Is a Cyber Security Degree Worth It? Analyzing the Facts
It’s no secret that information security is growing in importance. It seems you can’t go a week without seeing a new headline about the latest breach or cybersecurity mishap. Big-name companies like Marriott International®, Equifax® and Yahoo® have all fallen victim to hackers in recent years.1
The constant barrage of cyber threats affects businesses and organizations that play important roles in nearly every aspect of our lives. Because of this, many Americans are growing increasingly concerned. Those concerns are well justified as cybercrime racked up approximately $3.5 billion in total losses in 2019, according to an FBI report—and that’s just what’s known.2
As our digital reliance grows, it’s no surprise that this growing problem also creates an increased awareness of the need for cybersecurity professionals.
What role can you play in the fight against cybercrime?
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 cybersecurity 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.
8 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 for you, consider these facts.
1. Cybersecurity 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 cybersecurity. In fact, it’s quite the opposite. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects cybersecurity analyst jobs to increase 31 percent through 2029, which is more than seven times the average projected employment growth for all occupations.3 What’s more is employment for these professionals is projected by the BLS to grow 56 percent, specifically in the computer systems design and related services field, in that same time period.3
2. Cybersecurity 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 cybersecurity professionals: financial institutions and healthcare institutions. Banks and other financial institutions especially need to increase their information security capabilities. Additionally, the healthcare industry will be leaning more on cybersecurity professionals to secure electronic health records and ensure patients’ privacy.3
3. Companies are struggling to find qualified cybersecurity professionals
You’re now well aware that cybersecurity jobs are out there. But the harsh reality is there are simply not enough qualified candidates to meet organizations’ cybersecurity needs. A 2020 report from (ISC)2 states the U.S. is facing a shortage of skilled cybersecurity professionals, with an estimated 359,000 skilled workers needed to close the gap.4
While, obviously, demand for cybersecurity 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 intent on pursuing a cybersecurity career.
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 it means to be “qualified.” To help us determine the answer to that question, we used real-time job-analysis software to examine more than 114,000 cybersecurity job postings from the past year.5 This helped us identify what employers are seeking in job applicants.
The data revealed that 88 percent of job postings called for candidates with at least a Bachelor’s degree.4 This means that earning a Cyber Security degree would help qualify you as one of the coveted cybersecurity professionals employers are desperately seeking.
5. Cybersecurity programs prepare students with the most up-to-date skills
It’s clear that employers value the training that comes with earning a Cyber Security degree. But you’re probably curious about what exactly that training entails. Every program is unique, but there are some common themes among them.
The Cyber Security programs at Rasmussen University, for example, train students using real-world tools, techniques and applications, such as cryptography, Windows®, Linux®, Cisco®, VMware® and Microsoft Azure®. The curriculum also prepares students for industry cybersecurity certification exams that can help your résumé stand out.
The modern curriculum that makes up our Cyber Security Bachelor’s degree program will teach you about security risk management, advanced networking, vulnerability analysis, security awareness and so much more. Courses like Malware Reverse Engineering, Advanced Network Security, and Hacker Techniques: Tool and Applications will help ensure you’re prepared to make an immediate impact in your first cybersecurity job.
6. Cybersecurity 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 cybersecurity 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: 10,221 job postings
- Associate’s degree: 3,917 job postings
- Bachelor’s degree: 96,822 job postings
- Master’s degree: 2,717 job postings
- Doctoral degree: 732 job postings
You’ll notice that a majority of these job listings requires a Bachelor’s degree. So if you’ve been on the fence about the education, consider this: Earning a Cyber Security Bachelor’s degree makes you eligible for more than eight times as many jobs as an individual with no degree.5
7. Cybersecurity professionals have solid earning potential
After hearing about the stark shortages of cybersecurity 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 cybersecurity analysts in 2019 was $99,730.3 This is more than twice the national average for all occupations.
8. The cybersecurity field offers room for career advancement
You’ve seen how earning a Cyber Security Bachelor’s 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 often boosts job opportunities, so does experience. While your short-term goal is to land an entry-level position, it’s important to know there is room for growth down the road. Your Cyber Security degree will provide you with a solid foundation of knowledge and skills, and you’ll continue to build on that as you gain more experience in the field.
To illustrate this point, we referred to our cybersecurity job analysis to examine the postings based on preferred level of candidate experience. Here’s what we found:6
- 0–2 years of experience: 17,771 jobs available
- 3–5 years of experience: 54,289 jobs available
- 6–8 years of experience: 26,148 jobs available
- 9+ years of experience: 20,744 jobs available
The data reveals that many employers tend to prefer candidates with at least three to five years of experience. That means the sooner you get your foot out the door with a Cyber Security 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.
Is a Cyber Security degree in your future?
It’s impossible to overlook the importance of cybersecurity in today’s digital economy. Too much of our lives and information are encoded for us not to stand up against cybercriminals. Whether you’re excited by the 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 for you? 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, visit 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.
1CSO Online, “The 15 Biggest Data Breaches of the 21st Century” [accessed March 2021] https://www.csoonline.com/article/2130877/the-biggest-data-breaches-of-the-21st-century.html
2Federal Bureau of Investigation, Internet Crime Complain Center, 2019 Internet Crime Report [accessed February 2021] https://pdf.ic3.gov/2019_IC3Report.pdf
3Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, [accessed Nov. 2020] 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.
4(ISC)2, 2020 Cybersecurity Workforce Study, [accessed February 2021] https://www.isc2.org/Research/Workforce-Study
5Burning-Glass.com (analysis of 114,409 cybersecurity job postings by education level, Oct. 01, 2019 – Sep. 30, 2020)
6Burning-Glass.com (analysis of 118,952 cybersecurity job postings by experience, Oct. 01, 2019 – Sep. 30, 2020).
Microsoft, Windows and Microsoft Azure are registered trademarks of Microsoft Corporation.
Cisco is a registered trademark of Cisco Systems, Inc.
Linux is a registered trademark of the The Linux Foundation.
VMware is a registered trademark of VMware, Inc.
Marriott is a registered trademark of Marriott International, Inc.
Yahoo! is registered trademark of Oath, Inc.
Equifax is a registered trademark of Equifax, Inc.
EDITOR’S NOTE: This article was originally published in 2015. It has since been updated to include information relevant to 2021.