In 2020, Cyber Security degrees are more popular than ever. Living in the digital age means hackers and cyberterrorists have endless opportunities to exploit individuals, government institutions, and even large companies.
To defend against cyber attacks and security breaches, top organisations are willing to pay a lot for cyber analysts who can protect their data and remove vulnerabilities.
But is a Cyber Security degree right for you? In order to help you figure it out, we’ll go through everything there is to know about Cyber Security, and all the major questions future prospective students ask before deciding to study a Bachelor's or Master’s degree in Cyber Security:
- What is Cyber Security?
- What will I study during a Cyber Security degree?
- What's the duration of Cyber Security degrees?
- What are the admission requirements for IT Security courses?
- What are the best Cyber Security schools in 2020?
- What are the tuition fees for Cyber Security studies?
- Can I study Cyber Security degrees online?
- Cyber Security scholarships, internships, and hacking contests
- Cyber Security jobs and how much do Cyber Security experts make
- What are some recent trends in Cyber Security?
Advice from a Cyber Security expert
To give you the best insights about what it means to study Cyber Security and advance to a Cyber Security career, we’ve contacted an expert in the field: Bogdan Botezatu, Senior E-threat Analyst at Bitdefender.
According to his own description: “when he is not documenting sophisticated strains of malware or writing removal tools, he teaches extreme sports such as surfing the web without protection or rodeo with wild Trojan horses.
He believes that most things in life can be beaten with strong heuristics and that anti-malware research is like working for a secret agency: you need to stay focused at all times, but you get all the glory when you catch the bad guys.”
What is Cyber Security?
Cyber Security study programmes teach you how to protect computer operating systems, networks, and data from cyber attacks. You’ll learn how to monitor systems and mitigate threats when they happen.
This is an oversimplification of IT security degrees’ curricula. Each module will have a certain focus, but the overall goal is to help you develop the computing skills needed to prevent attacks and protect people’s data and privacy.
What will I study during a Cyber Security degree?
Because IT Security is still a relatively young discipline, universities and colleges are still figuring out which is the best approach for their degrees. Study programmes and curricula in Cyber Security are different.
Some might focus more on programming, while others place more emphasis on digital forensics, security policies, or broad aspects of Cyber Security. According to the NSA’s 2014 Academic Criteria, IT Security degrees should include classes on:
- Basic Data Analysis
- Basic Scripting or Introductory Programming
- Cyber Defense
- Cyber Threats
- Fundamental Security Design Principles
- Information Assurance Fundamentals
- Intro to Cryptography
- IT Systems Components
- Networking Concepts
- Policy, Legal, Ethics, and Compliance
- System Administration
More advanced modules, especially those at Master’s degree level, can help you specialise in complex topics like Forensic Accounting, Cloud Computing, Cryptography, etc.
When looking at Cyber Security degrees, you should keep an eye on the curriculum of each programme. Make sure they include programming courses and choose the ones that offer hands-on experience, which is invaluable both for you and for future employers.
According to Bogdan: “Right now, people new to cyber-security have way more options - interactive classes with extremely skilled tutors, internships in well-established cyber-security companies, local conferences and cyber-security talks.”
However, he goes on saying that “back in my day - and to some extent even now – Cyber Security was not something you'd learn in school. The curriculum is great in terms of teaching algorithms and programming, but not that much with Cyber Security and reverse engineering. These are skills that I learnt outside classrooms, thanks to the power of the Internet.”
This means that while Cyber Security degrees are a great starting point, they will not teach you everything you need to know about this field. Keep an open mind and develop your skills outside the academic environment as well.
What's the duration of Cyber Security degrees?
- Bachelor’s degrees in Cyber Security take 3 or 4 years in most countries.
- Master’s courses in Cyber Security take between 1-2 years to complete.
- PhD programmes in Cyber Security last 3-5 years. Some only take 1 or 2 years, but they are less common.
What are the admission requirements for IT Security courses?
Admission requirements at Cyber Security schools will vary from one university to another, so always check the official page of your study programme. That being said, these are the most common academic requirements:
For Bachelors in Cyber Security
- English language certificate: IELTS (minimum 6.0) or TOEFL (minimum 70)
- Academic transcript of grades or minimum GPA of 3.0
- Two letters of recommendation
- Personal statement of academic intent
- Online interview
For Masters in Cyber Security
- English language certificate: IELTS (minimum 6.5) or TOEFL (minimum 75)
- Bachelor’s degree in Computer Science, Cyber Security, or a related field
- Minimum GPA (established by each university individually)
- Motivation letter
What are the best Cyber Security schools in 2019?
Universities and colleges are still perfecting their Cyber Security curricula, and that’s why study programmes are getting better every year. With this in mind, let’s have a look at some of the best Cyber Security schools in the world in 2019:
- Georgia Institute of Technology, in the US
- Abertay University, in the UK
- SRH Hochschule Berlin, in Germany
- University of Winnipeg, in Canada
- Purdue University, in the US
What are the tuition fees for Cyber Security studies?
- For Bachelor’s degrees in Cyber Security, tuition fees start at around 1,000 EUR and can reach over 30,000 EUR/academic year
- For Master’s degrees in Cyber Security, tuition fees vary between 1,500 – 40,000 EUR/academic year
You don’t have to pay huge amounts of money to get a good education in this field. There are countries where top universities offer quality Bachelors and Masters in IT Security for low tuition fees or even for free. Here are some of the countries with affordable Cyber Security programmes:
- Cyber Security in Estonia
- Cyber Security in Sweden
- Cyber Security in the Netherlands
- Cyber Security in Australia
Can I study Cyber Security degrees online?
Studying an online Cyber Security degree is a great option for prospective students who also have other commitments, like a part-time or full-time job. This allows you to learn at your own pace from anywhere in the world.
You can also re-watch courses as many times as you need, and you’ll be able to interact with your colleagues through discussion boards or social media groups. While you’ll generally have flexibility, deadlines for exams and projects are still fixed, and you need to meet them.
A great advantage is the ability to try an online short course in IT Security before deciding if you’re ready to go for undergraduate or postgraduate studies. Many universities, colleges, and online platforms offer Cyber Security short courses starting at 100 EUR. They usually last between 1-3 months and allow you to get a taste of online learning.
Online Cyber Security degrees will also help you reduce study costs. Tuition fees are lower, starting at 300 EUR/academic year, and you don’t need to spend money on transportation, rent, and living costs in a foreign country. Still, due to the technical nature of Cyber Security degrees, you might need to invest money in your hardware or software programmes used in classes or virtual labs.
Always check the accreditation of the study programme before you enrol in an online Bachelor’s or Master’s in IT Security. While most online degrees are legitimate, you don’t want to invest your money and time in a fake diploma. Being scammed while trying to learn how to prevent cybercrime is not exactly an asset on your CV, right?
Cyber Security scholarships, internships, and hacking contests
Cyber Security Scholarships
There’s no online platform that gathers all the scholarships and financial aid programmes available for Cyber Security students. There are, however, more scholarship programmes available in the United States. Read the requirements for each, because some of them are only available to US citizens or people with a residence permit.
You can also search for scholarships based on the country in which you want to study. Another great option is looking for resources on the university page or asking the academic staff during the application process. If there are financial aid programmes available, they can offer you the necessary information.
Check out the Studyportals Scholarship to get some help on financing your studies abroad.
Cyber Security Internships
Internships are a great way to gain experience and prepare for the job market. They offer you the opportunity to work with experts in the IT Security field and learn from real-life problems and situations. Internships represent a great opportunity to apply what you’ve learned in Cyber Security classes and see where you can develop your knowledge.
You’ll find various internships on sites like Glassdoor or LinkedIn. If you fit the requirements and are happy with the duration and payment, go ahead and apply. You’ll also find lists of IT Security internships on the internet. Not all of them are up-to-date, but they spare you from searching for each programme individually.
Hacking contests and bug bounties
During hacking contests, teams from all over the world compete in a series of challenges. A great example is Global Cyberlympics, where the challenges usually focus on System Exploitation, Reverse Engineering, Cryptography, etc. Hacking contests are a great place to show off your computing skills and practise working within a team.
Hacking competitions can also be organised by companies to find bugs or vulnerabilities in their hardware or software products. In 2019, for example, Tesla offered 900,000 USD and a free car to anyone who could hack their Tesla Model 3.
Companies are willing to offer prizes because the number of cyber threats has been growing. As more devices are connected to the internet, they become vulnerable to hacking. That’s why it is crucial to find software security issues before cybercriminals.
Tech giants like Google, Microsoft, Facebook, and others offer bug bounties to people who can hack their software and help them fix security flaws. Money isn't the only thing you’ll get if you manage to pull off such a feat. Companies will evaluate your skills, and you might end up working as a Cyber Security analyst and defend their products and systems.
Cyber Security jobs and how much do Cyber Security experts make
Here is what Bogdan, Senior E-threat Analyst at Bitdefender, has to say about following a Cyber Security career:
“Cybersecurity is not your average 9 to 6 job. It requires serious dedication and, most importantly, a lot of effort just to keep up with the latest developments in the field. There is no straight way to a Cyber Security career, but most people get there either straight out of college (way easier if you have pursued a Bachelor's degree in Computer Science) or by transitioning from another IT role. Both are good starters to get a solid understanding of how technology works.
Another important aspect is curiosity. Most Cyber Security roles require that you put yourself in a hacker's shoes. Master this malicious mindset, stay inquisitive, and the rest will come. Just be warned that people in Cyber Security are always on-call.”
The best Cyber Security jobs and salaries
Do you know how much the world needs IT Security experts? Currently, there is a shortage of 2.93 million Cyber Security professionals worldwide, according to ISC2. The U.S. Bureau of Labour Statistics also adds that there will be a 28% job increase in this field by 2026.
Cyber Security experts are needed in companies from all fields, but especially in financial, healthcare, and even education institutions, where people’s transactions, assets, and health records need to be protected.
There are multiple positions you can occupy in this field. They have in common great salaries and high demand for technical skills, attention to details, problem-solving mentality, and the ability to analyse risks. Let’s look at some of the best IT Security jobs and the average annual salaries in the United States, according to Payscale:
- Cryptographer – 100,000 USD
- Information Security Officer – 91,000 USD
- Security Assessor – 90,000 USD
- Security Engineer – 88,000 USD
- Penetration Tester – 81,000 USD
- Forensics Expert – 71,000 USD
- Security Administrator – 65,000 USD
What are some recent trends in Cyber Security?
Based on the information we’ve received from Bogdan, we can split trends from this field in two categories: trends that impact companies and those that affect consumers.
Trends that affect companies
- Network and endpoint security: securing corporate networks and all the remote devices (e.g. laptops, smartphones) that connect to these networks and represent a potential security threat.
- Infrastructure hardening: increasing security on all components of the infrastructure, including web servers, database systems, application servers, etc.
- Breach detection: detecting malware activity inside a network after a security breach occurs.
- Forensic investigation: recovering data and evidence from digital devices after a cybercrime occurs.
Trends that affect consumers
- Ransomware: a type of malware that encrypts the user’s data and only allows access if a ransom is paid.
- Crypto-jacking malware: hidden malware which uses your device’s resources to “mine” for cryptocurrencies.
- Data breaches: incidents when unauthorised people gain access to private information.
Ready to start your Cyber Security career?
Well, are you? Here is why Bogdan Botezatu chose a career in Cyber Security:
“The advent of Internet has over-complicated cyber-security by an order of magnitude, as attackers can reach out to a wider pool of victims all over the world.
I chose Cyber Security as a career because it’s one of the most challenging territories in Information Technology. It’s a high-stake, extremely unbalanced game with unknown opponents where one mistake can cost a fortune. It’s an exciting and extremely rewarding job that keeps you busy day and night.”
What are you waiting for? There are almost 3 million Cyber Security jobs open for a future expert like you.
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