You’ve been avidly watching “CSI: Cyber” and shows like it for years. Haven’t you imagined what it would be like to put your interest to work in the field of modern criminology yourself?
If your background is in computer technology or law enforcement, or if you simply have the bent of mind that lends itself to solving intricate mathematical puzzles as well as delving into the sometimes obscure workings of the human mind, a master’s degree in criminology with a specialization in cybercrime may just be the answer to a new and endlessly fascinating career.
While there are a wide range of well-paying salaried jobs available in the fast-growing field of cybersecurity, there are also exceptional opportunities to work as an independent consultant.
What Exactly Is Criminology?
Simply put, criminology is the study of crime. Specifically, it focuses on crime’s causes and consequences as well as its costs, both real and to society in general. The field of criminology encompasses a variety of specialties. For example, a criminologist may investigate crime scenes, interface with suspects, or specialize in research, such as looking into whether or not criminal psychopaths can control their own actions. He or she might work with government agencies or private security firms, or might serve as a consultant to law firms and courts and participate as an expert witness in criminal proceedings.
Above all, criminologists are analysts. The work involves collecting and putting together detailed data that leads to conclusions and recommendations that can be used to solve or prevent illegal activity. Using all the skills and resources at their command — from the field of psychology to the study of statistics — criminologists provide the information that supports the criminal justice system in pursuing lawbreakers as well as in understanding and predicting their behavior.
What Do Cybersecurity Professionals Do?
For one thing, their lives aren’t dull. The work environment is ever-changing, requiring the utmost ability to adapt and to rapidly respond to threats. Not only do you have to be assured of your technical chops, but you’ve got to be something of a detective, too.
Cybersecurity professionals might work in a variety of different locations and situations, and sometimes keep unconventional hours. In other words, just the kind of working conditions that keep you on your toes and provide the sort of challenges that you don’t find in a routine job… and isn’t that why you decided not to stay in a routine job in the first place?
The U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s National Institute for Cybersecurity Careers and Studies describes a host of categories in which you’re bound to find your personal niche. These include:
- Computer Crime Investigator
- Cryptanalyst or Cryptographer
- Disaster Recovery Analyst
- Forensics Expert
- Intrusion Detection Specialist
- Security Architect
- Security Analyst
- Security Consultant
- Security Software Developer
- Virus Technician
- Vulnerability Assessor
What Makes Cybersecurity a Good Career Choice?
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment of information security analysts, for example, is projected to grow 37 percent through 2022, which is a far higher rate than the average for all occupations. As of its most recent salary survey in May of 2012, the Bureau reported that the median average wage for information security analysts was $86,170, though other surveys indicate some make upwards of $116,000. As a consultant, of course, you set your own salary.
The speed at which the digital world is taking over all aspects of our lives, and the threats raised by hackers and cyberterrorists of all kinds, has created a high demand for professionals trained in coming up with the solutions and means to safeguard critical information on everything from personal laptops to the most sensitive governmental and military computer networks.
What Qualifications Do I Need?
A career in cybersecurity requires at least college-level understanding of math and statistics, technical IT skills, and typically, a master’s degree. While post-grad specialties in computer science and mathematics are useful, a master’s program in criminology with a specialization in cybersecurity will provide the necessary focus on computer forensics, law, evidence, cyberterrorism, and risk management that are important job qualifications. The work itself requires intelligence, creativity, the ability to analyze complex situations, and skill in communicating, both in person and in writing.