Virginia Cyber Security Degree Programs
Graduate Cyber Security Programs cover a wide range of tech and security related topics to prepare to students to plan and carry out protection measures for many organizations' computer networks and systems. Students might not only study the basics of cyber security but also explore the latest theories and methods in this rapidly evolving field.
Course topics could include computer network design, risk management, forensic analysis, network defense and cyber policy and law. So, whether you prefer protecting information databases, working with computer software or computer networks, a graduate cyber security degree may be for you. ii
What is Cyber Security?
Cyber security is the body of technologies, methods and measures designed to protect networks, computers, programs and data from attack, damage or unauthorized access. Known by several different names, cyber security is also commonly called information security or IT security. Those in the field protect all types of digital data, from online banking information and medical records, to issues of homeland security.
Essentially, cyber security is concerned with the following issues.
- Detecting weaknesses in computer systems
- Protecting against or creating backdoors
- Denying access through firewalls
- Protecting computer systems from eavesdropping, spoofing, tampering and phishing
- Securing information systems from theft, damage, and information loss
- Protecting information on computer systems from disruption or misdirection
- Training in cyber terrorism
- Computer forensics
- Computer security and data breach protection
- Cybercrime laws and ethics
- Enterprise risk management
- Cyber intelligence
DID YOU KNOW?
“Demand for security firms that help businesses protect their data and intellectual property is rising. This is a major factor in the employment growth in computer systems design and related services.iii
Why Earn a Graduate Cyber Security Degree?
Government agencies, the military, businesses, banks, hospitals, and other groups all collect, process, and store a great deal of confidential information on computers. And they send that data across networks. With increases in cyber attacks and this growing reliance on computer technology, demand for information security analysts is growing much faster than the average occupation. In fact, employment of information security analysts is projected to grow 18 percent from 2014 to 2024. And employment of information security analysts is projected to grow 36 percent in computer systems design and related services. ii
A bachelors degree in a computer–related field may qualify you for entry-level positions. However as the field of information security evolves, cyber security graduate programs are becoming more common. ii But why invest in a graduate cyber security degree? Let’s take a look at some of the reasons and current trends.
- Potential Income Boost: According to one study, Information Security Analysts with a masters degree earned a premium over workers with a bachelors degree. iv
- Stay Up To Date: One of the biggest challenges in cyber security is the quickly and ever changing nature of security risks. Information security analysts must adapt to stay a step ahead. ii Cyber security graduate programs may expose students to the latest methods and best practices.
- Need for Business Skills: Employers of information security analysts may prefer applicants with a Masters of Business Administration (MBA) in Information Systems. ii
- Shift into Management: Many organizations require their computer and information systems managers to have a graduate degree such as the MBA. v
- Advanced Research: Those interested in research and advanced computer science, mathematical or leadership aspects of the field usually need a doctorate degree.vi
Types of Cyber Security Degrees and Graduate Programs
Cyber security graduate programs are offered as graduate certificates, Masters in Cyber Security and PhD in Cyber Security. Many build upon the knowledge base earned in a Bachelor’s of Information Assurance & Cybersecurity. While they all focus on core topics of IT security, each may have different requirements and depth of study. Consider your career goals, interests and educational background to find a great fit for you.
Masters in Cybesecurity Degree
Masters in Cybesecurity programs typically take about 2 years of full time study. The basic paths are usually the Master of Business Administration in Cybersecurity or the Master of Science in Cybersecurity. The MBA path may address IT security in a larger business context. Students could take basic business courses, in addition to those in tech and security. An MS, on the other hand, may take a more technical and focused approach. Most programs require a bachelors degree, and some may request it be in a related field. Programs vary so follow up directly with schools for details.
Doctorate in Cybersecurity Degree
Doctor of Business Administration or Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) in Cybersecurity degrees are designed for students who want to deepen their cyber security knowledge and potentially pursue leadership positions. In addition to advanced courses, students may pursue research in a preferred area. Most programs require a masters degree and could take 3-5 years of full time study. Program vary.
Graduate Certificate in Cyber Security
Graduate certificates in cyber security are often shorter programs and may be completed in as little as a year. These allow students to explore specific topics in detail. Or explore the field without committing to a full degree program. While many students pursue a certificate as a stand alone non-degree program, some may be taken as an add-on to a masters degree. Certificates may be available at the masters or post masters level and require a bachelor degree or masters degree respectively. Programs vary.
Which Graduate Cyber Security Programs Are Perfect For You?
To find a perfect cyber security program, it may be helpful to first examine your interests and goals. Do you prefer to write secure computer programs or monitor computer security systems? Do you want to develop security strategies? Or do you prefer to stop computer viruses dead in their tracks? Do you hope to land an advanced position in government one day? Or are you interested in detecting economic fraud and identity theft?Often times, graduate school is the place where you receive practical experience and education relevant to a specific type of career. Cybersecurity careers tend to be either user-focused (installation, configuration, network security) or development-focused (build products, write secure software programs). i Choose a graduate school in part for its career preparation to fit your needs.
Cyber Security Graduate Programs: Professional Insight
“The decision to obtain a Master’s Degree in Cybersecurity was a combination of my desire to better myself in the field of cybersecurity and my passion for technology and helping those around me safeguard themselves from emerging threats. Throughout the course of study in my Master’s program, I learned an immense amount of information about the field of cybersecurity and developed and harnessed the necessary skills that has enabled me to become a well-rounded and security consultant.”
- Michael Doran, security consultant, enterprise incident management at Optiv
Campus or Online Cyber Security Programs?
Many schools offer either or both campus and online learning formats. Mid-career professionals may choose distance learning simply for its convenience. Courses are delivered wirelessly so you could study from wherever and whenever you have Internet. Plus you may have access to digital libraries, chat rooms and other technology-based tools to get your assignments in and communicate with classmates and faculty.
On the other hand, some cyber security schools schedule courses at convenient times for their working students. This way you could enjoy the face-to-face component missing from online degrees. Campuses may also have advanced tech or computer labs for students to use. Follow up with directly programs to learn what other resources might be available.
Accreditation for graduate schools with cyber security degree programs may be at the institutional level (national or regional accreditation) or program-specific. The National Security Agency (NSA) and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) jointly sponsor the Centers of Academic Excellence in Cyber Defense (CAE-CD) program which has specific requirements, and may be available in different institutions.vii Some computer science and engineering graduate programs are also ABET-accredited.ABET is recognized by the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA). It accredits applied science, computing, engineering and engineering technology programs at the associate, bachelor and master degree levels.
Take the Next Step
Finding cybersecurity graduate programs that address your academic and career ambitions is as simple as answering a few questions. Masters or doctorate? Online or on campus? Then choose either Masters in Computer Science or PhD in Computer Science programs, along with the program format, from the menu. This will refine your results. Or, try a location search to find graduate schools with cyber security degree programs by city, state, or country. Then contact schools through the simple on page form. That way you could get all the information you need to start your application today!
sources:[i] bls.gov/careeroutlook/2006/summer/art01.pdf |[ii] bls.gov/ooh/computer-and-information-technology/information-security-analysts.htm |[iii] bls.gov/opub/btn/volume-2/pdf/careers-in-growing-field-of-information-technology-services.pdf | [iv] bls.gov/careeroutlook/2015/article/should-i-get-a-masters-degree.htm#STEM |[v] bls.gov/ooh/management/computer-and-information-systems-managers.htm |[vi] bls.gov/ooh/computer-and-information-technology/computer-and-information-research-scientists.htm |[vii]nsa.gov/resources/educators/centers-academic-excellence/cyber-defense/
James Madison University
James Madison University is one of the original 7 National Centers of Academic Excellence in Information Assurance/Cyber Defense, designated by NSA and DHS...
University of Fairfax
If you seek to be recognized as a cybersecurity problem solver in senior management, policy-making, consulting or in an analyst position, you will want to pursue this degree...
- Richmond, VARichmond, VA
Virginia Commonwealth University
The Department of Computer Science and the Department of Information Systems offer a joint MS in Computer & Info Sys Security.
- Arlington, VAArlington, VA
George Mason University
George Mason's MS in Management of Secure Information Systems is a cyber security masters degree providing a path to enhance your leadership career and be at the forefront of addressing cyber security challenges.