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What education do you need for a career in cybersecurity?

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Cybersecurity is a broad field that cuts across several industries. Specialists are tasked with a diverse range of responsibilities and therefore require a comprehensive set of skills and qualifications. To build a career in the sector, you must first familiarize yourself with the necessary training, certifications and degree programs that can jump-start your career.

In this Article

Cybersecurity degree options

Knowledge is a big concern in cybersecurity. Entry-level cybersecurity positions are available to those with an associate degree or certificate, but you may not be able advance your career to higher levels without a bachelor’s or graduate degree. Therefore, to increase the positions available to you and your potential salary, you will need at least an undergraduate degree combined with experience in information security.  

Before enrolling in a degree program, you need to ensure that the course is accredited and aligns with your career goals.

Associate degrees

This two-year program puts you in a position to apply for entry-level cybersecurity positions. This can be your first step toward building a career in the field. It is also a good alternative when you want a quick and affordable cybersecurity course. The degree earned may be an associate in arts (AA) or an associate in science (AS). In addition, you will need a high-school diploma or GED certificate to enroll.

The curriculum includes:

  • Introduction to computer forensics and cybercrime
  • Database security and management systems
  • Introductory programming
  • Computer networking
  • System security

Bachelor’s degree

You can enroll in a cybersecurity bachelor’s degree program right after high school if you have the time and resources. You can also earn the degree if you have a four-year degree in related fields such as computer science, computer engineering, and mathematics. At the bachelor’s level, you will cover the subject matter more comprehensively and can specialize in fields that are of particular interest to you. It begins with basics such as a foundation in programming, database application and statistics. From there, the curriculum advances to topics like artificial intelligence and cryptography.

The courses and areas you can expect to cover are:

  • Ethical hacker course 
  • Installing and configuring the windows server
  • Security protocols
  • Open system interconnection model
  • Configuring server roles and features
  • Creating and managing group policy
  • Proactive techniques to defend a LAN against attack
  • Practical skills to protect a computer against security attacks
  • Install and administer active directory

Enrolling in a cybersecurity bachelor’s degree program requires a high school diploma or GED certificate and a minimum GPA. Some universities will also ask for SAT or ACT scores and a personal essay. The program generally lasts four years.

Master’s degree

Master’s degree programs provide the education necessary to apply for upper-level cybersecurity careers. Enroll in one if you are eyeing mid-level to senior roles or are looking to change your focus path within the cybersecurity field. You will get a more refined skill set and knowledge base at this level. 

Courses covered in a master’s degree cybersecurity degree program include:

  • Penetration testing and vulnerability analysis
  • Applied cryptography
  • Digital forensics
  • Cybersecurity management
  • Information security assurance

A master’s program can take between 18 and 24 months and earns you 30-36 credits. To enroll, you must have an existing degree with a minimum GPA. Your application must also include letters of recommendation, and some institutions may also ask for GRE scores or relevant work experience.

Doctoral degree

This program is designed to make you an expert or authority on the subject matter. You will mainly research to help formulate solutions to practical and complex cybersecurity issues and design effective professional practices. A doctorate requires the preparation and presentation of a dissertation.

Courses cover:

  • Software vulnerabilities and security
  • System and application security advances
  • Assurance controls
  • Compliance management

Alternative qualifications

Earning a degree is not the only route to making a successful career in cybersecurity. Other routes include prior experience, certifications and boot camps.


Earning industry certifications can make a significant impact on your cybersecurity career. Cybersecurity certificates are like an approval stamp from the industry that you are competently equipped with specific industry skill sets. In addition, they demonstrate an active commitment to expanding knowledge on the subject and improving your skills to keep up with the information and technology trends.

Cybersecurity is a fast-paced industry, and what is relevant today might not be tomorrow. Therefore, you must continually develop and refresh your skills. Industry certifications will help you keep up while offering some practical experience too.

The most common cybersecurity certificates include:

  • GIAC – Global Information Assurance Certification
  • CCNA – Cisco Certified Network Associate
  • CompTIA Security+Base-Level Certification
  • CISSP – Certified Information Systems Security Professional
  • CISA – Certified Information Systems Auditor
  • CEH – Certified Ethical Hacker
  • CISM – Certified Information Security Manager

You are not obliged to get all these certifications. Instead, your area of focus and interest should determine the most suitable certifications for you.

Cybersecurity boot camps

Another way to facilitate your cybersecurity career is through boot camps. Cybersecurity boot camps can quickly impact relevant skills through a guided and flexible structure. The sessions can be part-time or full-time, virtual or in-person. Boot camp programs are great for empowering you with just the tools you need to enter the job market. In addition, they are handy for those switching careers who cannot afford the time and money to earn a degree.

Cybersecurity training and workshops

Cybersecurity school is not the only place to gain knowledge on the subject. To be informed of what is happening around the industry and learn what other professionals are doing, make a point to attend cybersecurity training and workshops. These events are not only impactful in terms of knowledge, but they are also great avenues for networking.