Degrees in Information Systems Security
| Holland Webb Modified on June 29, 2022
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An information security systems degree prepares learners to pursue management careers in operational security. Enrollees can discover the fundamentals of web security, data privacy, business continuity, and information systems planning and auditing.
Degree-seekers commonly complete coursework in programming with objects, interactive web page scripting, and cloud computing security. They may also prepare to take certification exams like CompTIA Cloud+ and CompTIA Linux+.
Graduates can enter the lucrative and fast-growing information security industry. Cybercrime Magazine projects that there will be 3.5 million computer security job openings from 2021-2025. Information systems security graduates can pursue employment as information security specialists, computer security specialists, or data security administrators.
As information security careers grow in prominence, related majors also grow in popularity. The National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) reports that schools conferred 124% more computer and information science degrees in 2018-2019 than they did in 2009-2010.
Find out more about bachelor's in information systems security degrees and related master's programs below.
Why Get a Degree in Information Systems Security?
Information systems security programs typically meet the education requirements for most IT jobs. Job-seekers with information systems security degrees can pursue work as computer network architects, who earn a median annual salary exceeding $120,000. A bachelor's in information systems security can also prepare graduates to seek IT management careers.
- High Earning Potential: IT jobs can offer generous salaries. However, information systems and cybersecurity experts enjoy especially high earning potential as the threat of cyberattacks continues to increase in the United States.
- Job Growth and Sustainability: Information security programs prepare students to apply for work in fulfilling and in-demand positions. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects employment growth for information security analysts to far outpace the national average for all occupations from 2020-2030.
- Adaptable Career Skills: A bachelor's in information systems security develops skills in network security, information assurance, and cyberethics. The degree also provides foundational abilities in IT business and management.
- Fulfilling Work: Information systems security analysts help protect consumers, businesses, and national interests. These professionals can help companies save billions of dollars and protect America's defense systems from bad actors.
- Work Across Industries: Employers in nearly every field need information security analysts. Cybersecurity experts can work in creative roles in government agencies, healthcare, manufacturing, and retail.
Information Systems Security vs. Cybersecurity Degrees
Many people use the terms cybersecurity and information systems security interchangeably. While the two concepts overlap, they each maintain a separate focus.
Cybersecurity emphasizes data protection through identifying vulnerabilities, while information systems security focuses on protecting information through network and systems security. Consequently, a degree in cybersecurity may take a slightly different focus from an information systems security program.
Consider the following situations and the potential benefits of each degree:
|Situation||Cybersecurity Degree||Information Security Degree|
|You are looking for a career in identifying and patching holes in a system's security.||Cybersecurity degrees help prepare students to pursue work as security analysts, cryptographers, or computer forensic professionals.||Information security degrees may focus more on creating secure system architecture than on providing ongoing security measures.|
|You see yourself leading an IT or security team.||This degree can develop skills for aspiring cybersecurity managers or information systems security officers.||This degree could prepare students to pursue work as general technology executives over organization-wide IT teams.|
What to Expect From Information Systems Security Degree Programs
Information systems security degrees teach enrollees to prevent attacks against data privacy, mitigate damages, and carry out recovery plans. Students can earn bachelor's degrees, master's degrees, or Ph.D. degrees in the field from institutionally accredited colleges and universities.
At the undergraduate level, core courses include fundamentals of cloud computing and introduction to operating systems. Skills-based classes like web interface design usually include a lab component.
Graduate students typically encounter coursework in digital forensics and security software engineering. At the doctoral level, courses emphasize research development and may include cybersecurity research methodologies or independent study.
Types of Degrees in Information Systems Security
Earning additional degrees generally leads to more opportunities and higher earning potential. According to the BLS, professionals with bachelor's degrees earn $363 per week more than individuals with associate degrees.
The following four sections introduce the different levels of information systems security degrees. An associate or bachelor's degree can prepare graduates for entry-level technical roles. Master's degrees generally develop skills for enrollees to seek work as managers and team leaders, and doctoral programs primarily serve aspiring researchers and professors.
Associate in Information Systems Security
Community colleges and other institutions offer associate degrees — two-year programs focused on career-ready skills or preparation for bachelor's degrees. Some schools deliver these programs as associate of applied science in cyberdefense degrees.
Most associate degrees require about 60 credits of general education and major courses. Students may enroll in courses such as:
Python scripting Windows digital forensics UNIX operating systems Disaster recovery
NCES reports that, among two-year institutions, private nonprofit colleges cost an average of $18,000 in the 2020-2021 school year, while their public counterparts cost $3,900 annually, on average.
Bachelor's in Information Systems Security
A bachelor's degree usually requires about 120 credits and four years of undergraduate study. Courses typically cover:
Hacking, hackers, and hacktivism Information security and assurance Hardware, visualization, and data communications Information security management Capstone and/or internship
A bachelor's in information systems security can open up cybersecurity careers, along with database administrator, network security manager, security analyst, and security auditor roles. The program may also prepare students for the certified information security systems professional (CISSP) exam.
Bachelor's degree costs vary widely depending on several factors. NCES figures indicate that four-year public colleges cost an average of $9,400 per year in 2020-2021, while degrees from private nonprofit programs cost $37,600, on average.
A bachelor's applicant typically needs a high school diploma or its equivalent. The Common App allows individuals to apply to more than 900 schools with a single application.
Master's in Information Systems Security
A master's degree in information systems security can prepare seasoned technicians to pursue leadership roles in the field. Graduates can seek positions as database administrators, IT security managers, and computer and information systems managers.
These degrees assume applicants hold a fundamental knowledge of cybersecurity and computer science. They may include the following components:
sonic-icon>30-36 graduate credits Courses in digital forensics, applied cryptography, security engineering, and ethical hacking A comprehensive exam or a capstone project sonic-icon>18-24 months of study Credit transfer availability
In a master's program, students can learn to develop security policies and procedures, create disaster prevention plans, and manage compliance with relevant federal regulations. They may also focus on the ethical questions relating to security, hacking, and data acquisition.
A master's applicant should possess a bachelor's degree, preferably in a computer science discipline. They may also need to meet their school's minimum GPA requirements and expected level of cybersecurity experience.
Ph.D. in Information Systems Security
As the most advanced academic degree, a Ph.D. centers primarily on original research. It is the ideal program for experienced professionals who want to lead teams, conduct research, or teach at the college level. Components of a typical Ph.D. program might include:
About 60 credits beyond a master's degree Courses in data privacy, incident response, and computer forensics A dissertation that includes seminars, research, writing, and defense A time frame of 3-7 years Costs vary by school but can be around $700 per credit
Rather than a Ph.D. in cyberdefense, information security students can also pursue doctorates in business or information technology focusing on cybersecurity.
Jobs for Graduates of Information Security Programs
An information security degree can prepare graduates to pursue careers in penetration testing, incident response, cybercrime investigation, and cybersecurity leadership.
Highly educated, certified candidates can compete for the highest-paying, fastest-growing careers. A bachelor's degree can provide an entryway to many top-paying industry jobs, including information security analyst and computer and information systems manager.
Certifications can also demonstrate value. According to the Global Knowledge 2021 IT Skills and Salary Report, certified professionals reported increased engagement with their work, along with receiving promotions and raises.
Information Security Analyst
Information security analysts operate on the frontlines of protection against cyberattacks. These professionals develop and employ recovery protocols for IT emergencies resulting from data or security breaches.
They monitor networks for unauthorized access and test potential restoration methods for effectiveness. Many employers prefer candidates who possess professional experience in addition to bachelor's degrees.
Computer Network Architect
Network architects build the infrastructure for digital communication between organizations. These professionals may specialize in small structures or large, cloud-based networks that serve multiple clients. Network architects typically hold bachelor's degrees in information systems, computer science, or engineering.
Computer Systems Analyst
Also known as systems architects, these professionals analyze computer systems and recommend adjustments to improve performance and efficiency. This unique position suits professionals with technical and IT management skills. Most computer systems analysts possess degrees in computer science, information systems, or business, with concentrations in IT systems or management.
Chief Information Security Officer
A chief information security officer (CISO) oversees all aspects of data protection and management within an organization. These professionals develop security protocols, manage intellectual property rights, and prepare financial forecasts for security operations. A CISO typically holds a degree in computer science or information technology, along with many years of relevant IT management experience.
Computer and Information Systems Manager
These professionals, sometimes called "IT project managers," plan, secure, update, and direct organizations' computer-related activities. A computer and information systems manager often holds a bachelor's degree in a computer-related field, and many earn master's degrees in business administration. Employers may require several years of IT experience.
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Choosing the Right Information Systems Security Program
Students should only pursue accredited information security programs. Schools may hold institutional accreditation, with optional programmatic accreditation from agencies like ABET. The following list includes other factors for students to consider when researching their ideal schools.
- School Size: While some learners prefer intimate settings, others enjoy larger communities with increased networking opportunities.
- Location: Enrollees may study on campus or complete online information systems security degrees from any location.
- Cost/Financial Aid: School tuition costs and financial aid packages vary widely among institutions. A generous scholarship can offset high tuition fees.
- Program Composition: Schools may offer information security as a specialization of IT, mathematics, or engineering degrees.
- Earning Potential: Information systems security degrees typically yield high salaries and a favorable ROI.
- Staff Credentials: Faculty members should hold advanced degrees from top-ranked schools in computer science fields.
- Diversity: Do the institution's staff and student body include a cross-section of people historically underrepresented in cybersecurity?
- Alumni Network: Schools with high-profile alumni in IT often attract students in this major. Connecting with alumni can pave the way for employment after graduation.
- Prestige: Many schools feature a strong reputation in IT as their primary selling point, which can appear favorable to employers.
- Competitiveness/Difficulty/Cost of Admission: More competitive programs typically apply higher tuition costs.
- Required Admission Materials/Test Scores: Admission standards vary widely among institutions. Some schools require high test scores, while others do not include exam scores in their admission materials.
- Extracurriculars: Many programs cater to students through innovative computing/science/engineering projects or by offering access to emerging tech.
- Student-to-Teacher Ratio: A lower student-to-teacher ratio allows for closer interactions with faculty.
- Program Length: Some students need to graduate quickly. Others may prefer or require a longer, less intense program.
Should You Get Your Degree Online?
Information technology programs, including information systems security degrees, continue to grow in popularity. These programs use the latest virtual learning platforms to develop sought-after career skills in a digital environment.
Online programs typically offer faster paths to graduation than traditional degrees, and an online bachelor's in information systems security meets the entry-level education requirement for employment in the field. Many schools extend more flexible course options to online students through accelerated schedules and various delivery methods.
Earning an information systems security degree online automatically builds technology skills. Learning online requires enrollees to use self-motivation and time management to build expertise in computer programming, network communication, and cybersecurity techniques.
Top Bachelor's in Information Systems Security Programs
Our top-ranked information systems security programs produce some of the highest-paid workers in the tech sector. According to our methodology, the following schools offer the best information systems security bachelor's degrees. Visit the link below for more information on how we rank our programs.
Columbia Southern University
|Location||Orange Beach, Alabama|
A private school, Columbia Southern University is located in Orange Beach, Alabama. The school offers four-year bachelor's programs for undergraduate degree-seekers, including a bachelor's in information systems and cybersecurity. After earning a bachelor's degree, graduates can enroll in a master's program or apply for professional positions. While completing a bachelor's program, learners take foundational coursework and field-specific classes.
Bachelor's degree-seekers can add a minor or concentration to explore a niche area of their field. The school offers a student-to-faculty ratio of 41-to-1. Degree-seekers can join student organizations to network with other students and access professional development opportunities.
The institution offers affordable tuition rates, which help degree-seekers minimize out-of-pocket expenses. In-state and out-of-state learners pay $5,520 per year. The institution receives accreditation from the Distance Education Accrediting Commission. The admissions department can provide information about application requirements for bachelor's programs.
United States Air Force Academy
|Location||USAF Academy, Colorado|
United States Air Force Academy delivers 39 online and on-campus programs, including bachelor's programs. Students can pursue bachelor's degrees in various fields, including cyber science. Bachelor's-level curricula include general education courses in areas such as humanities and arithmetic. After fulfilling general education requirements, students take upper-division classes relevant to their major.
Undergraduate degree-seekers gain transferable critical-thinking and problem-solving skills to prepare for professional roles. Full-time learners pursuing online studies usually earn their bachelor's degree in four years. Learners who enroll part time may need longer to graduate.
The institution accepts 11% of undergraduate applicants.
|Percent Online Enrollment||
Baker College delivers 120 online and on-campus programs from its location in Michigan. Students can pursue bachelor's degrees in various fields, including information assurance. Regardless of field, learners complete general education coursework in areas such as literature. After fulfilling general education requirements, students take upper-division courses focused on their field of study. Bachelor's degree-seekers gain analytical, critical-thinking, and problem-solving skills. Most full-time students complete their bachelor's program in about four years of study, though part-time learners may take longer.
The school reports that 89% of learners receive financial aid and 58% take out loans. The school reports an admission rate of 73% for undergraduate degree-seekers.
|Location||Buies Creek, North Carolina|
|Percent Online Enrollment||
North Carolina-based Campbell University delivers 114 academic programs, including bachelor's programs. Bachelor's degree-seekers can choose from a variety of majors, including information technology security. General education requirements include classes in core areas. Upper-division coursework explores specialized topics.
While completing bachelor's programs, learners gain analytical, critical-thinking, and problem-solving skills. Students without transfer credits typically need about four years to graduate with a bachelor's degree. Part-time students may need more than two years to complete a bachelor's program.
The school reports that 99% of learners receive financial aid and 49% take out loans. The school reports an admission rate of 78% for undergraduate learners.
Kennesaw State University
|Percent Online Enrollment||
Kennesaw State University is a public institution based in Kennesaw, Georgia. The four-year school offers bachelor's degrees in a variety of fields. After completing a bachelor's program, individuals can pursue entry-level positions or a master's degree. While completing a bachelor's program, learners take foundational coursework and field-specific classes. Online degree-seekers can specialize by adding a minor or concentration.
Students benefit from a 21-to-1 student-to-faculty ratio, which allows students individual time with professors. To get the most out of their educational experience, degree-seekers can participate in extracurricular activities through campus organizations.
The institution's affordable tuition rates help learners minimize out-of-pocket expenses. The institution charges in-state students $4,450 annually and out-of-state learners $15,704 per year. The school accepts 75% of learners.
The institution is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges. Prospective bachelor's degree-seekers can contact the admissions department to learn about application requirements.
Top Master's in Information Systems Security Programs
Ready to learn more about an information systems security degree? Discover more details about 2022's top five master's degrees in the field. Want to know more about how we ranked our list? Check out our methodology page.
|Location||Washington, District of Columbia|
|Percent Online Enrollment||
District of Columbia-based Georgetown University educates degree-seekers online and at its Washington campus. Of the private institution's 87 master's programs, graduate students can pursue 7 in an online format, including the master's in technology management. The school provides distance degree-seekers with high-ranked master's programs in a variety of subject areas.
The master's in technology management provides advanced coursework and skills development. The program's rigorous curriculum features core and specialized classes that foster field-specific and transferable skills. Elective classes and experiential learning opportunities allow students to gain specialized knowledge and tailor the curriculum to their career goals. Faculty advisors help graduate students explore complex issues facing professionals in the field. The program prepares graduates for the job market or career advancement.
The school's online graduate programs cost an average per-credit rate of $1,885. Students with financial need can apply for federal aid, including grants and loans. Online and on-campus learners can access support services, including career resources, from the school. For specific application details, including requirements and deadlines, prospective students can review information on the institution's website.
University of California-Berkeley
|Percent Online Enrollment||
A public institution, University of California-Berkeley offers a top-ranked master's program in information and cybersecurity. Learners currently employed in the field often qualify for career advancement after graduation.
The program's rigorous curriculum provides foundational knowledge through core coursework. Students can select field-specific electives and complete practical learning experiences to prepare for industry roles. Master's degree-seekers can access support services such as academic advising, career-planning resources, and faculty mentorship.
Full-time students typically complete the master's program in 1-2 years. The institution holds accreditation, which means degree-seekers with financial need can qualify for federal grants and loans.
University of California-Berkeley Numbers:
Per-Credit Price: $2,712
Total Master's Programs: 104
Online Master's Options: 2
Students Receiving Aid: 63%
Students Receiving Loans: 22%
Applies Transfer Credits: No
|Percent Online Enrollment||
Massachusetts-based Brandeis University is a private institution offering graduate programs. At the school, degree-seekers can pursue their master's in information security leadership. Enrollees develop specialized knowledge in the field and soft skills that apply to experiential learning opportunities and professional roles.
During the master's program, graduate students take core classes along with specialized coursework. As an accredited institution, the school delivers graduate programs that meet high standards of quality and confer widely recognized credentials. Master's students can access support services such as faculty mentorship and career counseling. Master's degree-holders can apply for high-level positions in the field.
The institution holds accreditation, which enables degree-seekers with financial need to qualify for federal grants and loans. The school reports that 69% of its student body receives financial aid.
Brandeis University At a Glance:
Number of Master's Programs: 47
Online Master's Offered: 7
In-State and Out-of-State Graduate Tuition: $51,940
Allows Transfer Credits: No
George Washington University
|Location||Washington, District of Columbia|
|Percent Online Enrollment||
An online degree from George Washington University helps professionals advance their careers and pursue new opportunities. Master's degree-seekers complete advanced courses in their field. While completing their master's program, degree-seekers gain the knowledge and skills necessary to secure roles in their field. The cybersecurity strategy and information management master's program delves into advanced concepts students can apply in real-world contexts.
Most students complete the master's program in about two years. The school offers student support services including tutoring and career counseling. Learners can join student organizations to network with other students and access professional development opportunities.
Per credit, students at the school pay an average of $1,559. To fund their education, 77% of the school's students obtain financial aid and 35% take out loans. Scholarships and grants help defray the cost of tuition and need no repayment. The school accepts 41% of learners.
George Washington University has been accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.
Carnegie Mellon University
|Percent Online Enrollment||
Pittsburgh-based Carnegie Mellon University provides academic programs for online and on-campus degree-seekers. Of the institution's 108 master's programs, students can enroll in 7 online. The school offers online and on-campus master's degree-seekers some of the country's top programs.
The institution offers a master's in information security and assurance that prepares learners for positions in the field. Enrollees in the master's program complete core and specialized coursework meeting high academic standards. Electives and experiential learning opportunities allow students to prepare for niche careers. Working closely with faculty advisors, grad students deepen their understanding of complex issues in the field. The program prepares graduates for the job market or career advancement.
Students at the accredited institution can qualify for federal grants and loans. The school delivers in-person and virtual student support services, such as tutoring and career counseling. The program website provides specific application details, including requirements and deadlines.
FAQ About Information Systems Security
Information systems security vs. cybersecurity — what's the difference?
Information security refers to the protection of digital and non-digital information, while cybersecurity involves protecting data from electronic security breaches. Though there are differences, some programs use the terms interchangeably.
What can I do with a degree in information systems security?
Graduates of information systems security programs can pursue jobs that require strong attention to detail and problem-solving skills. Popular roles include information systems analyst, computer systems analyst, and network administrator.
What is CISSP?
CISSP stands for "certified information systems security professional." Students with at least five years of experience can pursue professional CISSP certification, which employers in the IT industry commonly seek.
What does an information systems security officer do?
Information systems security officers protect organizations' IT infrastructure, including databases and networks. They monitor vulnerabilities within clients' IT systems and develop plans for identifying and neutralizing security threats.
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