic Excellence in Cyber Defense (CAE-CD) by the National Security Agency (NSA). The Bachelor of Science (BS) in Cybersecurity is SNHU’s validated program of study.

Is a Cybersecurity Degree Right for Me?

If you want to join the evolving cybersecurity field, it’s important to consider the degree programs available and how they align with your unique goals. Once you decide how to move forward with your cybersecurity career aspirations, the opportunities are virtually limitless.

“No two situations are the same within this field, and there are opportunities to carve out a great career in one of the niche specialty areas,” said Winn. “The field continues growing, and cybersecurity professionals must ensure businesses/organizations can protect customer information and resources.”


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