A good cybersecurity program teaches you to develop the knowledge and skills you need so you can begin protecting companies and government agencies from cyber theft and other threats. Look for a program with a high degree of academic rigor; it should have both theoretical and hands-on learning opportunities. Most importantly, it should recognize and teach current industry best practices and how to identify IT security threats.
Your courses should teach you how to design, implement, and evaluate computing-based solutions to meet computing requirements and how to analyze a complete computing problem, then applying principles of this and other related disciplines to solve them.
What are 100% Online Programs?
One hundred percent online programs are presented only via the internet; this includes class sessions, discussions, giving out assignments, and accepting completed assignments from students. Students attending programs online will not have to commute to a university/college that may be distant from their community to attend face-to-face classes. If they have any questions or issues, they reach out to their professors using the professor’s email address or the course management forum/messaging function.
Online classes require students to be more self-motivated, as they are attending classes from their office or home. On the up side, they can delay working on or finishing an assignment until they have the free time. Students need to consider their own learning style before joining an online course. Some may thrive in an online environment, while others need the structure of a physical classroom. Students also need a computer, router, and to meet other technological requirements so that they can do their classwork. Time management is vital; students need to be able to manage their time so that they finish assignments.
Overview of Degree and Certification Path Options
Being accepted into an online degree program means you’re going to need to meet several requirements. Your high school transcripts will have to show proof that you completed all required classes; a cybersecurity degree program often requires that you complete several high school math classes. You may also need to complete lab classes (chemistry, science, biology). You may be required to have had a certain GPA in high school and have taken one of two college entrance exams (ACT/SAT). The college testing services will send your results to the universities you indicate.
Once you have all of your paperwork ready, you can apply to the schools of your choice. Many applications are now available online. Most colleges and universities require applicants for admission to pay a nonrefundable application fee. Once you have paid this and submitted all of your paperwork, your preferred schools begin to consider which students they will admit.
Even before you know what school you’ll attend; you should fill out your Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). Each school should be able to provide their federal school code. Make sure to meet each admission and financial aid deadline.
Look for Accreditation
Accreditation is important—so important that, if your chosen school isn’t accredited, you’ll find it impossible to transfer class credits if you want to transfer to a different university; you’ll be blocked from applying for federal student aid, though state aid may still available for you; and you may not be considered for some jobs. If you are considered for them, your salary offers will be markedly lower.
The US Department of Education oversees the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHAE). Both agencies oversee the agencies that directly accredit colleges and universities. Universities with cybersecurity programs marked as National Centers of Academic Excellence (CAE) have proven they have high-quality cyber security programs.
Complaints about the quality of a school’s education, similar college names as those of well-known universities, and credits given for doing little work are warning signs of an unaccredited school.
Online Cyber Security Education Program Choices
Online Certificates and Certifications
A cyber security certificate at the associate’s level allows you to take on a specialization while you are still an entry-level employee. A Cyber Security Specialist certificate requires you to earn 26 additional credits. Once you’ve earned it, your annual earnings may approach or top $60,000.
If you are in an undergraduate IT degree program, an undergraduate certificate in cyber security provides you with a credential that employers all over the country are looking for. You’ll learn how to secure organizational data once you have earned the 18 required credits.
At the master’s level, certifications still put you above other graduates as you compete for jobs. these certifications include the Certified Ethical Hacker, Computer Hacking Forensics Investigator, and the Licensed Penetration Tester.
Associate Degrees Online
With an associate degree in cybersecurity, you’ll be able to enter a field experiencing explosive employment growth. In an associate cybersecurity program, you’ll learn more of the technical areas in cybersecurity systems, rather than the theory. Once you graduate, you’ll be ready to accept responsibility for operating and providing oversight for the systems you use.
You may take courses such as:
- Computer Systems
- Programming Logic and Design
- Fundamentals of Cybersecurity
- Penetration Testing and Countermeasures
If you’re looking online, finding associate cyber security programs isn’t hard.
Bachelor’s Degrees Online
Earning your bachelor’s degree means you can stop cyber-attacks coming from cybercriminals and hackers. With a Bachelor’s, you open your career choices and increase your potential annual earnings. You may also qualify for advancement in your field.
Expect to take classes like these:
- Fundamentals of Information Security
- Information Systems Security
- Network and Security - Foundations
- Network and Security - Applications
An online university can receive accreditation from the region in which it is located, as well as accreditations from regions in which it has a presence. Finding cyber security bachelor’s degree programs online isn’t hard. Don’t overlook “IT” and “computer science” results, which may include cyber security degrees.
Master’s Degrees Online
By entering a master’s program in cyber security, you’ll be able to carve out a place for yourself in management. Your classes should focus more on emerging topics. Your class projects will help you to develop your cyber security skills even more. A good online cyber security master’s program exposes you to the highest level of technology and helps you to develop a practical understanding of the concepts you study.
- Cyberspace and Cyber Security Foundations
- Prevention of Cyber Attack Methodologies
- Capstone in Cyber Security
Along with a regional accreditation, look for a cyber security program designation, such as the National Center of Academic Excellence in Information Assurance and Cyber Defense Education.
Finding degree programs online isn’t difficult.
IT to Cyber Bridge
Why pay tens of thousands of dollars to gain the knowledge or certifications you need to expand your cyber security career? Free college programs, such as Harvard, using the edX program or even Coursera can help you add to your field of knowledge.
As you search for the classes you want to take, be aware that some of these classes are merely introductory. Other classes that are more advanced and in-depth are also available. As with physical and online universities, determine the accreditation status of each institution from which you are choosing your classes.
- Sans Cyber Aces
This introductory class provides you with an interesting lecture that provides an introduction to networking, operating systems, and system administration.
This online library was created specifically for IT and cyber security specialists. Gain access to InfoSec-related study courses. This resource lets you filter classes by levels (beginner, intermediate, and advanced).
- US Department of Homeland Security
This is an excellent resource of expertise for cyber security specialists. Scan the calendar of training events; you can take these classes online.
These classes cost a little but will be worth it. They include a cyber security law primer and a cyber security beginner’s course.
A Few of the Best Online Cyber Security Programs
Looking for “the best” online cyber security programs means one thing to you and another thing to someone else. While program variety may be more important for you; potential salary may matter more for another professional. As you search for the programs in which you’re most interested, keep in mind the quality and reputation of the school and its programs. Some programs may be located within the US while others may be located in other countries.
Make sure to check the education statistics of the universities you’re considering the most seriously. You’ll find average tuition, graduation rates, and student body characteristics.
George Mason University
George Mason University’s Cyber Security Engineering Program focuses on the development of cyber-resilient systems, to protect both physical computer and network systems. Graduates work in all industries: government, transportation, healthcare, energy, finance, infrastructure, and defense.
Student Population: 37,316
Retention Rate: 87%, full-time; 66%, part-time
Graduation Rate: 70%
Average Graduation Salary: $71,000
Johns Hopkins University
Johns Hopkins University has three cyber security degree programs available for interested students. In 2015, 46 students graduated from Johns Hopkins cyber security program. Forty-four students graduated with their master’s degrees; two graduated with certificate degrees.
Tuition Cost: $53,740
Student Population: 26,152
Retention Rate: 100%
Graduation Rate: 93%
Average Graduation Salary: $84,000
At Bellevue University, the cyber security program presents you with vital skills you need so that, when you graduate, you’ll be ready to protect private, healthcare, government, and financial organizations from a cyberattack. This program blends forensics, computer science, and other fields.
Tuition Cost: $3,778
Student Population: 13,226
Retention Rate: 29%
Graduation Rate: 25% male - 33% female
Average Graduation Salary: $68,000
Administrators in the cyber security department know that we live in an information society. This is why cyber security professionals are so badly needed. After earning an undergraduate or graduate degree in cyber security, you’ll be ready to test, penetrate, and develop security software and other technologies.
Tuition Cost: $19,042
Student Population: 9,031
Retention Rate: 75% full-time; 72% part-time
Graduation Rate: 44% overall
Average Graduation Salary: 63,000
Washington State University in St. Louis
Washington University’s cyber security program works hard to educate graduates who will be well-equipped with both theoretical and hands-on engineering expertise so they can tackle and solve difficult cyber security issues that affect businesses and governments around the world.
Tuition Cost: $53,399
Student Population: 15,852
Retention Rate: 97%
Graduation Rate: 95%
Average Graduation Salary: $74,000
The cyber security program (Master’s level) at Boston University is actually a specialization, which combines both theoretical and hands-on work. This allows students to prepare for careers in software engineering, networking, and embedded systems.
Tuition Cost: $53,948
Student Population: 34,657
Retention Rate: 94%
Graduation Rate: 88%
Average Graduation Salary: $75,000