Is a Master’s Degree in Cyber Security Worth It?

View all blog posts under Articles | View all blog posts under MSCS

A cyber security professional consults a laptop while standing in a data center.

As data breaches continue to grab headlines and our personal and professional worlds become increasingly digital, the need for trained cyber security professionals has consistently grown. According to Forbes, the average cost for a major data breach in the U.S. was $3.86 million in 2020. This is why companies around the world spend billions of dollars a year on cyber security to prevent loss of data and productivity.

The size and complexity of these problems require considerable knowledge and experience. This, coupled with the consistent job growth in the industry and increased earning potential, makes an advanced degree like a Master of Science in Cyber Security worth it, especially in a program that offers the formal learning and certification preparation to equip graduates for dynamic challenges.

Master’s Degree in Cyber Security Curriculum and Skills

A master’s degree in cyber security covers a wide range of topics that provide learners with practical knowledge as well as the tools to navigate emerging threats in this space. While some skills can be learned on the job, a master’s program allows students to engage deeper in topics such as cryptography with their peers and faculty.

These programs help teach skills such as programming with Python, applied mathematics and various communication protocols. They also allow for developing future leaders in the field of cyber security through individuals’ deep functional knowledge as well as their national network of colleagues.

The University of North Dakota’s online M.S. in Cyber Security comprises general coursework that includes analytical and computing foundations and requires all students to take a Cyber Security Analyst certificate track. Students also choose two of three other certificate tracks: Ethical Hacking, Computer Forensics or Secure Networks.

Cyber Security Certifications and Specializations

A major value of UND’s M.S. in Cyber Security program is the unique specializations the degree offers, which allows students to earn not only a master’s, but also three graduate certificates at the same time. These specializations prepare students to earn further credentials through various industry certifications. Each student can graduate ready to take three industry standard certification exams.

Cyber Security Analyst Track

Being a cyber security analyst encompasses both human elements and mathematical components. The Cyber Security Analyst certificate track, the broadest specialization, is essential because it’s the foundation for diverse work in the cyber security field. Courses include such topics as Vulnerability Assessment, Human Factors in Cyber Security, and Emerging Threats and Defenses. It also prepares graduates for EC-Council Certified Threat Intelligence Analyst (CTIA) certification.

Ethical Hacking Track

Ethical hacking helps to uncover security gaps before they can be exploited. In the Ethical Hacking certificate track, coursework covers topics such as penetration testing and the legal frameworks of ethical hacking. This track also prepares students for EC-Council Certified Ethical Hacker (CEH) certification.

Computer Forensics Track

Computer forensics involves detecting and assessing security breaches. In the Computer Forensics certificate track, students learn about the laws and ethics of forensics, digital evidence and intrusion detection. Courses include Insider Threat Analysis and Intrusion Detection Algorithms and Tools. This track prepares students for EC-Council Computer Hacking Forensics Investigator (CHFI) certification.

Secure Networks Track

The Secure Networks certificate track focuses on preventing attacks through sound digital infrastructure. Coursework covers topics such as cryptography and system protocols that cyber security professionals implement and maintain. This track prepares students for the in-demand Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP) certification.

Career Opportunities with a Master’s Degree in Cyber Security

One thing that makes a master’s degree in cyber security worth it is the number of opportunities available to graduates.

Information Security Analyst

Information security analysts develop and implement measures to keep networks safe. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), they made a median annual salary of $103,590 in 2021 and should have skills in researching, planning and communicating strategy to others.

Security Software Developer

Security software developers help make the platforms that others use to protect networks. They design to the unique needs of their organization to help ensure that everything works the way it should. Security software developers made a median annual salary of about $73,500, according to October 2021 PayScale data. Knowledge of coding languages such as Java or Python is required.

Data Scientist

Data scientists help to capture, analyze and make sense of data. Their work may involve managing, storing and making data available to other stakeholders to help make decisions. Data scientists earned a median annual salary of about $96,800, according to October 2021 PayScale data. Valuable skills for data scientists include experience with statistics, various programming languages and A/B testing.

Penetration Tester

Penetration testers assess the integrity of an organization’s cyber security, finding areas that are vulnerable to attack in network infrastructure. They do this to discern where resources need to be deployed to prevent intrusions into a network. Their median annual salary was approximately $88,000, according to October 2021 PayScale data. Necessary skills may include a solid foundation in information technology and network security and knowledge of scripting languages, such as Perl and Bash.

Be a Leader in a Crucial Field

This critical and growing field needs leaders who can contribute the necessary skills to organizations of all types. Government entities, educational institutions, health care systems and businesses of all sizes all rely on qualified cyber security professionals. UND’s online M.S. in Cyber Security can help prepare students to meet these challenges. Discover how UND, with its foundational coursework and certificate tracks, can help you achieve your professional goals.

Recommended Reading:

10 Cyber Security Trends to Look for in 2021

Career Spotlight: Security Software Developer

Cyber Intelligence Analyst Salary & Job Description


Entrepreneur, “The Importance of Cybersecurity and the Top 3 Myths That Must Be Busted”

Forbes, “Alarming Cybersecurity Stats: What You Need to Know for 2021”

PayScale, Average Data Scientist Salary

PayScale, Average Penetration Tester Salary

PayScale, Average Security Software Developer Salary

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Information Security Analysts

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Software Developers, Quality Assurance Analysts, and Testers