What is “Network Security”?
Network Security is best defined as a program or bundle of programs designed for the protection of critical data and access to a specified computer network (be it Business focused, Industrial, Administrative or Governmental). It is a broad term with many facets; although the common theme is permitting only authorized access to the program and information therein.
Why is Network Security Important?
In this day and age, keeping private data confidential is a daunting task. The steady increase of cyber attacks and data breaches demonstrates the “war zone” business, governmental and industrial networks are in. Hackers and Security Specialists play a game of ‘cat and mouse’ around unauthorized access; each side becomes more and more sophisticated as time goes by. Not only is proper training important, but continuing education is vital to the successful defense of any computer network.
What are the Best Degree Programs for Network Security?
Information technology and security is still a young field; while nearly all colleges and universities have degree programs in Information Technology, the field of Network Security is still being refined. Currently, there are 2-, 4- and 6-year degree programs available; each type has its pros and cons.
A 2-year Network Security degree (equivalent to an Associate’s Degree) may be valuable as an introduction to the field and entry-level job placement (with the anticipation of on-the-job training within the workforce to increase knowledge and hone skills).
A 4-year Network Security degree (Bachelor’s Degree) is good for career placement if the candidate has existing credentials within the IT field. Many schools offer a Bachelor’s Degree in the field and graduates can have good success in that career.
A 6-year program is considered the highest level/top tier degree program (typically a Master’s Degree or MBA program degree) and will be more comprehensive in its coursework (e.g. including intranet security as well as Network) and lead to more lucrative career placement (and future growth and success).
While the general field of study is still being settled (market forces are at work), all degree programs will include certain vocabulary such as Cyber & Network Security, Information Technology: Data Networking & Security, Engineering & Information Technology, Information Systems and/or Information Security.
What About Accreditation?
The best programs will be a part of NSA’s National Centers of Academic Excellence in Cyber Defense – a governmental program that regulates curriculum and specifies standard requirements.
Even with the oversight body, the field is still young enough for ‘caveat emptor’ (let the buyer beware) to be applicable. Research is your best friend when deciding on pursuing a degree in this (or any) field.