A master of science in cybersecurity engineering degree prepares graduates to either begin or further advance their career in the field of cybersecurity. Graduates will understand computer science and security principles beyond the baccalaureate level. They will acquire the skills necessary to defend against cyberattacks by detecting, triaging, and mitigating cybersecurity breaches.In this guide
- Find the right master’s program
- Tuition and financial aid
- Career outlook and earning potential
Security industry practitioners and research scholars will find this degree invaluable in the pursuit of their professional and academic goals. Many corporations and educational institutions are actively recruiting industry professionals and recent graduates with this level of knowledge and expertise.
The demand for workers with a cybersecurity engineering degree is rising in both public and private sector organizations worldwide. Cybersecurity engineers can be found in the financial and healthcare sectors as well as military government and corporations. This graduate degree focuses on the technical aspects of cybersecurity. It prepares students for jobs analyzing, developing, investigating, protecting, and defending the cyber ecosystem.
Steps in choosing the right cybersecurity engineering program
Understanding and gathering information about each of the following steps will help prospective students determine if a cybersecurity engineering master’s degree is the best option for them. Each individual’s circumstances, including interest level, previous education, and available resources, will necessarily factor into the decision.
Aptitude: A master of science in cybersecurity engineering degree program and the work the degree qualifies a student to perform is quite technical. By the time most students get to the master’s degree level, they have already determined that they have an aptitude for technical studies and work. For beginning students that are planning their long-term goals, it is advisable to take some highly technical courses before deciding on a graduate degree program to make sure they have the needed technical acumen, interests, and abilities.
Location: If there is such a thing as a silver lining to the coronavirus of 2020, it would be that many, if not most, educational institutions have significantly increased the number of courses offered online, either in whole or in part. Because of this increase in virtual learning environments, an academic institution’s location is less critical than in years past. Still, when choosing a degree program from a specific institution of higher education, be sure to do the research needed to determine if you will need to be in class or in-person, for any or all of the courses, projects, or exams.
Prerequisites: Once the student has their eye set on a specific college or university, they should ask about the degree program’s requirements. Generally, master’s degree programs require that students have previously obtained a bachelor’s degree or have finished their bachelor’s level studies before starting master’s level classes. However, there are some differences in what constitutes an acceptable bachelor’s degree to meet the qualifications for some master’s programs. Computer science, software engineering, and network engineering bachelor’s degrees are common prerequisites for a cybersecurity engineering master’s program but check with the school being considered for any qualification details.
Degree requirements: The precise requirements for each graduate-level degree program will vary depending on the school. Many Masters of Cybersecurity Engineering programs require a minimum of 30-33 semester credit hours and a capstone project or graduate thesis. Some programs require up to 48 credits. Graduate students will earn the requisite number of credits by passing foundation courses, cybersecurity courses, elective courses, and a capstone project or master’s thesis.
Admission requirements: It is not uncommon for colleges and universities to require candidates to exceed a certain minimum undergraduate GPA for admission to their graduate programs. A minimum cumulative grade point average (CGPA) of 3.0 is a common requirement. Students should understand these requirements as they relate to their school of choice.
Cybersecurity engineering master’s coursework
A Master of Cybersecurity Engineering degree requires from 33 to 48 semester graduate credit hours. A capstone engineering project demonstrating mastery of cybersecurity engineering or a master’s thesis is commonly needed for the degree.
The following courses are representative of many program requirements.
Core or foundational courses, such as:
- Penetration Testing
- Computer Security
- Software Engineering
Additional required courses, such as:
- Digital Forensics
- Network Security
- Operating System Administration
Cybersecurity electives, such as:
- Human Factors in Cybersecurity
- Incident Response and Risk Management
- Software Process
Each university has its prescribed number of credits that must be earned from each category of coursework. A graduate capstone project or master’s thesis can contribute from 3 to 10 credits toward the requirements depending on the school.
Master’s in cybersecurity engineering jobs
The demand for cybersecurity engineers is high and growing. Some top-level cybersecurity jobs require a master’s in cybersecurity engineering or another similar master’s degree. More common for entry and mid-level cybersecurity jobs, a master’s degree is preferred, with the minimum requirements being a bachelor’s degree and several years of experience.
Obtaining a master’s degree in cybersecurity can offset several years of the required experience for high-level security jobs. One graduate noted that the three years she invested in obtaining a master’s degree represented a shortcut to the research job she wanted, compared to the 5-7 years of experience most companies require.
Job titles for which employers often seek candidates with a master of science in cybersecurity engineering degree include the following.
- Senior security specialist
- Security architect & engineer
- Network and cybersecurity researcher
- Senior cybersecurity systems engineer
- Computer and information systems managers
- Computer and information research scientists
Nearly every industry needs cybersecurity engineers. Industry sectors with an acute shortage of cybersecurity engineering master’s degree graduates include:
- Information Systems
Companies that regularly advertise for cybersecurity engineers include:
- NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratories
- US Airforce
- Booz Allen Hamilton
- Lockheed Martin
- NBC Universal
Tuition for a cybersecurity engineering master’s program
There are many variables associated with educational tuition. Online courses typically cost less than on-campus options. Many universities offer a hybrid model where some classes and labs are in person, and others are online. Each option may affect the overall cost of the program.
Financial aid availability and eligibility can significantly affect what a student pays for a master’s degree.
Tuition for a cybersecurity engineering master’s degree can cost from $30,000 to nearly $50,000.
Below are two examples of the costs for cybersecurity engineering master’s degree programs:
The University of Washington’s Master of Science in Cybersecurity Engineering program costs $837 per credit and requires 46-49 credits. This per-unit price puts the total cost for this master’s degree at $41,013.
The Colorado Technical University’s Master of Science in Computer Science – Cybersecurity Engineering costs $30,800 for their 48 credit program.
These cybersecurity engineering master’s degrees are slightly higher but essentially on par with other cybersecurity master’s programs that are less technical than the engineering degree.
Tuition exemption programs, institutional tuition waivers, and grant programs are generally less available for graduate degrees than undergraduate degrees. Each education institution will provide information specific to their programs, so be sure to check financial aid availability.
Some students, depending on financial status, may be eligible for Department of Education Loans. The application process is free, and students are encouraged to start applying for Student Financial Aid (FASFA) as early as possible.
Career outlook and earning potential
To put the career outlook and earning potential for cybersecurity professionals with a master’s degree in context, it is helpful to compare labor statistics for two occupations; Information Security Analyst and Computer and Information Research Scientist.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the typical entry-level education requirement for information security analysts is a bachelor’s degree. The 2020 median pay was $103,590 per year, and the job growth outlook is 31 percent, which is much faster than average.
Graduates with a cybersecurity engineering master’s degree can reasonably expect to earn a higher wage than those in the field with a bachelor’s degree and enjoy the same exceptional job growth outlook.
The BLS reports the typical entry-level education for computer and information research scientists is a master’s degree. The 2020 median pay was $126,830 per year, and the job growth outlook is 15 percent.
A cybersecurity researcher or engineer with a master’s degree should expect to earn a salary comparable to that of the information research scientist and benefit from the exceptional employment opportunities created by the cybersecurity skills gap.
Whether preparing to begin a career in the field of cybersecurity or looking for a path to fulfill career advancement goals, a master of science in cybersecurity engineering degree will provide the necessary knowledge and skills to set graduates apart from the crowd. They will be undeniably better qualified for many positions than their peers with a bachelor’s degree. Students will be equipped with the knowledge necessary to defend against cyberattacks, identify and triage security breaches, and apply the most current mitigation strategies.
Suppose a student’s academic goals include performing cybersecurity research or teaching at a post-secondary level. In that case, a cybersecurity engineering master’s degree will provide them with many of the requisite skills and knowledge.
The global skills gap for cybersecurity expertise has created opportunities within the private sector and government organizations. A cybersecurity engineering master’s degree will provide significant advantages for finding the perfect job. A graduate’s understanding of the technical aspects of cybersecurity will make them an attractive prospect for jobs that require analyzing, developing, investigating, protecting, and defending information systems.