Choosing the best cybersecurity master’s degree program

Frederick Scholl November 05, 2020

Student typing at his laptop during class.

You have decided you are interested in a cybersecurity career path. You already have an undergraduate degree. You may be coming from a hardcore tech background in computer science or engineering, or you may be coming from related fields in business, healthcare or criminal justice.

There are dozens of cybersecurity programs out there, so how do you decide?

One factor is going to be online or face-to-face. These days many people are opting for online. Another is going to be price. You need to look at total cost as well as cost per credit and align with your budget.

The biggest factor is you … your interests and aptitudes. “Best” really means best aligned to your goals. I have posted previously on this site many expert interviews and commentary on cybersecurity career paths.

Pretty much every field has security risks these days, so if you are into maritime, you can focus on maritime cybersecurity; if you are interested in media and the arts, those fields are lucrative targets as well. If you are interested in election security, plenty of opportunity is there. Same thing for cyberlaw enforcement.

In some ways you should select an educational program that prepares you with the skills needed by all these career opportunities. You may decide to change direction from one job role to another.

Cybersecurity job roles are listed in the Federal government’s NICE Cybersecurity Workforce Framework. In fact, the Framework is undergoing revision right now (fall 2020); you can check out the latest NICE Framework Draft Revision.

More generally, cybersecurity is becoming more about managing business risk, instead of just technology risks.

Our own MS in Cybersecurity program was designed to enable you to do just that by offering a “multipurpose” curriculum that can support many career choices. We are constantly tweaking these offerings to keep up with changing demands.

Other programs may offer more specific training in digital forensics, cybersecurity policy, homeland security or operations. QU has opted to create the next generation of multi-skilled cyber defenders.

A survey of in demand cybersecurity skills was just published by Burning Glass, the analytics company that tracks job and skill trends. This study shows the fastest growing cybersecurity skills on the demand side.

I also lined up Burning Glass’s data with the matching courses offered in Quinnipiac’s MS in Cybersecurity program. If you are interested in programming, you will have unlimited opportunities securing applications.

Cybersecurity + software development is a great growth area. Regarding cloud, everyone needs to master these skills; cloud represents the most revolutionary information technology change since the invention of the PC.

Risk management skills are foundational to information security and need to be honed in any cybersecurity degree or certification program. Threat intelligence includes both proactive intelligence and tactical intelligence.

The former helps you avoid attacks, the latter helps you defend against active attacks. The process of responding to active attacks is, appropriately, Incident Response.

If you like crisis management, this is a great area for you. Several of the in-demand skills are more focused on policy and process, as contrasted with technology. These include: Compliance and Controls, Data Privacy and Security and Security Strategy and Governance.

Interesting that health information security is the one business vertical on this list. Recent ransomware attacks on hospitals highlight the urgent need for more expertise in this vertical.

Skills In Demand vs Quinnipiac's MS in Cybersecurity Curriculum

Skill Burning Glass 5-Year Projected Growth Quinnipiac Course Listings Quinnipiac Course Contents
Application Development Security 164% CYB 506, CYB 660, CYB 661, CYB 662, CYB 663, CYB 663 Python programming for analytics and automation; web applications design, engineering and testing
Cloud Security 115% CYB 680, CYB 681, CYB 682 Cloud security, AWS security, Azure security
Risk Management 60% CYB 501, CYB 503 Foundations, Introduction to Cyber Defense
Threat Intelligence 41% CYB 502 Introduction to Cyber Threats
Incident Response 37% CYB 685 Operating Resilient Systems
Compliance and Controls 36% CYB 550 Cyber Policy
Data Privacy and Security 36% CYB 550 Cyber Policy
Access Management 32% CYB 665, CYB 667, CYB 669 Workforce Access, B2C Access, B2B Access
Security Strategy and Governance 20% CYB 683 Resilient Systems Design and Development
Health Information Security 20% - -

The Quinnipiac curriculum is covering nine of the top ten skills, according to Burning Glass. This type of curriculum will give you a broad foundation for success. However, a degree program by itself is not enough for career success, as I have mentioned in other blog posts.

You will still need to pursue certifications and, to get launched, make sure you have some hands-on experience as an intern or from a previous job role.

To summarize, the key factors in choosing a program are your passions, locations, cost and program content. The good news is that demand is so broad that you will be able to follow your passions with a wide-open career path. Just get started!

Discover Quinnipiac's MS in Cybersecurity program.

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