Cyber Security vs Computer Science Degrees: Choosing the Right Path

You’ve probably heard of WikiLeaks, the Equifax cyber attack, or perhaps the 2016 theft of data from 57 million Uber customers. Attacks, leaks, and data breaches such as these are becoming increasingly common as more and more of our daily lives are lived online and more business-critical information is housed on networks, computers, and the cloud. Technology is constantly growing and changing, and those interested in pursuing a computing-related field may be wondering about the benefits of a bachelor’s in cyber security vs a computer science degree.

Although both degrees can lead to rewarding careers in the IT field, reading about what each discipline involves can help individuals develop a better understanding of the differences between both academic programs. Here is a brief overview of several key similarities and differences in terms of skill requirements, career opportunities, and median salaries within both fields.

cyber security professional at desk

Bachelor of Science in Cyber Security

A bachelor’s degree in cyber security program can prepare students to enter the complicated and fast-paced world of information security. Students typically learn about network, wireless, cloud, and mobile security; digital forensics and ethical hacking; and the business and cyber laws within which cyber security professionals operate.

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What do Bachelor of Science in Cyber Security Graduates Do?

The field of cyber security, often called information security, revolves around developing and implementing security measures that protect the computer networks and systems of a company, organization, or government. This exciting field is growing rapidly as the amount of business-critical, sensitive information that is housed online or within a network continues to increase. Graduates of a cyber security program often work for computer companies or within the IT department of a business or financial organization.

Types of careers: Information security analyst, information technology auditor, network architect, information security manager, IT security consultant

Median salary: $92,600 per year

Bachelor of Science in Computer Science

A bachelor’s degree in computer science program focuses on the communication, math, and logic skills required to succeed in a rapidly changing computer culture. Students will learn technical skills, such as programming languages, algorithm analysis, and problem-solving with computers. Some degree programs offer the chance to specialize in areas such as software development.

What do Computer Science Graduates Do?

Some Bachelor of Science in Computer Science graduates will go on to complete a master’s degree in the same field; however, a bachelor’s degree may be sufficient for many jobs. Graduates of such a program typically design new approaches to computing, solve complex computing problems, and invent new ways for people to work with computers. Nearly a third of computer and information research scientists worked for the federal government in 2016. The rest worked in computer systems design, research and development, software publishing, and postsecondary education.

Types of careers: Software developer, systems analyst, web designer, data scientist, database administrator, network systems administrator

Median salary: $111,840 per year

Cyber Security vs Computer Science: Similarities*

Graduates of both programs are joining rapidly growing fields. Employment of cyber security professionals is projected to grow 28 percent between 2016 and 2026, while demand for computer scientists is projected to grow by 19 percent during that time period. Both of these projections reveal much faster growth than average.

Both career paths require extensive technical and computing knowledge in areas such as networks, cloud computing, and mobile.
Increasingly, cyber security is moving beyond simply an IT responsibility and becoming a core component of a business. This emphasis on cyber security is due to the many emerging factors that can make an organization’s data vulnerable, such as employee breaches, inadequate firewalls, third-party data sharing, and external attacks.

*These similarities are meant to be a guide and are not always applicable to and uniform among all jobs and regions.

Cyber Security vs Computer Science: Differences*

A computer science degree has a broader focus than a degree in cyber security. A bachelor’s degree specific to cyber security will provide a much more comprehensive examination of that field.
Computer science programs often don’t require cyber security courses. This has led to what experts call an “IT security skills gap.” In turn, the growing number of cyber security degree programs are seeking to fill this gap.

Cyber security workers generally have a higher earning potential. According to Burning Glass Technologies, a company that specializes in job market analytics, professionals in this field can make an average of nearly $6,500 more per year than other IT workers.
An education in cyber security can also provide the potential for more job opportunities. U.S. News & World Report ranked the position of information security analyst at No. 8 in its “100 Best Jobs” report of 2015. By contrast, it ranked IT manager at No. 21.

*These differences are meant to be a guide and are not always applicable to and uniform among all jobs and regions.

Both cyber security and computer science degrees can lead to exciting careers in the field of information technology; however, if you are particularly curious about digital defense, eliminating vulnerabilities, and protecting data from attacks, a cyber security degree will put you on the right track. Students who are interested in this career path should consider exploring Maryville’s online Bachelor of Science in cyber security. This degree offers specialized tracks at the bachelor level that can help students to be workforce-ready upon graduation.

If you’re still curious as to what distinguishes a cyber security degree from a computer science degree, discover more of the career options potentially available to cyber security graduates.