Cybersecurity professionals can boost their careers by leveraging a degree in cybersecurity into a blend of skills matching the current needs of employers. In both the private and public sectors, one of the most in-demand skill sets combines cybersecurity and criminal justice expertise.

The rise in cybercrime drives demand for cybersecurity professionals. Cyberattacks account for some of the biggest crimes in recent history. Both large corporations and small businesses remain vulnerable to many types of cyberattacks. Law enforcement and national security agencies increasingly see cybercrime as the biggest threat in the future.

Demand remains high for experts with a degree in cybersecurity who can develop strategies that effectively block cybercriminals from stealing information or disrupting computer networks. Federal job projections call for a 35 percent increase in information security analyst jobs by 2031, far greater than the 5 percent growth projected for all occupations.

Combining Tech and Criminal Justice Skills

With cybercrime on the rise, professionals who graduate with a degree in cybersecurity focusing on technical and criminal justice skills have an advantage over their peers. Point Park University’s BS in Cybersecurity and Investigation program teaches students the technical skills to combat cybercrime, investigate past attacks, and assess weaknesses in systems.

The program focuses about one-third of its curriculum on technical skills and two-thirds on cybersecurity policies and economic impact. The program is highly valued by the CIA and other agencies that hire cybersecurity experts.

“An investigation is an investigation is an investigation,” Mike Botta, a former FBI agent and chair of the Point Park University Department of Criminal Justice and Intelligence Studies, said in an interview. “Whether it’s conducted on ground or through the world of cyberspace, you still have to build facts in the case.” 

Botta said experts with a degree in cybersecurity emphasizing technical and investigative skills are needed because “criminal activity is just rampant” in cyberspace. He noted the ingenuity of cybercriminals, including creating fake websites designed to lure people in and steal their information. “They’re put together so beautifully that the average person–who isn’t like me, sort of suspicious by nature–would think that they’re dealing with somebody completely legitimate.”

Careers For Cybersecurity Graduates

The Point Park University program prepares graduates to work for government agencies, private businesses, and law enforcement. Every “alphabet agency” in the federal government, including the CIA, FBI, ATF, DEA, and DIA, has some interest in cybersecurity. Botta said this is because “they come across [cyberattacks] now every day.”

Private businesses also want to protect internal documents and client or customer information. Government agencies not associated with law enforcement or national security have similar needs. They hire cybersecurity experts to build systems that protect the personal information of taxpayers who share information with government computer systems.

In terms of specific job duties, cybersecurity offers various choices. Experts concentrate on solving security problems in a variety of ways. Here are three examples.

Ethical Hacking

A cybersecurity graduate working in ethical hacking or penetration testing analyzes the effectiveness of an organization’s cyber defenses by attempting to hack its system. In the process, they determine a system’s vulnerabilities, the strength of safety measures, and what it might take to make a system fail.

An ethical hacking project starts by defining which computer systems are within the project’s scope, the test hours (so as not to interfere with regular business operations) and whether social engineering is allowed. Social engineering involves using psychology to trick people into revealing their passwords and other computer system information, often through email.

When finished, an ethical hacker provides a report to the organization on potential vulnerabilities and guidance on how to make cybersecurity stronger.

Digital/Computer Forensics

When a hack occurs, digital forensic investigators track down the details of when, where, and how a hack occurred. This can involve investigating an app’s software, a single computer’s hardware, or an entire network.

Cybersecurity experts in this area might perform digital forensics for a police department and conduct counter-terrorism or crime analysis for the FBI. A private company might want to investigate the theft of company information by an insider or hacking scams that threaten online retail operations.

In an interview with The Balance, a computer forensics investigator said his job is “as much an investigative function as it is a technical challenge. If either skill set is missing, one will have a harder time working successfully in the field.”

Security Architecture

Security architects design, test, and implement security features for an organization’s computer system. They use their extensive knowledge of cybersecurity and their own IT network to create systems that best defend an organization against outside attacks.

They also understand how people interact with computer systems, as human behavior is often at the core of cybersecurity issues. A security architect also ensures that organizations have systems incorporating the latest security protocols.

The Point Park University BS in Cybersecurity and Investigations prepares graduates for these types of essential roles in combatting cybercrime. Botta said the program is designed to teach students the critical competencies needed by hiring managers in government agencies and the private sector.

He said both sectors actively search for cybersecurity experts because “the crime capacity of the future, the national security concern of the future, lies within the realm of cyber. This is a cutting career for this time. It’s the new thing. It’s the new cop on the beat if you will.”