15 Best Associate Degrees in Cybersecurity 2021

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Cybersecurity experts protect data and networks from hackers and malicious actors in an increasingly digital and globally connected world. The profession offers some of today’s most lucrative jobs, with salaries ranging from $55,000-$150,000 per year.

The field also continues to add jobs at near-record rates. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projections indicate that information security analyst employment will grow by 31% from 2019-2029, making this profession one of the country’s fastest-growing careers. 

A cybersecurity associate degree can provide the perfect jumping-off point for tech-minded students looking to begin careers in the field. Aspiring professionals can use this guide to research information on available roles and explore education requirements for cybersecurity associate degrees.

2021’s Top 10 Best Cybersecurity Schools

Rank School Location
1 Cochise County Community College Sierra Vista, AZ
2 Eastern Iowa Community College Davenport, IA
3 Albany Technical College Albany, GA
4 Davenport University Grand Rapids, MI
5 Harford Community College Bel Air, MD
6 St Petersburg College Clearwater, FL
7 Mt Hood Community College Gresham, OR
8 Northeast Wisconsin Technical College Green Bay, WI
9 Rend Lake College Ina, IL
10 Lackawanna College Scranton, PA

See Detailed Rankings

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What Is Cybersecurity?

Cybersecurity originated in the 1970s when humans began storing valuable data on computers. In the early days, most security breaches extended to people accessing physical documents for which they did not have clearance. Soon, countries began to weaponize computer hacking, and individuals started experimenting with illegal data breaches. Cybersecurity has since evolved into a burgeoning and critical professional field.

Cybersecurity specialists work for corporations, government agencies, nonprofit organizations, and educational institutions. They serve on the front lines of national security, protect corporate data, and establish safeguards for healthcare records. 

New technologies related to the internet of things and the accumulation of big data suggest that cybersecurity will continue to grow into the future. This field attracts professionals driven by their love for technology and their passion for making a difference for vulnerable companies, governments, and individual consumers.

In cybersecurity, associate degrees can lead to entry-level jobs. A two-year degree provides the foundation to earn valuable certifications and advanced degrees in the field.

The Top Cybersecurity Associate Degree Programs of 2021

Learners who want to kick-start their tech careers without committing to a bachelor’s program might consider an associate in cybersecurity. Read on for our list of the best cybersecurity associate degrees of 2021. Click the link below to learn about how we ranked these programs.

Our Ranking Methodology
  • What the Best Cybersecurity Programs Have in Common

    No two programs are exactly alike; each school varies in course delivery, curriculum, school type, and program length. That said, the best programs tend to share several similarities, including the following:

    • They Are Accredited. Accreditation denotes that a school meets high academic standards. Accreditation is conferred by third-party agencies approved by the U.S. Department of Education and/or the Council for Higher Education Accreditation. It’s particularly important for associate students to earn their degrees from regionally accredited institutions, as many four-year and graduate schools accept transfer credits only from colleges with regional accreditation. All of our ranked schools hold regional accreditation from one of the following agencies:
      • Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges Western Association of Schools and Colleges (ACCJC)
      • Higher Learning Commission (HLC)
      • Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE)
      • New England Commission of Higher Education (NECHE)
      • Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities (NWCCU)
      • Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC)
      • WASC Senior College and University Commission (WSCUC)
    • They Represent Academic Excellence. The schools on our ranking are academically excellent. We determine an institution’s educational quality by assessing its rate of student retention, graduation rate, and student-to-faculty ratio. We also consider full-time faculty members employed at each school. Students should seek out high-caliber cybersecurity associate degrees to ensure their education prepares them for the workforce or a bachelor’s program.
    • They Are Reputable. Applicants should also consider a school’s reputation when searching for an associate degree. We measure schools’ reputability based on the following factors: percentage of applicants admitted, admissions yield, and mean earnings of alumni six years after graduation. Associate learners should account for this factor in their program selection process, because reputation could affect students’ careers following graduation or their likelihood of gaining admission into an undergraduate program.
    • They Have a Robust Cybersecurity Program. The best cybersecurity degrees for associate students come out of robust programs with strong curricula. We factored this consideration into our ranking by reviewing the percentage of degrees offered at the associate level for each school.

  1. Cochise County Community College

    Sierra Vista, AZ



    Located in Douglas, Arizona, Cochise has earned national recognition for its low cost and high return-on-investment for students. Because of articulation agreements, Cochise graduates can seamlessly transfer to any of Arizona's four-year universities. The college is a member of the Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities.

    Cybersecurity Associate of Applied Science

    Learners aspiring to work in the information systems security field can benefit from this associate degree. The program focuses on network fundamentals and defense, operating systems, and computer forensics. Courses fuse application with theory, aiming to create and implement information security procedures and policies.

    Graduates from Cochise's cybersecurity associate program understand how cybersecurity threats relate to integrity, availability, and confidentiality. Learners in this program also study contingency planning, power and backup options, and other threat response measures. They conduct network penetration tests, analyze network operations risks, and implement network countermeasures. By the end of their program, Cochise cybersecurity students understand access control objectives, auditing concepts, and the structure of network defense architecture.

    Applying to Cochise

    Cochise admits applicants who meet at least one of the following qualifications: They graduated a regionally accredited high school, they obtained a GED or other high school equivalency certificate, they are 18 by the time classes begin, they are a transfer student in good standing from their previous school, or they are a high school student with a concurrent registration form signed by a parent and a designated school official.

    Program at a Glance

    • School Type: Public
    • Accreditation: HLC
    • Tuition: $85/credit (in state); $260/credit (out of state)
    • Required Credits: 66-67 credits
    • Program Length: 2 years
    • Delivery Format: On campus
  2. Eastern Iowa Community College

    Davenport, IA



    EICC maintains three Iowa campuses in the cities of Clinton (Clinton Community College), Muscatine (Muscatine Community College), and Bettendorf (Scott Community College). More than 7,000 students enroll in the college district each fall, pursuing an array of associate in arts and college transfer programs along with over 30 career technology options.

    Information Technology - Cybersecurity, Associate of Applied Science

    The EICC Cyber Center developed their 67-credit associate in cybersecurity based on industry-specific recommendations about methods, procedures, and principles. Courses include fundamentals of desktop support, introduction to network operating systems, introduction to Linux OS, and ethical hacking. Students also complete an information technology specialist capstone in their final term.

    Graduates of EICC's cybersecurity associate program are equipped to test for an array of industry certifications, including A+, Network+, Security+, Linux+, Microsoft Security MTA, ethical hacking associate, and cyberforensics associate.

    EICC offers this degree at all three of its campuses.

    Applying to EICC

    Prospective students can apply to any campus through EICC's online application portal. They must create an account, apply online, fill out the FAFSA, submit high school transcripts (or high school equivalency records), and submit ACT scores or complete placement testing.

    Program at a Glance

    • School Type: Public
    • Accreditation: HLC
    • Tuition: $5,600/year (in state); $7,520/year (out of state)
    • Required Credits: 67 credits
    • Program Length: 2 years
    • Delivery Format: On campus
  3. Albany Technical College

    Albany, GA



    Albany Tech was originally established as the Monroe Area Vocational-Technical School in 1961, when it enrolled only 175 students. Now, the Albany, Georgia, institution enrolls more than 5,500 students in full- and part-time studies. The school also offers seminars, customized business training, continuing education courses, and teleconferences.

    Cybersecurity Degree

    Albany Tech offers its cybersecurity associate degree as part of the school's computer information systems' cybersecurity program, which also confers diplomas and certificates in the subject. The associate degree comprises 15 credits of core (general education) courses and 57 credits of occupational (subject-specific) courses.

    The occupational courses in this program include computer concepts, security policies and procedures, network defense and countermeasures, and ethical hacking and penetration testing. The curriculum also requires students to take a course in computer networking or Cisco network fundamentals.

    Applying to Albany Tech

    Applicants must be at least 16 years old and submit an online application, along with a $25 nonrefundable application fee. Prospective students must also submit verification of lawful presence in the U.S., verification of Georgia residency, official college transcripts, and placement test results (ACCUPLACER, COMPASS, SAT, or ACT scores from within the last five years).

    Note that the ACCUPLACER Next Generation Admissions Test has been suspended in Georgia due to COVID-19. Likewise, the Technical College System of Georgia Colleges has suspended admission requirements for student testing and submission of official transcripts through the fall 2021 semester.

    Program at a Glance

    • School Type: Public
    • Accreditation: SACSCOC
    • Tuition: $100/credit (in state, part time); $1,500/semester (in state, full time); $200/credit (out of state, part time); $3,000/semester (out of state, full time); $400/credit (international, part time); $6,000/semester (international, full time)
    • Required Credits: 72 credits
    • Program Length: 5 semesters
    • Delivery Format: 100% online (asynchronous)
  4. Davenport University

    Grand Rapids, MI



    DU demonstrates an efficient, career-focused mission, aiming to set its graduates apart from the competition. The Grand Rapids, Michigan, school's "excellence system" emphasizes key learning outcomes that top employers seek: communication, teamwork, critical thinking, problem-solving, and career-specific skills.

    Associate in Cyber Defense

    DU's 60-credit cybersecurity associate degree prepares learners to transition into high-demand cyberdefense jobs, with training that meets industry needs. The program employs well-credentialed faculty who ask students to complete hands-on projects that sharpen their skills in system vulnerabilities detection, cybersecurity event analysis, and other areas critical to the computer security field.

    Coursework in this program includes Windows digital forensics and disaster recovery, database design, and UNIX operating systems. Learners also study security foundations, project management, and Perl/Python programming.

    DU is one of just 13 U.S. colleges to hold recognition by the National Security Agency and Department of Homeland Security as a national center of academic excellence in cyberdefense education.

    Applying to DU

    Davenport offers a free online application and rolling admissions, meaning learners can apply at any time. Applicants should know when they want to start classes and which campus they want to attend -- the school also offers classes online. Prospective students must submit official transcripts from previous schools and evidence of citizenship or residency.

    Program at a Glance

    • School Type: Private, nonprofit
    • Accreditation: HLC
    • Tuition: $12,075/semester (full time, 15 credits/semester); $9,660 (full time, 12 credits/semester); $815/credit (online, in state); $544/credit (online, out of state)
    • Required Credits: 60 credits
    • Program Length: 2 years (full time, 15 credits/semester); 5 semesters (full time, 12 credits/semester)
    • Delivery Format: 100% online (synchronous, asynchronous, or synchronous and asynchronous) or on campus
  5. Harford Community College

    Bel Air, MD



    Located on more than 350 acres near Bel Air, Maryland, HCC offers more than 80 degree and certificate programs to nearly 9,500 full- and part-time students. Another 11,000 students each year pursue noncredit continuing education courses through HCC. The school boasts small class sizes and dedicated faculty.

    Information Assurance and Cybersecurity Associate of Applied Science

    HCC's 60-credit cybersecurity and information assurance associate equips students to work in the high-demand information technology field. Students learn to implement security procedures and policies in hands-on environments. Degree-seekers planning to transfer can tailor their elective courses to fit their prospective universities' requirements.

    HCC outlines specific goals for its information assurance and cybersecurity students: By the time they graduate, these learners can apply software patches to applications and operating systems, use software tools to detect attempted computer systems security breaches, assess systems' security vulnerabilities, and implement computer network security defenses.

    Graduates of this program qualify to sit for the Cisco certified network administrator certificate exams.

    Applying to HCC

    Incoming learners can apply to HCC online in a matter of minutes. Applicants should know their Social Security number, personal contact information, emergency contact information, and intended program of study. They can expect an electronic acceptance letter within a week of submitting the application.

    Program at a Glance

    • School Type: Public
    • Accreditation: MSCHE
    • Tuition: $133/credit (Harford County residents); $226/credit (in state); $319/credit (out of state and international)
    • Required Credits: 60 credits
    • Program Length: 2 years
    • Delivery Format: On campus
  6. St Petersburg College

    Clearwater, FL



    Located in St. Petersburg, Florida, SPC offers career-focused programs, and more than 90% of the college's graduates find jobs in their intended field, serve in the military, or continue their education. SPC's alumni rank No. 1 in Florida for highest entry-level wages among graduates from state community colleges.

    Cybersecurity Associate of Science Degree

    The workforce demands college-educated cybersecurity specialists who can take on complex concerns regarding information technology (IT) security. SPC's 60-credit cybersecurity associate degree aims to prepare students for those jobs.

    The National Security Agency and Department of Homeland Security designate SPC as a national center of academic excellence in cyberdefense. This associate program builds skills in security policies, router security and protocols, intrusion detection systems, legal aspects of IT security, network defense and countermeasures, and incident response and disaster recovery. Graduates are ultimately equipped to work as information security analysts.

    SPC also offers a cybersecurity associate of arts transfer plan, which prepares learners to transfer to four-year universities to complete their bachelor's.

    Applying to SPC

    Prospective learners can apply to SPC online, which requires a $40 application fee. Applicants must submit their high school and college transcripts, plus SAT or ACT scores. Learners may take a college placement test in lieu of submitting standardized test scores.

    Program at a Glance

    • School Type: Public
    • Accreditation: SACSCOC
    • Tuition: $112/credit (in state); $387/credit (out of state)
    • Required Credits: 60 credits
    • Program Length: 2 years
    • Delivery Format: 100% online (synchronous or asynchronous)
  7. Mt Hood Community College

    Gresham, OR



    MHCC is located in Gresham, Oregon, where it offers over 120 professional and technical programs, plus an array of university transfer options. The school employs skilled faculty on three campuses: two in Gresham and one in Portland.

    Cybersecurity: Penetration Testing Associate of Applied Science

    Cybersecurity associate students at MHCC focus their studies on either penetration testing or networking and security operations. The penetration testing concentration builds a foundation in cybersecurity and networking, ending with a penetration testing- and ethical hacking-focused core, in which learners work directly with vulnerabilities and exploits.

    Students in this focus learn to work with clients to launch approved attacks against small and medium-sized systems. This teaches students about system and network vulnerabilities and how to conduct risk assessments of information technology infrastructure.

    Notable classes in this program include fundamentals for cybersecurity, introduction to Python, introduction to cloud and virtualization technologies, and wireless securities.

    Applying to MHCC

    MHCC employs an open-entry general admission policy, meaning it welcomes all students who would benefit from education. Learners do not need to hold high school diplomas or equivalency certificates to enroll, but they may need these credentials to qualify for financial aid.

    Program at a Glance

    • School Type: Public
    • Accreditation: NWCCU
    • Tuition: $118/credit (in state, up to 18 credits); $59/credit (in state, over 18 credits); $239/credit (out of state); $257/credit (international)
    • Required Credits: 94-96 credits
    • Program Length: 6 quarters
    • Delivery Format: On campus or hybrid (online/on campus)
  8. Northeast Wisconsin Technical College

    Green Bay, WI



    NWTC, a nationally recognized two-year college in Green Bay, Wisconsin, has educated learners since 1912. The school enrolls nearly 27,000 students each year with an aim to inspire, strengthen, and transform Wisconsin communities.

    Information Technology — Security Technologist Associate Degree

    NWTC's 65-credit security technologist associate degree prepares students to work in cybersecurity or pursue additional education in the field. Students learn to install network hardware, including cabling and interface cards; use Microsoft and UNIX/LINUX operating systems to create effective user environments; install and configure network and desktop operating system software and application software; and maintain computer peripheral and hardware.

    Students in this program also learn to solve problems structurally, effectively communicate technical information, and configure and implement wide area network services. These learners can find, analyze, and defend against system and network penetration. They also study data encryption.

    Applying to NWTC

    Prospective students should first submit an online program application to NWTC, which entails a one-time, nonrefundable $30 fee. Applicants must then request and submit official transcripts from prior schools, indicating their grades and graduation date.

    Program at a Glance

    • School Type: Public
    • Accreditation: HLC
    • Tuition: $9,146/program (Wisconsin and Minnesota residents); Michigan residents in Gogebic, Iron, Dickson, Menominee, and Delta counties and in the Bay de Noc and Gogebic community college districts pay an additional $5/credit; other Michigan residents and out-of-state students pay an additional $69/credit
    • Required Credits: 65 credits
    • Program Length: 2 years
    • Delivery Format: On campus
  9. Rend Lake College

    Ina, IL



    RLC offers affordable tuition for its more than 100 programs. The college prepares students to enter the workforce or continue their education at the bachelor's level. RLC consistently ranks among the top 150 colleges in the nation, according to Aspen Institute.

    Information Technology (IT) Security Specialist Associate in Applied Science

    RLC's IT security specialist associate degree is offered through the Applied Science & Advanced Technology Division. This 64-credit applied science degree program gives students the skills to work as IT technicians, specifically in the security sphere. Coursework blends classroom and lab activities with current software and hardware.

    Graduates from RLC's IT security specialist associate program qualify for an array of entry-level positions in the computer field. Students can build on their education to pursue CompTIA, Microsoft, or Cisco certification, or they may continue at a four-year university.

    Applying to RLC

    Most RLC applicants should start by completing and submitting a new student enrollment form. They should then submit official high school transcripts (with graduation date posted) or a GED certificate. Applicants may also apply with standardized test scores or take a placement assessment through RLC.

    Program at a Glance

    • School Type: Public
    • Accreditation: HLC
    • Tuition: $110/credit (in district)
    • Required Credits: 64 credits
    • Program Length: 2 years
    • Delivery Format: On campus
  10. Lackawanna College

    Scranton, PA



    Lackawanna, a private school, began as Scranton Business College in 1894. The college is still headquartered in Scranton, Pennsylvania, and it now maintains satellite centers located across northeastern Pennsylvania. Lackawanna offers associate and bachelor's degrees and professional certifications, plus continuing education opportunities.

    Cybersecurity Associate Program

    Lackawanna's cybersecurity associate degree is essentially a computer science degree that emphasizes security. The 63-credit program offers a robust cybersecurity curriculum, equipping students with the skills to combat cyberthreats and succeed in the workforce. Degree-seekers pursuing this associate learn to implement cybersecurity practices in operating systems, programming and databases, and networking.

    All students in this program must complete an internship to graduate. These internships give learners hands-on cybersecurity field experience, preparing them for the challenges of their future careers.

    Finally, Lackawanna's cybersecurity students do not have to purchase textbooks and software licenses, as professors use free, open-source materials.

    Applying to Lackawanna

    Aspiring Lackawanna students apply online. After submitting an application, prospective learners must meet with an admissions counselor; submit all applicable high school, GED certificate, and college transcripts; and schedule an ACCUPLACER placement exam.

    Program at a Glance

    • School Type: Private, nonprofit
    • Accreditation: MSCHE
    • Tuition: $7,875/semester (flat fee, 12-18 credits); $550/credit (full time, 19 credits or more)
    • Required Credits: 63 credits
    • Program Length: 2 years (including summer internship)
    • Delivery Format: 100% online (synchronous and asynchronous)

What To Expect From Associate in Cybersecurity Programs

Cybersecurity associate degree programs prepare students for entry-level jobs in information technology settings. Many schools have only recently added cybersecurity majors as the field continues to grow in popularity. 

An associate program typically requires 60 credits or two years of full-time study at 15 credits per semester. Courses combine general academic studies, technology courses, electives, and field experiences. Students with transferable credits or enrollees in accelerated programs can complete their degrees in less time. Graduates can pursue certifications or advanced academic degrees. 

Associate degree costs vary widely. Private and for-profit schools usually charge much higher prices than local, state-supported community colleges. Prospective students should consider that affordability does not come down to tuition alone, as financial aid plays a crucial role.

While each learner encounters different classes, instructors, and learning environments, associate programs share some aspects of length, curriculum, cost, and benefits. 

Admission Requirements

Community colleges typically offer associate degrees. In general, these institutions set a lower standard of entry than four-year colleges and universities. Most community colleges require an applicant to hold a high school diploma or its equivalent. Usually, prospective students should demonstrate strong math and science skills through their high school GPAs.

Community colleges do not require SAT or ACT scores. Most two-year programs accept all applicants, and placement exams determine each student’s math and English coursework. While prospective enrollees do not need experience in cybersecurity, those applicants who already hold certificates in the field may have a leg up in the program.

Degree and Concentration Options

Aspiring candidates encounter cybersecurity associate degrees in several forms, including the associate of science (AS), the associate of applied science (AAS), associate of arts (AA), and the associate of applied business (AAB).

  • Associate of Science: The AS prepares students to transfer to bachelor of science in cybersecurity degrees at four-year institutions.
  • Associate of Applied Science: This degree introduces learners to the fundamentals and practices of information security, readying them for entry-level roles in the field. Upon graduation, learners should feel prepared to take exams for cybersecurity certifications.
  • Associate of Arts: The AA emphasizes social studies and humanities, generally preparing enrollees to transfer to four-year programs. Consequently, learners can take more courses in criminal justice, sociology, public policy, and business to explore the broad implications of security studies.
  • Associate of Applied Business: This degree prepares students for entry-level careers in business. A cybersecurity major takes a blend of courses in business and technology, culminating in a field experience integrating the two disciplines.

Popular Cybersecurity Courses

Most cybersecurity associate degree programs require 60 credits to complete. Students usually take a core of general education classes, several courses in the major, and electives.

If the program emphasizes business, criminal justice, or information technology, then the general education courses should reflect that emphasis. In addition to traditional coursework, some schools may require internships or capstone projects. Sample courses include:

Businesses conduct sensitive negotiations and transactions online. Consequently, the need for security and its role in business and society have grown in prominence. This course covers access controls, malicious attacks, threats, vulnerabilities, and common risk responses.
This course stresses database modeling and design to cover the basics of designing, implementing, and managing database systems. Students discuss the facilities and languages surrounding database management systems along with implementation and administration techniques. As part of the course, learners may investigate case studies and problems in database management and propose alternative solutions.
Modern organizations employ computers to store, sort, and analyze the data they use to solve problems. In this introductory course, enrollees learn the fundamentals of algorithms, including expressions, variables, and array processing.
Networks serve as the major entry point for most systems. Students learn to prevent intrusion, abuse, or flooding of communication channels. They also discover how to preserve network resources. Topics include VPNs, network access controls, firewalls, packet filtering, and intrusion detection.

How Much Will an Associate in Cybersecurity Cost?

Many factors determine how much a student pays for a cybersecurity associate degree. In some states, community colleges charge no tuition to residents, and in all states, community college tuition costs run much lower than the price of most nearby four-year schools.

State colleges typically cost less than private schools, and nonprofit institutions are usually cheaper than for-profit schools. Even if a student receives a tuition-free education, pursuing an education still incurs costs for books and other learning materials.

Fortunately, most students do not have to pay for degrees on their own. Federal financial aid programs can provide grants, private foundations offer scholarships, and schools maintain work-study programs that help learners cover their costs.

In addition, earning an associate degree before starting a bachelor’s program can help learners save. The low price of most associate programs often yields significant savings for students.

Why Get an Associate Degree in Cybersecurity?

As one of the most exciting career fields, cybersecurity combines technology, public policy, and investigative work to help protect individuals and companies. Jobs in the field pay lucrative salaries, and employment continues to grow. 

Associate degrees in cybersecurity can help young professionals and those looking to change their professional focus. At the associate level, students learn networking technology, cybersecurity law, criminal justice, and intrusion detection. 

Secure Employment
Recent high school graduates or those looking to shift their career can consider cybersecurity associate degrees as the perfect entry point for new professions.
Advance in the Field
An individual who already holds a degree in another field or who has completed a cybersecurity certification may see an associate degree as the next logical career move.
Transfer to a Bachelor’s Program
Cybersecurity associate degree programs typically make up the first half of a bachelor’s degree. Some students earn two-year degrees, then work in the field to gain experience and income before completing four-year programs.

Jobs for Associate in Cybersecurity Graduates

As one of the world’s fastest-growing and highest-paying fields, cybersecurity offers opportunities for tech-minded people who enjoy using problem-solving skills. An AS in cybersecurity can help new professionals join the field as network administrators, network support specialists, or system administrators. 

To advance to more lucrative cybersecurity jobs, experienced professionals may need to earn bachelor’s degrees, certifications, or even graduate degrees in the field. Advanced positions in cybersecurity include ethical hacker, information security analyst, or security software developer. For cybersecurity professionals with management expertise, chief information security officers are at the top of the field.

  • Network Administrator

    Network and computer systems administrators oversee day-to-day operations of their organizations’ computer networks. They organize, install, and support computer systems; upgrade and repair computer networks; train users to properly use hardware and software; and provide technical support.

    • Required Education: Postsecondary certificate or associate degree; bachelor’s preferred
    • Job Outlook (2019-29): +4%
    • Median Salary: $83,510

  • Computer Support Specialist

    These professionals work with individuals and organizations to provide help and advice. This role often splits into two different focuses: computer network support and computer user support. Computer network support specialists analyze, evaluate, and troubleshoot problems with computer networks. User support specialists, also called help desk technicians, provide technical support to computer users who do not work in IT.

    • Required Education: Associate degree or some postsecondary classes
    • Job Outlook (2019-29): 8%
    • Median Salary: $54,760

  • Penetration Tester

    Sometimes called “ethical hackers,” penetration testers use cybercriminals’ tools to test network and data security. These professionals simulate cyberattacks to identify weaknesses and vulnerabilities. Penetration testers work in government agencies, corporate offices, healthcare facilities, and educational institutions. While certification may open an entry-level testing position, advanced posts often require an academic degree.

    • Required Education: Bachelor’s degree preferred
    • Average Salary: $85,320

  • Information Security Analyst

    Charged with protecting organizations’ data and networks, information security analysts serve as front-line soldiers in the war against cyberthreats. These professionals research trends in the field, conduct penetration tests, monitor their employers’ systems, and develop security standards and best practices for their companies. An information security analyst’s specific job description largely depends on their employer’s distinct needs.

    • Required Education: Bachelor’s in a related field; MBA preferred
    • Job Outlook (2019-29): +31%
    • Median Salary: $99,730

Continuing Your Education Past an Associate Degree

Earning a cybersecurity associate degree can help launch a new career, but professionals who aspire to top jobs need more than a fundamental educational background. Advanced education or certification can help cybersecurity experts earn more money, engage in more challenging work, and assume leadership positions in the field.

Bachelor's Degree

A bachelor’s degree typically requires 120 credits, amounting to 60 semester hours beyond the associate program. Full-time students with associate degrees usually need two years to finish their bachelor’s.

Enrollees can specialize in network forensics, cybercrime, information assurance, or cyberoperations. As perhaps the best cybersecurity degree for professionals with 1-2 years of experience, the bachelor’s can lead to higher-paying jobs in the field.

Master's Degree

A prospective student who holds a bachelor’s degree and 1-5 years of professional experience in cybersecurity can apply to a master’s program. This degree usually requires 33-36 credits and takes 18-24 months to complete.

Specializations vary by school but may include information technology and project management. Along with increased job security and higher salaries, a graduate degree in cybersecurity can prepare students to influence information security policy.

Cybersecurity Certifications

Third-party organizations offer cybersecurity certifications such as certified ethical hacker, certified information systems security professional, and CompTIA Security+. These certifications demonstrate skill and knowledge, unlike academic certificates that demonstrate the courses a student has taken.

Most certifications require 3-9 months to earn, and final exams can cost $300-$900. Many employers insist that applicants hold certification for consideration.

Choosing the Right Cybersecurity Program

While a rankings list provides a great entry point for degree-seekers, many considerations should go into selecting a cybersecurity degree. Several key factors include accreditation, cost, career services, reputation, and alumni network. 

Accreditation comes in national, regional, and programmatic forms. To maximize the benefits of their degrees, students should select regionally accredited schools. The best institutions also hold programmatic accreditation with groups such as the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology. Many top cybersecurity programs have earned designation as a National Center of Academic Excellence in Cybersecurity from the National Security Agency.
Cost and Financial Aid
Each prospective enrollee should weigh a degree’s total cost against their available financial aid. The school with the highest price tag may cost significantly less when offset by a generous aid package.
Career Services
Does the school maintain a robust career services program for cybersecurity students? Can online learners easily access and benefit from this program?
Prospective learners should consider how potential employers view a school’s cybersecurity program.
Alumni Network
Does the school maintain a large, organized, and influential alumni base with cybersecurity professionals? Online students should consider the availability of their schools’ alumni networks, as well.

Should You Get Your Associate Degree Online?

Over time, distance programs have achieved recognition equal to those earned in brick-and-mortar schools. Amid the current pandemic, nearly every level of student has participated in virtual learning.

Digital learning offers an ideal platform for associate degrees in cybersecurity. Prospective students should still weigh all the factors of online learning before committing to programs. 

For instance, studying from home requires initiative, self-discipline, and a strong support system. Online learning requires as much time and energy as in-person education. Virtual learners must commit to a rigorous, disciplined study regime to be successful. 

Frequently Asked Questions

  • What is the best degree for cybersecurity?

    Most cybersecurity jobs require bachelor’s degrees in related fields. For management, research, or teaching jobs, however, information security professionals need master’s degrees. Still, an associate degree can lead to entry-level jobs in the field.

  • How long does it take to get an associate degree in cybersecurity?

    Generally speaking, full-time students can earn associate degrees in cybersecurity in just two years. Some schools offer accelerated programs that learners can complete in even less time.

  • How much can you make with an associate in cybersecurity?

    Although an associate degree in cybersecurity does not offer the same job options as a bachelor’s degree, it can provide professionals with a living wage. PayScale estimates cybersecurity employees with associate degrees earn $53,540 per year.

  • Is cybersecurity a good career?

    Cybersecurity offers one of the most lucrative emerging career fields in the early 21st century. According to PayScale, the average cybersecurity analyst earns $76,340 per year, and the BLS projects 31% growth in this field from 2019-2029.

Accredited Online College Programs

Related Reading

15 Best Online Master’s in Cybersecurity Programs 2021

15 Best Online Master’s in Cybersecurity Programs 2021

April 29, 2021   |   Staff Writers

An online master's in cybersecurity can boost your career options and earning potential. Check out our program rankings to kick off your search.

Top 15 Cybersecurity Schools 2021

Top 15 Cybersecurity Schools 2021

April 29, 2021   |   Staff Writers

The best cybersecurity schools prepare students for exciting and lucrative IT careers. Explore our ranking of the best cybersecurity bachelor's degree programs.

Are you ready to find a school that's aligned with your interests?

Find the right education path to take advantage of this fast-growing industry and join the front-lines on technology and security.