A student's laptop in a cybersecurity lecture.
A student's laptop in a cybersecurity lecture.

Is Cybersecurity a Good Career?

February 19, 2023

In today’s job market, the need for cybersecurity professionals is only growing. Cybercrime is an ever-present threat, as is evident by near daily news of cyberattacks. For example, in 2021, the Kaseya supply chain ransomware attack affected more than 1,500 companies globally. Only a few months later, a group of hackers infected a major U.S. oil pipeline operator with ransomware. This forced a pipeline shutdown and led to significant fuel shortages. 

Throughout our world, malicious hackers are causing problems for millions of people. CU Denver recognizes this issue and the acute need for cybersecurity professionals in today’s workforce. Between 2013 and 2023, vacant job postings for cybersecurity positions rose 350%. Data shows that just 68% of cybersecurity job postings nationwide are filled. In Colorado, 30% of cybersecurity roles remain vacant. To bridge the gap, CU Denver provides a range of undergraduate and graduate programs to help build the workforce, along with conducting cutting-edge research in the field.   

Is cybersecurity a good career? Well, focusing on a tough area like cybersecurity…gives you an edge. Because, as I said, not a lot of people would dare come into this domain. So, if you do go in and perform well, you’re going to shine, and you’re going to immediately look at very high-level salaries. 

—Haadi Jafarian, PhD

What is Cybersecurity: A Day in the Life   

As cyber threats evolve, the field of cybersecurity does too. At its core, cybersecurity is focused on protecting internet-connected systems from attacks. Cybersecurity professionals spend their time defending hardware, software, and data from threats. Various malware types, phishing, Man-in-the-middle (MitM), and Denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks are the most common threat forms. Good security infrastructure can greatly assist in preventing attacks, saving organizations from financial (intellectual property theft), reputational (loss of consumer trust), and legislative costs (government regulation) of cyberattacks.

Ever wondered what it’s like to navigate the world of cybersecurity? A day in the life of a cybersecurity pro can look something like this:  

  • Threat Analysis: Identify emerging risks and vulnerabilities each morning. 
  • System Monitoring: Vigilantly monitor for potential breaches throughout the day. 
  • Incident Response: Swiftly respond to and contain security incidents. 
  • Infrastructure Management: Optimize security infrastructure and implement the latest measures. 
  • Collaboration: Work with colleagues to align security with organizational goals. 
  • Continuous Learning: Stay updated on the latest technologies, practices, and threat trends. 
  • Training: Conduct sessions to educate colleagues on cybersecurity best practices. 
  • Problem-Solving: Collaboratively address complex challenges and emerging threats. 
  • Documentation: Maintain accurate incident documentation for ongoing strategy assessment. 

CU Denver Cybersecurity Programs  

CU Denver understands the crucial role cybersecurity plays in today’s world. As such, it’s been recognized as a leader in cybersecurity education: The National Security Agency (NSA) has designated  CU Denver as a Center of Academic Excellence in Cybersecurity Defense (CAE-CD). 

CU Denver offers a BS in Cybersecurity, an undergraduate certificate in Cybersecurity and Secure Computing, a MS in Information Systems, and a Cybersecurity and Information Assurance Certificate. The university understands the importance of securing systems, both physical and virtual, in the modern world, and is preparing the next generation of cyber experts to face ever-evolving threats. 

The BS in Cybersecurity focuses on computing theory and core cybersecurity concepts. Students will follow computer science core courses like logic design and algorithms. Students will also take a range of cybersecurity courses. The program features practical system administration, cryptography, and infrastructure defense courses, amongst others.  

The MS in Information Systems Cybersecurity specialization focuses on managing information risk from a business perspective. Students learn core concepts like programming, networking, cloud computing, and security. They will learn how to leverage technology to improve an organization’s overall security posture to ensure business operations are not interrupted.  

If you want to choose expertise in computer science, or in general, IT, I think you have to put cybersecurity on top.

—Haadi Jafarian, PhD 

For students looking to get involved to  build their professional skills and network, they should join CU Denver’s Transamerica Cybersecurity and Digital Forensics Club. They can also join industry associations like theInformation Systems Audit and Control Association Denver Chapter (ISACA Denver Chapter), and the Open Web Application Security Project (OWASP). 

Careers in Cybersecurity   

Is cybersecurity a good career? While the draw of stopping cybercrime may be enough for some, there are many other benefits. Nationwide, cybersecurity salaries average $102,600. In Colorado, salaries range between $100,580 to $112,360. Cybersecurity professionals will also find impressive job security across the industry. The unemployment rate within cybersecurity has been near 0% since 2016. While careers in cybersecurity are indeed promising, it is important to remember that most, if not all, cybersecurity roles are not entry level. New graduates will likely need to start in a cybersecurity-adjacent role, like IT help desk, or system administrator roles.

Graduates of the program typically start as something like a junior system administrator. Managing Windows servers, email systems, or some sort of network engineer or administrator position where you’re working on components.

—Joseph Murdock, CISSP, CISM, CRISC, BSBA Program Director and Business School Instructor 

The most common cybersecurity jobs openings are:   


Cybersecurity Certifications: An Important Step  

In the fast-paced realm of cybersecurity, certifications are key to showcasing expertise and staying relevant in the field. From foundational CompTIA Security+ to advanced CISSP, CISA, and CISM, these credentials validate skills and open doors to new opportunities.  

Earning a certification from CompTIA or ISACA, or any of the multitudes of certifications from other organizations that are out there, shows proficiency from a third-party perspective. Potential employers don’t know you, but they know and trust organizations like CompTIA—they know that for their employees, something like Security+ is a baseline.

—Joseph Murdock, CISSP, CISM, CRISC, BSBA Program Director and Business School Instructor 

While it isn’t exhaustive, this list covers some core certifications for cybersecurity professionals: 

  1. CompTIA Security+: Foundational certification that covers basic security concepts and skills 
  1. Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP): Offered by (ISC)², this is suitable for experienced professionals overseeing effective cybersecurity programs 
  1. Certified Ethical Hacker (CEH): Focuses on ethical hacking and penetration testing techniques 
  1. Cisco Certified CyberOps Associate: A certification from Cisco for on cybersecurity operations 
  1. Certified Information Systems Auditor (CISA): Offered by ISACA, this certification demonstrates mastery in auditing and monitoring business and IT systems. 
  1. Certified Information Security Manager (CISM): Another ISACA certification that demonstrates high-level knowledge in risk assessment, incident management, and security governance 
  1. CompTIA Cybersecurity Analyst (CySA+): Focuses on behavioral analytics and threat intelligence for IT professionals. 
  1. Certified Information Systems Manager (CISM): Geared towards information security management and governance. 
  1. Offensive Security Certified Professional (OSCP): A hands-on certification for penetration testing and ethical hacking. 
  1. GIAC Certified Incident Handler (GCIH): Concentrates on incident handling and response. 

Explore CU Denver’s Cybersecurity Program and kickstart your high-demand career in this dynamic industry.

Haadi Jafarian, PhD, Assistant Professor, College of Engineering, Design, and Computing, Director of Active Cyber and Infrastructure Defense (ACID) Lab

Dr. Jafarian received his Ph.D. from the University of North Carolina Charlotte in 2017 and is currently an assistant professor in the Department of Computer Science and Engineering at CU Denver. He also directs the Active Cyber and Infrastructure Lab (ACID Lab), where he researches various security and privacy topics like active cyber defense, security analytics, automation, social networks security and analytics, and big data analytics for security and privacy.

Joseph Murdock, CISSP, CISM, CRISC, BSBA Program Director and Business School Sr. Instructor 

Joseph Murdock is a Senior instructor of Information Systems in the Business School at CU Denver. He received his master’s degree in computer information systems from Regis University (2003). He currently holds active Department of Defense Directive (DoDD) 8570/8140 certifications, including ISC2 Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP), ISACA Certified Information Security Manager (CISM) and CompTIA Security+. He has more than 20 years of professional experience leveraging technology in challenging business environments, as well as utilizing proven business processes to improve technical departments and education. 

Learn more about how to apply to CU Denver’s cybersecurity degrees and how you can build your career in this high-demand industry today.

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