Know Your Advanced Tech Degrees: Cybersecurity vs. Software EngineeringKnow Your Advanced Tech Degrees: Cybersecurity vs. Software EngineeringKnow Your Advanced Tech Degrees: Cybersecurity vs. Software Engineering

Now that you have a bachelor’s degree in computer science, software development, programming, or a similar discipline, you’re trying to figure out the next step. The world of computer coding and programming offers many opportunities, including software development, software engineering, data science, web development, and analysis.

Master’s degree programs in cybersecurity and software engineering prepare students with broad computer and programming knowledge to pursue specific jobs in the industry, as well as to potentially assume leadership roles or move into executive-level positions. These professional degrees require prior knowledge in the field but offer the necessary specialization to advance your career in exciting and challenging ways. Read on for a more detailed look at cybersecurity vs. software engineering, including their differences in advanced degree curriculum and real-world application.

Cybersecurity engineer in a server room.

Cybersecurity Overview

Advanced cybersecurity degrees aim to equip programmers and coders with specific skills that help them combat and prevent online threats, such as viruses, malware, and targeted DDoS (distributed denial of service) attacks. Often perpetrated by lone hackers, other businesses, or even foreign entities, these attacks can cause a temporary loss of service, identity theft, permanent loss of data, hidden tracking systems, leakage of information, and many other negative outcomes. Cybersecurity professionals strive to prevent these attacks through the use of programming barriers that make it difficult or impossible for hackers and other malicious forces to perpetrate a successful attack. The singular objective of protecting sensitive data is one important difference between cybersecurity and software engineering.

What Do Cybersecurity Graduates Do?

Upon earning a master’s degree in cybersecurity, graduates go to work in the field, helping protect computer systems and networks from interior and exterior threats. In large corporations and organizations, graduates with advanced degrees can run cybersecurity departments or even advance into C-suite positions, such as chief information security officer (CISO) and chief technology officer (CTO). They can also work as “ethical hackers,” who purposefully attack and attempt to hack network systems to find weaknesses or vulnerabilities for businesses to repair.

Types of careers:

  • Network Architect
  • Security Engineer
  • Chief Information Security Officer
  • Cryptographer

Software Engineering Overview

Software engineering emphasizes the creation and development of software applications used in a wide variety of industries. It involves applying engineering principles to software design and trying to accomplish certain tasks with software to improve functionality, speed, processing ability, and more. The broad range of applications makes software engineering different from cybersecurity.

What Do Software Engineering Graduates Do?

Those who earn a master’s degree in software engineering or a related field can choose from a number of different career paths. They can continue on in software engineering or pursue the related field of software development, working in video game design, educational software creation, or any other type of software development. Their background makes them versatile and able to apply their skills to traditional IT positions such as chief technology officer, as well as get creative in software programming.

Types of careers:

  • Software developer
  • Chief technology officer
  • Computer information systems manager
  • Senior software engineer

Similarities Between Cybersecurity and Software Engineering Degrees

Master’s programs in cybersecurity and software engineering, which typically require one year of full-time study to complete, expect their students to come with a certain level of programming and coding ability. Students who are not already well-versed in coding languages such as Python may not be ready to dive into an advanced degree in either field. These master’s programs jump right into the respective specialties, with advanced courses that build on undergraduate curricula as well as introduce new concepts that apply specifically to their expected job paths. The degrees also include several courses on big-picture concepts within each profession, including potential legal issues and how software engineering theory and cybersecurity protocols fit into real-world scenarios.

Differences Between Cybersecurity and Software Engineering Degrees

The background in coding and programing might tie cybersecurity and software engineering degrees together, but there’s much more that separates them. A closer look at cybersecurity vs. software engineering reveals many nuances and critical points of departure between these two computer science disciplines.

Educational Focus

A Master of Science in Cybersecurity does not typically include programming coursework. Instead, students take courses on penetration testing, mobile device hacking, cloud security, network security, and related areas. They also examine the legal and ethical implications of hacking and cybersecurity. Alternatively, a Master of Science in Software Engineering features courses such as database management, web applications, and UI/UX design.

Job Possibilities

Graduates of cybersecurity master’s degree programs are well-positioned to protect networks and devices from various threats. They can put their skills to use for government agencies and corporations that store valuable data in roles such as chief information security officer, information security officer, and IT security consultant.

Software engineers might speak the same language, but they won’t have the specialization or skills to fill advanced cybersecurity roles. Instead, they’re more adept at using software principles and theories to develop new tools to solve problems. They can serve in a variety of industries in roles such as computer programmer, web developer, and systems analyst.


A major difference between cybersecurity and software engineering is that certifications are not strongly emphasized in software engineering. Aspiring cybersecurity professionals, on the other hand, have the option of attaining a number of professional certificates, which are not mandated by law but are recommended by industry professionals as proof of one’s capabilities.

A strong computer science program, such as those offered at Maryville University, helps prepare students for valuable certifications, such as CompTIA Security+, Certified Information Systems Security Professional, Certified Ethical Hacker, and EnCase Certified Examiner. Each credential tackles a different component of cybersecurity.

Cybersecurity vs. Software Engineering Degree: Which Is Right for You?

If you’re a technology professional looking to advance your career, or maybe even an amateur coder/programmer with an unrelated bachelor’s degree who has the ambition and basic skills to pursue a career in computer science, an advanced degree in cybersecurity or software engineering could be right for you. Check out Maryville University’s online master’s in cybersecurity and take a powerful step toward a career in one of these vital fields.


Business News Daily, “Best Information Security Certifications 2019”

Forbes, “How to Start a Lucrative Career in Cybersecurity”

The Guardian, “University Subject Profile: Computer Science & Information Systems”

Maryville University, Bachelor’s in Cybersecurity

Maryville University, Computer Science Degrees

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Computer Programmers

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Information Security Analysts

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Software Developers

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