Ethical hacking is a branch of cyber security that specialises in the improvement of security systems. An ethical hacker, also known as a ‘white hat hacker’, systematically attempts to penetrate computer systems and networks, as well as also working on applications and programmes. This process allows their owners to bolster their systems or programmes. This can mean that any potential vulnerabilities can be found and remedied, before they are taken advantage of by a cyber-criminal.
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About Ethical Hacking
The accreditation of your degree will depend on where you choose to study. At undergraduate level, you can expect to be awarded a Bachelor of Science (BSc), or an integrated Master of Science (MSci). At postgraduate level, you can expect to be awarded a Master of Science (MSc), or a Master of Computing (MComp). Further study will award research degrees such as Master of Philosophy (MPhil) and Doctor of Philosophy (PhD).
Depending of your institution and course of choice, your degree may be accredited by the British Computer Society (BCS). Once you have graduated, you may be presented with the opportunity to gain Certified Ethical Hacker (CEH) Certification. This is issued by the EC Council, and means that you will be able to work as a professional ethical hacker.
Generally, an undergraduate degree will take three to four years to complete, depending on where you choose to study. A postgraduate degree will normally take one to two years to complete.
Your institution may offer part-time study options, which usually means that your degree will take four to six years. You may also be able to take a foundation programme, which is useful if you do not meet the entry requirements for your degree.
Annual tuition fees for UK students are capped by the UK government. For the 2019/20 academic year, they are £9,250. This is subject to change each year, and will be updated on your institution website.
Postgraduate course annual tuition fees are set by the institution, which means that they can differ. Postgraduate programmes are generally less expensive than undergraduate programmes. You will find detailed fee information on the institution webpage.
The fees displayed below are an example of typical annual tuition fees for undergraduate and postgraduate ethical hacking degrees. Actual tuition fees can be found on the institution webpages.
Typical Annual Tuition Fees
- Undergraduate - £9,250
- Postgraduate - £8,500
An undergraduate degree will give you a good foundation of knowledge in the area of ethical hacking. You might study modules on system security implementation, software design, digital forensics, data structures, algorithms, and penetration testing. The majority of degrees will be designed to suit individuals who have limited experience with ethical hacking, as well as challenging those who may already have hands on experience in the area. All modules will be geared towards encouraging your professional development, ensuring that you are prepared for your future career. Your degree will be delivered through lectures and tutorials, as well as incorporating computer laboratory sessions. Depending on where you choose to study, you may be able to specialise towards the end of your degree. Assessment methods could include written work, group work, and hacking projects.
During a postgraduate degree, such as an MSc, you will build on the knowledge you gained at undergraduate level. The modules you study will cover the more complex and specialist areas of ethical hacking. You will gain an understanding of the contemporary concepts of the subject area, and will be developing your skills in a fast-growing discipline. Modules and specialisms might include social engineering, software development, information governance, and risk management. You will not only improve your hacking skills, you will also improve your knowledge of fixing any problems you run into. Assessment methods could include written work, software projects, and a final major research project.
The entry requirements for a degree in ethical hacking will depend on where you choose to study. They will also be influenced by the level of study for which you are applying. An undergraduate degree will require you to have some background in computing or computer science. Certain courses may also prefer you to have some familiarity with at least one programming language, but this will differ from institution to institution. If you do not have a strong background in the area, but can prove that you are passionate about ethical hacking, and can learn the skills, some universities might still consider your application. For a postgraduate degree, most universities will require that you have an undergraduate degree in ethical hacking, cyber security, or a closely related subject. At a higher level of study, it is likely that you will need to be comfortable using at least one programming language.
Typical Entry Requirements
- A Level Grades - ABB-BCC
- UCAS Points - 128-104 UCAS points
- Required/Desired Subjects - ICT, Computing, Mathematics, Physics, Design Technology
- Other Entry Requirements - potential requirement for familiarity with programming languages
- Degree Requirements - 2:2 or higher
- Required/Desired Subjects - Ethical Hacking, Cyber Security, Computer Science
Graduates of an ethical hacking degree will find that there are many career opportunities available to them. The demand for professional ethical hackers is increasing alongside the awareness of hacking as a potential threat. The range of skills gained throughout your degree will mean that you are able to work in a variety of industries. If you choose to work in a role directly related to your degree, jobs could include ethical hacker, information security professional tester, penetration tester, software developer, or network manager. If you choose to work in a role not directly related to your degree, jobs might include software engineer, games developer, or an IT consultant.