When leaving the military to pursue a civilian career, service members often look for careers that leverage their military experience, allowing them to follow their passion or make a lot of money.
A career in the cybersecurity field is a great place to start. Information security analysts -- the encompassing career field that includes cybersecurity -- is growing much faster than average technology-related jobs, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
With a projected 35% growth through 2031 and a median salary of $102,600 per year, web, cloud and network security, hacking countermeasures and digital forensics attract the interest of many service members as they look to enter the civilian job market.
Here are a few factors to consider in deciding whether a cybersecurity degree is right for you.
Which Degree Program Is Right for You?
Finding the right degree program, and the right college or university to attend, can be overwhelming.
As a military student, it’s best to choose a place of higher learning that understands the military community, is affordable and has partnerships with military academic institutions, such as the Community College of the Air Force.
Cybersecurity programs don’t limit you to a brick-and-mortar school. Most cybersecurity and IT programs offer online degrees.
Here are a few degree-path options available within cybersecurity and information assurance:
- Bachelor of Science in Cybersecurity and Information Assurance: With 14 certifications built into this program -- designed with input from the experts in both fields -- this degree can set you up for success.
- Bachelor of Science in Network Engineering and Security: Students dive into network engineering and operations and learn security management skills in this program. You also can specialize in specific technologies and receive certifications from CompTIA and Cisco.
- Bachelor of Science in Information Technology: This degree program covers many skills in high demand, including data management, scripting and programming, systems and services and the business of information technology (IT). Technology certifications are built into this program, increasing your marketability after graduation.
Specific degrees such as cloud computing and data analytics are also available, as are postgraduate degrees.
Which University Should You Attend?
Cybersecurity programs don’t limit you to a brick-and-mortar school. Most cybersecurity and IT programs offer online degrees, but the following are areas you should research:
Is the Program Validated?
The federal government validates programs of study at independent or private institutions; make sure to ask the school whether it has a National Centers of Academic Excellence rating. This validation is given based on the school’s curriculum, faculty and assessments.
How Old Is the Program?
The program must be at least three years old to meet the requirements stated by the National Security Agency. These requirements determine whether a program is preparing students adequately for careers.
How Many Students Are in the Program?
Student-body numbers are a good indication of a program’s success and reliability. What is the admission percentage, and the retention and graduation rate? How many graduates have found employment?
What Experience Do Their Faculty and Staff Have?
Paul Bingham, dean and vice president of Western Governors University in Utah, has 24 years of experience as an FBI agent, leading and managing domestic and international cybersecurity investigations. He also has several professional certifications. Bingham explained what interested him about WGU.
“What attracted me to WGU is that there’s nobility in the mission of improving lives through increasing access to education, and in this case, education that contributes to preserving the freedoms and infrastructure of our country.”
What Else Does the School Have to Offer?
Cybersecurity is a serious topic, and mastering it takes time. But there are still opportunities to meet people and build a community. Western Governors University, for example, launched an online cybersecurity club that now has more than 300 members. The student-run club focuses on diversity, inclusion and fun.
Does the School Understand the Military Lifestyle?
Look for a university where faculty and staff understand a service member’s transition to a civilian career. Ask about what student veteran services the school offers.