The data is clear—the need for cybersecurity professionals is only growing. Cybercrime is an ever-present threat, as is evident by daily news of cyberattacks. In 2021, the Kaseya supply chain ransomware attack affected over 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 shutdown of the pipeline 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 2021, 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, along with cutting-edge research.
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?
As cyber threats are evolving, cybersecurity is too. At its core, cybersecurity is protecting internet-connected systems from cyberattacks. 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.
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 at 0% since 2016. The most common cybersecurity jobs openings are:
Cybersecurity Analyst—Average Salary: $107,500
Cybersecurity analysts are responsible for identifying threats and managing security systems. Responsibilities include installing/updating software and firewalls, testing for vulnerabilities, and reporting breaches.
Software Developer/Engineer—Average Salary: $110,140
This role develops programs to protect networked systems, IoT devices, and more. They combine technical programming knowledge with security threat analysis.
Cybersecurity Consultant—Average Salary: $92,504
A cybersecurity consultant works with a variety of organizational personnel to decrease risk. They administer tests for system vulnerabilities, design security architectures, and update security systems.
Vulnerability Analyst/Penetration Tester—Average Salary: $101,091
Known as pen testers, these cybersecurity professionals are white hat hackers. They target operating systems, user devices, and embedded systems to find vulnerabilities. This helps organizations identify major system issues in a safe environment.
Cybersecurity Manager/Administrator—Average Salary: $130,000
The cybersecurity administrator is the leader of the cybersecurity team. They work to protect an organization’s systems as a whole. Cybersecurity admins identify security gaps within systems. They then install, oversee, and maintain solutions.
CU Denver Cybersecurity Program
CU Denver understands the crucial role cybersecurity plays in today’s world. For students interested in this career path, 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.
This degree path 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.
…I think 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
CU Denver Cybersecurity Research
CU Denver is also home to the Active Cyber Infrastructure Defense Lab (ACID Lab), which focuses on cyber and infrastructure defense. For those interested, the ACID Lab can provide GAANN funding to domestic PhD students for up to three years. Led by Haadi Jafarian, PhD, ACID Lab research centers around four key areas:
- Social Networks Cybersecurity Analytics: This field of study develops more secure social networks through big data analytics.
- Proactive Security for Cyber Threats (Moving Target Defense and Cyber Deception): In the past, cybersecurity policies were only engaged once an attack occurred. Proactive security aims to prevent attacks before they start.
- Big Data Analytics for Cyber Threat Intelligence: Mining massive data sets for analytical insights helps to protect against cybersecurity threats.
- Security for Cyber-Physical Systems and Critical Infrastructures: The growth of IoT devices blurs the line between physical security and cybersecurity. This field of study focuses on keeping systems and users safe through this growth.
Dr. J. Haadi Jafarian
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.
Learn more about how to apply to CU Denver’s cybersecurity degree and how you can build your career in this high-demand industry today.
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