10 programs to launch your cybersecurity career


The cybersecurity industry is booming, with a growing demand for skilled professionals. A persistent shortage of qualified talent fuels this demand, leaving organizations vulnerable to cyberattacks. A 2016 Intel survey found that 82% of IT professionals reported a lack of cybersecurity expertise within their companies, with 71% citing this shortage as a direct cause of security breaches.

The good news? A cybersecurity career path offers a chance to make a real difference and significant earning potential. Job postings in the field have surged 74% over the past five years, and US News & World Report ranks information security analysis as one of the best technology jobs, with an average national salary of $88,890 (significantly higher in major cities).

If you’re interested in joining this dynamic field, here’s a comprehensive look at ten programs – including bachelor’s degrees, master’s degrees, and certifications – that can equip you with the knowledge and skills to break into cybersecurity at any education level.

1. Drexel University: BS in Computing and Security Technology

Drexel University offers a comprehensive BS program in computing and security technology, recognized as a National Center of Academic Excellence in Information Assurance Education by the NSA. This program provides hands-on experience managing and securing various computer systems and networks, preparing students for cybersecurity roles.

2. University of Maryland University College: Multiple Options

The University of Maryland University College offers a range of bachelor’s and master’s programs, including a BS in Computer Networks and Cybersecurity, a BS in Cybersecurity Management and Policy, and a BS in Software Development and Security. Designated as a National Center of Academic Excellence in Cyber Defense Education, UMUC provides diverse opportunities for aspiring cybersecurity professionals.

3. Pennsylvania State University: BS in Security and Risk Analysis

Penn State’s BS program in Security and Risk Analysis focuses on preparing students to address the complex challenges of cybersecurity. Recognized as one of the top online bachelor’s programs, this curriculum emphasizes the design of secure systems and risk assessment techniques essential for safeguarding information.

4. University of Denver: MS in Cybersecurity

The University of Denver offers an intensive MS program in cybersecurity, collaborating with industry partners to provide practical experience to students. With a fast-track option and discounted scholarships, this program is accessible to individuals without a background in computer science, catering to a diverse range of aspiring cybersecurity professionals.

5. Champlain College: Comprehensive Offerings

Champlain College provides online bachelor’s and master’s degrees and certificate programs tailored for working adults seeking to enter the cybersecurity field. Recognized for its excellence in cybersecurity education, Champlain College equips students with strategic thinking skills essential for navigating real-world challenges.

6. Illinois Institute of Technology: MS in Cyber Forensics and Security

Illinois Institute of Technology offers a unique MS program in Cyber Forensics and Security, integrating cybersecurity courses with legal studies. This interdisciplinary approach prepares students to become effective cybersecurity managers, addressing cybersecurity’s technical and legal aspects.

7. EC-Council Certified Ethical Hacker Certification

The EC-Council offers the Certified Ethical Hacker (CEH) certification, designed to train individuals in identifying vulnerabilities within systems ethically. This vendor-neutral certification equips professionals with the skills to assess security systems effectively, contributing to enhancing cybersecurity practices.

8. CompTIA Security+ Certification

CompTIA Security+ certification is a widely recognized cybersecurity credential covering essential security concepts and techniques. With endorsements from major tech companies and government agencies, this certification validates proficiency in cybersecurity and enhances career prospects.

9. GIAC Security Essentials Certification (GSEC)

The GIAC Security Essentials Certification (GSEC) is tailored for security professionals seeking hands-on roles in IT systems security. With a focus on practical skills such as network mapping and cryptography fundamentals, GSEC certification demonstrates expertise in critical cybersecurity domains.

10. Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP)

The CISSP certification is an advanced-level credential for IT professionals aspiring to specialize in information security management. With stringent eligibility criteria and comprehensive training programs, CISSP certification validates professionals’ ability to design and manage robust security programs to combat sophisticated cyber threats.

Industry Certifications:

  • EC-Council Certified Ethical Hacker (CEH): Offered by the International Council of E-Commerce Consultants (EC-Council), the CEH certification equips students to identify vulnerabilities in computer systems using the same techniques employed by malicious hackers, but for ethical purposes. This vendor-neutral certification is valuable for those seeking to assess and improve an organization’s cybersecurity posture.
  • CompTIA Security+: CompTIA Security+ is a popular vendor-neutral certification that validates a broad understanding of core cybersecurity concepts. CompTIA offers online learning resources to prepare for the exam, which complies with government regulations and meets cybersecurity workforce requirements outlined by the US Department of Defense.
  • GIAC Security Essentials Certification (GSEC): Geared towards security professionals seeking to demonstrate hands-on technical skills for practical security tasks, the GSEC certification covers network mapping, access controls, password management, and cryptography fundamentals. While no formal training is mandated, attending a boot camp-style preparation course is highly recommended.
  • (ISC)² Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP): The CISSP is an advanced-level, vendor-neutral certification designed for IT professionals seeking to advance their careers into information security leadership roles. This globally recognized credential validates expertise in designing, implementing, and managing comprehensive information security programs to safeguard organizations from sophisticated attacks. The CISSP covers various security domains, including security and risk management, asset security, security architecture and engineering, communication and network security, identity and access management, security assessment and testing, security operations, and software development security. This comprehensive knowledge base equips CISSP holders to lead and manage information security programs, design secure architectures, oversee incident response activities, and develop effective security policies to protect organizations from ever-evolving cyber threats.