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Exploring graduate study in cybersecurity

Thursday, November 2, 2017
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Exploring graduate study in cybersecurity
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Are you looking to build on your computer science or web development undergraduate degree and enter a dynamic and exciting profession? Maybe you enjoy solving difficult problems or are interested in both criminal justice and technology. If so, you may want to consider enrolling in a graduate program for cybersecurity. 

Digital Guardian defines cybersecurity as the "body of technologies, processes and practices designed to protect networks, devices, programs and data from attack, damage or unauthorized access." From consumers' credit card information to a hospital's patient files, cybersecurity professionals help keep critical information safe. 

This fascinating field is one of the fastest-growing professions in the world and offers motivated individuals a range of satisfying academic and career opportunities. 

Let's take a closer look at advanced studies in cybersecurity:

A developing field 
Cybersecurity is a great area for individuals interested in technology to focus their studies because it is a relatively new field that is rapidly becoming more sophisticated - and as such, there is a very high demand for cybersecurity experts. 

crimeCybersecurity is a rapidly growing field. 

Based on current and projected needs, there will be a shortage of 1.8 million information security professionals by 2022, according to an (ISC)2 study. This goes along with forecasts from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics that the number of available information analysts jobs will increase by 28 percent between 2016 and 2026, which is a much faster-than-average growth rate than the estimates for other industries. 

Some of the other job roles associated with cybersecurity besides information analyst are security architect, security engineer, digital forensics investigator, cryptanalyst and penetration tester. 

Pursuing advanced study 
A graduate program in cybersecurity can help equip interested individuals with the technical and soft skills, theoretical frameworks and expertise needed to help them advance their careers in the field. 

Many schools have developed cybersecurity programs to help develop professionals who can fill the high demand for talent in the industry. These programs may be based in university's engineering, IT or professional studies schools, and prioritize teaching students real-world skills. For example, The George Washington University offers a Master's in Cybersecurity Strategy and Information Management to help students learn the knowledge needed to become cybersecurity leaders, and features a policy-focused curriculum designed with consultation from the Department of Homeland Security. And New York University offers an MS in Cybersecurity created to prepare graduates for a range of job roles relating to cybersecurity, including security application programmer and security products developer. 

Individuals passionate about cybersecurity can also explore teaching and research positions within the field. 

The importance of skills beyond tech 
While technical skills are one aspect of cybsersecurity, industry experts advise that individuals interested in the field also consider the other range of abilities and perspectives that inform cybersecurity. 

"Individuals passionate about cybersecurity can also explore teaching and research positions within the field."

For example, in an article for the Harvard Business Review, Marc van Zadelhoff, general manager of IBM Security, puts part of the blame for the shortage of cybersecurity talent on some hiring managers' narrow focus on people with "traditional technology credentials." He urges them to instead consider the range of industries in which cybersecurity is relevant, such as retail, health care and government. 

Other experts recommend that individuals interested in developing their careers in cybersecurity keep in mind that working on the main security systems of large-scale companies can be just as exciting and rewarding as working on flashy apps or trendy social networks. 

"We see a lot of people getting into things like mobile or social, and people are creating Flappy Bird and people are making millions of dollars," said Eric Chien, an engineer at security company Symantec, in an interview with Inverse. But he loves his job because "It's unique in some sense ... When we go in the office, we're not thinking about, 'Oh, how do we make another dollar? How do we beat our competitor?' We go into the office thinking about how we are going to defeat these adversaries. How are we going to defeat these actors. And those actors are constantly changing."

Students who approach their graduate studies in cybersecurity with these diverse perspectives in mind can be better equipped to meet the data protection needs of companies and consumers alike. 

In a world where people share more information about themselves online than ever before, cybersecurity professionals are the critical defense points against cybercrime. With this responsibility comes exciting career paths and rewarding graduate study at schools across the nation. 

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