Getting a cyber security degree is a great step for any IT professional or aspiring IT professional. As more and more of our lives go online, the chances of being taken advantage of by hackers increases.
As the Internet of Things (IoT) becomes a reality, hackers will conceivably be able to get into not just our data but our possessions too! Businesses and consumers alike are all too aware of this. And with this awareness comes new opportunities for IT professionals with a cyber security degree to build themselves successful careers, based on keeping people and their data safe.
There are a host of different degrees out there, and it’s crucial that you choose the right one to fit in with your career objectives. It’s a good idea to increase your knowledge in a few different cyber security disciplines, as they will often overlap with one another.
Why A Cyber Security Degree?
There are a lot of compelling reasons to consider getting a cyber security degree. Here are just some of them
You’ll never stop learning.
As quickly as IT professionals learn how to counter one threat, hackers come up with another. It’s a fast-paced field where you will need to keep learning all the time, which is great news for keeping you engaged in your work.
Opportunity for specialization.
The profession is always evolving and changing, with new technologies being developed and coming in and out of vogue all the time. This is a great opportunity for you to specialize in a specific field and get all of the benefits that come with that (and the pay!). It also means that you have plenty of opportunities to change specializations and keep your career fresh and interesting.
Great career prospects.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median pay for Information Security Analysts is $99,730 per year. The field is also expected to grow substantially, with 31% more jobs opening up between 2019 and 2029. If you get into IT Management, the pay increases even further! Plus, if you don’t fancy working for someone else, you could set yourself up as an independent cyber security contractor.
It makes a difference.
Businesses in a variety of sectors need Cyber Security. As a valued professional in your field, you have the opportunity to work in a sector that you really care about. For example, there was recently a mass recall of pacemakers, which came about due to a security breach. Cybersecurity impacts everything.
It is possible to work in cyber security without a cyber security degree; some companies will give opportunities to existing IT staff to train on the job, for example. However, a degree demonstrates that you are a professional with a certain level of knowledge and that you take your career seriously. A degree can allow you to be more selective about where you decide to work, and it also often means a higher salary.
How Will It Fit In With Your Life?
When choosing your degree course, it’s crucial to choose a course that you can actually commit to. If you are working already or have family commitments, it can be challenging to find the time to attend a physical college and stick with the associated timetables.
One option for people in this situation is to seek out a cyber security degree with an option to study online. Due to the current world climate, more and more institutions are offering their courses online. They have also had to ensure that their online offerings are equal in quality to their on-campus offerings, which is great news for people looking for a more flexible approach to study.
What Should You Be Looking For From Your Degree?
So how do you know which cyber security degree is right for you? The way to approach this question is by looking a little way into the future. Consider what career opportunities you hope to be able to take advantage of once you have your degree, and ensure that the modules on offer as part of your chosen course are properly equipping you for it.
Some topics that you might want to consider incorporating into your degree are:
- Machine Learning and Artificial Intelligence (AI)
- Ethical Hacking
- Network Defense
- Pen Testing
- Disaster Recovery
We’ll discuss these topics, what they are, and why they are so important in a moment.
As with any degree, it’s also vital that your cyber security degree furnishes you with the skills you need to research and implement new solutions and present your ideas in a way that lets people engage with them.
Links with industry are also important. Cyber security is a growing and competitive field, so if you want to give yourself the best chance of landing your dream job, you’ll need to have a few contacts out in the field who can help you.
Machine Learning And AI
Machine learning and AI is the ability for computers to learn and solve problems on their own. Some applications in real life are things like self-driving cars and facial recognition software.
Self-driving cars are being furnished with artificial intelligence to allow them to work. The cars are equipped with numerous sensors and cameras to allow them to see what is happening around them. They then need to process the information provided by these sensors and decide what to do with this information. Do they brake or swerve to avoid an obstruction, for example?
Machine learning and AI are also becoming crucial tools in the cyber security field. With these tools at their disposal, cyber security experts are allowed to collect data on millions of threats, carry out analysis, and calculate the best way to neutralize them. It’s essential that your cyber security degree covers the uses of machine learning and AI because this is the way the industry is going.
Ethical hacking is the practice of using all of the hacking tools in your belt to try and break through a companies defenses (with their permission!) and hack into their IT systems. By doing this, you are able to tell the company where the weaknesses are in their system, which can help them to inform security strategies going forwards.
By becoming a certified ethical hacker, this assures potential clients that you are aware of the most up to date cyber threats and that your analysis of a system is genuine. You need to know that the person claiming that your system is safe actually has the knowledge needed to crack it after all!
Certification also serves the purpose of assuring people looking to work with the company whose systems you have checked that you are a neutral third party whose opinion can be trusted.
The role of a person working in network defense is to monitor the network they have been assigned to and protect it from threats.
They will use their advanced knowledge of network technologies, data transfer, and how networks operate in general to apply effective network security protocols. They will utilize tools such as VPN, secure IDS, and firewalls to keep the network safe, and also consistently scan the network for any vulnerabilities so that preventative measures can be applied.
It is beneficial to seek out a cyber security degree that also certifies you in network defense, as this shows your potential employer or clients that you are well versed in all of the latest threats and measures that need to be taken to combat them. As with ethical hacking, it also marks you out as a trusted and neutral professional.
CCNA (Cisco Certified Network Administrator) and CCNP (Cisco Certified Network Professional) certifications have historically been a recognized and well-respected qualification in the IT world.
Now that more of our technology is moving into the cloud, some people have been asking the question ‘are the CCNA and CCNP certifications are still worth getting?’ In a word, yes.
Firstly, the cloud is essentially still a network. It is just owned and maintained off-site, but the fundamentals and data protocols needed to operate safely and effectively remain the same.
Secondly, even if a company puts a lot of their information into the cloud, they are likely to still have some need for an on-site network.
Networking is always going to be a required skill, particularly for cyber security professionals, and certification proves that you know what you’re talking about. Therefore, if you can find a cyber security degree that offers one or both of the Cisco networking certifications, this is a definite bonus.
Pen (penetration) testing is essentially the simulation of a sustained attack on your network or application. The idea is to find any vulnerabilities before any malicious third parties do.
A good pen testing protocol will probe your network for weaknesses and provide a map of how it is configured. The attack then progressively escalates, with the end goal being to try and gain unauthorized access to your system.
The protocol for pen testing will be constantly reviewed and revised so that the most up to date methods are being used.
Pen testing will be part of any good cybersecurity degree, and it’s also an essential part of software development.
Disaster recovery is absolutely critical for any business. Essentially disaster recovery is what you do in the event of a worst-case scenario. For example, if hackers did get into your system and delete all of your data, what do you do? Or, if a power outage downed your systems, how would you recover from that?
A disaster recovery plan is essentially a fallback plan to be executed in case something that you haven’t anticipated happens (which is always will, technology is like that!). Often a crucial part of a disaster recovery plan is having backups of your critical data in a location separate from your main systems so that if the worst happens, you don’t lose everything that allows you to operate as a business.
It’s important that disaster recovery methodology is covered in your cybersecurity degree, as this will almost certainly fall under your remit as a cyber security professional.
The methodology for cyberattacks and how to defend against them are continually evolving, which is why research is a vital part of a good cyber security degree. You need to equip yourself with the ability to keep up to date with the latest threats and technologies so that you can keep the company you are working for safe. It’s no good to be proficient in cyber security skills from last year if hackers are able to use this year’s skills to hack your network and get what they want.
Links With Industry
For any degree, the ultimate aim is to be able to get yourself a job at the end of it, and a cyber security degree is no different.
Try to find yourself a degree course which has good links with industry, as this will help you to make the contacts you need to bag yourself a great job. Not only this but learning from people who have actually worked in the field will be absolutely invaluable. The experience of working in cyber can be quite different from knowing the theory, no matter how good you are at it.
Learning from people who have been there before you is a great way to prepare yourself for what’s waiting for you after you graduate, and therefore get you ahead.
No matter how skilled and qualified you are, you will need to be able to sell your ideas to the people you are working for. Those people are unlikely to have much, if any, knowledge of your field, so finding a cyber security degree that will allow you to practice presenting and selling cybersecurity principles to a non-technical audience is a huge plus!
The better able you are able to communicate your ideas, the more the people you are working for will trust you. This will lead to greater autonomy in your role, and ultimately, better opportunities.
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