Master’s in Computer Science vs Cybersecurity: What’s the Difference?

Information technology specialists have myriad career paths to consider, many of which are seeing strong job growth today. The market for cybersecurity jobs, for example, is expected to increase more than 200% by 2020. Yet, even within the field of cybersecurity, specialists can choose from more than one path to advancement.

Professionals considering an advanced cybersecurity or computer science degree often weigh other common questions:

What are the career prospects for computer science and cybersecurity?

The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects a 19% growth rate for computer science jobs and a 28% growth rate for information security jobs through 2026. As of 2017, the median compensation for either field was more than double the national average for all occupations.

Does cybersecurity require computer programming?

Not all cybersecurity degree programs require programming knowledge, unlike those in computer science. Even so, knowing programming can be an advantage in the workplace.
As you consider your future, it’s important to understand the advantages and disadvantages of computer science education compared to those of a more specialized program of study like cybersecurity.

Should you pursue graduate education in cybersecurity? Or would a computer science degree be better for you? Here is a comparison:


Key Differences: Masters in Computer Science vs Cybersecurity

Master’s in Computer Science

  • General education with some options for specialization in fields like artificial intelligence and robotics
  • Coursework in programming, operating systems, and database management
  • Some programs offer limited cybersecurity education

Master’s in Cybersecurity

  • Focus on protecting digital information and managing risk
  • Coursework in mobile and cloud security, data protection, and digital forensics
  • Programs provide instruction in cyber policy and law

How a Master’s in Computer Science Prepares You for a Tech Career

A master’s in computer science is ideal for those interested in innovative technologies like artificial intelligence, human–computer interaction and robotics.

Course content for a computer science degree typically includes:

  • Operating system structures
  • System management
  • Network architecture
  • Programming
  • Algorithms
  • Database design and management
  • Structured query language (SQL)
  • Computer graphics

Professionals who graduate with a master’s-level computer science degree find opportunities to conduct technical research in ground-breaking areas like artificial intelligence, as well as to support other aspects of their employers’ information technology needs by developing networks and databases.

A computer science degree will equip you for a career in this rapidly progressing field that encompasses numerous opportunities for advancement; however, many computer science degree programs do not include concentrations in specialized areas. To gain the highest level of proficiency in a specific area of information technology, you might need to pursue education or certification beyond a computer science degree.


Guard Organizations from Data Breaches with a Master’s in Cybersecurity

With Verizon reporting in 2018 that 76% of data breaches had a financial motivation, businesses increasingly depend on the professionals responsible for protecting and defending the enterprise’s virtual assets. The need for organizations to shield themselves against attacks drives the job market’s high demand for employees with specialized cybersecurity knowledge and skills.

Professionals interested in learning how to structure and maintain systems that protect and defend valuable public and private data are good candidates for a master’s degree in cybersecurity.

Cybersecurity degree program course content focuses on how to reduce vulnerabilities to digital networks, software, and information, and they provide instruction on risk management to assess and mitigate damage done by cyberattacks. Optimal cybersecurity programs also teach cloud security, an increasingly important concept. Achieving expert-level proficiency in cloud security will become even more important as businesses integrate different cloud environments with each other and with their on-premise systems.


About the Master of Engineering in Cybersecurity Policy and Compliance at GW

Intelligence-bred. Intelligence-led.While cybersecurity programs tend to focus on either technical knowledge or policy, the Master of Engineering in Cybersecurity Policy and Compliance degree from George Washington University uniquely explores policy through the lenses of engineering, cybersecurity and computer science.

For the M.Eng.(CPC), students apply cybersecurity knowledge in light of the standards that underlie actionable cyber intelligence plans. The GW faculty members who teach in this program hold doctorates in engineering and computer science. They guide students to a thorough understanding of cybersecurity and the policies that support it.

When enrolled in the GW M.Eng.(CPC) program, full-time engineers, IT specialists, project managers, software developers and other professionals can position themselves for career advancement without disrupting their work schedule.

This article was updated on August 15, 2018.


« »

Request Information

To learn more about GW’s online graduate program in cybersecurity policy and compliance and download a free brochure, fill out the fields below. If you have any additional questions, please call (855) 898-4630 to speak to an enrollment counselor.

* All Fields Required. Your Privacy is Protected.

The George Washington University respects your privacy. By submitting this form, you consent to receive emails and calls, which may use automated technology, from a representative of GW. We need your consent to contact you, but you can enroll without consenting to our contacting you.