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The complete guide to careers in cybersecurity and information systems

By Brian Fairbanks

At a glance

  • A Master of Information Systems degree is broader than a Master of Information Technology and focuses on the people and processes as well as the technology itself.
  • Career outcomes with a Master of Information Systems degree include IT managers, information systems managers, and application development directors.
  • Cybersecurity is an in-demand field with information security analyst roles projected to grow by 31% between 2019 and 2020.
  • Career outcomes with a Master of Cybersecurity include network security analyst and information analyst.

Exploring the fields of information systems and cybersecurity

Information Technology (IT) is a vital, varied, and growing career field. In fact, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects that job growth for computer and information systems managers will likely grow 31% across all professions between 2019-2029. For trained and qualified candidates, IT offers many exciting opportunities including roles as cybersecurity experts, network engineers and web developers.

So, how do you break into this field? There are a number of paths and they usually start with two questions: "Should I get a cyber security degree?" and "What careers are available in information technology?"

Most people start with an undergraduate degree in Computer Science or Cyber Security and then pursue an advanced degree such as a Master of Information Systems or a Master of Science in Cybersecurity.

At the end of the day, there are many different ways to prepare for opportunities in the IT and cybersecurity fields. Here’s what you need to know.

Careers in information systems

If you have a bachelor's degree and are thinking of getting into the information systems field, enrolling in a master’s degree program like a Master of Information Systems or a Master of Information Technology may offer significant advantages.

For starters, a master’s in Information Technology or a master’s in Information Systems prepares successful graduates for an array of exciting career opportunities. These include:

  • Systems Analyst
  • Network Engineer
  • Computer Programmer
  • Web Developer

A master’s degree may also improve your opportunities to grow your skills if you’re already working in an IT role you love. In-depth knowledge of an ever-changing industry, after all, adds value to almost any organization!

What is a Master’s in Information Systems?

At University of Phoenix (UOPX), there are two Master of Information Systems (MIS) degrees available, and you can get both of them online. The first is a standard Master of Information Systems degree; the other is a competency-based master’s, which allows you to apply your existing knowledge of the subject matter toward your degree program so you can focus on learning what you don’t know (and earn your degree faster).

A Master of Information Systems degree is like a Master of Information Technology, but it’s not quite the same thing.

Information technology falls under the information systems umbrella. Information Technology is more specific to the hands-on, technical type of content/program where students learn about hardware, software and developing the user side of technology. An information systems program, on the other hand, will highlight "the technology, people and processes.

Information Systems:

  • Umbrella category
  • Emphasis on the big picture
  • Focuses on technology plus people and processes

Information Technology:

  • Specific category
  • Emphasis on the technical side of things
  • Focuses on technology specifically

In these programs, students typically learn the necessary skills to compete in an information technology setting — in other words, in a job at a small IT company, at a large corporate office or anywhere in-between.

What do you learn in a Master of Information Systems degree program?

"Information systems is the whole puzzle where everything is connected," says Kathryn Uhles, associate dean of IT at UOPX." Information technology is just a fraction of it. Information systems adds the users of the technology, the processes for adding new technology or removing legacy systems [and] the policies and procedures around technology."

Students also conceptualize, test and deploy their own information system, as well as learn about privacy, government regulations and security concerns. They develop the skills to deal with all three so they can keep themselves and their clients safe in the information systems and IT world.

The master’s program is different from a typical bachelor’s degree because it focuses more on real-world corporate situations, like using leadership skills to solve interpersonal or structural problems in tech.

Uhles says the UOPX Master of Information Systems program doesn’t delve into the "little technical/hands-on content like we use in our bachelor’s degree." Instead, she says, "students learn about planning and implementation of technology resources, [and] concepts like emerging tech and technical debt are addressed to help with decision-making from a leadership level."

Careers with a Master of Information Systems degree

With a Master of Information Systems degree, you may be better able to compete for roles like:

  • IT managers or IT project managers. These professionals work in information security. They protect end-users from problems or resolve them for IT companies and other organizations. According to O*NET OnLine, the median salary for this role is $92,870. (Salary information is not specific to UOPX graduates and depends on a variety of factors including experience and location.)
  • Information systems managers. These specialists "plan, coordinate and direct computer-related activities in an organization," according to BLS. As supervisors of other employees, they can earn significantly more than their peers at some established companies, with a median annual salary of $151,150, or about $72 per hour, in 2020. (Salary information is not specific to UOPX graduates and depends on a variety of factors including experience and location.)
  • Application development director. This is another role to keep your eye out for. Web developers, who typically focus on website creation and development, earn a median salary of $77,200, according to BLS. (Salary information is not specific to UOPX graduates and depends on a variety of factors including experience and location.)

Pursue your career in information systems

Programmer working On Computer In IT Office Typing Data Coding in software and checking code on computer screen

At UOPX, the MIS offering covers several leadership concepts in technology and business. "We want students to understand these two fields are related and you can’t really have one without the other," Uhles says.

Because of this, the program teaches students concepts in project management, enterprise resource planning, innovation and strategic planning. IT isn’t a department in a silo anymore, it’s fully ingrained in the business. That’s why we’re seeing positions like CIO and CISO at the C-suite level, rather than tech falling under the CEO [directly]. IT needs representation at the C-suite level to be part of the conversations driving and leading the business, rather than an afterthought or byproduct of the decisions being made.

In addition, an MIS can help prepare you to become a(n):

  • IT director
  • Data processing manager
  • Technical services manager
  • Computing services director

Is a master’s degree in cybersecurity worth it?

Another part of the information systems umbrella is cybersecurity.

More and more companies are realizing that they need cybersecurity experts to protect them from hackers and other threats. With billions of people accessing the internet every day, an increasing number of services are moving either partially or entirely online. Accordingly, information security analyst roles are expected to grow by 31% between 2019 and 2029, which is much faster than the average for all occupations.

According to BLS, individuals working in cybersecurity jobs "plan and carry out security measures to protect an organization’s computer networks and systems."

In other words, cybersecurity specialists typically work in IT departments and help keep a company’s computers safe from internal and external threats such as ransomware and hacking.

Asked if you need a degree, this expert featured on BLS says: "No, and I know a bunch of people working in the field today who don’t have a degree. But should you get one? Yes, because it gives you the discipline to develop skills for lifelong learning."

A master’s in cybersecurity offers numerous benefits. (Aside from giving you an edge in what is a highly-competitive field.) With a Master of Science in Cybersecurity, you will learn:

  • How to better spot security vulnerabilities hackers might exploit
  • How to develop an incident response
  • How to determine which preexisting security policies need to be updated
  • How to implement new security policies

And much more.

What’s better: IT certifications vs. master’s degree in cybersecurity

If you’re torn between getting a master’s degree in cybersecurity or a certification in cybersecurity, you’re probably wondering what the key differences are.

According to CompTIA, a nonprofit, IT trade association, certifications are issued by "independent organizations" and they evaluate a professional’s existing skills and abilities. Certifications, unlike certificates and degrees, do not require any additional classes or training, but they are issued upon the completion of one or more exams. They also often require continuing education to remain active.

Certificates, meanwhile, are earned through educational programs. These can happen at an undergraduate or graduate level, and they can take anywhere from several weeks to several years to complete, according to CompTIA.

While employers rarely demand certain certifications, earning them can help set you apart from other IT professionals. They can also sometimes be applied toward certain degrees.

Finally, a degree program is more time-intensive but it provides a solid foundation on which to build an IT career. As noted by CompTIA, 82% of cybersecurity job postings require a bachelor’s degree while just 4% required a graduate degree.

As BLS puts it: "Most information security analyst positions require a bachelor’s degree in a computer-related field. Employers usually prefer to hire analysts with experience in a related occupation."

Whichever path you choose, this cybersecurity consultant featured on BLS adds that you’ll "need to understand business — the concepts of program management and teams — and not just technology. And as you progress in your career, you’ll need to build on your communication skills and your presentation skills."

After the master’s: Salary and career prospects

Pursuing a career in cybersecurity has its rewards. In 2020, the median salary for information security analysts was an estimated $103,590 per year, according to BLS. (Salary information is not specific to UOPX graduates and may depend on experience, location and related factors.)

Equally compelling is the career outlook for cybersecurity specialists. "Demand for information security is expected to be very high, as these analysts will be needed to create innovative solutions to prevent hackers from stealing critical information or causing problems for computer networks," BLS writes. Accordingly, jobs are projected to grow 31% in this field between 2019 and 2029.

Earning a Master of Science in Cybersecurity at University of Phoenix

If you are thinking about going back to school to get a master’s degree in cybersecurity, the University of Phoenix offers a high-quality education on a flexible basis.

The online program requires 39 credits, which can be completed in approximately two years. Each class is taken consecutively so that students can focus on and master one 6-week course at a time.

In addition to six core courses, the master’s program at University of Phoenix empowers students to select seven electives that align with CompTIA and EC Council certifications in Leadership Auditing or Tactical Cyber.

Outcomes for this program include:

  • Network Security Analyst
  • Information Security Analyst/Manager
  • Systems Analyst
  • Security Officer
  • Data processing Manager
  • Application Development Director

Whichever path you take, your career as a cybersecurity professional is just a click or two away.

Not sure how the online experience works? We break it down for you here.

Find the right IT degree for you today!


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