For many businesses today, the question is not whether they’ll be hacked, but when.
That unsettling reality is one contributing factor to the rise of the cybersecurity field, which focuses on protecting an organization’s systems, networks, and programs from digital attacks aimed at accessing, changing, or destroying sensitive information.
Professionals in this field work on a wide range of assignments—everything from helping organizations understand the malicious software threats they face and analyzing information to detecting potential intrusions, performing security tests, managing security systems, and developing security strategies.
Not only does cybercrime affect businesses and organizations, but its repercussions are felt on a greater scale, too. According to The Center for Strategic and International Studies, nearly $600 billion is lost to cybercrime each year—that’s nearly one percent of global GDP.
Experts attribute this to cybercriminals’ quick adoption of new technologies, the ease with which cybercrime can be committed, an increase in the number of known cybercrime centers, and the growing financial sophistication among top-tier cybercriminals that makes monetization easier. The flipside is that increasingly more cybersecurity professionals are needed to keep digital data safe.
“Cybersecurity is one of the hottest fields today,” says Jose Sierra, associate director of Northeastern’s Master of Science in Cybersecurity program. “There’s a substantial demand for these professionals, and a considerable shortage of talent.”
Those factors—combined with a zero percent unemployment rate and sky-high salaries—make cybersecurity one of the most enticing fields in which to grow a career. If you’re looking to take the next step in yours, here are five reasons why earning a cybersecurity degree is worth it.
Cybersecurity Jobs are on the Rise
Cybersecurity is experiencing a severe shortage of talent today. According to estimates, the global cybersecurity workforce will have more than 3.5 million unfilled positions by 2021. Compounding the problem is cybersecurity’s explosive job growth: The field is expected to grow by 28 percent between 2016 and 2026, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, compared to the 7 percent growth rate across all industries.
That demand is good news for cybersecurity professionals, Sierra says. “There’s a lot for graduates to choose from, which is great because they’re able to find something that fits with their personal interests.”
Cybersecurity Pay Is High
That high demand for skilled professionals—coupled with a significant shortage of cybersecurity talent—is a perfect storm for cybersecurity professionals, Sierra says. While entry-level cybersecurity jobs, such as information security analysts, earn an average of $95,510, according to BLS, candidates with advanced degrees can earn well into six-figures.
Data security analysts, for example, earn between $105,000 and $178,250 depending on experience, while network security engineers earn between $98,000 and $167,500, and information systems security managers may earn up to $199,750.
Advanced Degrees in Cybersecurity Mean More Career Options
Earning an advanced degree will not only improve your salary, but it also opens up more career options in the field, Sierra says. According to a report by Burning Glass Technologies, 84 percent of cybersecurity job postings require at least a bachelor’s degree, while nearly a quarter require at least a master’s degree.
Those jobs requiring a master’s degree often have management and leadership responsibilities—skills that are honed in Northeastern’s MS in Cybersecurity program, Sierra says.
“Cybersecurity isn’t just technical—you also need to understand how organizations are managed, how risks are managed, and how decisions are made,” he says. “You need that holistic view to succeed in advanced positions.”
At Northeastern, for example, students receive real-world, hands-on experience, which Sierra says is essential for preparing students for the next step in their careers.
Cybersecurity Pros Are Needed in All Industries
Cybersecurity professionals are needed in nearly every organization in every industry, making it a versatile career path that’s easily paired with your prior experience and your interests, Sierra says.
He’s had students enter into the graduate program with backgrounds in pharmaceuticals, insurance, and finance, for example, who have completed the program and used their prior expertise to land cybersecurity jobs in those industries.
“When you have background expertise in an industry and add to it a master’s degree in cybersecurity, you become very desirable in those sectors as a cybersecurity professional,” he says.
The Future for Cybersecurity Professionals Is Bright
With cybercrime on the rise, businesses and organizations are investing more in protecting their assets than ever before.
“The future of business is going to rely on cybersecurity, and today’s workforce and the workforce of the future will be tasked with helping organizations and companies achieve their goals,” he says.
The demand for these professionals, coupled with the talent shortage and high earning potential, makes cybersecurity one of the most in-demand fields to work in, Sierra adds.
“If you’re a proactive person, like variety in your job, and enjoy the challenge of learning something new every day, a career in cybersecurity might be the right choice for you.”