Today, Cyber Security Master’s Degree – Tomorrow, the C-Suite

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Now is an auspicious time for cyber security professionals to make a move toward the C-suite.

Now is an auspicious time for cyber security professionals to make a move toward the C-suite.

Cybercrime is a rapidly evolving menace, consistently causing serious financial damage to businesses around the world each year. Those losses are estimated to hit approximately $6 trillion in 2021, up from $3 trillion in 2015, CyberVentures said in its Cybersecurity Jobs Report 2018-2021. Not surprisingly, the demand for cyber security talent to help organizations combat this digital invasion is on the rise, and it’s a serious gap that needs to be filled.

For cyber security professionals who have their eye on the top rung of that corporate ladder, now is an auspicious time to make a move toward the C-suite by pursuing a master’s degree in cyber security. Organizations across all industries – from startups to government agencies to national and global corporations to nonprofits – are require qualified individuals to fill the positions of chief information officer (CIO) or chief information security officer (CISO).

Why is a masters in cyber security worth it? Whether a cyber security professional with work experience wants to advance into a senior-level role or a business professional wants to get deeper into the tech side of the organization, a master’s degree in cyber security can be a pathway to CISO or CIO roles.

The University of North Dakota’s master of science in cyber security program includes courses such as applied cryptography, insider threat analysis and advanced database systems to offer students the skills needed to build secure computer networks as well as to delve deeper into the hacker mindset.


Responsibilities of a CIO and CISO

Although individuals in the CIO and CISO roles are senior-level executives who work from a broader perspective, they are still counted on to understand, detect and combat cyber-criminal threats that a company faces from outside the organization – or from within.

According to Mark Samuel’s ZDNet article, “What is a CIO? Everything You Need To Know About the Chief Information Officer Explained,” “the CIO is responsible for setting the IT strategy and ensuring that this works with the broader business strategy. In many digital businesses, the IT strategy will be the main element driving the business strategy. This means the CIO needs to be able to understand the broader business requirements and which to prioritize through the use of technology. Another big role for the CIO is building and maintaining an effective and motivated team.”

These days, social media can work as a tool to motivate and inspire teams, but it also allows the public to see how companies are fighting to protect their data privacy. For example, Jonathan Reichental is CIO for the city of Palo Alto, CA, and is on Twitter several times a day to share his passion about the impact that IT is having on the world.

Previously, CIOs were primarily responsible for purchasing IT and for operational management. Today, the use of cloud computing and outsourcing leaves room for the CIO to “take a more strategic view, helping the rest of the business make the most of technology,” according to the ZDNet article.

“Cyber security professionals get to the C-suite through individual performance and managerial performance,” Deidre Diamond, founder and CEO of Cyber Security Network said in “What It Takes To Be A Cybersecurity Executive” for Careers in CyberSecurity online. “Either they’re coming up from the tech side of things and moving into business, or they’re coming up strictly from the business. It’s all about experience, and the majority of [cyber security executives] must have a degree.”


Employment and Salary Outlook for Cyber Security Positions

Because of the growing number of elusive cyber-criminals, jobs that require a master’s in cyber security are abundant and pay well. Applicants who can combine several years of experience in the field with a master’s degree in cyber security have the opportunity to work as CIO or CISO of an organization. reports an average salary of $156,659 per year for a CIO or CISO role, with a range of $102,949 to $214,783.

“There is a zero-percent unemployment rate in cybersecurity, and the opportunities in this field are endless,” Robert Herjavec, founder and CEO at Herjavec Group, noted in In the Cybersecurity Ventures article. “Gone are the days of siloed IT and security teams. All IT professionals need to know security – full stop.”

Employees are under mounting pressure to find the right talent to protect their organization against cybercrime. According to the ZDNet article, “a third of CIOs enjoyed an increase in base salary in 2018, and salaries for the most in-demand CIOs are sky-high. Average compensation for a Fortune 500 CIO is about $2.6 million, up from $1.9 million in 2015. The 37 percent jump in CIO pay is due to the exceptional demand for executives who can help change business models through digitization.”


University of North Dakota’s Master of Science in Cyber Security Program

In a connected world, where everything from smartphones to vehicles and appliances to warehouse inventory equipment is on computer networks, cyber security is the first line of defense against our Internet of Things devices being used maliciously against us.

With a 25:1 student to faculty ratio, the UND cyber security master’s program allows students to work closely with cyber security experts. By offering concentrations in Autonomous Systems Cyber Security, Cyber Security and Behavior, Data Security and General Cyber Security, the program prepares students for challenging executive roles in cyber security.

UND’s online cyber security master’s degree program is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission and ranked in U.S. News & World Report’s Top 25 Most Innovative Schools (2018), alongside such prestigious institutions as Stanford, Harvard, and MIT. For more information on UND’s MSCS online program, visit the program’s website.



Cybersecurity Jobs Report 2018-2021: CyberVentures

What It Takes To Be A Cybersecurity Executive: Careers in CyberSecurity

Average CISO Salary: Payscale

What is a CIO?: ZDNet