Cybersecurity is among the fastest-growing professions in the U.S., and employers are facing a shortage of qualified candidates.
The number of information security analysts, for example, is likely to grow 35% from 2021 to 2031, which is “much faster than average,” according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. And cybersecurity experts currently enjoy an unemployment rate near zero, said Mustaque Ahamad, professor in the School of Cybersecurity and Privacy at Georgia Tech. As a leader in the field of cybersecurity education and research, Georgia Tech was one of the first to offer a Master of Science degree in Cybersecurity, and its graduates have become leaders in the field.
To help meet demand and enable working professionals to pursue advanced education, Georgia Tech offers the Online Master of Science in Cybersecurity program in addition to an in-person degree. Here are three key things to know about the online program and the field.
Cybersecurity is ubiquitous in today’s business world
Cybersecurity is a constantly changing field in which organizations try to stay on top of vulnerabilities and ahead of adversaries that continually attempt, and often succeed in, infiltrating systems and accessing valuable data. Zinet Kemal, a student in the Online Master of Science in Cybersecurity program, loves the constant challenges of the work.
“It’s ever-evolving; there’s never a dull moment,” she said. “I’m a learner, so I enjoy that aspect of it.”
Kemal, who studied law in her birth country of Ethiopia, earned a bachelor’s degree in computer science after immigrating to the U.S. in 2013. She steered her career toward cybersecurity after participating in a cyber defense competition during her senior year and started working in the field in 2018. She now works for a Fortune 500 organization as a cloud security engineer. Kemal, who lives in Minnesota, plans to finish the Georgia Tech master’s program in spring 2023.
With an academic focus on policy, Kemal’s goal is to become a thought leader in her industry. Cybersecurity is increasingly a concern for everyone in an organization, not just tech people, she said.
“Humans are the weakest link but also the first line of defense,” she said. “So everyone needs to be well trained and thoughtful about security. It only takes one employee falling victim to a phishing attack to have a serious breach.”
Kemal believes it’s important for children to have a grasp of cybersecurity, too. After her own kids’ gaming accounts were hacked, she wrote her second children’s book, Oh, No…Hacked Again! to highlight the importance of online safety.
Demand for skills is escalating
There’s a high demand for — and low supply of — qualified professionals across most cybersecurity roles, said Jerry Perullo, Professor of the Practice in Georgia Tech’s School of Cybersecurity and Privacy. Among the hot areas are incident response, risk assessment, governance, compliance and ethical hacking.
“In many cases, a cybersecurity career represents a ‘pivot’ from a background in computer science, engineering or a specific industry,” said Perullo, former chief information security officer of Intercontinental Exchange Inc., a Fortune 500 company that owns exchanges for financial and commodity markets.
“[Working professionals] often come into the master’s program to round themselves out” based on their existing knowledge and experience, he said.
One factor driving demand for cybersecurity experts is increasing government regulation, Perullo said. Proposed rules from the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, for example, would require publicly traded companies to disclose cybersecurity expertise in the boardroom in addition to their cybersecurity practices, as well as any incidents that occur. Certain regulated industries already have their own reporting requirements, and the White House has backed legislation to require critical infrastructure entities to report cyber incidents to the Department of Homeland Security within 72 hours.
“There’s more and more pressure to have a mature cybersecurity program,” Perullo said.
As a result, the need for cybersecurity expertise extends from boots-on-the-ground roles all the way to the C-suite and boardroom, Perullo said. “At the macro level, we will see business leadership treating cybersecurity risk as a critical risk similar to climate change, litigation, exchange rates and geopolitics.”
A master’s in cybersecurity offers immediate value
Georgia Tech’s Online Master of Science in Cybersecurity program arms students with not only technical knowledge, but also critical thinking skills, Ahamad said.
“We are producing problem-solvers who ask, ‘What can go wrong and what can I do about it?’” he said.
The program’s course of study prepares them to go beyond technical work and includes strategies for safeguarding systems, managing operations across a variety of industry sectors and responding to or shaping enterprise, domestic and international policies. Based on their interests and professional goals, students can choose from tracks in information security, cyber-physical systems and policy/management, giving them the flexibility to chart their own path in the program. This breadth of offerings helps learners round out their experience and build core competencies that prepare them to meet future industry needs.
The online program provides the same curriculum and is delivered by the same tenure-track faculty as the on-campus program and enables students to pursue the degree without pausing their careers. Total tuition comes in at less than $10,000 for the entire program, which is designed to be self-paced and can be completed in two to three years. Students gain hands-on experience through a five-credit-hour cybersecurity practicum that exposes them to a novel and real-world problem in a business, industrial or government setting.
“The cybersecurity field covers a lot of ground,” Ahamad said. “Our program lets you build a solid foundation and then personalize by choosing the courses that interest you.”
With the Online Master of Science in Cybersecurity from Georgia Tech, you build advanced expertise and apply it in your workplace as you learn. Gain sought-after knowledge and skills at your own pace and at an affordable price. Learn more.
Georgia Tech Professional Education is the global campus and lifetime education arm of the Georgia Institute of Technology, a top-ranked public university by U.S. News & World Report. The university offers a variety of programs online and onsite to meet the needs of working professionals and industry partners in STEM and business fields worldwide.
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