Complete Guide to an Online Cyber Security Degree

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Quick Facts
Accreditation: Institutional
Degree Levels: Associate, Bachelor's, Master's, Doctoral, and Certificate
Avg Tuition: $20,914

The 224 online cyber security programs on this page include associate, bachelor's, master's, doctorate, and certificate levels. Cyber security, a branch of information technology, is centered on preventing attacks on computer systems, networks, programs, and data. Cyber security specialists are usually employed at government agencies, military contractors, IT service companies, financial institutions, the armed forces, professional services firms, and cyber security-consulting firms.

Prospective cyber security students should pursue degrees at accredited institutions. Beyond general institutional accreditation, some schools may have program-specific accreditation for cyber security programs. The primary accrediting body for cyber security programs is the National Centers of Academic Excellence in Cyber Defense (CAE-CD) program. Choosing a program accredited by the CAE-CD may enhance future career opportunities. Read More

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Comprehensive List of Accredited Online Schools - Cyber Security Degrees (93)

Online Cyber Security Degree Overview & Career Information

There are many different academic paths available for those who are 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. This degree path will also prepare students to pass industry certifications. Those who want to further their knowledge and education should enter a bachelor's degree program. Through a four-year program, students will gain the skills in computer forensics, security compliance, and vulnerability assessment necessary to obtain above entry-level positions within the marketplace. Graduates of bachelor's programs often go on to work as security software engineers, information security analysts, and information systems security administrators.

Graduate degrees in cyber security are also available. A master's degree can help graduates prepare for senior-level positions such as security engineer, enterprise architect, and IT consulting manager. Completing a three-year doctoral program will advance graduates knowledge in reverse engineering, software exploitation, network hacking, and wireless security. This type of degree will prepare industry professionals for roles such as professors and researchers for private firms and government agencies. Lastly, undergraduate and graduate certificate programs are available and take between two and three years to complete. These programs are designed for working professionals who are looking for a quick and practical way to further their education. Graduates often receive promotions and higher pay within their current workplace.

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Online Associate Degrees in Cyber Security

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 often gain job titles including systems security specialist, operating systems security specialist, applications security specialist, and information assurance security specialist. An associate's degree is going to prepare students by giving them the necessary skills in performing risk assessments, evaluating current security policies, and building new security measures. Participants in a cyber security program will typically graduate with their associate's in two years after earning between 60-68 credit hours.

Students will complete general education requirements as well as major specific courses such as Wireless Networking, Introduction to Information System Security, Database Management Using SQL, and VPN/Firewall Architecture and Management I & II. The online associate programs also prepare students to pass industry certifications such as CompTIA+, Network+, and Security+. Aspiring cyber security students must present their high school diploma or its equivalent such as a GED certificate. They must also have previously taken and passed one of the following tests: ACT, SAT, ASSET, or COMPASS. There are a wide variety of schools that offer associate degrees in cyber security including niversities, community colleges, and vocational schools.

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Online Bachelor's Degrees in Cyber Security

Earning a bachelor's segree in cyber security is beneficial to aspiring industry professionals because through these programs they will gain the industry relevant knowledge and skills in computer forensics, security compliance, software assurance, and vulnerability assessment. Graduates often go on to jobs such as security software engineer, information security analyst, information systems security administrator, and security policy analyst.

The 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. Students will also prepare to sit for for CompTIA and Network+ certification exams.

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Online Master's Degrees in Cyber Security

Graduates who are looking to further their studies in cyber security can enter a master's program. 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 within two years through 30-33 credit hours of coursework.

Coursework includes Introduction to Operating Services, Computer Networking, Design and Analysis of Algorithms, Web and Internet Information Retrieval, Network Security, and Information Security Management. Aspiring industry professionals who hold a master's degree in cyber security will have a distinct advantage with more opportunities to enter above entry-level positions within the marketplace. Throughout a master's program, students will prepare for positions like information assurance manager, intel analyst, security engineer, enterprise architect, catastrophe risk analyst, IT analyst, and IT consulting manager.

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Online Doctoral Degrees in Cyber Security

Graduates who have a solid foundation in computer science may be interested in pursuing a Ph.D. Those who are interested in doctoral programs must hold a bachelor's degree in cyber security from a regionally accredited institution of higher education. Applicants must also have a bachelor's or master's in cyber security and a passing GRE score. Doctoral programs in cyber security are highly intensive study programs and take between three and seven years to complete depending on whether they study is full time or part-time. Program participants will complete between 60-64-credit hours of coursework including courses like Advanced Reverse Engineering, Advanced Software Exploitation, Design Research Methods, Cyber Security Research, Theory of Computation, Advanced Network Hacking, and Wireless Security.

During their course of study, students must also complete a dissertation, which is a formal document to present an original thesis and research findings to support the thesis. 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 an up to an additional 27-credit hours of master's level courses in cyber security. Those who hold a Ph.D in cyber security will be well prepared to work as professors, researchers for private industry firms, and researchers for federal, state, and local government agencies.

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Online Certificate Degrees in Cyber Security

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 like computer network architect, computer security specialist, and computer systems analyst.

If you hold a bachelor's degree in cyber security, you are eligible for graduate cyber security certification programs. Graduate certification programs offer 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 by completing courses in Introduction to Cryptography, Technology and National Security, Crypto Currencies: Bitcoin and Friends, and Introduction to Computer Networking.

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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 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 in Cyber Defense (CAE-CD) program. By promoting higher education in cyber defense and producing professionals experts in cyber defense, the program aims to reduce vulnerability in the US national information infrastructure. CAE-CD 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: Certificated Information Systems Security Professional, CISM: Certified Information Security Manager, CEH: Certified Ethical Hacker, and CSSA: Certified SCADA Security Architect.


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