Cyber Security vs. Computer Science

Careers in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) are evolving, and computer science and cyber security are two fields with a variety of job opportunities. If you’re interested in pursuing a degree in computer science or cyber security, you may be wondering which discipline is the better option for you.

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Computer science is a broad field that involves the study of computers and computing. Cyber security, a subfield of computer science, involves protecting networks, systems and programs from digital hacks. In order to do this work, cyber security specialists rely on their deep understanding of computers and networks.

Read on to dive into the details of cyber security vs computer science, as well as education requirements and potential career options.

Course Comparison of Cyber Security vs. Computer Science Degrees

Cyber Security Courses

Interested in a potential career in cyber security? Here are some cyber security courses you may complete as part of your degree program:

  • Cyber Policy, Law, and Privacy Compliance: In this course, students learn about the legal requirements related to cyber security and privacy and how to implement these rules while designing an organization’s security setup.
  • Database Design and Security: This course usually covers database design, which runs on the backend of most software, explaining how flaws in a database could lead to security breaches.
  • Cryptography: Students in this course learn about cryptography algorithms, authentication, public keys and how to transfer data safely.
  • Network Security: This course provides students with skills in designing a secure network, including protocols, privacy and access control.

Computer Science Courses

If programming is your passion, you may choose to pursue a computer science degree. Here are some computer science courses that might be included in your program:

  • Introduction to Computer Systems: Students in this introductory course learn the principles of engineering computer hardware and software, including virtual memory, threading and file systems.
  • Data Structures and Algorithms: This course covers the theory and application of algorithms to create efficient solutions to computing problems, including greedy algorithms and search algorithms.
  • Software Engineering: This course provides students with the opportunity to apply their knowledge of computer systems to design and test software systems, often covering topics like information engineering and path testing.
  • Data Analysis: This course covers probability and statistics, typically delving into areas like distributions, hypothesis testing and modeling.

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Roles and Responsibilities With a Cyber Security vs. Computer Science Degree

After completing a computer science or cyber security program, you may be wondering what roles and responsibilities lie ahead. Professionals in either field rely on a combination of technical skills and soft skills—we’ll take a closer look below.

Similarities

Computer scientists and cyber security professionals typically pay attention to details, regularly logging changes and updating stakeholders on the projects they work on. They also tend to employ analytical skills, examining problems from different angles to come up with unique and creative solutions.

Differences

The main difference between computer science and cyber security professionals is their primary responsibilities. A cyber security specialist’s daily routine may include auditing security systems, setting up firewalls, analyzing networks and reporting on data breaches. In contrast, a computer science professional may focus on building out new features in software, database administration or web development.

Cyber Security and Computer Science Career Options

There are a number of career opportunities available to individuals with a background in computer science or cyber security. Since there is some overlap in their educational backgrounds, it may be viable to switch from a career in cyber security to computer science and vice versa. See below for information on career options based on 2020 U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics data.

Cyber Security Careers

Wondering what jobs are available in the cyber security field? Here are a few cyber security careers you might consider. The information below is sourced from 2020 U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics data.

Information Security Analyst:

  • Median annual wage: $103,590
  • Advancement: Can become chief security officers

Network and Computer System Administrator:

  • Median annual wage: $84,810
  • Advancement: Can become chief security officers

Computer Science Careers

Computer Network Architect:

  • Median annual wage: $116,780
  • Includes: Network engineers
  • Advancement: Can become computer and information systems managers

Computer Systems Analyst:

  • Median annual wage: $93,730
  • Includes: QA analysts and programmer analysts
  • Advancement: Can become IT directors or chief technology officers

Computer and Information Research Scientists:

  • Median annual wage: $126,830
  • Includes: Robotic engineers, programmers
  • Advancement: Can become computer and information systems managers

Database Administrator:

  • Median annual wage: $98,860
  • Includes: Systems DBAs and Application DBAs
  • Advancement: Can become computer and information systems managers

Software Developer:

  • Median annual wage: $110,140
  • Includes: Back-end developers, front-end developers, webmasters
  • Advancement: Can become project manager specialists and lead teams

Master’s in Cyber Security vs. Master’s in Computer Science – Which One Is Right for Me?

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Is it worth getting your master’s in computer science or master’s in cyber security? Although a bachelor’s degree in computer science or a related field is typically the only requirement for some careers in these fields, you may consider earning a master’s degree in computer science or cyber security to potentially broaden your job prospects. In order to make this decision, it’s important to think through your interests and educational background while also accounting for your strengths and weaknesses.

Let’s look at cyber security vs computer science. If you’re interested in learning new programming languages, artificial intelligence and robotics, a master’s in computer science might be a good fit for you. On the other hand, if you’re interested in data privacy, digital forensics, and cyber law and policy, a master’s in cyber security might be a more attractive option for you.

Your career goals are also an important part of this decision. Earning a bachelor’s degree in computer science can pave the path for career advancement, preparing you for roles like a computer systems analyst, project manager or team lead. Similarly, a bachelor’s degree in cyber security can lead to leadership positions including computer and information systems manager, IT director, chief technology officer or chief security officer.

You may also want to consider the type of company you see yourself working at. A master’s in computer science or cyber security may prepare you for jobs at a variety of tech companies or industries including finance, healthcare or entertainment.

Cyber Security Certifications vs. Computer Science Certifications

Another way to specialize your career in computer science or cyber security is by obtaining certifications. Here are some certifications that may help you gain in-demand skills for each field:

Finding the Best Cyber Security Certification for You

Although many cyber security professionals already have a bachelor’s degree in their field, companies may look for candidates with additional certifications. Before signing up for a certification program, take some time to consider your personal interests and career goals to find a program suited to your individual needs.

  1. CISCO Certified Network Associate (CCNA): CCNA certification covers topics including network access, IP connectivity and services, security fundamentals, network fundamentals, and automation and programmability.
  2. CompTIA A+: CompTIA A+ certification covers basic network security, infrastructure, best practices and device configuration.
  3. Certified Informations Systems Security Professional (CISSP): The program certifies seasoned cyber security professionals in areas including business continuity planning, cryptography and ethics.

Finding the Best Computer Science Certification for You

Although many computer science professionals already have a bachelor’s degree in their field, companies may look for candidates with additional certifications. Again, it’s important to consider your personal interests and career goals before signing up for a certification program—this way, you pinpoint one that best suits your individual needs.

  1. Oracle Database Administration Certification: This certification covers the benefits of multitenant architecture, upgrading databases and increasing performance.
  2. Professional Software Engineering Master Certification: This master certification covers software requirements, design, construction, testing, configuration, maintenance and more.
  3. Certified ScrumMaster: The ScrumMaster certification prepares professionals to lead agile development teams and manage how information is processed.

Last updated July 2021.