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So much confusion exists around computer science that most students are asking, “What is the difference between a Data Science degree and a Cybersecurity degree?” There has not been enough time since the expansion of computer science into different categories for the various fields to become traditional. The differences between the two areas of study were vast in the beginning, but today, due to marketplace needs, the areas are starting to merge.

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

Which Came First?

The computer age brought a rich goldmine of information through database storage. Businesses started the process of scanning printed material into digital data banks creating 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 those with computer savvy. Businesses prospered from data mining by identifying potential customers for new products. Business was so good that hackers started invading databases which brought on 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?

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

According to Forbes, Data Science is a simple name for a complex combination of fields. There are those data scientists who simply run basic SQL queries through databases to find information for those who make decisions. Others focus on research toward paper writing, data engineering, and data infrastructure to improve existing formats for searches. Another role focuses on the creation of search models, the measurement of product viability, and proactive exploration and experimentation of possible product and search mechanism designs. Then, there are hundreds of other sub-fields of data science that are commonly carried out by experienced personnel who have developed the ability to adapt on the fly.

What is Cybersecurity?

Cybersecurity involves the protection of information and assets, whether in private business or the public sector. Much attention has diverted to cybersecurity since the 2016 attempts to influence the election. Before that time the federal government naturally gravitated toward data science to control and interpret the immense amount of information stored in its various databases. Cybersecurity involves the use of protections for important databases including firewalls and other defense mechanisms. The cybersecurity expert not only maintains those defenses but also acts to attack the hacker, tracing the invader to its source.

Data Science and Cybersecurity Meet

The uptick on cybersecurity concerns at government levels comes at a time when private businesses are concentrating on improving their data science. Though companies were the first to become aware of and establish cybersecurity in their databases, the immense rewards of data mining has moved the business toward data science as the essential base of their computer departments. Meanwhile, the government, tasked with the protection of its citizens, ran toward the erection of defenses against any cyber attack. The situation created an atmosphere where the practitioner of cybersecurity must delve into databases to find signs of cybersecurity issues. The cybersecurity expert does not merely wait for an attack. Imaginative scenarios play out with twists and turns to prepare for attacks.

Many students entering college or returning to school after a hiatus may want to consider data science vs cyber security for their future careers. These two professions are in high demand throughout the job market, so a degree in either subject can virtually guarantee high-paying employment immediately after college. The differences between the two fields are in the details, and 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.

Data Science Vs Cyber Security Careers

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

Both data science and cyber security are rapidly growing fields. While 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 workers are in high demand in the labor market, so it can be difficult to choose between data science and cyber security for many students entering college. The main factor in this choice should be the student’s academic interests and career goals. It’s also possible to combine these two technical careers into a hybrid occupation by choosing the right degree focus.

Although these careers are related, they differ in some important ways. Cyber security jobs are more abundant and require less education while 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. 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.

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, but some schools offer only a general computer science bachelor’s degree. Because data science requires a good analytical mind and a lot of experience sifting through mountains of data, it’s important for college students to look for programs that offer hands-on experience at the undergraduate and graduate level. Data science students can contribute to research projects at their universities while they’re working toward their bachelor’s degrees. Most major research universities and state colleges offer ample research opportunities for data science students at all levels of education.

Some students may choose to enter the workforce after earning a bachelor’s degree, but many data science majors may instead 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 looking to specialize a data science degree with a focus such as data mining, data analysis, machine learning, artificial intelligence or even cyber security. A master’s degree or professional certificate will provide enough specialization for most positions in the data science industry, but some senior-level positions require a Ph.D. The amount of time required to complete a bachelor’s, master’s or doctoral degree will be a big factor for most people considering the question of data science vs cyber security.

What Jobs Are Available for Data Science Graduates?

The job market for data scientists is large and varied, ranging from Web and mobile programming to the cutting edge of artificial intelligence research. With a bachelor’s degree in data science, a job seeker can find employment in companies that hire teams of data analysts and machine learning experts 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 in this field, but a graduate degree or certificate can open the door to many new opportunities. With a degree focus on machine learning, artificial intelligence or cyber security, a college graduate can find more specialized and higher-paying work in this field. An advanced degree is typically required to fill leadership roles on teams tasked with data mining, data analysis and other highly technical projects. Job seekers with more education 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.

How Much Can Data Scientists Earn?

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

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 science 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 and management information systems.

What Are Some Good Degree Programs for Cyber Security Students?

Most cyber security jobs are available to graduates with a bachelor’s degree, but 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, so experience as a programmer is a requirement for most positions. A bachelor’s in computer science at most schools includes courses, labs and capstone projects related to programming.

Many cyber security professionals choose to pursue a Master of Business Administration in Information Systems degree to create new employment opportunities for themselves. The MBA is a good choice for cyber security technicians because it offers the option to specialize in computer-related subjects while also ensuring competence in business and management. With a master’s degree in a relevant subject, cyber security workers can earn significantly more on average than they can with only a bachelor’s degree. According to the BLS, the difference in salary between the median and the highest-earning professionals in cyber security is almost $60,000.

Another good option for cyber security workers is to obtain a professional certificate. There are certificates available in almost every specialization, including systems auditing, information assurance and penetration testing. Cyber security technicians with only a bachelor’s degree can obtain the Certified Information Systems Security Professional certificate, a general-purpose credential required by many employers.

What Types of 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, a cyber security professional 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 and 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.

Data Science Vs Cyber Security 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 science technicians 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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