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Stop Cybercrime in Its Tracks: Earn a Cyber Security Associate Degree

Last updated on September 24, 2019

Cyber security risks are everywhere. That’s because electronic data leaves a trail, kind of like fingerprints. Whether you’re shopping online, reading a news article or even logging into your bank account, you’re leaving a series of breadcrumbs about who you are and where you’ve been. You can learn about those breadcrumbs and what they might mean to criminals through the Cyber Security program at DCCCD.

What Does Cyber Security Consist Of?

Cyber security and digital forensics is the study of gathering, preserving and analyzing the data found in computers and other digital devices. With each new digital device that enters our everyday lives, it’s becoming increasingly important to properly train individuals in how to protect personal electronic data and prevent, investigate and solve cyber crimes.

“If a company doesn’t have digital forensics, they’re looking into how they’re going to get digital forensics, or they’re putting a law firm or a big consulting company on retainer to handle their digital forensics,” said Jason Alvarado, lead faculty member of the Cyber Security program at Richland College. “Human resources departments have to use digital forensics just to conduct an employee investigation these days.”

How Much Do Cyber Security Specialists Make?

People who have a cyber security associate degree can expect to make about $50,000 a year in their first job out of school, said Alvarado. He noted that digital forensics experts will max out at $160,000 to $180,000. Examples from the Bureau of Labor Statistics include computer systems analysts, who in Texas make a mean annual range of $93,000Computer network support specialists in Texas make an average of $71,000 annually, while information security analysts can make an average of up to $92,000 annually.

The actual job duties for these positions might include things like technical analyses and interpretation of computer-related evidence. This ensures that collection of evidence and chain of custody processes are properly executed. You might also provide advisory services to enhance forensic investigations. “Those people are going to be your in-demand expert witnesses who can testify in court for companies that aren’t hiring digital forensic experts,” Alvarado explained. “They’re hiring an expert witness who happens to know digital forensics.”

How to Get a Cyber Security Degree

At DCCCD, the college that offers the Cyber Security degree program is Richland. You can earn a Cyber Security Associate in Applied Science degree in as little as two years or a Digital Forensic Analyst Advanced Technical Certificate in as few as two semesters. Richland’s degree program also offers areas of emphasis in cyber defense, digital forensics, information assurance, network security administration and system security administration.

Paula Viall, a Cyber Security student at Richland, entered the digital forensics field after the accounting job she had was shipped overseas.

“I did some research and found this is an up-and-coming field. It is wide open, it’s growing here in the U.S., and it’s less likely to be outsourced because you need people on the ground. I’ve enjoyed every minute of it,” she said.

Paula said one of the first things she learned when studying Cyber Security was not to worry about not having the IT background. In fact, sometimes an IT background can hinder students with a mindset of “this is how things are done.”

“We’re not looking necessarily for a technical person,” said Professor Alvarado. “I can make them technical. I can teach them the hard skills that they need, but it’s hard for me to teach somebody to problem-solve creatively.” Creative thinkers and problem solvers can be a great fit for the cyber security field.

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