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A Ph.D. in cybersecurity prepares graduates for high-level positions in management, research, and education. Doctoral students gain new skills, qualify for better jobs, and make more money. Cybersecurity professionals help organizations prepare for, prevent, respond to, and analyze security breaches.
Computing and information technology (IT) occupations rank among the most in-demand and high-paying careers. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects an 11% employment growth for these occupations between 2019 and 2029 — much faster than average. Cybersecurity professionals may enjoy particularly high demand as organizations move their operations online and seek help protecting sensitive data and information.
This guide includes a list of available cybersecurity Ph.D. programs in the United States. We cover why to earn a doctorate in cybersecurity, what to expect from a typical program, and potential jobs and salaries for graduates. We also offer advice about choosing the right Ph.D. in cybersecurity for you.
Why Get a Doctorate in Cybersecurity?
One of the most in-demand fields, cybersecurity is a relatively new area of study and profession in computer science and IT. Cybersecurity got its start in the 1970s and ’80s, when computers and the internet were developing and spies started trying to hack into American computer systems. Today, with the widespread adoption of computing, nearly every organization prioritizes information security.
The BLS projects that the field will add an additional 40,900 new information security analysts from 2019-29. Experienced cybersecurity professionals garner high salaries, with information security analysts earning $99,730 annually and computer and information systems managers making $146,360 a year. Because of the promise of Ph.D. in cybersecurity salary expectations, graduates can expect a high return on their educational investment.
Potential doctorate in cybersecurity jobs include information security analysts, computer and information systems managers, computer and information research scientists, and postsecondary teachers. A Ph.D. in cybersecurity opens the door to the highest level of management, academic, and research jobs in the field. Although doctoral programs require a significant investment of time and money, they can pay off. Graduates gain new skills, make important professional connections, and qualify for better-paying, more prestigious jobs.
Gain New Skills
Earning a Ph.D. in cybersecurity helps students develop advanced technical skills and acquire new knowledge. Cybersecurity professionals need to constantly learn new skills to keep up with changes in technology.
Completing a cybersecurity doctoral program provides the chance for learners to network with classmates, teachers, and other cybersecurity professionals. These connections often lead to job opportunities after graduation.
Qualify for Different Jobs
Getting a Ph.D. in cybersecurity can open the door to new, high-level job opportunities. Graduates take advanced management, research, and university-level teaching positions.
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Cybersecurity Doctoral Programs
This list of doctoral cybersecurity programs has been pulled from the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System, where schools self-report their programs and offerings. Each holds regional accreditation from one of the following bodies:
Higher Learning Commission (HLC)
Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE)
New England Commission of Higher Education (NECHE)
Southern Association of College and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC)
WASC Senior College and University Commission (WSCUC)
Follow the links to their program websites to learn more.
Capitol Technology University
Doctorate in Cybersecurity or Doctor of Philosophy in Cybersecurity Leadership
What To Expect From Cybersecurity Doctoral Degree Programs
Ph.D. in cybersecurity programs prepare students for advanced careers protecting computer systems and networks from attacks. A subfield of computer science, cybersecurity doctoral programs focus on high-level areas of information assurance, research methodology, professional ethics, and leadership. Program length varies, but doctoral candidates usually finish their Ph.D. in cybersecurity in 3-7 years, with an average load of 60 credits.
Ph.D. students take credits in cybersecurity theory, research design, electives, and dissertation research and writing. Typical courses include professional research theory and practice, advanced computer security, and managing cybersecurity risk. Most schools offer a Ph.D. in cybersecurity, but some programs offer a doctor of science or a doctor of professional studies. Students can choose from online, in-person, and hybrid cybersecurity doctorates.
The price of a cybersecurity Ph.D. varies, but typical cost per credit is $1,500-$2,000. Most programs provide a variety of financing options, including scholarships, grants, loans, and graduate assistantships. Some schools maintain fully funded Ph.D. in cybersecurity programs, allowing students to earn their degree without paying any tuition.
Doctoral Admission Requirements
Admission requirements for cybersecurity doctoral degree programs vary by school. Applicants need at least a bachelor’s degree, but some universities require a master’s degree in a field related to computer science. Some programs accept learners with a degree in an unrelated field, but require them to complete foundational prerequisite courses.
Cybersecurity doctoral programs typically require a minimum 3.0 GPA and satisfactory GRE scores. Many schools offer GRE waivers for applicants with excellent professional or academic backgrounds. Other common application requirements include letters of recommendation, writing samples, college transcripts, and a resume or CV. Some Ph.D. in cybersecurity programs require an in-person admission interview.
Cybersecurity Degree and Specialization Options
Cybersecurity doctoral programs typically offer one of two degree options: a Ph.D. (doctor of philosophy degree) or a DSc (doctor of science degree) in cybersecurity, information assurance, or digital forensics.
Ph.D. in cybersecurity programs emphasize theory and research, while a DSc in cybersecurity focuses on theory and technical knowledge with practical applications. Less commonly, some schools offer a doctor of professional studies (DPS) in cybersecurity, which focuses primarily on applied knowledge and training. The most popular option is the Ph.D. in cybersecurity.
In many cases, cybersecurity is a specialization that falls under a broader field or degree, like computer science. However, some Ph.D. in cybersecurity programs offer concentrations that let students focus on a specific area of the field related to their career aspirations or personal interests. Potential cybersecurity specializations include leadership and innovation, digital forensics, and IT.
Popular Doctoral Program Courses
The type and variety of classes in cybersecurity doctoral degree programs varies by school. Typical courses explore computer security, statistics, cryptography, and information security management. Most programs require core, concentration/elective, and dissertation/research credits. Below, we describe courses from a typical Ph.D. in cybersecurity curriculum.
This class provides a foundation in advanced computer security topics in the context of global society. Topics include operating system security, database security, network security protocols, and trusted computing. Students learn to use authorization techniques and authentication mechanisms, design operating systems, and mitigate computer security risks.
This course focuses on the ethical, legal, and policy issues of cybersecurity. Students explore domestic and international legal principles and security law. They learn to critically evaluate policy documents and compliance issues, conduct independent research, and make presentations.
Learners investigate cybersecurity risks and learn management techniques to mitigate and address breaches and develop cyber defense strategies. This class looks at formal methodologies for strategic decision-making and trains students to assess common and less common cybersecurity risks.
This class prepares doctoral students to create a dissertation proposal and research plan. Candidates create the documentation for their topic, get approval from their faculty advisors, and submit information to the school’s institutional research board if necessary. Learners also conduct a professional literature review of their research topic.
The Doctoral Dissertation
The hallmark of the Ph.D. in cybersecurity, the doctoral dissertation requires a significant investment of time, hard work, and dedication. Students complete all courses and take comprehensive exams before starting this written culmination of graduate work. Doctoral candidates choose a topic addressing a problem in cybersecurity, complete original research in that area, and write a formal, publication-quality paper on it.
The research process includes creating a plan, getting faculty approval, conducting research, and writing. The final step includes an oral presentation and defense in front of the Ph.D. candidate’s committee. The time it takes to complete a dissertation varies, but students typically finish in 12-24 months. Doctoral candidates do not need to identify a dissertation topic at the beginning of the program, but it helps to have a general idea of your research interests as soon as possible.
How Much Will a Doctorate in Cybersecurity Cost?
The cost of earning a doctorate in cybersecurity varies by school and individual circumstances. Factors influencing prices include program length, type of university (public or private), and program format (online, hybrid, or in person). Cost also varies depending on whether you pay in-state or out-of-state tuition.
The price of a Ph.D. in cybersecurity can seem high, but do not assume you can not afford it. First, choose your top cybersecurity programs, then consider the cost. Although many doctoral cybersecurity programs look expensive, students almost never pay the full price for a Ph.D.
Financing options include loans, fellowships, grants, and scholarships. Many cybersecurity doctoral degree programs also offer graduate teaching and research assistantships, where students work as teaching or research assistants in exchange for tuition reimbursement and a stipend. In fully funded Ph.D. programs, doctoral candidates pay zero tuition, and instead get paid to work and study full time.
Jobs and Salaries for Doctors of Cybersecurity
Graduates of cybersecurity doctoral degree programs qualify for a variety of in-demand jobs in computer and IT fields. Many employers in IT increasingly prefer job applicants with a graduate degree for senior-level positions.
The BLS expects a strong outlook for information security analysts in 2019-29 at a projected 31% job growth rate, much faster than the average for all occupations. Other promising cybersecurity jobs include computer and information systems managers, computer and information research scientists, and cybersecurity professors. Ph.D. in cybersecurity salary expectations substantially exceed the median annual salary. Below, we describe potential career paths for those with a Ph.D. in cybersecurity.
Computer and Information Systems Managers
Often called IT managers, computer and information systems managers coordinate computer-related activities and set technology goals for organizations. Typical job duties include managing the work of other IT professionals, planning the maintenance of software and hardware, and recommending technology upgrades to management. Many employers prefer computer and information systems managers with a graduate degree and relevant professional experience. Most start out as lower-level managers and move up in their IT department over time.
Computer and information research scientists study computing problems in business, medicine, and science. They help create new computer software and hardware and find different ways of using existing computing technologies. Duties may include creating models and theories to address issues in computing, creating new computer tools and languages, and publishing new research findings. Important qualities for computer and information research scientists include communication, critical thinking, analytical, and quantitative skills.
Postsecondary teachers provide instruction to students beyond high school. Earning a Ph.D. in cybersecurity prepares learners for college-level teaching jobs in computer science and IT departments. Postsecondary teachers create lesson plans, teach courses, grade assignments, and advise students. They also often participate in research and publishing in their field. Helpful qualities of postsecondary teachers include interpersonal, critical thinking, and communication skills.
Information security analysts protect organizations’ computer systems and networks by developing and enacting a variety of security measures. They monitor networks to detect security breaches, install software to protect information, and research IT security trends. Some employers prefer applicants with a graduate degree and relevant certifications. Information security analysts work in computer systems design, finance, insurance, and management.
Our list of cybersecurity doctoral programs is a great place to start exploring potential schools, but finding the right program takes research. Below, we describe other key factors that go into choosing the right cybersecurity program.
Any Ph.D. in cybersecurity program you consider should hold regional accreditation. Attending an accredited school makes it easier to get financial aid, qualify for professional certifications, and transfer credit. Regional accreditation also signifies high quality of curriculum, faculty, and university services.
Difficulty of Admission
How hard is it to get into your desired cybersecurity program? Admission requirements and acceptance rates vary considerably.
What type of doctoral culture do you seek? Some Ph.D. in cybersecurity programs provide a formal, professionally focused culture, while others offer a more casual learning environment where professors and students become good friends.
Does the prestige of your university or degree matter to you? In many cases program reputation does not make much of a difference, but sometimes it can lead to better job offers and salaries after graduation.
How much will it cost you to earn your Ph.D. in cybersecurity? Many doctoral programs offer tuition reductions to students who work for the university as research or teaching assistants.
Should You Get Your Ph.D in Cybersecurity Online?
Earning a Ph.D. in cybersecurity online offers affordability, convenience, and freedom. Typical online Ph.D. in cybersecurity students include working IT professionals, learners who have been out of school for a long time, and those looking to change careers. The flexibility to learn from anywhere and at any time appeals to many.
Online graduate programs are increasingly popular and recognized as offering the same high level education as their traditional on-campus counterparts. Cybersecurity doctoral degrees may offer a particularly well-suited environment for online learning, because of the emphasis on computing and technical skills. Students seeking a Ph.D. in cybersecurity need high-level computer knowledge, which they can refine as online learners.
The decision to earn a degree online is a personal one, and only you can decide if it suits your needs. Consider factors like your personal learning style, resources available for distance students, and any other time commitments in your life. Many schools offer hybrid programs, which combine online and in-person learning — an ideal compromise for some cybersecurity students.
How long does it take to get a Ph.D. in cybersecurity?
The amount of time it takes to earn a Ph.D. in cybersecurity varies by program and individual. Depending on the number of required credits and how quickly you complete your dissertation, it could take 3-7 years to graduate.
What can you do with a Ph.D. in cybersecurity?
A Ph.D. in cybersecurity prepares graduates for a variety of computing and IT career paths. Potential jobs include information security analyst, computer and information research scientist, and IT director.
What does it take to get a Ph.D. in cybersecurity?
Earning a Ph.D. in cybersecurity takes hard work and an investment of time. Students need good quantitative, analytical, critical thinking, and problem-solving skills.
Is a doctorate in cybersecurity worth it?
Completing a doctor of science in cybersecurity requires a major investment of time and money, but it can pay off. Graduates qualify for in-demand, high-paying careers, like computer and information systems managers, who make a median annual salary of $146,360.