Is a Cyber Security Degree Worth It? The Facts You Can't Ignore

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Here’s an unsettling statistic: Nine out of ten companies reported being hacked at least once in 2016.

Big name companies like Yahoo, Target and Home Depot all fell victim to hackers in recent years, which revealed more than just a multitude of stolen information. The attacks also exposed the harsh reality of cybercrime in the digital age.

Americans are afraid. A 2015 study revealed that identity theft and cyber terrorism are among the top fears of Americans. And these fears are well-justified—cybercrime costs more than $450 billion dollars worldwide each year.

As our digital reliance grows, it’s no surprise that this growing problem also creates an increased need for cyber security professionals.

What role can you play?

You’ve heard the statistics and read the news headlines, which is why you’re considering doubling down on your interest in technology to launch a cyber security career. You’re excited to enlist in the fight against cybercrime, but unsure of your next steps.

There’s one question in particular that stands out: Is a Cyber Security degree worth it? We can’t answer that question for you. But we can provide you with some important information that can help you make the right decision for your future.

7 Facts to consider about the value of a Cyber Security degree

You’ve heard about all of the enriching benefits of higher education. But let’s cut out the fluff and get straight to the statistics. Before deciding if a Cyber Security degree is worth it, consider these facts.

1. Cyber security jobs are on the rise

If you’re contemplating going back to school to pursue a new career, you want to be confident that jobs will be available in the field upon graduation. Because no matter how passionate you are about the industry, you don’t want to invest time and money toward a degree that yields minimal jobs.

Luckily, that’s not a concern in the case of cyber security. In fact, it’s quite the opposite. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects cyber security jobs to increase 18 percent through 2024, which is more than twice the average for all occupations. What’s more is that employment for these professionals is projected to grow 36 percent specifically in the computer systems design and related services field through 2024.

2. Cyber security professionals are needed in all industries

The growth highlighted above isn’t limited to just the technology field. In today’s digital landscape, nearly every company in every industry has a need for some level of information security services. This means you won’t be restricted to certain types of companies when it comes time to find a job. You can put your skills to work in any field, from education, to insurance, to law enforcement.

The BLS notes two areas in particular that currently have an increased need for cyber security professionals. The federal government is expected to drastically increase its cyber security efforts in order to protect the nation’s critical IT systems. Additionally, the healthcare industry will be leaning more on cyber security professionals to secure electronic health records and ensure patients’ privacy.

3. Companies are struggling to find qualified cyber security professionals

You’re now well aware that cyber security jobs are out there. But the harsh reality is there are simply not enough qualified candidates to meet the current demand. One report predicted a global shortage of two million cyber security professionals by 2019. It also notes that 84 percent of employers believe half or fewer cyber security applicants are qualified for the position.

Another startling statistic to note is that the cyber security field is currently credited with having a zero percent unemployment rate. This is significant, knowing that nation-wide unemployment rate is currently 4.3 percent. This is promising information for anyone hoping to break into the cyber security field.

4. Employers are seeking candidates with a Cyber Security degree

Now that you’ve heard about the shortage of qualified candidates, you’re probably wondering what exactly “qualified” refers to. To help us determine the answer to that question, we used real-time job analysis software to examine more than 68,000 cyber security job postings from the past year.1 This helped us identify what employers are seeking in job applicants.

The data revealed that 86 percent of job postings called for candidates with at least a Bachelor’s degree. This means that earning a degree would help qualify you as one of the coveted cyber security professionals employers are desperately seeking.

5. Cyber security job opportunities increase with education level

Across all industries, it’s a general rule of thumb that the more education you acquire, the more jobs will be available to you. We decided to put this theory to the test for the cyber security field.

After scanning the job postings in our analysis, we were able to identify the total number of job postings based education level.1 Here’s the breakdown:

  • High school diploma: 5,068 job postings
  • Associate’s degree: 4,158 job postings
  • Bachelor’s degree: 57,159 job postings
  • Master’s degree: 1,449 job postings
  • Doctoral degree: 394 job postings

You’ll notice that most employers are seeking candidates with a Bachelor’s degree. So if you’ve been on the fence about the education, consider this: Earning a Bachelor’s degree makes you eligible for 13 times as many jobs as an individual with no degree.

6. Cyber security professionals can expect above-average earnings

After hearing about the stark shortages of cyber security professionals, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that employers are willing to make significant investments in qualified candidates. The BLS reports the median annual salary for cyber security analysts in 2016 was $92,600.2 This is more than twice the national average for all occupations.

This number reflects the earnings of all cyber security professionals, regardless of location, industry, experience or education level. Each of the factors will play a role in determining compensation. Those on the low end of the spectrum earned around $53,760 annually, while high earners brought in around $147,290 per year, according to the BLS.2

7. The cyber security field offers room for career advancement

You’ve seen how earning a cyber security degree can play a significant role in helping you land a position in the field, but this introduces a yet another question: Will you be stuck in that position forever?

Just as education boosts job opportunities, so does experience. While your short-term goal is to land an entry-level cyber security position, it’s important to know there is room for career advancement down the road. As you gain more experience, you’ll continue to develop as a professional, increasing your value to potential employers.

To illustrate this point, we used our job analysis to examine the cyber security job postings based on experience.1 Here’s what we found:

  • 0 to 2 years: 10,878 jobs available
  • 3 to 5 years: 33,769 jobs available
  • 6 to 8 years: 14,936 jobs available
  • 9+ years: 10,582 jobs available

The data reveals that many employers prefer candidates with at least 3 to 5 years of experience. That means the sooner you get your foot out the door with a degree, the sooner you’ll begin acquiring invaluable work experience that can help propel you further in the field. Once you have three years under your belt, you’ll be eligible for more than 30,000 new positions.

What is it worth to you?

It’s impossible to overlook the importance of cyber security in today’s digital world. Too much of our lives and information are encoded for us not to stand up to cybercrime. Whether you’re excited by earning potential or motivated by the high demand and potential for advancement, take a look at the opportunities awaiting you.

So is a cyber security degree worth it? Consider the facts laid out above and come to a conclusion for yourself.

If you’re reading the writing on the wall and ready to take the next step, check out our Cyber Security degree page to learn how we can help equip you with the practical knowledge and hands-on training you’ll need to join the fight against cybercrime.

RELATED ARTICLES: (analysis of 68,228 cyber security job postings, June 01, 2016 – May 31, 2017).
2Salary data represents national, averaged earnings for the occupations listed and includes workers at all levels of education and experience. This data does not represent starting salaries and employment conditions in your area may vary.

EDITOR’S NOTE: This article was originally published in May 2013. It has since been updated to include information relevant to 2017.

Callie Malvik

Callie is the Content Manager at Collegis Education, overseeing blog content on behalf of Rasmussen College. She is passionate about creating quality resources that empower others to improve their lives through education.

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