By Dr. Andre Slonopas  |  12/14/2023


choosing a cybersecurity program

Cybersecurity is more important than ever in the digital world. As the internet becomes more and more a part of everyday life, cyber risks grow in breadth and complexity. However, cybersecurity studies can be useful for students and cybersecurity professionals, such as information security analysts.


What Is a Cybersecurity Degree Program?

Cybersecurity programs are more than simply degrees; they're educational pathways that teach people how to navigate the complex world of cybersecurity. These programs train the next generation of digital guardians to defend companies, networks, and systems against cyber attacks and security vulnerabilities.

Modern society relies on digital technology. Technology touches practically every aspect of our lives from crucial infrastructure and government institutions to businesses of all kinds. Cybercriminals have noticed this increased reliance, necessitating alert cybersecurity specialists.

Cybersecurity programs teach security principles, risk management, and information security to meet this need. They emphasize hands-on experience to teach students fundamental skills.

Related: Why It’s Important to Close the Cybersecurity Knowledge Gap


Cybersecurity Experts Need Various Skills

Versatility and the ability to solve complex problems are the fundamental responsibilities of cybersecurity experts. They protect networks, operating systems, and data against both external and internal security threats. By teaching students how to secure networks, data, and key infrastructure, cybersecurity programs help corporations and governments defend their digital assets.

Public and commercial organizations are often looking for people who can handle security operations, cloud security, and network security. Through completing cybersecurity degrees, graduates are prepared to meet these needs.

Cybersecurity programs are practical, as well as theoretical. They teach penetration testing, digital forensics, and incident management for real-world security situations, but also address complex problems and the possible implications of new technologies on computer security. These practical experiences help students to develop security incident response skills and intuition.

Many programs enable preparation for the Systems Security Certified Practitioner (SSCP®) and Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP®) certification exam. These certifications validate graduates' skills.

Cybersecurity initiatives bridge the gap between technology advances and our ability to safeguard them. They teach graduate and undergraduate students how to use modern technology and solve tough field challenges. Cybersecurity programs also actively adapt to the changing cyber scene, training graduates to be cyber sector innovators and problem solvers.

Cybersecurity protects sensitive data. As data grows more precious and fragile, information security experts are needed more than ever. Cybersecurity programs teach both technical and ethical skills to protect data from external threats.

Choosing to study cybersecurity involves much more than earning a degree. It is a commitment to digital security principles and recognizes cybersecurity experts' vital role in protecting our digital world. In an era where the digital world is as important as the physical, these programs teach the necessity of network and computer information systems security.

As you study cybersecurity, you'll find a large and vibrant realm that goes beyond theory. It's where knowledge meets action, empowering you to face digital age challenges and weaknesses.

Related: An Introduction to Cybersecurity: Defending the Cyber Castle


Factors to Consider when Choosing a Cybersecurity Program

As the digital world evolves, cybersecurity specialists who can protect sensitive data, protect networks, and fight cyber attacks are crucial. Starting a cybersecurity program is the first step to mastering this dynamic industry.

First, it is extremely important to have a high school diploma. Second, the next step is choosing the correct program.

When you’re choosing the correct curriculum, consider one that will align with your professional ambitions, educational goals, and personal interests. Think about these elements of a cybersecurity program to help you decide on your academic journey.

1. Degree Level

Your degree level greatly affects your cybersecurity path, making it an important decision. Each degree level has a unique function and professional goal.

A bachelor's degree in cybersecurity provides a solid foundation and is ideal for entry-level cybersecurity candidates. You'll learn network security, cryptography, data protection, incident handling, computer security, and information assurance. This degree gives you a comprehensive skill set that makes you desirable to cybersecurity-focused companies.

However, a master’s degree in cybersecurity studies delves into advanced cybersecurity themes and practices. This path is ideal for students who are interested in cloud security or digital forensics. Master's degrees deepen your knowledge, improve your critical thinking, and prepare you to handle complex cybersecurity issues.

Long-term professional goals should guide students in their bachelor's or master's degree decision. Consider your desired level of responsibility, desired responsibilities, and the industry’s need for higher credentials. Both bachelor’s and master’s degrees are valuable in cybersecurity, so your choice should reflect your career goals and commitment to this evolving discipline.

2. Accreditation

Accreditation is essential for cybersecurity programs. Accredited programs must meet high industry requirements, ensuring that you obtain a relevant education that meets ever-changing cybersecurity needs and provides maximum skills toward information security.

A major feature of an accredited cybersecurity curriculum is career relevance. Graduates from accredited programs are typically preferred by employers in identity and access management, risk management, and other fields. Accredited programs are considered trusted and credible.

A program's accreditation confirms its dedication to industry security standards such as data protection, cyber and external threat management, and network security. It also ensures that the curriculum includes certification exams, information technology, risk analysis, and business continuity – important matters for cybersecurity professionals.

Choosing an accredited cybersecurity program helps you to establish a strong professional foundation. It's essential to align your education with cybersecurity sector needs, as you work to improve your credentials and job prospects.

3. Curriculum

When you’re assessing a cybersecurity program's curriculum, make sure it covers a wide variety of relevant subjects for this developing profession. For instance, find security-focused courses first. These basic courses teach you the core principles and theories of cyber security.

Incident management is crucial to cybersecurity, so find programs that teach this topic. These courses teach you how to handle security issues, an essential industry skill.

Cyber security requires safeguarding sensitive information; make sure the curriculum covers data protection, encryption, and privacy legislation. Organizations are increasingly protecting sensitive data, making this expertise vital.

Find courses with real-world case studies and practical activities. These aspects provide hands-on experience to apply theory to real-world situations. Problem-solving skills are vital for managing cybersecurity's changing issues, and practical exercises provide an opportunity to improve these skills.

Whether you're a cybersecurity professional, undergraduate student, or homeland security job seeker, a comprehensive curriculum ensures you're learning the skills and information you need. These well-rounded programs also prepare you for certification examinations like CISSP® or CompTIA Security+® and allow you to adapt to ongoing digital threats and technology.

4. Program Specialization

A cyber specialty can help to shape your professional future. When you’re choosing a school, it's crucial to reflect on the aspects of cybersecurity that fascinate and suit you.

For instance, consider if you like network security's technical components. For this area of cybersecurity, you'll learn about firewalls, intrusion detection systems, and encryption techniques.

Similarly, you may choose strategic risk management, compliance, and security governance. These areas need comprehensive security policies, regulatory compliance, and strategic data protection proficiency.

Choosing a specialty lets you match your program to your professional goals. If your ideal job includes ethical hacking and penetration testing to protect corporations, look for schools that emphasize these abilities. Choose courses that include ethical hacking, vulnerability assessment, and penetration testing to enhance your cybersecurity knowledge.

Finding your niche in cybersecurity allows for a more focused and enjoyable educational experience and equips you with the skills and information you need for the cybersecurity profession.

5. Hands-On Experience

Cybersecurity requires more than theory, and practical experience is essential to a well-rounded education in this sector. A cybersecurity education that provides hands-on training is essential.

Find programs with hands-on laboratories for real-world experience. These laboratories replicate cyber threats and vulnerabilities so you may test your expertise and reduce risks. During your program, you may work on real projects. For instance, you might protect networks, investigate problems, and strengthen system vulnerabilities against cyberattacks.

Consider a program that provides certification test preparation. Professional and respected certifications like CISSP® and CompTIA Security+® need real knowledge and abilities. Hands-on experience can help you develop the knowledge and skills to pass certification examinations.

Cybersecurity professionals must also keep up with emerging technology and solve difficult challenges. You may learn about new technology and cyber-defense tactics via hands-on activities. Just understanding theory isn't enough; you must also apply it in real life.

6. Program Flexibility

When you’re starting a program, consider your schedule and obligations. Flexibility is important since many cybersecurity students have employment or family obligations.

Some universities provide online courses, resources, and part-time enrollments that allow you to complete the program on your schedule. These academic institutions provide the necessary support for students to succeed while studying on their own time, helping you to juggle school, work, and life. Online courses let you access course materials and lectures at your leisure, making time management simpler.

You may study part time to fit your schedule. This strategy minimizes crushing workloads and lets you explore complicated subjects like incident response and application security without jeopardizing other obligations.

Be sure to strategically choose a program that fits your lifestyle and timeframe. It can boost your academic performance while completing your assignments.

7. Faculty Expertise

Faculty experience is crucial when you begin a cybersecurity program. Professors with real-world expertise can enhance your cybersecurity education.

Find courses taught by professors who have cybersecurity, engineering, or other related experience. These faculty are knowledgeable and can provide real-world insights beyond textbooks. Their real-world knowledge and practices help you put theoretical concepts into context and grasp complicated security challenges.

Mentors with academic and professional expertise can also help you develop a greater understanding of the cybersecurity field. They may provide career coaching, practical support, access to a wide network of professionals, research assistance, business insights, and other resources. Additionally, their knowledge keeps a degree program's curriculum current with the newest technologies and security procedures.

A good cybersecurity program relies on academic proficiency. Choosing a school with skilled and competent academics will help you succeed in cybersecurity's unfolding landscape.

8. Program Reputation

A cybersecurity program's reputation may impact your academic and professional success. Before enrolling, take the time to research the program's reputation.

Researching alumni success stories may reveal the program's cybersecurity career preparation efficacy. A program's excellence is shown by alumni who have worked in information security, network protection, and certification.

Similarly, positive program assessments from current and previous students may illuminate a degree program’s strengths and faults. Look for input on the program's capacity to solve difficult challenges, integrate technology and engineering principles, and follow best practices. In the competitive cybersecurity field, selecting a reputable curriculum may help you achieve your professional goals.

When selecting a cybersecurity program, it is also important to consider other factors, such as national average salaries, additional fees, workforce demand, numbers of active employers, and similar factors.


Why Choose Cybersecurity at APU?

While choosing a cybersecurity degree, you must carefully evaluate several important elements that will affect your education and its outcome. American Public University (APU) offers several cybersecurity programs and has received the National Security Agency’s Center of Academic Excellence in Cyber Defense (CAE-CD) designation.

APU provides degrees for many professional interests. Our degrees have career relevance, whether you're a bachelor's or master's student. Our NSA CAE-CD designation demonstrates our commitment to cybersecurity education excellence.

APU’s cybersecurity education includes security basics, incident response, and data protection. Our courses educate you for the ever-changing cybersecurity landscape with real-world case studies and hands-on exercises.

Cybersecurity programs have separate tracks because we encourage expertise. You may tailor your education to your career objectives in information security, risk management, or critical infrastructure defense. Laboratory, simulation, and project-based learning are our focus.

We adapt our courses to align with our students’ lives. Many students can manage job and family responsibilities with online and part-time courses. We have cybersecurity and related professionals as instructors. They mentor students and offer their first-hand practical experience and skills in the classroom. Also, our alumni help to underscore the reputation of APU's cybersecurity program.

Choosing APU for your cybersecurity education means joining a vibrant community devoted to helping students to develop their skills. APU is committed to excellence in its cybersecurity education and adhering to vital cybersecurity standards.


Relevant Articles:

SSCP® is a registered trademark of International Information Systems Security Certification Consortium, Inc.
CISSP® is a registered trademark of International Information Systems Security Certification Consortium, Inc.
CompTIA Security+® is a registered trademark of the Computing Technology Industry Association, Inc.

About the Author
Dr. Andre Slonopas
Dr. Andre Slonopas is an Assistant Department Chair in the Department of Strategic Intelligence. From the University of Virginia, he holds a B.S. in aerospace engineering, a M.S. in mechanical and aerospace engineering, and a Ph.D. in Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering. He also holds a plethora of relevant certifications, including Certified Information Security Manager (CISM®), Certified Information System Security Professional (CISSP®), Certified Information Security Auditor (CISA) and Project Management Professional (PMP®).

CISM is a registered trademark of Information Systems Audit and Control Association, Inc.
CISSP is a registered trademark of International Information Systems Security Certification Consortium, Inc.
PMP is a registered trademark of the Project Management Institute, Inc.