Choosing between computer science and cybersecurity as a specialty can be difficult. Both offer unique opportunities, but which one is the better choice for you?
In this article, we will compare computer science vs. cybersecurity from multiple points of view, including salary, available jobs, and difficulty, to help you make the best decision for your career.
What Is Cybersecurity?
Cybersecurity is the practice of protecting computer systems and networks from unauthorized access or theft. Data breaches can result in the loss of sensitive information, and they can be costly to clean up.
Cybercriminals often target large businesses and government agencies, but no one is immune to attack. There are many ways to improve cybersecurity, including patching software vulnerabilities, using strong passwords, and encrypting data.
While there is no guaranteed way to prevent all attacks, following best practices can help to reduce the risk.
What Do Cybersecurity Specialists Do?
Cybersecurity specialists protect computer networks from being hacked. They work to keep computer systems safe from thieves and other people who might want to cause harm.
Cybersecurity specialists also help companies recover from computer attacks and make sure that they are better protected in the future. If you’re interested in this field, you will need to be technically skilled and able to think quickly on your feet.
Cybersecurity specialists are like the digital bodyguards of the computer world. They come up with ways to keep computer systems safe from attack, and they also help to defend against cyber attacks when they do happen.
As a cybersecurity specialist, you will need to have a deep understanding of computer systems and how they work. You will also need to be able to think like a hacker, so that you can anticipate their next move and stay one step ahead.
How Is Cybersecurity Relevant Today?
Cybersecurity is more relevant today than ever before. With the rise of the internet and the connected world, there are more opportunities for cybercriminals to steal data and cause havoc.
Cybercrime is becoming more sophisticated, and companies and individuals alike are at risk. While there is no guaranteed way to prevent all attacks, cybersecurity specialists can help to reduce the risk.
The world is becoming more and more digital, and that means that cybersecurity is more important than ever. With so much of our lives taking place online, there is a lot of sensitive information that can be stolen by cybercriminals. Examples of large-scale cyber attacks include:
- The 2017 Equifax data breach, which exposed the personal information of 145 million people
- The 2016 Yahoo data breach, which affected 3 billion accounts
- The 2014 eBay data breach, which affected 145 million people
- The 2013 Target data breach, which affected 110 million people
As you can see, cybercrime is a serious problem. And it’s only going to become more common as the world becomes more digital. That’s why cybersecurity specialists are in high demand. They play an important role in keeping computer systems safe from attack.
What Are the Different Types of Cybersecurity?
There are many different types of cybersecurity, and the most effective approach often depends on the type of threat. Some common types of cybersecurity include:
- Application security: This type of cybersecurity focuses on protecting applications from being hacked. This can be done by securing the code, improving user authentication, and using encryption.
- Data security: This type of cybersecurity focuses on protecting data from being stolen or destroyed. This can be done by encrypting data, creating backups, and using access control measures.
- Network security: This type of cybersecurity focuses on protecting computer networks from being hacked. This can be done by using firewalls, intrusion detection systems, and VPNs.
- Endpoint security: This type of cybersecurity focuses on protecting individual devices from being hacked. This can be done by using antivirus software, encrypting data, and using strong passwords.
Cybersecurity vs. Computer Science: What’s the Difference?
Computer science and cybersecurity are two popular fields of study that are often confused with one another. So, what is the difference between computer science and cybersecurity?
At its simplest, computer science can be defined as the study of computers and computer systems. This includes everything from hardware to software to programming. Cybersecurity, on the other hand, is the practice of protecting computer systems and networks from digital attacks.
Computer science is a broad field that covers a lot of different specialties. As a computer scientist, you could find yourself working in artificial intelligence, computer graphics, database management, or any number of other areas.
Cybersecurity is a relatively new field, but it is already growing rapidly. As a cybersecurity specialist, you could find yourself working in network security, computer forensics, or ethical hacking.
Cybersecurity is technically a branch of computer science. This means that computer science is the root of cybersecurity, and all cybersecurity specialists are computer scientists at their core.
While there are some differences between the two fields, computer science and cybersecurity both involve computers and the use of programming methods. This makes computer science an excellent foundation for a career in cybersecurity.
Cybersecurity vs. Computer Science: Education Requirements
Now that we’ve looked at the similarities and differences between computer science and cybersecurity, let’s take a closer look at the education requirements for each field.
In order to become a computer science professional, you could follow several different routes:
- Coding Bootcamp – 2-6 months
- Associate’s degree in Computer Science – 2 years
- Bachelor’s degree in Computer Science (BSCS) – 4 years
- Bachelor’s degree + Master’s degree in Computer Science (MSCS) – 5-6 years
- Bachelor’s degree + PhD in Computer Science – 7-8 years
Most computer science jobs will require at least a bachelor’s degree. However, there are some entry-level jobs that may only require an associate’s degree or coding bootcamp certificate.
For cybersecurity, there are also a few paths that could help you achieve your goal of becoming a cybersecurity specialist. These include:
- Coding Bootcamp with Cybersecurity specialization – 2-6 months
- Bachelor’s degree in Cyber Security, Computer Science (BSCS), or a related field – 4 years
- BSCS + MSCS or MS in Cybersecurity – 5-6 years
- BSCS + PhD in Cybersecurity – 7-8 years
As you can see, computer science is once again a great foundation for a career in cybersecurity. In most cases, you will need at least a bachelor’s degree to qualify for a job in cybersecurity. However, there are some entry-level jobs that may only require a coding bootcamp certificate.
Cybersecurity vs. Computer Science: Curriculum
So, what exactly will you study if you decide to pursue a computer science or cybersecurity degree? Let’s take a look at the typical curriculum for each field.
The computer science curriculum is designed to give students a well-rounded education in all things related to computers. This includes coursework in programming, computer systems, mathematics, and more.
Here are some of the most common computer science courses that you will take:
- Introduction to Computer Science
- Programming Fundamentals
- Data Structures and Algorithms
- Discrete Mathematics for Computer Science
- Operating Systems and Networking
- Database Management Systems
- Software Engineering
For a comprehensive review of the computer science courses you will study at a CS school, check out “The Computer Science Curriculum: an Overview“.
While a cybersecurity degree or concentration will often have overlapping foundational courses with a general computer science degree, the cybersecurity curriculum will have specialized courses focusing on computer security. This includes coursework in cryptography, computer forensics, network security, and more.
Here are some of the most common cybersecurity courses that you will take:
- Introduction to Cybersecurity
- Computer Forensics
- Network Security
- Web Security
- Penetration Testing
- Ethical Hacking
Cybersecurity vs. Computer Science: Demand
Computer science and cybersecurity are both in high demand, with the demand for computer science professionals outpacing the supply. In fact, there are currently more computer science jobs than there are computer science graduates. This means that computer science majors have their pick of the litter when it comes to job opportunities.
The cybersecurity field is also in high demand, with the number of cybersecurity jobs expected to grow by 35% from 2021 to 2031. This is much faster than the average growth rate for all other occupations. Cybersecurity professionals are in high demand due to the ever-growing threat of cyberattacks.
In 2017, 45% of companies experienced a cyber attack, which is a mind-boggling statistic. The global average cost of a data breach is $3.86 million on average for any given corporate cyber attack. It is estimated that by 2025, cybercrime will cost the world $6 trillion annually. This is more than the entire GDP of the UK today.
With the number of cyberattacks on the rise, it’s no wonder that cybersecurity professionals are in high demand. Computer science and cybersecurity both have a lot to offer in terms of job security and career growth potential.
Cybersecurity vs. Computer Science: Jobs and Salary
Job and salary prospects are another important factor to consider when choosing between computer science and cybersecurity.
As we mentioned earlier, computer science majors have their pick of the litter when it comes to job opportunities.
Both cybersecurity and computer science graduates are in high demand across a variety of industries, from tech to finance. Let’s take a look at what jobs and their respective salaries each field offers.
Here are some of the most common computer science jobs and their respective salaries:
- Software Engineer: $102,000
- Systems Administrator: $97,000
- Database Administrator: $99,000
- Web Developer: $82,000
- Network Engineer: $87,000
- Mobile Applications Developer: $107,000
- Cloud Solutions Architect: $126,000
- Data Scientist: $116,000
- DevOps Engineer: $105,000
As you can see, computer science jobs are well-paid, with the average computer science salary coming in at $102,000.
When it comes to cybersecurity jobs and salaries, we can see the following common positions:
- Information Security Analyst: $99,000
- Cybersecurity Engineer: $116,000
- Cybersecurity Consultant: $94,000
- Cybersecurity Manager: $140,000
- Penetration Tester: $98,000
- Incident Response Analyst: $93,000
- Security Architect: $130,000
- Cryptographer: $116,000
- Malware Analyst: $95,000
- Computer Forensics Investigator: $92,000
As you can see, there is a wide range of cybersecurity jobs available, many of which are even available for applicants without a degree. Thus, both computer science and cybersecurity offer a variety of job options with solid salaries.
Cybersecurity vs. Computer Science: Responsibilities
When it comes to computer science vs. cybersecurity, it’s important to consider the job responsibilities of each field. Computer science majors often work on developing new computer software, applications, and systems. Computer science majors often work in teams with other computer science professionals, such as software engineers and web developers.
On the other hand, cybersecurity professionals are responsible for protecting computer networks and systems from cyberattacks. Cybersecurity professionals work to identify security risks and vulnerabilities and then take steps to mitigate those risks. Cybersecurity professionals often work with computer science professionals to develop secure computer systems and applications.
On a daily basis, cybersecurity professionals deal with the following tasks:
- Identifying security risks and vulnerabilities
- Developing and implementing security measures
- Monitoring computer networks for security breaches
- Responding to cyberattacks
- Investigating cybercrime scenes
- Collecting evidence of computer crimes
- Testifying in court about computer-related crimes
- Training users on computer security
As you can see, computer science vs cybersecurity job responsibilities differ quite a bit. computer science majors often work on the development of new computer systems and applications, while cybersecurity professionals focus on protecting those computer systems and applications from attack.
Both computer science and cybersecurity are important fields, but it really depends on what you’re interested in as to which one is better for you.
Cybersecurity vs. Computer Science: Which Specialty Should You Choose?
So, computer science vs cybersecurity – which is the right specialty for you? The answer really depends on what you’re interested in and what you hope to achieve in your career.
If you’re interested in computer systems and application development, then computer science is the better choice for you. If you’re interested in protecting computer systems and networks from attack, then cybersecurity is the better choice.
Both computer science and cybersecurity are important fields, and there is a great demand for professionals in both fields. Software developer jobs are expected to grow by 25% from 2021 to 2031, and cybersecurity jobs are expected to grow by 35% from 2021 to 2031. So, whichever field you choose, you can be assured that there will be plenty of job opportunities available.
However, these specific considerations will help you discern whether you should choose computer science or cybersecurity as a career:
- Your interests. Do you like working with computer systems and developing new applications? If so, you may consider choosing computer science. Do you like working with computer networks and identifying security risks? If so, cybersecurity is the better choice for you.
- Your skills. Do you have strong analytical and problem-solving skills? Do you have experience with coding and software development? You are likely to do well in computer science in this case. Do you have strong investigative skills? Do you have experience with network security? In this scenario, cybersecurity could be a good match.
- Your goals. What do you hope to achieve in your career? Do you want to work in a specific industry, such as healthcare or finance? Do you want to work for a specific company, such as Google or Microsoft? Do you want to start your own business? Your goals will help guide you to the right specialty.
- Your work style. Do you like working independently or as part of a team? Do you like working on long-term projects or shorter-term projects? Do you like working with others who have similar interests or do you prefer a more diverse team? Your work style will also help guide you to the right specialty.
In conclusion, computer science and cybersecurity are both great fields to specialize in. Computer science offers a wide variety of job options and solid salaries. Cybersecurity is a rapidly growing field with excellent job prospects and salaries.
Computer science and cybersecurity both have a lot to offer in terms of job security and career growth potential. So, which one is better for you? It really depends on your interests, skills, and goals. Whichever field you choose, however, you’re sure to have a successful career.
If you do decide to go for cybersecurity, make sure to pick up the best laptop for cyber security professionals and students. Great practice starts with great hardware!
Elmar Mammadov is a software developer, tech startup founder, and computer science career specialist. He is the founder of CS Careerline and a true career changer who has previously pursued careers in medicine and neuroscience.
Due to his interest in programming and years of past personal experience in coding, he decided to break into the tech industry by attending a Master’s in Computer Science for career changers at University of Pennsylvania. Elmar passionately writes and coaches about breaking into the tech industry and computer science in general.