2020 Best Online Cybersecurity Degrees & Courses

By OnlineU Staff | Updated April 21, 2020

Learn about career options in cybersecurity, or peruse the 25 best schools, ranked based on tuition costs and salaries of alumni reported by PayScale. Students interested in pursuing cybersecurity degrees should ensure their degrees are accredited.

2020 Best Online Colleges Offering Bachelor's in Cybersecurity Degrees

2020 Best Online Colleges Offering Bachelor's in Cybersecurity Badge

With low tuition rates and high average alumni salaries, the following 25 schools offer the best online bachelor's in cybersecurity degrees. Graduates of the #1 school, George Mason University, report earning a median salary of $103,200. Ranked #2, Thomas Edison State University offers distance learners a Bachelor of Science in Cybersecurity for $9,856 per year. Alumni reported a mid-career salary of $88,000.

Alumni salaries were provided by PayScale. View our methodology for more details or learn more about OnlineU.

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2020 Online Colleges Offering Cybersecurity Degrees - Ranking Details

Online Cybersecurity Degree Overview & Career Information

Online cyber security degrees may open the doors to a plethora of career options for those interested in the field. A two-year associate degree in cyber security will prepare graduates for entry-level positions such as security specialist and applications security specialist. Holding an associate degree is also a base for pursuing industry certifications.

Those who wish to continue in their cyber security studies have many options above an associate degree, including bachelor’s, master's, and doctoral options. Bachelor's degrees typically require four years and 120-credits to complete. Students will gain skills in computer forensics, vulnerability assessment, software assurance, and security compliance. These skills are necessary to obtain a career working as a security software engineer, computer forensics analyst, information security analyst, or an information systems security administrator.

A master's degree will allow graduates to apply for senior-level positions such as security application programmers, penetration testers, security architects, and vulnerability analysts. Studies take two years on average and include a focus on biometrics, cryptology, and digital forensics. Completing a three-year doctoral program will advance graduates' knowledge in reverse engineering, data collection, malicious code analysis, and wireless security. This type of degree will prepare industry professionals for roles in the military, government agencies, intelligence, and law enforcement.

Lastly, undergraduate and graduate certificate programs are available and take between two and three years to complete. These programs are specifically designed for working industry professionals who would like to further their education on a part-time basis in order to receive promotions or higher pay.

Online Associate Degrees in Cybersecurity

An online associate degree in cyber security can prepare participants for a number of career opportunities within the industry. Due to today's computer-driven workplaces work can be found at almost every organization that uses a wireless network. Graduates obtain careers in a wide range of industries advising employee teams of security risks, designing security measures, and performing risk assessments. Participants in a cyber security program will typically graduate with their associate degree in two years, after earning between 60-68 credit hours.

Students will complete general education requirements as well as industry related courses in computer forensics and cyber law, network security and security administration, and database security. Online associate programs also prepare students to pass industry certifications such as CompTIA+, Network+, and even the more complex ISC2 Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP). Aspiring cyber security students must present their high school diploma or its equivalent, such as a GED certificate. Successful grades in math, specifically calculus and statistics are an asset, as well as strong grades in science and proficiency in English. In most cases, a student will have to present passing results of one of these tests: ACT, SAT, ASSET, or COMPASS. There are a wide variety of schools that offer online associate degrees in cyber security including universities, community colleges, and vocational schools.

Online Bachelor's Degrees in Cybersecurity

Students enrolled in cyber security bachelor's degree programs will gain industry relevant knowledge and skills in computer forensics, security compliance, software assurance, and vulnerability assessment. Graduates may go on to jobs as security software engineers, information security analysts, information systems security administrators, and security policy analysts.

Bachelor's programs take four years to complete and are comprised of 120 credit hours. Core courses include Introduction to Computer Security, Computer Forensics I & II, Security Compliance, Security Risk Management, Security Capstone, Software Assurance, and Scripting with Perl. Within the program, students also have the option to learn about specific topics such as ethical hacking, cryptology, and artificial intelligence. Students will also prepare to sit for CompTIA and Network+ certification exams.

Online Master's Degrees in Cybersecurity

Graduates with bachelor's degrees who are looking to further their studies in cyber security may be interested in pursuing a master's degree. Due to the technical nature of these master's programs, applicants should hold an undergraduate degree in cyber security or a related field such as computer science, mathematics, engineering, or statistics. However, those who do not hold an undergraduate degree in the discipline can be considered if they have significant work experience in information technologies including networks, web services, and database development.

Students can expect to graduate with their master's in cyber security within two to three years. Coursework includes Introduction to Operating Services, Computer Networking, Design and Analysis of Algorithms, Web and Internet Information Retrieval, Network Security, and Information Security Management. Master's programs delve deeper into cyber protection and threat analysis than bachelor's program and may give students the skills needed to work as information assurance managers, intelligence analysts, security engineers, enterprise architects, catastrophe risk analysts, IT analysts, and IT consulting managers.

Online Doctoral Degrees in Cybersecurity

Graduates with a solid foundation in computer science may be interested in pursuing a Ph.D. Doctoral program applicants must hold a bachelor's degree in cyber security from a regionally accredited institution of higher education and have a passing GRE score. Doctoral programs in cyber security are highly intensive and take between three and seven years to complete depending on whether a student is full time or part-time. Program participants will complete between 60-64-credit hours of coursework in courses such as Advanced Reverse Engineering, Advanced Software Exploitation, Design Research Methods, Cyber Security Research, Theory of Computation, Advanced Network Hacking, and Wireless Security. Course load varies depending on the student’s chosen dissertation research topic. It is also important to note that students who do not hold a master's in cyber security prior to enrolling in their doctoral program will be required to complete up to an additional 27-credit hours of master's level courses in cyber security.

During their course of study, students must also complete a dissertation. After completing their dissertation, students will take a dissertation defense exam to show, prove, and defend their research and results. Those who hold a Ph.D. in cyber security may find work as professors, researchers for private industry firms, and researchers for federal, state, and local government agencies.

Online Certificates in Cybersecurity

Along with degree options, many colleges and universities offer non-degree cyber security certification courses. There are two types of certifications available: undergraduate and graduate. Undergraduate certification programs are designed for people who want a practical, quick education in cyber security. Students will take up to 16-credit hours of coursework in two years’ time including courses in Computer System Security, Cyber Security Defenses, Cybercrime, and Cyberterrorism. An undergraduate certification can prepare people for jobs as computer network architects, computer security specialists, and computer systems analysts.

Students with a bachelor's degree in cyber security are eligible for graduate cyber security certification programs. Graduate certification programs require 12-16 credit hours of coursework and will prepare students for management-level positions as web developers, computer network architects, and information security managers. Over the course of 1-3 years, students will learn important skills such as cryptographic techniques, designs for network defenses, and identifying potential threats. Specialized certificates include Cyber Law, Advanced Engineering, Homeland Security Management, Healthcare Security, and more. These programs allow for students holding a bachelor’s in cyber security to improve their industry specific skills or prepare for a master's degree. Some programs will also help prepare students for the CISSP certification.

The Importance of Accreditation

Accreditation is the process used to evaluate higher education institutions on their quality, standards, and efforts towards continuous improvement. These evaluations are conducted by private, non-profit organizations centered on conducting external quality reviews. There are six different regional accrediting organizations operating in the U.S. where they evaluate two-year and four-year schools within their regions. Accreditation comes into play when students are interested in transferring their credits to another institution or apply for graduate programs later on. It is also important to keep in mind that federal financial aid programs are only available to institutions that have been accredited by federally recognized agencies.

The National Security Agency (NSA) and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) jointly sponsor the National Centers of Academic Excellence (CA) program. By promoting higher education in cyber defense and producing professional experts in cyber defense, the program aims to reduce vulnerability in the US national information infrastructure. CA is the major accrediting source for cyber security programs and centers on demonstration of outreach and collaboration, student development, cyber defense faculty, and cyber defense multidisciplinary efforts. Accreditation is important within the cyber security industry because, for many employers, having a degree from an accredited school can be a hiring criterion.

Careers in Cyber Security

For aspiring industry professionals, a cyber security degree will present opportunities for a variety of careers. Two key job titles include cyber security specialist and cyber security architect. Cyber security specialists work with both public and private organizations to build and maintain a high level of security for their computer information systems. They identify complex issues that may arise with sensitive data and work to keep business running as usual. They will build firewalls, monitor data files, and regulate access to safeguard information to mitigate the risk of cyber crime.

Cyber security architects build and oversee the implementation of network security for an organization. Responsibilities include designing and maintaining corporate security procedures, performing vulnerability testing and security assessments, preparing cost estimates, and upgrading system security as needed. Security architects will also be in charge of a programing team and will oversee their work and progression. Employers of cyber security architects tend to look for applicants with advanced certifications gained from accredited programs. Some key certifications include CISSP: Certified Information Systems Security Professional, CISM: Certified Information Security Manager, CEH: Certified Ethical Hacker, and CSSA: Certified SCADA Security Architect.


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