Web Analytics

Most Lucrative Skills: Should I Study Machine Learning, Data Science, or Cyber Security?

Most Lucrative Skills: Should I Study Machine Learning, Data Science, or Cyber Security?

Tech is where the money is. From the biggest titans in Silicon Valley to the little Square register at a roadside farm stand, business can’t happen without technology. Every transaction and exchange depends on the work of IT professionals wielding a set of specialized and lucrative skills, and the market can’t seem to fill some of the most important positions fast enough. Many adult learners want to know if they should pursue an online Cyber Security Degree, Data Science Degree or Machine Learning Degree. All of these jobs have a buzz in the IT field; CIO ranked all three in the top seven “Hottest IT jobs for 2017.” Just how hot are these jobs- and which one is the hottest? Read on to learn about the career outlook and the best way to learn the most essential and lucrative skills online, or in person, for each.

Machine Learning

Many Americans fear losing their jobs to automation. Machine Learning, which involves programming Artificial Intelligence, is one position with built-in security.
Machine Learning was famously defined by Arthur Samuel as “the study, design and development of the algorithms that give computers the capability to learn without being explicitly programmed.” Machine learning describes the methods used to build AI. Specifically, that means using synthetic neural nets to recognize patterns. If talk of AI sounds futuristic, think again. For anyone ever stunned by Facebook’s uncanny ability to pick out and tag people, Gmail’s ability to filter out spam, or Siri’s voice-recognition talents, machine learning can take the credit. Machine Learning technologies are also applied in other fields, such as bioinformatics, natural language processing, computer vision and robotics. There’s also a significant and growing overlap between Cyber Security and Machine Learning, as security experts look to create AI trained to recognize and respond to threats. Those versed in the basics can consider developing online skills in Deep Learning, the new frontier in Machine Learning. Deep Learning involves the study and design of machine algorithms for learning good representation of data at multiple levels of abstraction (ways of arranging computer systems).

Machine Learning Salaries and Job Market

According to Gartner, AI is expected to wipe out some 1.8 million jobs by 2020, while actually creating some 2.3 million. Needless to say, an online degree in Machine Learning offers a fast track to one of the jobs of tomorrow. But what does that job look like- and how well does it pay? The average salary for a Machine Learning Engineer is $134,316 per year according to Indeed, with the lowest salaries at $51,000 and highest at $256,000. How competitive is the market? There are 14,467 openings currently posted, and a dearth of qualified professionals to fill them. In fact, one in three employers looks abroad to fill these roles because of the scarcity of qualified domestic job seekers. Pursuing an online Machine Learning Degree can make you one of the sought-after few qualified to carry out this cutting-edge work. Not surprisingly, some of the biggest and best tech companies generate most of these jobs, including Apple, Google and Microsoft. Other popular employers are large retail and finance companies and tech startups.

An Online Machine Learning Degree is an excellent choice for those with a flair for mathematics and a knack for patterns and puzzles. Many experts in the field are also visually oriented, as programmers need to be able to represent and organize their plans. Finally, having a methodical disposition is key; facility with Hadoop and Unix is meaningless unless you can take your time to walk through the iterative process of building and improving a model.

Most Lucrative Skills in Machine Learning

To rise to the top in the field, professionals will need to master the following areas:

  • IT fundamentals (data structures, algorithms, computability and complexity)
  • Coding (C, C++. Java, PHP, Perl, Ruby, Python)
  • Probability and Statistics
  • Data Modeling and Evaluation
  • Distributed Computing
  • Applying Machine Learning Algorithms and Libraries

Data Science

A staggering 90% of the worldÕs information was created in the last two years, and some 80% of all enterprise data is unstructured. Collecting so-called Big Data is a major undertaking, but making sense of it is another task altogether. Companies are all too aware that they are sitting on a goldmine, but few can effectively make sense of their users’ data. That’s where data scientists come in. The position was dubbed “Sexiest Job of the 21st Century” by Harvard Business Review back in 2012. Five years later (a lifetime in the fast-evolving tech sphere), the role of Data Scientist still garners descriptions such as “the rock stars of the tech world.” What do these “sexy” “rock stars” do, exactly? Data Scientists look at huge volumes of raw data, determine trends, extract insights, use these to create predictive models, and convey their insights to business leadership. Data Analysis, on the other hand, is a more narrow field. Data Analysts typically search for trends within a data set provided by a business team, while Data Scientists are responsible for determining what data sets to look at in the first place, what patterns to seek out and how to apply those insights.

Data Science Salaries and Job Market

The demand for Data Scientists is projected to exceed supply by more than 50% by 2018. Currently, there are 23,481 job openings, with the majority of employers in the fields of e-commerce and health care, where predicting trends means big money. Amazon and Walmart post openings regularly. Aerospace and Defense companies also frequently require Data Science assistance. The average income for professionals with an online degree in Data Science is $130,504 per year according to Indeed, with the lowest salaries reported at $45,000 and highest of $258,000. Data Analysts, on the other hand, average about half of that figure, at $69,815.

In comparing Machine Learning, Cyber Security, and Data Science, we find that Data Science leads to the highest average earnings of the three. There are a number of readily-available, flexible and affordable choices for earning an Online Degree in Data Science as well. But is this the right degree for you? Data Scientists must wear many hats, and wield a variety of interdisciplinary skills. These top-paid professionals are expected to possess mastery in a broad range of technical skills, from analysis to engineering, as well as business acumen. Unlike many IT positions, this role involves actively driving business decisions and communicating with professionals in managerial and leadership positions. To sum up, a top Data Scientist will be comfortable in the domains of customer/user insights, analytics skills, statistical skills, programming skills, machine learning skills, data visualization, and communication. That’s a tall order, and the justification behind the high salary.

Most Lucrative Skills in Data Science

To rise to the top in the field, professionals will need to master the following areas:

  • IT fundamentals (data structures, algorithms, computability and complexity)
  • Proficiency in Multiple Coding Languages (R, C, C++. Java, PHP, Perl, Ruby, Python)
  • Advanced understanding of Math, Probability and Statistics
  • Data Modeling and Evaluation
  • Data Munging
  • Data Visualization
  • Communication and Decision-Making

Cyber Security

Recent high-profile security breaches, from Yahoo to Equifax, have everyone on high alert. The threats are real- hackers can take over computerized systems to commit identity theft, commit acts of terrorism or simply create chaos in the marketplace or social media. Furthermore, computers now play a large role in traditionally mechanical fields, such as automobiles, farm equipment and factories, all of which will need protection from hacks. Both private companies and public entities require cyber security experts to protect sensitive client and corporate information, and are willing to pay top dollar to secure the best and brightest professionals. Demand is high and rising. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the rate of growth for jobs in information security is projected at 37% from 2012-2022, far outpacing the general job market growth rate. The ISACA, a non-profit information security advocacy group, predicts there will be a global shortage of two million cyber security professionals by 2019.

Cyber Security Salaries and Job Market

Cyber security positions are not cut-and-dried. Employers use different job titles to describe the roles they expect their IT security professionals to play, making a clear assessment difficult. Nonetheless, it’s possible to get a snapshot of the field by surveying some common job titles. Information Security Analysts make a median salary of $84,188, while Network Security Engineers make $110,344 and IT Security Specialists earn $113,532 per year.

While these numbers may not seem as impressive as the more lucrative figures quoted for careers in Data Science and Machine Learning, a closer examination reveals a different story. Salaries for C-level positions in other IT fields, such as data and programming, have not risen as quickly as those of Chief Information Security Officers (CISO’s). While CISO’s made between $140,250 and $222,500 on average in 2016, that figure jumped to $233,333 by 2017. With cyber attacks becoming a mainstay in the nightly news, the trend in salary growth for CISO’s only seems likely to continue. And in cyber hotspots such as San Jose and San Francisco, yearly income for CISO’s averages a whopping $360,000 and $380,000 respectively.

An online cyber security degree is a great choice for those who enjoy outwitting the bad guys and defending their information “territory”. There is an undeniable cat-and-mouse element to the field of cyber security, where both hackers and security professionals are constantly vying to outsmart one another. And while the “good guys” in this scenario may be building a firewall rather than a bank vault, the cops-and-robbers dynamic is much the same. To parlay your online cyber security degree into the most lucrative position, set your sights on the Chief Information Security Officer role. Employment is highest in the defense, e-commerce and finance sectors, as well as cyber-security startups. With 34,571 current job postings, finding work should be easy. Ambitious cyber security degree holders may want to settle in the competitive- and incredibly lucrative- Silicon Valley area.

Most Lucrative Skills in Cyber Security

To rise to the top in the field, professionals will need to master the following areas:

  • IT fundamentals (web applications, system administration)
  • Coding (C, C++. Java, PHP, R, Python)
  • Architecture, administration and operating systems
  • Certifications (for instance, CISSP, CEH, and Comp TIA Security)

The Most Lucrative Skills and Where to Find Them

As discussed above, each career demands mastery of specific skills, with a certain degree of overlap, particularly in the broader areas of IT fundamentals, statistics and programming. The majority of IT professionals choose to learn skills online to advance their careers. Online skills training allows for maximum flexibility in balancing work with learning, as the majority of programs offer on-demand content and other accommodations. Furthermore, the high-tech and lucrative skills that IT professionals need are naturally suited to the virtual environment, with some schools even incorporating internet-based labs and simulations to distance learners. For many, acquiring online skills means pursuing an online degree in Cyber Security, Machine Learning or Data Science at the undergraduate or graduate level. Other students take courses and develop online skills with the goal of staying current or broadening their areas of expertise to include more advanced and more lucrative skills. Certificates offer still another option. A certificate can be earned more quickly than an online degree in Cyber Security, Machine Learning, or Data Science, but are more formally organized around a specific area of mastery than piecemeal coursework.

Whether you choose to take classes on campus or learn online skills, there are excellent career prospects in Cyber Security, Machine Learning and Data Science. Those with a talent for tech and the ambition to advance should not hesitate to select from among these top three disciplines and acquire the lucrative skills essential to succeeding within it.