This guide provides a review of the career and salary potential for masters of business administration (MBA) in cybersecurity. The guide also covers similar degrees, the different types of degree programs available, and what to look for in a cybersecurity mba program.
The exponential growth of information technology and of threats to information security has brought an awakening to the risk hackers can pose to people, businesses, governments, and all other types of organizations with information exposed on public information networks like the internet.
The number of personnel and budget sizes devoted to cybersecurity have increased rapidly for two decades. Still, a lack of qualified people has restrained the growth of the cybersecurity industry.
More recently, business leaders have begun to recognize that information security is not strictly a technical enterprise. For a company to be organized and operated effectively and efficiently, there must be some kind of plan as to how best to apply limited resources.
Optimally, there must be careful assessments of the risks and thoughtful strategy for the allocation of funds and personnel to yield maximum benefit. Managers of cybersecurity operations are responsible for this allocation of resources, which makes them a critical component of cybersecurity effectiveness.
These management positions require a strong grasp of not only the technical aspects of cybersecurity, but what impact cyber-threats have on a business, and how to assess and manage the risk of potential attacks.
A strong business background combined with an understanding of cybersecurity can provide the knowledge to analyze risks associated with each type of cyber threat and then apply the appropriate resources to managing the threat and the risk.
Without a solid comprehension of both disciplines, intelligent threat risk management is more of guessing game, or worse, not viewed from a risk management perspective at all.
Online vs. campus-based MBAs in cybersecurity
This will primarily depend on how much time students are willing or able to devote to their education, and whether an appropriate campus program is available within a convenient distance of home. Some people learn best, however, in a traditional classroom, and for them, campus-based formats are usually best.
Obviously, the primary benefit of online courses is convenience. But not all online programs are created equal in this regard. Actual convenience depends on how the classes are presented online, asynchronously or synchronously.
Asynchronous online programs offer the greatest convenience, but synchronous programs also provide attractive advantages over campus-based programs. Synchronous programs have set times for class instruction and often student discourse, so time and schedule flexibility are limited. Asynchronous programs, on the other hand, are largely without time restrictions and permit students to make their own schedule and progress at their own pace.
And while online education has had a tarnished image in the past, high-quality courses from high-quality institutions are now readily available and quickly growing in number.
Increasingly, higher education institutions are offering hybrid programs. In these cases, students can use a mix of online and campus classes to fulfill the course load required to obtain a master’s degree.
While online-only and campus only programs are most common, hybrid degree programs are beginning to gain in popularity.
Careers for cybersecurity MBA graduates
As the recognition of the need for greater attention to information security has swept organizations of all types in the last three decades, the size and budget of cybersecurity operations have also grown dramatically.
With this increased commitment of human and financial resources has come a critical need for professional management to lead cybersecurity departments.
Most organizations have historically promoted cybersecurity experts to management roles. But many cybersecurity professionals do not have adequate training or background in business management to provide strong leadership or develop an efficient, effective plan of operation.
Cybersecurity management requires a strong background in risk management, as well as a grasp of the technical aspects of cybersecurity. Infosec managers must be able to assess the potential impact that cyber threats have on a business, meaning the risk.
A strong business background combined with an understanding of cybersecurity can provide the knowledge to analyze risks associated with each type of cyber threat, and then apply the appropriate resources to managing the threat and the risk.
Without a solid comprehension of both disciplines, intelligent cyber threat risk management is more of guessing game, or worse, not viewed from a risk management perspective at all.
In addition to cybersecurity management, MBAs in cybersecurity are perfect candidates for independent cybersecurity management consulting roles.
Many smaller companies and non-profit organizations cannot afford a cybersecurity staff comprehensive enough to meet the infosec threats they face. In these cases, smart organizations will turn to outside consultants to ensure they are as well protected as possible with a well-developed plan of operation.
The following is a small sampling of just some of the potential positions available to professionals who earn an MBA in cybersecurity.
Earning potential for cybersecurity MBA graduates
It’s difficult to put a number on how much any cybersecurity professional’s earning power will increase with the addition of a master’s degree to their cybersecurity resume. Similarly, the earning power of business professionals seeking an MBA in cybersecurity is difficult to assess.
But whatever the background and experience, an MBA in cybersecurity will have a bright future.
The bottom line is that the possibilities and earnings ceiling of any professional will be enhanced considerably by obtaining a master’s degree.
One thing is for certain, business people choosing to specialize in cybersecurity are entering one of the hottest fields in the economy. It should, therefore, provide excellent job security, as well as employment options and advancement potential.
Just using some of the above career possibilities as a guide, though, we can see that earning well into the six-figure range can easily be expected.
Example cybersecurity MBA degree programs
There is a rapidly growing awareness of not only the need for cybersecurity professionals but for those with a technical understanding of infosec practices and high business acumen. Prescient educators are noticing and leading some of the more proactive colleges to design special programs that include courses in both cybersecurity and business management.
Some of these programs are online, and some are campus-based. And some universities have coined their own names for these degrees. Here are a few examples of schools offering some customized combinations of cybersecurity and MBA degree programs. See the bottom of this page for a more extensive list.
- Brown University – Executive Master in Cybersecurity degree, onsite
- Rutgers University – Master of Business and Science (MBS) degree in cybersecurity, onsite
- Johnson and Wales University – MBA Information Security/Assurance, online
- Florida Institute of Technology – MBA in Cybersecurity, online
Other universities and colleges are now offering MBAs with a concentration in cybersecurity through their business schools. To a large degree, the difference in these programs and the custom-designed programs is semantics. The goal and structure of the different programs is very similar, but for some small variances in credit distribution. Examples of these MBA with a concentration in cybersecurity programs include the following:
- Maryville University – MBA with a concentration in cybersecurity, online
- University of Dallas – MBA with a concentration in cybersecurity, onsite and online
- University at Albany – MBA with a concentration in cybersecurity, onsite
Four steps for choosing a master’s of business cybersecurity program
- Understanding program requirements Each individual college institution offering MBAs in cybersecurity has its own stipulated requirements for acceptance. All master’s programs require at least a BS degree, but the requirements for the undergraduate majors are typically wide open. Other requirements may include a minimum undergraduate GPA, usually 3.0 or higher, and GRE test scores, although waivers for the GRE tests are often granted when certain other requirements are met. MBA programs also usually require GMAT exam scores. Typically, the only other minimum application standards are a personal goal statement, personal and work references, current resume, and college transcripts. Pay attention to the requirements of each school, and whether it will necessitate more time, classwork, certifications, etc. in order to gain admission.
- Tuition Affordable tuition is, of course, a must when choosing a school. But alternatives for financial assistance available from the school, private scholarship sources, and sometimes government agencies can significantly mitigate the overall cost. Government-sponsored and private education loans are also available.
- School offerings To get the most return out of an investment of time and money in education, it’s always best to choose from schools with the best reputation. Specific courses and available concentrations vary from one school to another. Students must, therefore, make sure a particular school’s special course offerings match their needs and desires.
- Master’s thesis A critical part of any master’s degree is the thesis. The exact topic and focus do not need to be determined at the outset of entering the program. However, it should be possible to know that faculty members and other available resources provide the support needed to assist a student in choosing and completing their best thesis.
What to look for in a cybersecurity MBA program
Choosing the right school is a difficult undertaking for any would-be student. Particularly in graduate and doctoral programs, the choice of school can make all the difference to both the experience and the outcome. Here are a few factors to consider.
Financial assistance for cybersecurity MBA candidates
Scholarships for MBAs in cybersecurity are available from a number of sources, many of which are common to all MBA degrees. Scholarships earmarked for cybersecurity students may or may not apply, depending on the sponsor, since the degree major is in business, not cybersecurity.
The largest pool of potential financial assistance is associated with promoting MBA degrees. Much of this funding is dedicated to various long-existing MBA specialties, such as accounting, human resources, marketing and the like. Other MBA scholarships are targeted at those working in specific industries, such as healthcare and insurance.
As yet, however, scholarships specifically designated for MBAs in cybersecurity have not been made readily available. So the target for students seeking financial assistance for their MBA degrees should be general MBA scholarships. Examples of these include the following:
- QS Leadership Scholarship
- Mary Elizabeth Lockwood Beneventi MBA Scholarship
- Military MBA Scholarship
- National Black MBA Association Scholarship
- AAUW Career Development Grants for women
- Forte MBA Fellowships for women
And of course, scholarships and grants may also be available from individual schools. Always check with the college’s financial assistance office to explore all options.
A list of MBA in cybersecurity programs
The following list of online degree programs for masters includes up-to-date information. It is not a ranking of any sort. It is instead offered to provide education options to those interested in seeking an MBA in cybersecurity from online or campus programs and to give a basis of comparison amongst the choices. The quality and relevance of each school’s programs is a personal decision that can only truly be determined by the individual student considering making the investment to obtain an MBA in cybersecurity.