What Is a Bachelor's Degree in Cybersecurity?
A bachelor's in cybersecurity prepares students for a variety of in-demand information technology careers, dedicated to securing vulnerable data and information and stopping cyberattacks in the digital environment. Potential jobs for graduates include security analysts, information security analysts, forensic science technicians, and information security specialists.
As businesses, governments, and individuals store more and more information online, cybersecurity professionals can expect demand for their services to grow. This increased demand for specialized labor also translates to lucrative salaries: The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects jobs for security analysts to grow by 32% from 2018 to 2028, and these professionals earned a median annual salary of $99,730 as of 2019.
Many schools offer online and in-person cybersecurity bachelor's degree programs. Cybersecurity programs focus on topics like information and network security, cyberforensics, and risk mitigation. Students learn the principles and practices of both offensive and reactive strategies for preventing attacks and keeping defenses strong.
Should I Get a Bachelor's in Cybersecurity?
Earning a bachelor's in cybersecurity can open the door to a variety of lucrative and rewarding career opportunities in information technology and computing, particularly for those who want to help protect organizations' digital assets. Cybersecurity bachelor's programs also instill many broadly applicable skills, such as critical thinking, problem-solving, and project management. Those who pursue continuing education may qualify for many other computer science positions, as well. Here are some of the reasons that pursuing a bachelor's in cybersecurity could be the right move:
- Professional Demand: As cyberattacks increase, organizations need skilled cybersecurity professionals to protect their data against cybersecurity threats. The BLS projects above-average job growth rates for many cybersecurity careers from 2018 to 2028.
- Lucrative Salaries: Cybersecurity professionals can earn healthy salaries, with many professionals in the field garnering above-average median annual wages. Information technology and computing-related jobs see particularly high earnings.
- Technical Skills: Earning a bachelor's in cybersecurity gives students in-demand technical skills like how to stop data breaches, as well as an understanding of industry standards, including how different organizations need different protections.
- Growth Opportunities: Entering the cybersecurity profession promises room for career growth. Individuals can continue to develop and improve their skills through continuing education classes, certifications, and graduate education. This can lead to increased job opportunities and more responsibility.
- Job Security: Cybersecurity professionals who keep their skills relevant and stay up-to-date with industry changes should boast an advantage for future job openings, especially as businesses, government agencies, healthcare organizations, and individuals gain awareness of cyberthreats.
What Can I Do With a Bachelor's Degree in Cybersecurity?
Earning a BS in cybersecurity prepares students for rewarding career paths securing large amounts of sensitive and proprietary data for businesses, governments, and individuals. Graduates qualify for entry-level positions in the information technology and security field, or to pursue graduate-level education.
Career and Salary Outlook for Cybersecurity Graduates
Students who graduate with bachelor's degrees in cybersecurity can pursue a variety of careers related to information technology, security, and computing. Cybersecurity jobs encompass areas like computer forensics, project management, analysis, and development.
Demand for cybersecurity professionals should continue to grow as financial institutions, government agencies, and other organizations increasingly need protection against cyberthreats. Information security analysts, for example, can expect significantly above-average job growth rates in the coming years.
Potential bachelor's in cybersecurity jobs include information security analyst, forensic science technician, security software developer, and security administrator. Below, we explain what to expect from these types of positions, including job outlook and median annual salary. Salary potential varies depending on position, experience, and education. Median annual salaries for the jobs listed below range from $59,150 for forensic science technicians to $105,590 for security software developers.
Information Security Analyst
Information security analysts develop and implement plans to keep organizations' computer systems and networks secure. These professionals typically need bachelor's degrees at minimum. Daily tasks may include monitoring networks for security issues, installing software to protect information and data, researching IT security trends, and recommending security upgrades to management. Information security analysts also play a large role in developing organizations' disaster recovery plans to ensure they include data protection measures.
Job Outlook: +32%
Median Annual Salary: $99,730
Forensic Science Technician
Forensic science technicians collect and analyze evidence for criminal investigations, working on crime scenes and in laboratories. These technicians typically need bachelor's degrees at least, and many also attend police academies. Typical job duties include analyzing crime scenes, sketching crime scenes, cataloging and preserving evidence, and reconstructing crime scenes. These professionals also perform scientific laboratory analysis on evidence and consult with experts in fields like toxicology and odontology.
Job Outlook: +14%
Median Annual Salary: $59,150
Security Software Developer
Security software developers develop and update security applications and systems. They usually need bachelor's degrees. These professionals work on teams through each stage of software development, including implementation, design, and testing. They analyze user needs, recommend software upgrades, and create models. Security software developers need problem-solving, interpersonal, and analytical skills.
Job Outlook: +21%
Median Annual Salary: $105,590
Security administrators protect their organizations' computer systems and networks from security threats. They support wide area networks, local area networks, and intranets. Most security administrators need bachelor's degrees at minimum, along with analytical, problem-solving, and communication skills. Typical job duties include adding users to a network, optimizing system performance, making repairs to networks, and training users to utilize software and hardware securely.
Job Outlook: +5%
Median Annual Salary: $83,510
Information Security Specialist
Security specialists oversee their organizations' cybersecurity issues. They make sure security infrastructures effectively protect information and data. Job duties may include suggesting security upgrades, running security checks, and researching security risks. Most security specialist positions require bachelor's degrees and prior work experience in the information technology field. Those who obtain security certifications can advance in their careers more easily than those who do not.
Median Annual Salary: $76,300
|Entry Level (0-12 Months)||Early Career (1-4 Years)||Midcareer (5-9 Years)||Experienced (10-19 Years)|
|Information Security Analyst||$59,110||$67,190||$81,810||$94,710|
|Forensic Science Technician||$49,980||$50,100||$50,570||$48,800|
|Security Software Developer||$62,230||$68,660||$81,640||$91,040|
|Information Security Specialist||$58,750||$66,640||$86,860||$103,140|
Continuing Education in Cybersecurity
Typical jobs for bachelor's in cybersecurity graduates require continuing education for expanded career opportunities. Those pursuing increased workplace responsibilities, more advanced positions, and higher salaries may benefit from continuing their cybersecurity education beyond the bachelor's degree.
Potential continuing education opportunities for cybersecurity professionals include pursuing graduate certificates, master's degrees, Ph.D. degrees, and cybersecurity certifications. We describe these continuing education possibilities in detail below.
Graduate CertificatesMany schools offer graduate certificates in cybersecurity, which typically take a year or less to complete and comprise 4-6 classes. Costs vary by program. Typical courses may include principles of information security, management of data networks and security, advanced cybersecurity concepts, and computer forensics. Graduate certificates in cybersecurity can help individuals stand out to prospective employers.
Master's DegreeMaster's degrees in cybersecurity can lead to high-level leadership and administrative positions, which typically pay well. Most master's in cybersecurity programs take about two years of full-time study to complete, requiring 30 credits. Master's programs cover areas like foundations of algorithms, foundations of information assurance, and cryptology. Some offer specializations in systems or analysis.
Ph.D.Those who earn Ph.D. degrees in cybersecurity typically plan to pursue careers in research or university teaching. Doctoral programs allow students to focus extensively on specific areas to develop high levels of expertise. Cybersecurity doctoral students must research, write, and defend dissertations on particular areas of the field. A typical Ph.D. in cybersecurity takes 3-7 years to complete. Many doctoral students receive free tuition in exchange for working as instructors or research assistants.
Cybersecurity CertificationsCybersecurity professionals who want to demonstrate specific skills in defined technical areas can pursue a variety of certifications. Many employers prefer or require cybersecurity applicants with certifications. Some common certifications include certified ethical hacker, certified information systems security professional, and CompTIA Security+. Certifications typically require experience and education criteria, plus exams and fees.
Admission Requirements for a Cybersecurity Bachelor's Degree
Most cybersecurity bachelor's degree programs admit applicants who successfully meet general admission requirements. Students can typically declare a major in cybersecurity after gaining admission to a university. College admission requirements vary by institution, but they usually require a high school diploma or the GED equivalent. Other application requirements may include a minimum GPA, minimum ACT or SAT scores, letters of recommendation, or admission essays.
Some institutions may allow students with a certificate or associate degree in cybersecurity to transfer credits toward their bachelor's degrees, shortening their program length. Some schools with cybersecurity programs offer credit for prior learning, including military and work experience.
Many schools use the Common App, which allows prospective students to apply for several schools with just one online application.
Comparing Bachelor's Degree Options
Students pursuing careers in cybersecurity can choose from a variety of relevant bachelor's degrees. Not all colleges offer standalone degrees in cybersecurity, instead providing bachelor's programs in related fields. These may include curricula incorporating cybersecurity topics or concentrations in cybersecurity. Degrees in computer science, computer engineering, information technology, and information assurance all prepare learners for cybersecurity careers.
- BS in Cybersecurity
- A bachelor of science in cybersecurity explores the fundamentals of cybersecurity, cyberlaw, and cyberethics. Students learn to prevent data breaches, address vulnerabilities, and improve security for networks and systems. They also develop strong technical, critical thinking, and problem-solving skills. Potential career paths for BS in cybersecurity graduates include information security analysis, security software development, forensic science, and security administration.
- BS in Computer Science
- A computer science BS emphasizes the fundamental principles and practical skills of computer science. Students explore topics like programming, software engineering, data science, and machine learning. Potential jobs for computer science graduates include computer hardware engineers, computer and information systems managers, and computer network architects.
- BS in Computer Engineering
- A BS in computer engineering teaches students to design, analyze, and test microprocessors, circuits, and operating systems. Learners also gain experience with software design. Typical computer engineering curricula include foundational courses in computer science, mathematics, and the physical sciences. Most graduates pursue careers in computer engineering.
- BS in Mathematics
- A bachelor of science in mathematics includes courses in calculus, programming, statistical theory, and abstract math. Students learn to assess risks and develop problem-solving, critical thinking, and quantitative skills. They also gain broadly applicable skills, which employers across industries value.
- BS in Information Technology
- Information technology bachelor's programs provide a solid foundation in computer information technologies and systems. Students learn about networking and security, programming, and data management. Potential careers for information technology graduates include work as IT managers, network engineers, and software or web developers.
- BS in Information Assurance
- A BS in information assurance develops skills in cyber defense and countermeasures, security management and policies, and ethical hacking. A typical curriculum covers many of the same topics as a BS in cybersecurity program does, and graduates pursue similar career paths.
Popular Bachelor's in Cybersecurity Courses
Cybersecurity bachelor's programs typically focus on topics such as legal issues in cybersecurity, risk management in information systems, and security strategies. Most also include a mixture of core and elective courses, and some require capstone projects or internships.
Core courses for cybersecurity majors cover foundational theories and skills, such as fundamentals of information systems security. Elective courses allow learners to focus on more specialized areas of interest or relevant topics, like fundamentals of Python or project management.
Fundamentals of Information Systems Security
This course introduces learners to the main theories and practices of information systems security. It explores risks, vulnerabilities, and threats associated with the digital world, examining how governments, businesses, and individuals handle these issues today. Students learn to identify information security risks.
Legal Issues in Cybersecurity
Enrollees learn about issues and instances where concerns around cybersecurity and the law interact. The course explores topics like intellectual property, legal compliance, privacy responses, and customer expectations. It also covers relevant contemporary state and federal laws and regulations. Students learn to apply the law in cybersecurity contexts.
Managing Risk in Information Systems
This course provides a broad overview of risk management strategies, practices, and theories in information systems. Students learn strategies for mitigating risk, and they create plans to mitigate risk. The class also looks at regulatory mandates, governance, and legal considerations in the information technology world.
Fundamentals of Python
Students receive a thorough grounding in Python, a programming language. They learn about object-oriented design, data structures, array-based implementations, and inheritance and abstract classes. This class builds on skills learned in introductory, object-oriented programming language classes, like Python, Java, and C++.
Introduction to Project Management
This class introduces project management techniques and tools. Learners explore project parameters and processes, risk management, the role of IT security project teams, and design of IT security project plans.
Pairing Internships With Your Education
Many colleges boast internship opportunities for bachelor's students. Students pursuing cybersecurity degrees often benefit from internships that allow them to gain real-world professional experience prior to graduation. Most universities also allow students to earn credits for unpaid internships.
Internships allow learners to put their classroom knowledge and skills into practice and develop connections and network with potential employers. Many cybersecurity internships turn into job offers after students graduate. In some cases, cybersecurity majors can complete paid internships, though schools may only offer academic credit for unpaid ones.
Selecting Your Bachelor's in Cybersecurity Program
Prospective bachelor's in cybersecurity students should consider many factors before choosing a program. Potential criteria may include program length, staff credentials, cost and financial aid opportunities, and program reputation or prestige. Others regard school size, admission requirements, competitiveness, and student-to-teacher ratios. Students with specific career goals should make sure potential programs cover their areas of interest and offer specialization options.
Other important considerations may include university resources, alumni networks, and job placement rates for graduates. As online education increases in popularity, students must consciously choose between online and in-person programs. Students who choose on-campus programs may prioritize school location, extracurricular activities, housing options, and student organizations. To choose the right cybersecurity bachelor's program, each learner must weigh these criteria based on their individual needs, preferences, and goals.
Below, we explain the importance of attending a cybersecurity program at an accredited school, along with the pros and cons of pursuing a bachelor's in cybersecurity online versus on campus.
Should You Get Your Bachelor's Degree in Cybersecurity Online?
Both online and in-person programs offer benefits and drawbacks. Some learners prefer attending traditional brick-and-mortar campuses for their studies, but this depends on each individual's specific circumstances and needs. Earning a bachelor's degree in cybersecurity online offers many benefits, including flexibility and convenience.
Distance learners can save time and money by eliminating the campus commute, continuing to work during their studies, and avoiding some on-campus student fees. Online programs typically offer asynchronous instruction, as well, allowing students to log on and complete coursework as their schedules permit.
Cybersecurity particularly suits online education, since cybersecurity students spend so much time exploring computing and information technology issues. Digital learning offers opportunities for hands-on experience and helps students acclimate to working online.
Accreditation for Cybersecurity Schools and Programs
When choosing a bachelor's in cybersecurity program, students should pay attention to accreditation, which indicates that a school meets the educational standards set by an independent accrediting agency. These include factors like quality of faculty, libraries, facilities, and technology. Two types of accreditation exist: regional and national. Most accredited schools hold regional accreditation, which is also usually considered more prestigious.
Accreditation particularly benefits students who need to apply for financial aid or plan to transfer credits, pursue advanced degrees, or earn postgraduate certifications. Only students at accredited institutions qualify for federal financial aid, and most accredited colleges only accept transfer credits from other accredited schools.
Students can find accreditation information on prospective programs and schools through the Council for Higher Education Accreditation. Accrediting agencies to look for include the Higher Learning Commission and the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.
Ranking Your Top Schools
Factors like school size, cost, program length, and career services may all impact the school ranking process for prospective students. Choosing the best school is a personal process, and each student brings their own unique concerns. Consulting our online rankings can be a great place to start. See below for our top online cybersecurity programs.
Start your search with our program rankings:
Professional Organizations for Cybersecurity
Joining a professional organization for cybersecurity offers many benefits to students and recent graduates, including networking opportunities, current industry news, and access to information and resources. Professional groups also coordinate continuing education workshops and conferences, boast career development resources, and maintain job boards. Many professional groups offer discounted memberships to students and recent graduates. See below to learn about some professional organizations in cybersecurity.
- Information Systems Security Association An international membership group for cybersecurity professionals, the ISSA offers professional publications, education forums, and networking opportunities. The organization's mission includes promoting a secure digital world.
- CompTIA Professional The world's premier technology association, CompTIA offers certification programs, continuing education, and webinars. Millions of information technology professionals join CompTIA to access its training, events, and information resources.
- International Association of Computer Science and Information Technology An international association of computer science and information technology scholars, the IACSIT organizes conferences, publishes academic journals, and encourages international collaboration. Members can join technical and scientific committees and register for the conference at a discount.
- Association for Information Science and Technology ASIS&T brings together information science and technology research and practice. The group represents professionals from fields like computer science, data science, librarianship, and information architecture. Membership benefits include listing in the member directory, free webinars, a subscription to the group's journal, and continuing education discounts.
Scholarships for Bachelor's Degree Programs in Cybersecurity
A variety of scholarships and other financial aid opportunities exist to support college students, including those seeking cybersecurity bachelor's degrees. Private companies, foundations, public organizations, and government agencies all offer college scholarships. See below for a sampling of scholarships for bachelor's in cybersecurity students.
CyberCorps: Scholarship for Service
Who Can Apply: Undergraduate and graduate cybersecurity students can apply for this scholarship. Recipients must agree to work for the U.S. government in cybersecurity positions for amounts of time matching the length of their respective scholarship awards.
Amount: Full tuition, living stipend, and professional allowance for up to three years
Department of Defense SMART Scholarship
Who Can Apply: Undergraduate and graduate students pursuing degrees in STEM fields can apply. Applicants must be citizens of the U.S., Canada, Australia, or New Zealand. The program offers guaranteed employment with the U.S. Department of Defense after graduation.
Amount: Full tuition, stipend, and more benefits
Scholarships for Women Studying Information Security
Who Can Apply: Applicants must be women studying information security and U.S. citizens or permanent residents. They must be junior or senior undergraduates or master's students. The scholarship committee requires letters of recommendation, resumes, transcripts, and essays.
(ISC)² Information Security Undergraduate Scholarship
Who Can Apply: Undergraduate students pursuing degrees in cybersecurity or information assurance can apply. Applicants must hold a minimum 3.3 GPA, and they can be citizens of any country. They must submit transcripts, letters of recommendation, resumes, and essays.
Deputy Scholarship for Women in Technology
Who Can Apply: Applicants must be full-time students enrolled at accredited U.S. colleges, pursuing degrees in cybersecurity or related fields. Each must hold a minimum 3.0 GPA and submit a 500-word essay, plus transcripts.
Frequently Asked Questions
- What is a BS in cybersecurity?
- A bachelor of science in cybersecurity explores the fundamentals of cybersecurity and trains students to use technical tools to solve security problems. It prepares graduates for various careers in the cybersecurity field.
- What is the best degree for cybersecurity?
- Most entry-level cybersecurity positions require a bachelor's degree at minimum. A bachelor's provides a foundational understanding of the field and career-relevant skills. The best cybersecurity degree ultimately depends on your career goals, budget, and academic interests.
- Is a cybersecurity degree worth it?
- Earning a cybersecurity bachelor's degree opens the door to a variety of lucrative, in-demand, and interesting careers. Cybersecurity graduates can qualify for high-paying information technology jobs.
- How much can you make with a bachelor's in cybersecurity?
- Potential earnings for those with bachelor's degrees in cybersecurity vary by position, experience, and employer. However, those in typical cybersecurity jobs make $60,000-$100,000 annually.
- What can you do with a bachelor's in cybersecurity?
- Graduates of cybersecurity bachelor's programs may qualify for a variety of jobs combining information technology and security skills. Potential positions include information security analyst, security administrator, and forensic science technician.