9 June, 2021

The circumstances of 2020 made it extremely clear that network security and cloud security are essential for today’s digitally connected world. More records were compromised in 2020 than in any year since at least 2005, increasing 141 percent over 2019’s numbers, according to consulting and solutions firm Risk Based Security.

Network security and cloud security overlap in many areas, and knowing the differences between them will help you take the right steps to secure the career of your dreams or to implement the right security methods within your current role.

In this article, we’ll provide both sides of the network security vs. cloud security argument, showing where they overlap and differ, and we’ll suggest certifications that can boost the careers of current and future security professionals.

What Is Network Security?

Network and Cloud SecurityNetwork security is a discipline that prevents unauthorized access to networks and their connected resources. These networks vary in scale from private home offices to large corporate campuses.

Network security differs from cloud security in that it protects the network of just one organization. This field is suitable for individuals who are interested in cybersecurity but would prefer to work on the client end — for example, in finance or education — rather than joining a cloud services company. That said, some of the actions taken to maintain a secure network, including multifactor authentication and malware protection, are also utilized by cloud service providers.

What Is Cloud Security?

Cloud security involves protecting the networks, servers, applications and data that make up a cloud computing ecosystem. Studying cloud security may be the right fit for those who are interested in a position with a SaaS, PaaS, IaaS or other cloud service provider. Because a single cloud service supports multiple organizations, a security breach can have drastic consequences, potentially compromising millions of records.

The responsibility for securing the cloud lies with both the providers and clients using their resources. The former must protect the data and infrastructure, while clients must use secure methods like strong passwords and multifactor authentication — the same methods needed to protect their own private networks — to access their data. The majority of cyberattacks are caused by human error from non-IT employees, so cloud security professionals sometimes create or provide training to ensure their customers and coworkers use the latest best practices to minimize the possibility of accidental breaches.

Network Security vs. Cloud Security Career Information

Many employers, especially those outside of the tech industry, expect their IT teams to be well-versed in both network security and cloud security. Network security engineers can find themselves relying on their knowledge of cloud security best practices as they implement new processes or troubleshoot issues, and vice versa.

The job similarities extend to salaries as well. Per data from Payscale, the average network security analyst salary is $72,388, and the average cybersecurity analyst salary is $76,550. The difference in pay between network security engineers and cloud solutions engineers is even narrower, with the former earning $87,016 on average and the latter at $87,246.

Preparing for the Cybersecurity Skills Gap

Businesses are in desperate need of talented cybersecurity professionals. In 2020, more than half of respondents suffered from cybersecurity staff shortages, according to an annual study from the International Information System Security Certification Consortium, Inc ((ISC)2).

That said, employers are only looking for the best, and job applicants are coming prepared. Per the consortium’s survey from the prior year, approximately 28 percent of cybersecurity professionals in 2019 held master’s degrees. That amount grew to 35 percent in 2020. The number of bachelor’s degree holders also increased but at a much narrower margin, from 38 percent to 41 percent.

Taken together, this information suggests that the job market is becoming more competitive despite the skills shortage. A master’s degree in cybersecurity can help you address both aspects of this situation, positioning yourself as a more talented candidate than your peers and equipping you with the knowledge and skills to face complex and ever-adapting cybersecurity threats.

Certifications: An Advantage in the Cybersecurity Job Market

Respondents to the (ISC)2 2020 survey said they feel more confident when hiring candidates with job-related certifications. Earning one or more alongside your master’s degree can put you ahead of applicants with lesser credentials.

Below are a few recommended organizations and programs likely to interest security professionals:

Organization CompTIA ISACA (ISC)2
  • A+
  • Network+
  • Security+
  • Cloud+
  • Certified in Risk and Information Systems Control (CRISC)
  • Certified Information Security Manager (CISM)
  • Cybersecurity Practitioner (CSX-P)
  • Systems Security Certified Practitioner (SSCP)
  • Certified Cloud Security Professional (CCSP)
  • Certified Secure Software Lifecycle Professional (CSSLP)
  • HealthCare Information Security and Privacy Practitioner (HCISPP)

About the Online Cybersecurity and Cloud Computing Master’s Programs at GW

The George Washington University has three online master’s programs preparing graduates to address the data management and protection needs of today’s digitally connected organizations:

If you’re interested in learning more about opportunities in this rapidly growing field, explore the online cybersecurity and cloud computing master’s programs at GWU.

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