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According to US Bureau of Labor Statistics, people with a college degree earn about 67% more than those whose highest qualification is a high school diploma. However, a university degree does not guarantee a job. Considering the investment of time, money, and energy required for a college degree, this begs the question: is a degree in cybersecurity worth it?
If you want to work as a cybersecurity specialist but don’t know where to start, this article is for you. We will dissect the potential return on investment (ROI) of a cybersecurity degree, as well as alternative educational options.
Return on investment
Return on investment measures the return on an investment. You can calculate ROI by dividing your net profit (i.e. the amount you earned from the investment) by the cost of the investment. Multiply the resulting number by 100 to see what percentage of your initial investment comes back to you.
ROI = [(present value of investment – initial cost of investment) / cost of investment] x100, Where
ROI = (net profit / investment cost) x 100
If your result is zero, it means your return on investment is 0% and you have broken even on your initial investment. If your result is 100, your return on investment is equal to 100%, which means that you have doubled your initial investment.
ROI of a Cybersecurity Degree
To determine the potential ROI of a cybersecurity degree, we will consider these key factors:
- Median salary of cybersecurity professionals
- Potential wages lost during studies
- Time required to recover the capital
Let’s say you are a full-time college student. If you won a bachelor’s degree in cybersecurity without the financial aid of a public university, what would be the return on investment of your investment? Let’s look at the variables at play here.
- Total tuition fees. According to National Center for Education Statistics, the average annual tuition and fee at a public college is $9,400. Multiply that figure by the standard four years it takes to earn a bachelor’s degree, and your total tuition should be close to $37,600.
- Wages lost. Let’s say you can’t work while studying full time. This could mean a lost salary of around $15,080 per year, according to the standard american minimum wage. After four years, this loss amounts to $60,320. It is important to consider lost wages when determining the cost of your investment.
Using these numbers, you can determine that your total tuition ($37,600) plus your lost wages ($60,320) equals the total cost of your investment in the degree ($97,920). Next, let’s determine the return on investment, which depends on the cybersecurity salary you earn after you graduate.
Suppose you become an information security analyst after completing your bachelor’s degree program in cybersecurity. These professionals earn a median annual salary of $102,600.
ROI after one year of work
Now that we know the numbers we’re working with, it’s time to determine the ROI of your cybersecurity degree. Let’s start with your return on investment after one year of full-time employment as an information security analyst:
[($102,600 – 97,920) / 97,920] x100
(4680 / 97920) × 100
0.047 × 100 = 4.7%
These calculations show that it only takes one year of full-time employment to recoup the capital you invested in a cybersecurity degree (and more). This is a much better result than you could get with most bachelor’s degrees, which take 5 to 10 years of work before reaching the break-even point of the initial investment.
ROI after 20 years of work
To calculate this figure, let’s determine your total earning potential over 20 years by multiplying $102,600 by 20. That gives us $2,052,000.
Now, using our ROI formula:
[(2,052,000 – 97,920) / 97,920] x100
(1,954,080 / 97,920) × 100
19.9 × 100 = 1995.5%
This means that after 20 years in a cybersecurity position, you are expected to recoup your investment in your degree approximately 20 times.
Job Outlook for Cybersecurity Professionals
The US Bureau of Labor Statistics forecasts job growth of 33% for information security analysts from 2020 to 2030. This is much faster than the average forecast growth rate of 8% for all occupations.
When it comes to cybersecurity positions as a whole, Cyberseek Reports that there are only enough cybersecurity professionals in the United States to fill 66% of vacancies in the field, which also indicates high demand for these workers.
Society has become dependent on technology for personal and professional use over the past decade. More than ever, businesses need the expertise of cybersecurity professionals to prevent data theft and compromise. This has led to rapid job growth and continued demand for professionals in this field.
As long as there are digital assets, cybersecurity professionals will be in demand. This indicates high job security, which, coupled with high earning potential, shows that a cybersecurity degree is worth it.
Highest Paying Cybersecurity Jobs
After earning your cybersecurity degree, you can only begin to recoup your investment after landing a high-paying job. Although you can start with a Entry Level Cyber Security Jobthe field offers many opportunities for career advancement.
Let us now highlight some of the best paying jobs in cybersecurity.
Bug Bounty Hunter (Independent)
Bug bounty hunters are expert hackers who detect software security vulnerabilities. Using advanced tools such as Amass, HackBar, Google Dorks and DNS-Discovery, these professionals prevent zero-day attacks.
In 2020, HackerOne reported that bug bounty hunters discover a software vulnerability every 2.5 minutes, totaling more than 576 per day. This demonstrates an abundance of job opportunities for ethical hackers.
Freelance bug bounty hunters could earn up to $500,000 per year detect and report security vulnerabilities to large companies.
Chief Information Security Officer (CISO)
A CISO protects company infrastructure and assets from malicious actors by implementing security policies. These professionals also train other employees and ensure that companies comply with safety standards.
The average annual salary for CISOs is greater than $170,000.
Senior Software Security Engineer
A senior software security engineer implements and tests security techniques on a company’s network. This senior role is reserved for expert coders with leadership qualities. The average security engineer earns nearly $97,000 a year, according to the salary scale. Experienced security engineers earn around $120,000.
Cybersecurity Sales Engineer
This professional manages the technology assessment stages of the sales process. Cybersecurity sales engineers combine technical know-how with sales and communication skills to explain the functionality of a company’s products/services. They also communicate customer expectations to the product team to ensure overall user satisfaction.
Alternatives to a Cybersecurity Degree
You ask yourself how to get into cybersecurity without having to go to college? Although a traditional four-year degree is the most common way to start a career in cybersecurityThis is not the only one.
Bootcamps and associate degrees can also equip you with the skills needed for an entry-level cybersecurity job. Given the current shortage of cybersecurity professionals, employers are generally more open to alternative education credentials for positions in this field.
Associate’s Degree in Cyber Security or Computer Science
This two-year program is a fast way to kick-start your career in cybersecurity. A cybersecurity associate teaches students the basics of protecting digital assets, equipping them with the practical skills required by employers.
Many cybersecurity associate degree programs offer flexible learning schedules. This is ideal for students with other commitments.
The cost of an associate degree in cybersecurity ranges from around $7,000 to almost $20,000depending on whether you are studying in or out of state and whether your school is public or private.
If you want to change careers without spending two to four years in a classroom, a bootcamp is your best bet. Cybersecurity bootcamps differ from traditional degrees in cost and duration.
According to CourseReport, the average full-time coding bootcamp costs around $12,000. Some cost up to $20,000. Bootcamps are often short-term, immersive programs, ranging from six to 28 weeks.