How Much Can You Make in a Network Security Career?
Graduates of online network security school programs qualify for jobs across the technology and computing spectrum, with positions available in corporations, nonprofits, and governmental agencies. Some individuals enjoy working in-house as network security specialists, while others may find that their talents are best used in a freelance consulting role.
When reviewing the jobs in the following section, remember that no degree guarantees a specific career or salary. However, graduates of bachelor's in network security degrees frequently hold some of the positions highlighted below.
- Network and Computer Systems Administrator
These professionals manage the day-to-day operation of computer networks either in-house for a single company or in a consulting role. They install and maintain local area networks, wide area networks, intranets, and network segments to expand and secure computer systems, optimize networks, boost performance, and train staff in proper usage of secure networks.
Median Annual Salary: $82,050
Job Growth (2016-2026): 5%
- Computer and Information Systems Managers
Also known as IT managers, these tech professionals manage and direct all activities in their organizations that relate to computing. They assess computer needs, recommend upgrades, install and maintain new hardware and software, oversee security initiatives, and stay abreast of industry trends and emerging technologies that may benefit their companies.
Median Annual Salary: $142,530
Job Growth (2016-2026): 11%
- Computer Network Architect
Computer network architects use their advanced skills to build wide area networks, local area networks, and intranets that meet the needs of their clients. They present design plans to relevant stakeholders, gain buy-in, and develop tailored networks. After creating the networks, they upgrade hardware and software as needed and implement new technologies.
Median Annual Salary: $109,020
Job Growth (2016-2026): 5%
- Computer Systems Analyst
Also known as system architects, these professionals study existing IT systems and make recommendations about areas of improvement. They assess company needs, research available technologies, analyze costs and benefits, and make presentations to clients about different options for improving or updating current systems. They also train staff in the use of any new systems implemented.
Median Annual Salary: $88,740
Job Growth (2016-2026): 9%
- Information Security Analyst
Information security analysts work with companies to assess areas of network weakness and make recommendations for improvement. They install firewalls and data encryption programs, review data to find any security breaches, and work with ethical hackers to identify points of weakness for potential cyberattacks.
Median Annual Salary: $98,350
Job Growth (2016-2026): 32%
When reviewing average income data for network systems administrators, remember that several factors can affect your salary package. Points to consider include level of experience, degree level attained, industry, and geographic location.
For instance, BLS data indicates that individuals in Maryland earned, on average, the highest salary at $108,190. Other states in the top five include Washington D.C., New Jersey, California, and New York. States with the highest concentration of jobs include Maryland, Virginia, Colorado, Kansas, and Vermont.
What Courses Can Be Taken in an Online Network Security Degree?
Curricula for network security bachelor's degrees online programs cover a range of industry topics to prepare learners for entry-level positions. Courses spotlighted in this section represent only a sampling of available study areas; students should check with administrators at their prospective schools to make sure your online network security school offers relevant coursework.
Ethical Hacking: Students learn to conduct penetration testing to check for weaknesses in computer or network systems. They also develop the skills required to receive ethical hacker certification.
Computer Forensics: With a focus on identifying and handling computer crimes, this course helps students develop investigative skills in data retrieval, tracking abnormalities, and tracing the steps of cybercriminals.
Network Security Concepts: This class provides an overview of current topics and trends in network security with a focus on identifying vulnerabilities, mitigating threats, and building skills in risk assessment.
Project Management in Network Security: Designed for individuals who hope to oversee ongoing network security projects, this class prepares graduates to plan projects, create statements of scope, manage budgets and schedules, identify and communicate with team members, and handle risk.
Developing Network Security Policies: This course helps degree-seekers learn to develop, implement, and disseminate policies around network security, confidentiality, and risk management. It also covers strategies for incident reporting and response.
How to Choose the Best Online Network Security Program
Picking the right online network security bachelor's degree can greatly impact your professional career, so it's worth taking the time to fully research options and ask as many questions as possible. With so many programs available, you can afford to be selective until you find a perfect match. We surveyed students in the process of selecting the right network security program for their needs and assembled some of their most pressing questions below.
Q. What strategies should I follow in choosing my network security courses?
A. When picking network security classes, it's important that you both gain a generalized knowledge of the discipline and make the most of your available electives. Though few undergraduate programs allow degree-seekers to specialize their knowledge at this level, you can use your extra classes to explore an area of interest. Speak with your adviser about how to maximize these credits.
Q. Should I have any concerns about getting my network security degree online?
A. Given the fact that network security revolves around computing and information technology, completing these degrees online can offer benefits not seen in a traditional brick-and-mortar classroom. Learners can watch prerecorded lectures, complete readings, turn in assignments, sit for exams, and interact with their peers and professors just as they would on campus, but also gain experience working through software and interacting over the internet.
Q. How do network security internships work with online degrees?
A. If your school is near your place of residence, the department will likely have a list of approved sites for completing internship hours. If you live further afield, you will likely work with your adviser or the internship coordinator to find an approved site in your region.
Q. What should I pay attention to when looking at faculty profiles?
A. Reviewing faculty profiles offers two benefits: finding professors with similar interests and ensuring they possess relevant experience. If none of the faculty at a particular school studied or worked in your area of interest, it might not be a great fit. Similarly, if most of the faculty moved straight from being a student to being a professor, they will likely lack practical experience.
Q. Should I look for a specific curriculum focus?
A. While it may be possible to find a school that offers network security specializations, that is far more common in master's and doctoral programs. If you want to focus your studies at this level, try to find a department that offers ample electives so you can explore topics related to your professional goals.
Q. How will this degree help me reach my goals?
A. When reviewing required qualifications for many of the top roles in network security, you will notice that the vast majority require -- at minimum -- a bachelor's degree. Network security online school programs help you gain the skills employers look for, making you a marketable candidate in the field.
Q. What are the benefits to earning a master's degree after graduating?
A. After working in an entry-level role, some learners find themselves ready to take on advanced positions in leadership, research, academia, or management. Earning master's degrees in network security online can help students qualify for these positions while also allowing space to specialize in a particular subfield.
Scholarships and Financial Aid for Network Security Programs
Paying for an online network security school can feel overwhelming given the rising costs of tuition, but learners have numerous options to reduce the overall price and avoid substantial student debt. Many learners gravitate toward scholarships and grants, which do not require repayment so long as students meet all of their requirements. Some of the top network security scholarships are outlined below, but do your own research and you'll likely find more options.
- CyberCorps: Scholarships for Service
Working in partnership with the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, this scholarship trains future generations of cybersecurity professionals, especially those interested in working in local, tribal, state, or federal governments. The award is made possible through the National Science Foundation and provides $8,000 in funding. Awardees must work for the government for a set amount of time after graduating.
- Information Assurance Scholarship
Undergraduate scholarships from the Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Networks and Information Integration cover tuition and offer a $17,000 stipend per year. Applicants must plan to work as a national security professional within a governmental branch after graduating to receive the award.
- Scholarship for Women Studying Information Security
This scholarship is awarded to female undergraduate and graduate students pursuing a degree in information security or a related subject. Applicants must supply all materials by February 1, including official transcripts, answers to essay questions, letters of recommendation, and evidence of meeting minimum GPA requirements. Those chosen for the award receive up to $10,000 in funding.
- Center for Cyber Safety and Education Scholarship
Undergraduate scholarships for students interested in working in information security or related fields are awarded annually through CCSE and (ISC)². Learners must be enrolled in an accredited program with a minimum 3.3 GPA and be able to provide transcripts, a letter of recommendation, a resume, essay answers, and proof of citizenship. Awards are typically between $1,000-$5,000 and applications open January 1 of each year.
- War Veterans Scholarship
The Armed Forces Communications and Electronics Association offers this award of $2,500 to active duty or honorably discharged military veterans who are currently enrolled in an undergraduate STEM-related degree, including network security. Online programs are eligible for awards. Applicants must be enrolled full or part time, have a minimum 3.3 GPA, and have served in the U.S. military overseas.