Is a Cyber Security Degree Worth It? The Facts You Can't Ignore
It’s no secret information security is growing in importance. It seems you can’t go a week without seeing a new headline about the latest breach or cyber security mishap. Big-name companies like Marriott International®, T-Mobile® and Google® all fell victim to hackers in recent years.
We’ve also seen entire hospitals disrupted by ransomware attacks and healthcare companies facing a glut of threats as hackers seek out sensitive patient information. This constant barrage of threats affects businesses and organizations that play an important role in nearly every aspect of our lives.
Because of this, many Americans are growing increasingly concerned. And those fears are well-justified—cybercrime costs an estimated $445 to $608 billion worldwide each year, according to a McAfee report.1
As our digital reliance grows, it’s no surprise that this growing problem also creates an increased awareness of the 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 whether 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 feel 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 leads to a dead end.
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 information security analyst employment to increase 28% through 2026, which is more than twice the average projected employment growth for all occupations.2 What’s more is that employment for these professionals is projected by the BLS to grow 56% specifically in the computer systems design and related services field through 2026.
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 practically 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. Banks and other financial institutions especially need to increase their information security capabilities. 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. A report from (ISC)2® found that there is a shortage of approximately 2.93 million qualified cyber security professionals globally.3
While obviously demand for information security professionals in your area can vary depending on several factors, it appears that the broader trend of organizations investing more in information security teams should persist. 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 job posting analysis software to examine more than 143,000 cyber security job postings from the past year. This helped us identify what employers are seeking in job applicants.
The data revealed that 93% of job postings called for candidates with at least a Bachelor’s degree.5 This means that earning a cyber security degree would help qualify you as one of the coveted cyber security professionals employers are desperately seeking.
5. Cyber security job opportunities typically increase with education level
Across all industries, it’s a general rule of thumb that the more education you acquire, the fewer barriers you’ll face when seeking employment. 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 on education level. Here’s the breakdown:5
- High school diploma: 7,987 job postings
- Associate’s degree: 3,033 job postings
- Bachelor’s degree: 82,773 job postings
- Master’s degree: 2,442 job postings
- Doctoral degree: 716 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 around 10 times as many jobs as an individual with no degree.
6. Cyber security professionals have solid earning potential
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 2018 was $98,350.2 This is more than twice the national average for all occupations.
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 yet another question: Will you be stuck in that position forever?
Just as education typically 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 preferred level of candidate experience. Here’s what we found:4
- 0 to 2 years: 16,615 jobs available
- 3 to 5 years: 47,573 jobs available
- 6 to 8 years: 22,088 jobs available
- 9+ years: 16,083 jobs available
The data reveals that many employers tend to 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 thousands of 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.
1McAfee, Center for Strategic and International Studies, Economic Impact of Cybercrime – No Slowing Down, [accessed April 16, 2019] https://www.mcafee.com/enterprise/en-us/solutions/lp/economics-cybercrime.html
2Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, [accessed April 16, 2019] www.bls.gov/ooh/. Information represents national, averaged data for the occupations listed and includes workers at all levels of education and experience. Employment conditions in your area may vary.
3(ISC)2, Cybersecurity Workforce Study 2018, [accessed April 16, 2019] https://www.isc2.org/Research/Workforce-Study
4Burning-Glass.com (analysis of 143,942 information security job postings, April 1, 2018 – February 28, 2019)
(ISC)2 is a registered trademark of (ISC)2, Inc.
Marriott International is a registered trademark of Marriott International, Inc.
T-Mobile is a registered trademark of Deutsche Telekom AG.
Google is a registered trademark of Google, LLC.