Cybersecurity vs Data Science: How is a Data Science Degree Different from a Cybersecurity Degree?

How is a Data Science Degree Different from a Cyber Security Degree?

There’s plenty of confusion around the field of computer science.   Computer science is a newer field.  The different sub-categories (including data science and cybersecurity) haven’t been around very long.  Many students ask, “What is the difference between a Data Science degree and a Cybersecurity degree?” The differences between the two areas of study were vast in the beginning.  Today, due to marketplace needs, the areas are starting to merge.

Related resource: Top 20 Most Affordable Bachelor’s in Data Science

Cybersecurity or Data Science-Which Came First?

The computer age brought a rich goldmine of information through database storage. Businesses began scanning printed material into digital data banks to create a vast warehouse of material. The question arose of what to do with the information. That question led to the creation of Data Science degrees. Data science quickly grew to become the preeminent career for computer savvy professionals.  Businesses prospered from data mining by identifying potential customers for new products. Business was so good that hackers started to invade databases.  This brought the need for cybersecurity. The need for protection became so intense that a new field in computer science—cybersecurity—became a necessity.

What is Data Science?

What is data science and data scientist?

According to Forbes, Data Science is a simple name for a complex combination of fields. There are data scientists who run basic SQL queries through databases.  They find information for decision makers. Others focus on research directed toward:

  • paper writing
  • data engineering
  • data infrastructure to improve existing formats for searches

Other data scientists focus on:

  • the creation of search models
  • the measurement of product viability
  • proactive exploration and experimentation of possible product and search mechanism designs

There are hundreds of other sub-fields of data science.  Data scientists working in these specialized areas can quickly adapt to rapid changes in the field. 

What is Cybersecurity?

Cybersecurity includes protecting information and assets in private business or the public sector. Cybersecurity came to the forefront around 2016 with the attempts to influence the election. Prior to 2016, the federal government gravitated toward data science to control and interpret big data stored in its various databases. Cybersecurity protected important databases including firewalls and other defense mechanisms. Cybersecurity experts not only maintain those defenses but act to attack the hacker, tracing the invader to its source.

Data Science and Cybersecurity Meet

While the government became more concerned with cybersecurity, private businesses improved their data science. Companies were the first to become aware of and establish cybersecurity in their databases.  They understood the rewards of data mining.  Businesses moved toward data science as the essential base of their computer departments. Meanwhile, the government, tasked with the protection of its citizens, focused on preventing a cyber attack. The situation created an atmosphere where cyber security experts must delve into databases to find signs of cyber security issues. Cyber security professionals don’t wait for an attack. Imaginative scenarios play out with twists and turns to prepare for attacks.

Students entering college or returning to school after a hiatus may want to consider data science vs cyber security for their future career. These two professions are in high demand.  A degree in either subject can virtually guarantee high-paying employment immediately after college. The differences between the two fields are in the details.  Many students choose to combine data science with cyber security for a specialized degree that employers will value. Before making a decision about what to study, it’s important to know a little about the job market and the future employment outlook.

Cyber Security vs Data Science Careers

Data Science Vs Cyber Security Careers

Both data science and cyber security are rapidly growing fields. Data science is projected to grow about twice as fast as average over the next decade, at 16 percent.  Cyber security is projected to grow four times the average rate, at 32 percent. Both types of professionals are in high demand, so it can be difficult to choose between data science and cyber security.   Students should consider their academic interests and career goals when choosing between cybersecurity vs data analytics. It’s also possible to combine these two technical careers into a hybrid occupation by choosing the right degree focus.

Data Science or Cybersecurity-The Best Degree Programs

Cyber security and data scientist degree programs

What Are Some Good Degree Programs for Data Science Students?

Undergraduate data science students should study computer science, mathematics and statistics in college. Many computer science departments offer data science degrees for undergraduates.  Some schools offer only a general computer science bachelor’s degree. Data science requires a good analytical mind and a lot of experience sifting through mountains of data.  College students should look for programs that offer hands-on experience at the undergraduate and graduate level. Data science students can engage in research projects while working toward their bachelor’s degrees. Most major research universities and state colleges offer research opportunities for data science students at all levels.

Some students choose to enter the workforce after earning a bachelor’s degree.  Many data science majors choose to continue their studies in a graduate program. The types of programs available can vary widely between colleges. Some schools offer custom programs for master’s students who want a specialized data science degree in an area like:

  • data mining
  • data analysis
  • machine learning
  • cyber security

A master’s degree or professional certificate is sufficient for most positions in the data science industry.  Some senior-level positions require a Ph.D. The time to complete a bachelor’s, master’s or doctoral degree is a big factor for most people considering data science vs cyber security.

What Are Some Good Degree Programs for Cyber Security Students?

Most cyber security jobs are available to graduates with a bachelor’s degree.  Senior-level jobs and specialized positions usually require a master’s degree. While some colleges may offer bachelor’s degrees in cyber security, most schools offer only a general computer science degree with courses in information assurance and related subjects. Cyber security professionals need to know how to write computer programs.  Experience as a programmer is a requirement for most positions. A bachelor’s in computer science program includes courses, labs and capstone projects related to programming.

Many cyber security professionals pursue a Master of Business Administration in Information Systems. The MBA is a good choice for cyber security technicians.  Many MBA programs offer the option to specialize in computer-related subjects.  Students with an MBA are competent in business and management. A cyber security professional with a master’s degree can earn significantly more on average than with a bachelor’s degree. According to the BLS, the difference between the median and the salary of the highest-earning professionals in cyber security is almost $60,000.

Another good option for students planning a cyber security career is to obtain a professional certificate. There are certificates available in almost every specialization, including:

  • systems auditing
  • information assurance
  • penetration testing

Cyber security technicians with a bachelor’s degree can earn the Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP) certificate.  The CISSP is a general-purpose credential required by many employers.

Cyber Security or Data Science-Employment Opportunities

What Jobs Are Available for Data Science Graduates?

The job market for data scientists is large and varied.  Opportunities range from web and mobile programming to the cutting edge of artificial intelligence research. A data scientist with a bachelor’s degree can work on a team with data analysts and machine learning experts.  These teams work together to find long-term solutions for their business operations. With a master’s degree in data science, the job search probably won’t take long.

A bachelor’s degree may be sufficient to work as a data scientist, but a graduate degree or certificate can open the door to many new opportunities. A college graduate can find specialized and higher-paying work in this field with a degree focused on:

  • machine learning
  • AI
  • cyber security

An advanced degree is typically required to fill leadership roles on teams tasked with:

  • data mining
  • machine learning
  • data analysis
  • other highly technical projects

Job seekers with more technical skills and work experience can expect greater autonomy and professional responsibility within an organization. That’s why it’s a good idea to study the job market while deciding on a college degree.

What Jobs Are Available for Cyber Security Graduates?

Depending on a job seeker’s level of education, a very wide range of jobs are available. Information security assurance is experiencing explosive growth as the Internet continues to expand to new parts of the world and software products are designed for new and unprecedented purposes. With only a four-year education, cyber security workers can find employment in most occupations that rely on Internet access to exchange sensitive information for daily operations, including:

  • banks
  • credit card companies
  • tech companies
  • research laboratories
  • healthcare clinics
  • hospitals.

A cyber security technician may be needed to protect the information of customers, healthcare patients and software users or to prevent criminals from stealing proprietary information from private businesses.

Cybersecurity vs Data Science Salary

Cyber security versus data scientist salary

In the data science field, workers can earn a median annual salary of $122,840. The top earners in this profession can take home $200,000 per year or more. The reason data scientists receive such high incomes is that they have specialized skills that make them indispensable to many organizations. Data scientists can sort huge volumes of data to separate the noise from the valuable signal pointing in the direction of future trends and investment potential.

The earning potential for a data scientist depends on the amount of his or her education and work experience. Salary and education costs can be a big factor in the consideration of data analytics vs cyber security careers. While many jobs are available for workers with only a bachelor’s degree, the pay is much higher for those with a graduate-level education. With a master’s degree, a data scientist is qualified for a higher level of employment in a number of industries that are inaccessible to workers with only a bachelor’s degree.

Another factor that affects pay is the type of work that a data scientist does. The highest-paying jobs are in software design, commanding a median salary of around $140,000. Other high-paying jobs for data scientists include positions in:

  • research and development
  • the life sciences
  • bio-engineering
  • computer systems design
  • management information systems

Although these careers are related, they differ in some important ways. When comparing cyber security vs data analytics, cyber security jobs are more abundant.  They also require less education.  Data science jobs tend to pay significantly more. When the education investment is taken into consideration, a cyber security career could be a better choice for students who want to join the labor force as soon as possible. Instead of spending another two years earning a master’s degree to become a data scientist, a student could leave college after earning a bachelor’s degree to become a cyber security analyst. When comparing data science vs cyber security salary figures, the median salary for data scientists is about $22,000 per year higher than the median for cyber security analysts, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Cybersecurity Vs Data Science Job Outlook

With the tech industry expanding at a rapid rate, there is usually a shortage of skilled data scientists and cyber security technicians in the labor market. Employers may be competitive in luring new professionals to their companies with high salaries, bonuses, benefits and advancement opportunities. Job seekers with experience and knowledge in both fields will have the greatest number of opportunities while professionals with specialized knowledge in a particular area will have access to higher pay and greater responsibility. These two professions are already two of the fastest-growing occupations in the economy, and with continued growth of the tech industry and the Internet, their demand in the job market is unlikely to slow down.

Job seekers can improve their employment prospects and earning potential by obtaining professional certification, graduate degrees or both. Specialized certification is a good idea for cyber security or data scientists with advanced skills in a particular area. Because job growth in these fields is projected to be quite fast, most job seekers with a good resume will be able to find work. However, the highest-paying jobs will go to the candidates with the proper education and experience.

With the economy transforming at an unprecedented rate and many analysts concerned that some jobs will be replaced with artificial intelligence, data science and cyber security are set to be two of the most secure occupations in the tech sector. The question of data science vs cyber security salary, education and job outlook is a matter of personal interest and professional achievement.

What is the Best Ratio of Data Science and Cybersecurity?

With the intensifying role of cybersecurity, the intersection with data science has revealed itself. Though there are significant differences between the two degrees, the demands of the marketplace are moving the two degrees closer every year. The future looks to merge the two as one science.

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