UC Berkeley cybersecurity master’s students double their salaries postgrad

BY Sydney LakeAugust 04, 2022, 7:37 PM
A sign welcoming new students is posted at Sproul Plaza on the UC Berkeley campus in March 2022. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

Cybersecurity workers are in high demand—and the White House is even calling for action. “With approximately 700,000 cybersecurity positions open, America faces a national security challenge that must be tackled aggressively,” reads a July 2022 announcement from the White House National Cyber Workforce and Education Summit.

The government and private sector alike are so desperate for cybersecurity workers because of a massive talent gap in the industry. Cybersecurity gigs often require candidates to have certifications or trainings in the field, whether it’s through the company itself, a university, or other accrediting groups. Just one of the many ways to break into the cybersecurity industry is earning a master’s degree in the field, which can be done online. 

Ranked No. 1 in the nation for its online master’s in cybersecurity by Fortune, the University of California at Berkeley sees its graduates go on to both high-ranking and high-paying jobs in the field. In fact, in 2020–21, students entering the program self-reported salaries of $104,100 while their peers who were graduating during that same period reported salaries of $200,000—almost twice as much.

While these aren’t the same student populations, this data could serve to indicate what potential exit salaries can look like for graduates of UC Berkeley’s online master’s in cybersecurity (MICS).

“Our UC Berkeley online master’s in cybersecurity allows students to not only develop technical expertise in cybersecurity, but also essential skills in communications, product development, customer success, and business,” Rebecca Andersen, UC Berkeley senior director of student and alumni career development, tells Fortune. “This allows our students to step into leadership roles within the cybersecurity field and attain significant salary increases as they make these career shifts.”

What UC Berkeley’s program is like

UC Berkeley’s online master’s in cybersecurity, which is hosted by the School of Information (I School), is coveted not only for its technical education, but its interdisciplinary approach. 

“While the definition of cybersecurity is the protection of internet-connected systems such as hardware, software, and data from cyberthreats, it is not only a technical field; it is an integral aspect of product development, customer success, governance, compliance, risk management, and business leadership,” Mary McHale, MICS career adviser, tells Fortune. “Organizations want business-minded as well as technically savvy professionals.”

MICS includes nine courses and takes 20 months to complete. Courses include anything from network and software security to privacy engineering and cryptography. Students also have the option to earn a certificate in applied data science in conjunction with their online master’s degree in cybersecurity. UC Berkeley ranks as having the No. 2 online master’s in data science program in the U.S., according to Fortune. 

“In our increasingly digital world, cybersecurity affects everything: people, companies, government, infrastructure, homes, devices, [Internet of Things], biotech, education, and health care to name a few,” McHale adds. “So a multifaceted understanding of these intersections is critical to managing the risk of our digital world.”

What jobs grads land—and what their salaries look like

MICS students come to UC Berkeley from several industries including tech, semiconductors, aerospace, defense, military, health care, finance, fintech, government, and consulting, McHale says. After graduating from the program, many students move on to new roles—“frequently ones with more responsibility and leadership.”

Early- and mid-career cybersecurity master’s graduates go on to jobs including software engineer, pen tester, cybersecurity threat analyst, network administrator, cybersecurity consultant, and security program manager, among many others. 

Software engineers at top companies like Google and Capital One land starting salary packages of $133,000—with lead or senior software engineers at these companies landing packages of $230,000 all the way up to more than $350,000, according to data from career and salary platform Levels.fyi

“Each student has a unique background they bring to the MICS program, and we would never tell an individual student to expect a particular salary increase,” Andersen says. “However, I can say that students should expect that if they are making career transitions into highly specialized technical or leadership roles within cybersecurity, they should expect strong salaries to match.”

MICS grads who are in the more senior part of their career report holding positions including cyber warfare operations officer, product security engineer, and senior cloud security engineer—as well as C-suite positions like chief technology officer (CTO), chief security officer (CSO), chief information security officer (CISO), and chief information officer (CIO). Average salaries for these positions run well into the six figures, according to several career and salary resources, with C-suite salaries in the $200,000-and-up range.

To help land these lucrative jobs, students in UC Berkeley’s online master’s in cybersecurity program have access to professional networking and personalized career services and coaching, which Andersen says are “critical ingredients” that help its grads land top cybersecurity jobs. 

“Networking and building trust are extremely important in cybersecurity, and now students say they are seeing the close-knit MICS community and the I School network as a key benefit,” McHale notes. 

See how the schools you’re considering fared in Fortune’s rankings of the best master’s degree programs in nursingcomputer sciencecybersecuritypsychology, public healthbusiness analytics, and data science; the best doctorate in education programs and part-timeexecutive, full-time, and online MBA programs.