A Complete Guide to a Computer Science Degree with an Emphasis in Cybersecurity- Cybersecurity is a relatively young branch of computer science, which is a vast topic that includes the study of computers and computing. To investigate and neutralise attacks, monitor systems, and design protective solutions, cybersecurity experts need a comprehensive grasp of computers and networks, regardless of their degree.
A degree in computer science with a cybersecurity concentration is one method to start an academic career in cybersecurity. A rising number of educational institutions are offering cybersecurity-focused bachelor’s and master’s degrees. This teaches students to approach cybersecurity from a computer science standpoint rather than from a standard cybersecurity fundamentals perspective. The final goal of both systems is to keep cyberspace, networks, data, and end users safe, but the tactics used are vastly different.
Computer science degree programmes might include emphases in app development, product and programme support, enterprise systems and cloud, and network and system administration in addition to a cybersecurity concentration. These schools stress the significance of having a solid understanding of computer science as a basis for their specialty sector.
The ideal candidate for a computer science degree with a cybersecurity specialisation is someone who wants to work in the cybersecurity area and has a wide understanding of computer science principles. Most cybersecurity workers earned a computer science degree with additional coursework meant to provide a deeper knowledge of security principles before a focus or specialty in cybersecurity became commonly available. The newest cybersecurity degree programmes have changed the balance away from a focus or emphasis inside a regular computer science programme and toward a specialist degree.
Computer Science Degree with an Emphasis in Cybersecurity
A degree concentration, often known as a focus, refers to a specialised field of study within a major. The concentration, unlike a degree minor, must be in the same field. Cybersecurity, for example, is a complementary focus within computer science. Within the subject of computer science, cybersecurity is a distinct topic of research. A minor, on the other hand, is a secondary academic specialisation achieved in any field of study. As an example, a student could declare a major in computer science and a minor in history.
A student usually does not need to complete any additional courses to acquire a specialisation within a degree. Specialization coursework credit toward the major requirements if their preferred academic institution provides a cybersecurity concentration as part of a computer science degree.
A computer science undergraduate degree will involve a variety of courses. Many of these, especially in the first years of an undergraduate programme, are designed to prepare students for advanced coursework in the major’s advanced sections. Aside from beginning computer science courses like introduction to computer science, basic computer applications, discrete mathematics, calculus, and algorithms are frequently covered in the curriculum.
Programming languages, information technology, web and application development, and popular operating systems are all examples of computer science classes. A student with a cybersecurity emphasis would be obliged to take a certain number of security-related courses.
Computer Science Degree vs. Cybersecurity Degree
The main distinction between a cybersecurity degree and a computer science degree with a cybersecurity emphasis is the amount of computer science coursework relative to the number and difficulty of security-related classes. While a cybersecurity degree will include the fundamentals of computer science such as programming, software engineering, and data mining, it will concentrate on security-related issues. A computer science degree, on the other hand, will include some security-related coursework but will be primarily focused on computer scientific principles.
Cybersecurity degrees, more more than computer science degrees, frequently provide a wide range of specialties. A university’s cybersecurity degree programme may provide traditional cybersecurity, forensic cybersecurity, and operational cybersecurity degrees. The traditional version of the degree offers a well-rounded cybersecurity education, while the forensic version focuses on investigating computer crimes, and the operations version is for those interested in working in a security operations centre (SOC) or another operational function. There are fewer academic norms to which cybersecurity degree programmes comply because they were formed relatively recently.
Those pursuing a cybersecurity concentration may only be required to take 9 to 12 credit hours of cybersecurity classes out of the 120–126 credit hours typically necessary for a Bachelor of Science in computer science. Computer science and liberal studies classes, as well as other electives, make up the remaining credits.
Computer science and cybersecurity are two careers with similar income possibilities. Due to a nationwide dearth of cybersecurity skills, cybersecurity jobs frequently pay more than computer science occupations.
Because these professions are closely related and computer science degrees are more well-established, many security-related jobs can be performed by graduates of either subject. In general, these two fields’ career ambitions are aligned as follows:
Computer science Degree
- Computer and information research scientists
- Chief technology officer
- Computer programmer
- Web developers
- Database administrator
- Security engineer
- Security consultant
- Security administrator
- Information security analyst
- Penetration tester
A Computer Science Approach to Security
Students who complete a Bachelor of Science in Computer Science programme gain a foundational understanding of information technology hardware and software, networks, programming, analysis, and security.
From a computer science standpoint, security is less detailed and more basic. It is less practical and more theoretical. A computer scientist is concerned with the security implications of the design and implementation of programmes, devices, applications, and networks.
While both computer science and cybersecurity are highly technical computer-related degrees, the fundamental distinction between the two is the primary employment tasks that these degrees equip students to fill. Auditing security systems, putting up firewalls, evaluating networks, and reporting data breaches are some of the day-to-day responsibilities of a cybersecurity expert. A computer science professional, on the other hand, might specialise in developing software features, network management, or web development.
Writing secure code, establishing secure networks, and developing online applications and mobile apps that protect a user’s data and infrastructure are all aspects of security from a computer science standpoint. Implementing perimeter security, enforcing access limits, addressing vulnerabilities, and finding exploits are less important.
Many companies seek programmers, system administrators, and computer scientists with a thorough understanding of the industry and expertise in security issues. These businesses want to be sure they’re designing, building, and deploying digital assets in accordance with the most recent security standards. Depending on their danger profile, they may or may not have a distinct cybersecurity department. Students with a computer science degree with a focus on cybersecurity are likely to be recruited by these companies.
How Common are Computer Science Degrees with a Cybersecurity Concentration?
Over the last few decades, security-related degree programmes have been increasingly popular. By far, computer science degree programmes outnumber cybersecurity degree programmes. The number of computer science degrees with a cybersecurity specialisation is rapidly increasing. Some credit this to colleges that choose to enhance their existing computer science programmes to include cybersecurity themes rather than creating new cybersecurity degrees from the bottom up.
This tactic — expanding the existing computer science programme to incorporate extra security courses — is a good stopgap measure. Nonetheless, a rising percentage of cybersecurity jobs necessitate the specialised security training that a cybersecurity degree provides. There will be natural pressure on other universities to follow suit as the number of cybersecurity degree programmes grows.
How to Choose the Right Degree Programme
Students must consider their interests, educational background, and ability when selecting a degree programme. A computer science degree should be considered by students who are primarily interested in programming languages, artificial intelligence, or robots. Furthermore, in today’s threat-laden world, a computer science degree with a cybersecurity emphasis will make a graduate more appealing to employers than a computer science degree without a cybersecurity emphasis. A cybersecurity degree, on the other hand, may be the greatest option for individuals who are interested in data protection issues, digital forensics, or cyber compliance.
A bachelor’s degree is required for many entry-level security professions. A student’s job aspirations and available resources typically impact whether they pursue a bachelor’s or master’s degree. A master’s degree in cybersecurity or computer science, however, would pay more than a bachelor’s degree and may be a better fit for some individuals.
Master’s degree holders are frequently well-suited for management positions such as information technology manager or lead software designer. Graduates with a master’s degree in cybersecurity management are more prepared to identify risks and threats, enhance preventive measures, and create security controls. Analysts, supervisors, and consultants can all benefit from graduate-level training.
Clifford Neuman, the Director of the USC Center for Computer Systems Security, discussed the degree possibilities available at USC’s Viterbi School of Engineering in a recent interview with Cybersecurity Guide. He went over the potential in the computer science department and the data science programme in particular. He stated, ”
“The main [degree] for security practitioners is our Master of Science in Cybersecurity Engineering. That’s a two-year program that can be completed in about a year and a half if you’re motivated to do so. And it teaches both the fundamental theory of computer security for high assurance systems and the practical application of security techniques in today’s more common networked mobile and cloud environments.”
“That programme focuses on more of the fundamentals of computer science, including AI [and] is supplemented through several classes that students take specifically in the area of security,” Neuman said of another masters degree option — USC’s master of science in computer science with an emphasis in cybersecurity. When compared to the MS in cybersecurity engineering degree, individuals take less security-related classes if they enrol in [the Computer Science] programme. They do gain a better knowledge of how security relates to other branches of computer science.”
Financial Aid and Scholarships
Several kinds of financial aid for security-related degrees are available, with several of them focusing exclusively on the cybersecurity industry. The following are some examples of these:
- Information Assurance Scholarship Program – This program is designed to increase the number of qualified personnel entering the information assurance (IA) and information technology fields within the Department of the Navy.
- Scholarship for Service – the National Science Foundation, in association with the National Security Agency, provides grants for cybersecurity students. Recipients must work after graduation for a federal, state, local or tribal government agency or approved SFS institution for a period equal to the length of the scholarship.
- Scholarships for Women Studying Information Security (SWSIS) – is a partnership of Applied Computer Security Associates (ACSA) and CRA-WP. Its long-term goal is to contribute to increasing the representation of women in the information security workforce
- Snort Scholarship – Cisco sponsored for information assurance majors
- Department of Homeland Security – The Department of Homeland Security offers a variety of prestigious scholarships, fellowships, internships, and training opportunities to expose talented students to the broad national security mission.
Individual schools may also have scholarships and grants available. To learn about all of your choices, contact the college’s financial aid office.
A computer science degree with a focus in cybersecurity or a cybersecurity degree will be beneficial to a student interested in understanding how to protect data, networks, applications, devices, and infrastructure. For both of these closely linked areas, there are master’s and bachelor’s degree programmes available.
Degree programmes in cybersecurity are newer and, in some ways, more relevant to contemporary security problems. Computer science programmes are more established and, in some ways, more comprehensive. Each of them approaches security from a unique standpoint.
A computer science degree with a cybersecurity emphasis will provide a broader computer education, covering topics such as statistics and boolean logic, as well as programming and web development. On the other side, cybersecurity will deliver the most security-focused education accessible.
Both offer equivalent pay, with cybersecurity edging out the competition due to a skills gap in the field. The limits and opportunities for tuition and scholarships will be quite similar across the board.