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So, you want a master's degree in cybersecurity?

A sampling of cybersecurity master's degree programs at universities in the U.S.

In last week's Cybersecurity Business Report, we suggested you might want to send your kid to cybersecurity school (college).

This week, we take a cursory glance at some cybersecurity master’s degree programs in the U.S. The list—culled from the MastersInCyber.com directory—is intended as a starting point and is not an endorsement of any particular school. Each of the schools presented has its own unique courses, and some get into security niches not covered by others.

10 interesting cybersecurity master's degree programs

  • American Military University (Charles Town, W.Va.)—The Master of Science in Cybersecurity Studies program takes a broad, multidisciplinary approach to preventing and responding to large-scale cyber threats and cyber attacks. The first half of the online, two-year program provides a foundation in network security, information assurance, cyber crime and digital forensics. The second half focuses on the issues, policies, practices and perspectives of various sectors, critical infrastructures, agencies and disciplines, such as national security, intelligence, criminal justice and emergency management.
  • Carnegie Mellon University (Pittsburgh)—In 16 or 20 months, the Master of Science in Information Security enhances a technical education in computer systems and security with research/development opportunities and the option to take additional courses in areas complementary to security. Graduates may pursue doctoral degrees or positions as security experts equipped to manage the growing complexities associated with securing data, networks and systems. This graduate degree program meets the criteria for the NSF-funded CyberCorps Scholarship for Service Program (SFS). U.S. citizens who are accepted may be eligible for a full scholarship and stipend from the federal government.
  • Fordham University's School of Professional and Continuing Studies (Bronx, N.Y.)—Fordham's Master of Science in Cybersecurity program is a
    combination of weekend, online and hybrid courses is designed for completion in 12 months over three semesters. Students learn how to identify solutions to global cyber threats while mastering legal, ethical and policy issues using methods in computing and informational science, engineering and social science. Program highlights include small classes taught by academia and industry experts, intensive lab experience in a dedicated cybersecurity research lab, and networking opportunities and career support.
  • George Washington University (Washington, D.C.)—The Master of Science in Cybersecurity in Computer Science program was created to respond to the large and fast-growing need for technical cybersecurity experts nationally and internationally. Students acquire up-to-date knowledge and skills in cybersecurity and get a firm grounding in requisite core knowledge in computer science, as well as the ability to take courses in related disciplines. GWU also offers the Master of Engineering in Cybersecurity Policy and Compliance (online).
  • Indiana University (Bloomington, Ind.)—The Master of Science in Secure Computing offers an interdisciplinary focus that combines coursework in mathematics, protocol analysis, and system and network security, with business and economics, social engineering, human-computer interaction, and other disciplines. The Master of Science in Cybersecurity Risk Management program will bring together cybersecurity courses from law, business and computer science. The degree offers integrated coursework from the School of Informatics and Computing, the IU Maurer School of Law, and the IU Kelley School of Business.
  • Northeastern University (Boston)—The Master of Science in Information Assurance and Cybersecurity program enables students to gain the broad knowledge needed to make strategic decisions to combat information security threats, including identity theft, computer malware, electronic fraud and cyber attacks. The program explores key issues in information security and how technology can help resolve them. It combines an understanding of IT with relevant knowledge from law, the social sciences, criminology and management.
  • The University of Maryland (College Park, Md.)—The Master of Engineering in Cybersecurity program is offered in collaboration with Electrical and Computer Engineering, Computer Science, and the Maryland Cybersecurity Center. Core courses include Secure Programming, Network Security, Networks and Protocols, Secure Operating Systems, Security Tools for Information Security, and Information Assurance. The Maryland Cybersecurity Center brings together experts from computer science and engineering with colleagues from across campus in fields such as economics and the social sciences to establish broad-based cybersecurity initiatives.
  • The University of Southern California (Los Angeles)—USC Viterbi’s Master of Science in Cyber Security Engineering program focuses on the fundamentals of developing, engineering and operating secure information systems. Curriculum fosters understanding in developing a security policy and how policy drives technology decisions. Students solve challenges and problems of secure operating systems, secure applications, secure networking, use of cryptography and key management. This program is also available online to professional engineers through the Distance Education Network.
  • The University of South Florida (Tampa, Fla.)—The Master of Science in Cybersecurity interdisciplinary program has four concentrations. The Cyber Intelligence concentration prepares graduates for entry-level or advanced positions as cyber intelligence or threat intelligence analysts. The Digital Forensics concentration helps students gain the skills needed to investigate computer, cyber and electronic crimes; analyze networks that have been attacked or used for illicit purposes; and properly identify, collect, secure and present digital evidence. The Information Assurance concentration provides a core foundation of knowledge and applied expertise in information security controls, the regulatory environment, and information risk management and incident response. The Computer Security Fundamentals concentration provides a core foundation of technical knowledge necessary to design and build secure computing systems, detect unauthorized use, and protect systems, resources and data that they store or access. All courses are fully online.
  • The University of Washington (Bothell, Wash.)—The Master of Science in Cyber Security Engineering prepares students to protect cyber systems with the necessary technical and leadership skills. Students gain expertise and confidence in making difficult security trade-offs and carrying out essential changes to keep and maintain secure systems. They gain hands-on experience in a myriad of research areas, such as penetration testing, emerging technologies, vulnerability analysis, network security, human-computer interaction, wireless security and cryptography. The degree is designed to meet the needs of working professionals. Enrollment is either part-time or full-time, with courses meeting in the evening two or three times a week. Most students complete the program in just over two years.

More cybersecurity programs

Does a master's degree in the cybersecurity field pay?

Cyber crime is expected to triple the number of job openings over the next five years, leading to 3.5 million unfilled cybersecurity jobs by 2021.

Further, U.S. News and World Report ranked a career in information security analysis seventh on its list of the 10 best technology jobs for 2017. The Bureau of Labor Statistics expects this profession to grow at a rate of 18 percent through 2024. The median annual salary for these positions is $90,000, with jobs in the 75th percentile in tech hubs, including San Francisco and New York City, paying between $115,000 and $140,000 or more.

In 2017, the U.S. employs nearly 780,000 people in cybersecurity positions, with approximately 350,000 current cybersecurity openings, according to CyberSeek, a project supported by the National Initiative for Cybersecurity Education (NICE), a program of the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) in the U.S. Department of Commerce.

The current number of U.S. cybersecurity job openings is up from 209,000 in 2015. At that time, job postings were already up 74 percent over the previous five years, according to a Peninsula Press analysis of numbers from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

The pipeline of security talent isn’t where it needs to be to address the cyber crime problem, said Robert Herjavec, founder and CEO at Herjavec Group, a managed security services provider with offices and security operations centers globally. 

“Until we can rectify the quality of education and training that our new cyber experts receive, we will continue to be outpaced by the Black Hats,” he said. “There is a zero-percent unemployment rate in cybersecurity and the opportunities in this field are endless.”

At the upper end of the market, founders of successful cybersecurity firms and CISOs at large corporations can elevate into the rare air of $1 million in annual income—and more. 

For students who graduate with a master’s degree in cybersecurity, they are well on their way to a rewarding, stable and well-paying career.

Kerry Morgan, a senior studying criminology at the University of Scranton in Pennsylvania, and Di Freeze, a Cybersecurity Ventures contributor, assisted with research on the compilation of schools listed.

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