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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 35% between 2021 and 2031.
  • Career outcomes with a Master of Science in 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 grow by 16% across all professions between 2021-2031. 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 the fields of information security and cybersecurity? There are a number of paths, and they usually start with two questions: “Should I get a cybersecurity degree?” and “What careers are available in information technology?”

Prepare for an IT career —

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Most people start with an undergraduate degree in computer science or cybersecurity 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 ways to prepare for opportunities in the IT and cybersecurity fields. Here’s what you need to know.

BLS Occupational Employment Projections, 2021-2031 is published by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. This data reflects BLS’ projections of national (not local) conditions. These data points are not specific to University of Phoenix students or graduates.

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 such as Master of Information Systems or Master of Information Technology may offer significant advantages.

For starters, a master’s in information technology or information systems prepares successful graduates for an array of career opportunities, including:

  • Systems analyst
  • Network engineer
  • Computer programmer
  • Web developer

A master’s degree may also improve 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 earn both 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 similar to 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 or program where students learn about hardware, software and the user side of technology. An information systems degree program, on the other hand, highlights 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 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 dean of the College of Business and Information Technology 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 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 computer and 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. As of May 2021, computer and information systems managers earned a salary range between $95,220 and $208,000, according to BLS.

Salary ranges are not specific to students or graduates of University of Phoenix. Actual outcomes vary based on multiple factors, including prior work experience, geographic location and other factors specific to the individual. University of Phoenix does not guarantee employment, salary level or career advancement. BLS data is geographically based. Information for a specific state/city can be researched on the BLS website.

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The difference between information technology, computer science and cybersecurity

Pursue your career in information systems

At UOPX, the MIS program 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 businesses.

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 35% between 2021 and 2031, 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.”

master’s in cybersecurity offers numerous benefits (aside from giving you an edge in a highly competitive field). The Master of Science in Cybersecurity program teaches, among many topics:

  • 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

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

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

According to CompTIA, a nonprofit, IT trade association, certifications are issued by independent organizations that 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.

Cyber 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 cybersecurity professionals. They can also sometimes be applied toward certain degrees.

Finally, a degree program is more time-intensive but provides a solid foundation on which to build a career in the cyber field. 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, one 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 May 2021, information security analysts earned an annual salary between $61,520 and $165,920, 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.

Earning a Master of Science in Cybersecurity at University of Phoenix

If you are thinking about going back to school to get a cybersecurity degree, University of Phoenix offers a Master of Science in Cybersecurity that can be earned completely online.

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.

This program can prepare you for roles such as:

  • Network security analyst
  • Information systems security analyst
  • Systems analyst
  • Security analyst
  • Information security officer

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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