A cybersecurity master’s degree is a useful tool for people looking to either specialize in a particular aspect of the profession, or for analysts and engineers already working in the field who are looking to get more training on leadership or management.
The University of San Diego, for example, offers a master’s degree in cybersecurity operations and leadership. Other programs and degrees focused on cybersecurity business and management also exist at a wide variety of schools.
One growing trend in the master’s of cybersecurity domain is that more and more graduate degrees in cybersecurity are offered by name-brand institutions, but they are offered in online versions, or hybrid versions that require some minimal campus time and then students complete coursework remotely.
Cybersecurity master’s degree process at a glance
- Research The first step in deciding on the right cybersecurity master’s degree program is to do research into all of the options available. This includes making lists of the kinds of programs available, intern/mentorship/career services available, scholarship opportunities, admission requirements, online versus campus-based…the list goes on. The good news is that this guide is a good place to get started with that research.
- Exams One element of the cybersecurity graduate degree process that takes some pre-planning and preparation is completing the required admission tests such as the GRE or GMAT. Many graduation programs (but certainly not all) require some form of test score as part of the admission process. During the research phase, it’s a good idea to make a note of which schools require test scores and what the preferred test format is. Additionally, part of the planning process should also include enough time to do test prep either as part of a structured program or through individual study.
- Apply Make a note of each school’s admission process, paying attention to programs with rolling admissions or if there are firm deadlines. Some schools use common applications, while others require specialized admission requirements. Most often, students are expected to compile the GRE/GMAT test scores, letters of recommendation, and transcripts showing successful completion of undergraduate work, including any of the prerequisite courses in science, math, or technology.
- Plan After completing the application requirements, it’s really important that prospective cybersecurity master’s degree students plan ahead to ensure a successful graduate school experience. Among the items that require planning are financial aid/scholarships and live/work arrangements.
- Network One of the biggest advantages of attending a professional graduate degree program is that it helps students to rapidly and effectively build a professional network that can have a significant return on investment over the course of a career. So, it’s really important that networking and career guidance is a significant part of any kind of cybersecurity master’s degree program. Important things to look out for when researching different graduate programs are the availability of career counselors, hosted networking or career-related events, and access to events such as conferences or company-hosted gatherings.
Cybersecurity master’s degree admission requirements
Many master’s degree programs in cybersecurity were designed for people with a cybersecurity background, or at least, with a technical background that might include computer science or math.
Increasingly, cybersecurity master’s degree programs are expanding to try to be inclusive of students that might have an undergraduate degree outside of a computer-related technical discipline.
The NYU Tandon School of Engineering, for example, provides an alternative track to applying for their cybersecurity master’s degree that entails taking a course called Cybersecurity Bridge Program, or taking other preparatory courses before entering the master’s program.
While a master’s degree in cybersecurity programs vary in terms of program content, most have similar admissions requirements.
Cybersecurity master’s programs usually require students to have a GPA above 3.0 for their undergraduate degree in a technical discipline. Many people in the cybersecurity field come to the profession with a background in math or computer science.
Usually, applicants to cybersecurity master’s degree programs have completed several semesters of advanced college math. They are also proficient with the theory of computing, computer and network architecture, and have experience with different computer coding languages.
Part-time cybersecurity master’s degree programs
A growing trend in the cybersecurity master’s degree program offerings is flexibility. Increasingly, there are more part-time professional graduate degree programs available including by tier-one schools such as Harvard and Berkeley.
Another significant development in the cybersecurity master’s degree program space is that programs are offering both traditional campus-based degree programs as well as online cybersecurity master’s degree programs, which creates a number of different options for prospective students.
This flexibility of campus-based, online, any hybrid programs means the pursing a master’s degree in cybersecurity is possible for working professionals, students with family commitments, and for people who are not located close to the program they are interested in pursuing.
Example cybersecurity master’s degree coursework
So what kinds of courses make up a cybersecurity master’s degree program? Most degree programs blend a combination of very technical cybersecurity topics with courses aligned with management and leadership roles.
Here are a few examples of the kinds of course that a cybersecurity master’s degree student can expect:
Cybersecurity management A course like this will help students understand some of the legal and regulatory issues facing organizations dealing with cybersecurity threats. It will also cover topics such as ethics, crisis planning and management, and a wide range of security-related topics.
Forensics Digital forensics is a growing field, especially within cybersecurity circles. Digital forensics entails using tools to reverse engineer cyberattacks after they happen, or to be able to track threats back to a source. As cyberattacks become more sophisticated and are originating from a variety of sources, the ability to understand and lead digital forensics teams is critical.
Network security While most cybersecurity master’s students will enter graduate programs with network security experience and education, a master’s level course will help students to lead network security teams and understand the latest issues facing security teams and security protocol implementation.
How much is tuition for a cybersecurity master’s program?
The cost of a cybersecurity master’s degree can vary widely based on a number of factors.
Online, campus-based, and hybrid style cybersecurity master’s degree programs exist. Some campus-based programs might be more expensive in terms of fees and other associated costs, but they also might provide opportunities such as career services or other kinds of coaching and mentoring that are important variables to factor into the cost-benefit analysis of a graduate degree.
According to U.S. News and World Report, the average master’s in cybersecurity degree requires 30 to 36 credit hours at a cost that ranges between $565 and $1,940, which means that the average cost of a cybersecurity master’s degree could run between $17,000 and $70,000.
Career outlook for master’s in cybersecurity degree holders
The job market for well-trained and experienced cybersecurity professionals continues to grow and is forecasted to grow well into the next decade. In fact, there are worries by companies and large organizations that they can’t find enough talented people to fill all of the cybersecurity positions that exist or will exist.
So, in some ways, a master’s degree in cybersecurity could be a worthwhile investment for mid-career professionals, or for people looking to transfer into the cybersecurity field, because according to all of the projected data, job opportunities will be available.
So, what kind of job can you get with a master’s in cybersecurity?
Chief security officer In the context of a cybersecurity role, a chief security officer’s role is to provide guidance and strategy to a company or organization’s executive team about the computer, network, and data security best practices. The day-to-day scope of a chief security officer will vary widely depending on the business models, organization size, and industry of operation.
Information manager An information manager often designs and manages information systems within a company or organization. This role can take the form of a hands-on tactician or of more strategic supervisor depending on the needs of the company or organization. Information managers might work on hardware, network, or data infrastructure depending on the scope and business practices of the employing organization.
Security architect A security architect is responsible for undertaking a comprehensive threat assessment of a business or organization. Once the threat inventory is complete, a security architect designs and develops the necessary technologies and operating procedures to insulate against attack vectors.
A complete listing of master’s in cybersecurity programs
The guide below is dedicated to providing the most comprehensive guide possible for students interested in pursuing a master’s degree in cybersecurity. Please note that this is not a system of rankings, instead, it is provided as an up-to-date list of the available cybersecurity master’s programs.