BY Rich Griset08 July 2022, 12:53
A group walks past the Sather Tower on the UC Berkeley campus, as seen in March 2022. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
When it comes to job application, it’s hard to beat the cybersecurity field. By 2025, there will be an estimated 3.5 million unfilled cybersecurity jobs worldwide, according to Cybersecurity Ventures, a researcher and publisher that covers the international cyber economy. And that follows a 350% growth in the number of open cybersecurity jobs between 2013 and 2021.
As virtually every element of work, life, and everything in between now has a digital component, the need to protect our information from cybersecurity threats has only grown. With this growth, master’s degree programs in cybersecurity have also flourished.
“The job market is crazy for cybersecurity,” says Mary McHale, career counselor for the Masters in Information and Cybersecurity (MICS) program at the University of California, Berkeley. The university snagged the top spot in Fortune’s first-ever ranking of the best online master’s degree programs in cybersecurity. “When you look at the opportunity and the demand, it’s huge.”
Whether fighting cybercriminals who want to profit from information theft or challenging nation states who wish to harm us, cybersecurity professionals operate in an interesting and ever-evolving field. And UC Berkeley graduates land jobs with salaries over $200,000. Here’s what you need to know
What is the demand for cybersecurity professionals?
In June, Lakshmi Hanspal, the global director of security for Amazon devices and services, was the keynote speaker for Berkeley’s MICS immersion program. In his remarks, Hanspal said Amazon had more than 600 unfilled cybersecurity jobs.
That’s a high number, especially given Amazon’s deep pockets. “They say the demand is only increasing,” says UC Berkeley’s McHale. “Once we help [students] gain visibility in the job market, the attention they receive is enormous.
Many candidates for masters in cybersecurity programs participate in summer internships at companies before graduating.
“Most come back with a full-time job offer when they’re done,” says Mustaque Ahamad, a professor at Georgia Tech’s School of Cybersecurity and Privacy. “You have a job lined up, absolutely.”
Although a master’s degree in cybersecurity or a related field like computer science is not required to work in the cybersecurity field, it goes a long way in keeping graduates informed of the latest trends and happenings in the field.
“A master’s degree will prepare you for the most skilled and high-level careers,” says Ahamad. “A master’s degree is essentially going to make a cybersecurity specialist.”
How Much Can You Earn With a Masters in Cyber Security?
If you have a master’s degree in cybersecurity, it’s quite common to earn a six-figure salary immediately after graduation. “It’s a profession that will pay you well,” says Ahamad. “The vast majority of [graduates] head for Microsoft, Google, Cisco and Intel.
According to a UC Berkeley alumni salary survey, graduates with master’s degrees in cybersecurity earn an average salary of $214,000, not including bonuses; the median salary is $200,000. Some graduates who are now executives, such as chief information security officers (CISOs), chief information officers (CIOs), and chief technology officers (CTOs), earn upwards of $300,000.
“CISO roles are going to top $250,000, $300,000 [salary mark]closer to $400,000, depending on the company and the size of the organization,” says McHale.
The median salary for computer programmers, who write, test and modify code and scripts so that applications and computers can run smoothly, was $93,000 in 2021, according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics. Information security analysts, who plan and implement security measures to protect an organization’s computer networks and systems, had a median salary of $102,600. Computer network architects, who design and build data communications networks, such as intranets, wide area networks (WANs), and local area networks (LANs), had a median income of $120,520 in 2021.
Although graduates who go to work for the government generally earn less money, the knowledge gained from learning about government systems that need to be secured can pay off if they end up working for a major defense contractor.
“Experience is gold,” says Ahamad. “They face sophisticated nation-state threats, so [with] systems and applications and the high level of security needed, once they have that experience, it really makes them top notch when it comes to cybersecurity.
McHale says that while some Berkeley cybersecurity master’s graduates head into the public sector, most take new jobs in the private sector.
“Individuals with this professional master’s degree are now open to a path of incredible career opportunities,” says McHale. “It’s possible to apply these skills in any industry, or around the world, because they can take that basic skill and apply it to something they’re passionate about.”