Master’s in Cybersecurity Programs

Master’s in Cybersecurity Programs

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While the world depends on digital data, it faces rising data security threats. Cybersecurity has emerged as one of the most in-demand fields. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects that information security analysts will see total jobs grow 33% from 2020-2030.

As cybercriminals grow more sophisticated, information security professionals must match — and exceed — their skill level. A master's in cybersecurity allows current industry professionals to advance their knowledge and skills. This degree can help graduates seek higher-paying jobs and have more influence in the field.

Though cybersecurity is a new field, many universities offer cybersecurity master's degree programs. Students can also pursue a cybersecurity concentration in related fields, such as computer science or computer engineering.

What Is a Master's in Cybersecurity Degree?

A master's in cybersecurity can equip graduates to serve as leaders, researchers, and analysts in the growing information security field.

According to the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), the average tuition and fees for graduate programs were $19,790 for 2019-2020.

Cybersecurity master's degrees usually include courses in cryptography, digital forensics, and ethical hacking. Degree-seekers can often pursue specializations such as analysis, systems, or network security. Earning a cybersecurity master's degree usually takes about two years. Most programs comprise 30-36 credits.

Admission to a cybersecurity graduate program requires an undergraduate degree. Most applicants hold a bachelor's in a related field such as engineering or computer science. Some cybersecurity schools prefer applicants with professional experience in information technology or computer science.

According to the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), the average tuition and fees for graduate programs were $19,790 for 2019-2020. Federal and private financial aid can help students pay for school. Studying online, part-time, or at an in-state public school may reduce educational costs.

Should You Get a Master's in Cybersecurity?

Graduate programs offer a variety of benefits for cybersecurity professionals. Earning a master's in cybersecurity can help pros land information security leadership positions at companies or public agencies.

  • Job Security: The need for cybersecurity professionals continues to grow. Master's in cybersecurity graduates can look forward to a strong job market in their field.
  • Policy Influence: Cybersecurity has emerged as a leading concern for public policymakers. Threats to digital security affect corporate America, national security, and American families.
  • High Salaries: Because jobs in cybersecurity often require technical skills and specialization, salaries typically exceed the national median wage. Many cybersecurity positions earn more than $90,000 in average annual income. Top-earning professionals can earn much more.
  • Diverse Career Options: Master's in cybersecurity jobs include penetration testing, security engineering, and information security analysis. Graduates can also seek leadership, teaching, or research roles by pursuing doctorates in cybersecurity.

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What to Expect From a Cybersecurity Master's Degree Program

Students pursuing master's in cybersecurity degrees can spend about two years learning advanced cybersecurity concepts. These graduate programs help candidates prepare for leadership roles in the field. Most degrees require 30-36 credits or about 10-12 courses.

Courses often examine cyberlaw and policy, digital forensics, cryptography, and risk analysis. Some MS in cybersecurity courses focus on cybersecurity theory. Others involve hands-on treatment of real-world issues professionals may encounter in the field.

These programs usually conclude with capstones. Capstone projects may focus on research or field experience. Some top cybersecurity schools allow students to research and write master's theses.

Students can pursue cybersecurity degrees on campus or online. As an internet-focused major, cybersecurity master's programs adapt well to online learning. Students can tackle the concepts, case studies, and course challenges from their living rooms as easily as traditional classrooms.

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Admission Requirements for a Cybersecurity Master's Program

Applicants to master's in cybersecurity degree programs must typically hold a bachelor's degree. Some schools require a bachelor's in cybersecurity or computer science. Other programs may accept majors in different fields, provided students can demonstrate data security competence.

Many schools require a minimum 3.0 GPA for admission into a cybersecurity master's program. However, this requirement varies between schools. Some institutions set minimum overall GPA requirements, but others only look at applicants' grades in computer science courses.

Some universities and colleges ask applicants to submit GRE or GMAT scores. Reference letters from professors or employers may also help meet admission requirements. Prospective students may need industry experience, along with academic coursework. Applicants should contact their school to learn about timelines and specific admission requirements.

Cybersecurity Master's Degree Options

Technology-focused master's degrees can take many forms. Some students complete general computer science programs. Others earn specialized degrees in subfields like cybersecurity. Some top cybersecurity schools allow students in other computer-related degrees to concentrate in cybersecurity. Many universities include cybersecurity coursework within broader programs.

Students can pursue careers in cybersecurity from backgrounds in almost any computer-focused field. However, aspiring cybersecurity professionals should concentrate in the discipline.

  • MS in Cybersecurity: This degree helps prepare students to protect digital data and investigate cybercrimes. Cybersecurity master's degrees include coursework in cryptography, digital forensics, and ethical hacking. Students often come from academic backgrounds in other computer science areas. Many MS in cybersecurity candidates hold professional experience and training in the discipline.
  • MS in Computer Science: Computer science focuses on the discipline's underlying theories. Students pursuing this degree may take advanced courses in machine learning and statistics. Some schools offer concentrations in software engineering, visual computing, or human-centered computing. Practicing computer scientists and engineers often enroll in this degree.
  • MS in Computer Engineering: In this master's program, students apply engineering principles to computer software and hardware. Computer engineering programs help prepare students for technically demanding careers in software, computer networks or hardware, and computer architecture. Although these programs' curricula may include cybersecurity courses, they focus on other areas of study.
  • MS in Information Technology: This computer science degree can include a cybersecurity component, depending on the school. Information security programs typically incorporate courses in application development and operating systems. This degree can lead to jobs as software engineers or computer network architects.
  • MS in Information Assurance: Less common than other cybersecurity-related degrees, information assurance programs focus on protecting digital and physical data. This degree existed before the internet, offering a broader scope than a cybersecurity master's degree. Coursework includes cybersecurity, cryptography, and data analysis. Alumni can compete for jobs in security leadership and management.
  • MBA in Information Security: This professional degree offers a core curriculum in business. Coursework covers marketing, finance, economics, and leadership. The degree also includes elective or concentration coursework in information security. The MBA tends to emphasize cybersecurity's business applications over its technical aspects. This program can help students kick off careers managing technical teams.

Popular Master's in Cybersecurity Courses

Cybersecurity master's degrees generally include three types of classes: core courses, electives, and research or practicums.

Some cybersecurity master's degree programs offer cross-disciplinary courses. The list below includes common cybersecurity graduate courses and concentrations. Not all schools offer these classes, but this list provides a snapshot of a master's degree in this field.

  • Foundations of Information Assurance: This introductory class covers basic skills and concepts in network protection and data. Students learn to plan, implement, and manage security systems at the enterprise level. Topics include threats, cryptography, network security, and data mining. The curriculum also explores software vulnerabilities, programming for malice, and operating system protection.
  • Cyberlaw and Ethics: This multidisciplinary course examines legal and ethical issues related to privacy, U.S. law, fraud, and international business. Learners explore government approaches to content control and rights. The course also addresses public policy implications of content, governance, and intellectual property.
  • Human Factors in Security: In this course, students investigate cybersecurity's human side. Key topics include integrity, practices, and procedures. Learners consider security awareness training and information technology within an organizational environment. They also look at strategies to protect organizations from security-compromising behavior.
  • Network Security: Students in this course explore topics related to network assessment and defense. They consider the design principles of secure network protocols and systems. Real-world case studies help students learn about digital watermarking, access control, intrusion detection, and information hiding. Other topics include authentication, integrity, confidentiality, and privacy.
  • Applied Cryptography: Applied cryptography is a master's in cybersecurity pillar course. Topics in this information security course include cryptanalysis, symmetric cryptography, and cryptographic algorithms. Learners also explore digital signatures, pseudo-random generators, cryptographic protocols, and public-key cryptography.

The Master's in Cybersecurity Practicum and Thesis

Most MS in cybersecurity programs include a practicum. MS candidates may complete their practicums in academic, corporate, or government settings. Under faculty direction, students investigate problems, experiment with solutions, and document their work. For many learners, the practicum serves as a bridge between academia and the workplace.

In some cybersecurity master's degree programs, students can complete a capstone master's thesis project. A thesis usually involves researching a significant, well-defined problem. Candidates then present evidence with both practical and academic merit. Typically, students must present and defend their theses before a panel of faculty members and industry experts.

How Much Will a Master's in Cybersecurity Degree Cost?

Cybersecurity master's degree program costs depend on many different factors. Residency is one important consideration. Public institutions typically offer lower tuition rates to in-state residents. Some schools extend in-state pricing to online students who live in other states.

Private schools usually charge higher tuition than public colleges. According to NCES, graduate tuition at public institutions cost an average of $12,410 for the 2019-2020 school year, while private school tuition averaged $26,600. An institution's prestige can also affect expenses. Students may also incur costs for technology and living expenses.

Fortunately, many degree-seekers can take advantage of financing options. Universities offer scholarships, and some companies provide employee tuition reimbursement. Students can also take advantage of federal student aid, student loans, and private scholarships.

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What Can I Do With a Master's in Cybersecurity?

A master's in cybersecurity can open doors to high-paying, in-demand technology professions. The BLS projects that the computer and technology field will add 667,600 new jobs from 2020-2030. These jobs paid a median annual salary of $91,250 as of 2020.

The BLS also projects that information security analyst jobs will grow by 33% from 2020-2030. As of 2020, these professionals earned a median annual salary of $103,590.

Cybersecurity specialists can work in various industries, including healthcare, national security, plus banking and finance. A master's degree can help security professionals prepare to assume leadership roles, influence public policy, and teach cybersecurity. A master's in cybersecurity can also lay the groundwork for a Ph.D. in the field.

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Selecting Your Cybersecurity Master's Degree Program

Students must weigh various factors when selecting a master's in cybersecurity program. Two factors — cost and location — rank high on many people's lists, but future learners should also consider the following:

  • School Size: What type of school best suits your personality, learning preferences, and goals? Some students prefer a small school with personal attention from faculty. Others favor a large institution with a national brand and an extensive alumni network.
  • Concentrations: Does this school offer the concentration you want? How important is that concentration to you?
  • Staff Credentials: How many teachers hold professional and academic experience in the field?
  • Program Length: Can you fast-track your education with this program? Is it possible to slow things down if necessary?
  • Prestige/Reputation: How could this school's reputation affect your job search? Will employers recognize the name?
  • Earning Potential for Graduates: If available, find out what salaries do recent alumni earn?
  • Online vs. In-Person: Do you want to study online, in person, or hybrid? Consider your learning preferences and if a prospective college offers that format.
  • Accreditation: Does this school hold regional accreditation? What about programmatic accreditation?

Should You Get Your Cybersecurity Master's Online?

More than seven million American students enrolled in online education programs in 2019, according to NCES. Distance learning has brought educational opportunities to working students, stay-at-home parents, and other learners who need more flexibility and accessibility.

Of course, not all schools offer online degrees, and not all majors fit easily into distance learning formats. However, few programs suit online education as well as cybersecurity, a computer-based field.

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Top Master's in Cybersecurity Programs

To help you find the best school for you, we've curated a list of the top five master's in cybersecurity programs for 2022. We rank schools based on factors such as retention rate, post-graduation student debt, and return on investment. Visit our ranking methodology page to learn more.

View our ranking methodology

1. University of California-Berkeley

A public institution, University of California-Berkeley offers online and in-person master's programs at its Berkeley campus. Degree-seekers can enroll in a variety of programs, including a master's in cybersecurity. The cybersecurity program's rigorous curriculum helps enrollees develop field-specific knowledge, which they apply during experiential learning opportunities.

Along with core classes, the master's program requires advanced cybersecurity coursework. The school delivers accredited programs to prepare learners for career advancement. Master's students can access support services such as faculty mentorship and career counseling. The master's program can benefit learners who are new to the field and those with established cybersecurity careers.

Degree-seekers with financial need can submit the FAFSA to qualify for federal grants, scholarships, and loans. To fund their graduate education, 63% of the school's students receive financial aid.

University of California-Berkeley Facts:

  • Number of Master's Programs: 104
  • Online Master's Degrees: 2
  • Average Per-Credit Price: $2,712
  • Graduate Tuition In-State: $11,442
  • Graduate Tuition Out-of-State: $26,544
  • Allows Transfer Credits: Yes
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2. University of Southern California

University of Southern California is a private institution located in Los Angeles. Master's degree-seekers complete advanced courses in their field. While completing the cybersecurity master's program, degree-seekers gain the knowledge and skills necessary to secure roles in their field. Program coursework explores specialized topics and prepares students for work in cybersecurity.

Students can access support services online and in person. This often means peer or professional tutoring in various subjects.

Per credit, degree-seekers at the school pay an average of $1,948. The institution reports that 69% of students receive financial aid and 26% take out loans. Grants and scholarships can help degree-seekers minimize student debt. The institution accepts 11% of applicants.

University of Southern California has been accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges Senior Colleges and University Commission.

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3. Georgetown University

Situated in Washington, District of Columbia, Georgetown University offers undergraduate and graduate programs in virtual and in-person formats. The private institution delivers a total of 87 master's programs. These programs rank among the top master's programs in the country.

The institution offers a master of professional studies in cybersecurity risk management for learners seeking advanced courses in cybersecurity. The program features a rigorous curriculum, helping enrollees develop foundational knowledge in the field. Graduate students can complete internships to gain experience and bolster their resume. Master's students work with faculty advisors, who provide advice and insights into the field. The cybersecurity program prepares graduates for the job market or career advancement.

Degree-seekers in the school's online programs pay an average of $1,885 per credit. Students with financial need can submit the FAFSA to qualify for federal grants and loans. Learners can access support services such as tutoring and career counseling. For specific application details, including requirements and deadlines, prospective students can review information on the institution's website.

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4. Florida State University

Learners attending Florida State University can choose from respected master's programs in many fields, including cybersecurity. After earning the master's degree in cybersecurity, graduates often qualify for promotions or raises.

Enrollees develop specialized knowledge in the field and soft skills that apply to experiential learning opportunities and professional roles. By blending theoretical and practical knowledge, the program emphasizes industry-focused knowledge and skills. The school delivers support services including academic advising and career counseling.

Master's students usually earn their degree in cybersecurity after 1-2 years of full-time study. Degree-seekers at the accredited institution qualify for federal financial aid programs.

Florida State University Numbers:

  • Total Master's Programs: 102
  • Distance Learning Master's Programs: 13
  • Students Receiving Aid: 97%
  • Students Receiving Loans: 35%
  • Transfer Credits Accepted: No
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5. Johns Hopkins University

Johns Hopkins University delivers 362 academic programs, including a master's in cybersecurity. Master's degree-seekers complete advanced courses in their field. Master's-level curricula emphasize the knowledge and skills that employers value. Courses build on foundational knowledge and explore topics specific to the learner's field of study.

To help students succeed, the institution provides a variety of support services. Support services include peer and professional tutoring.

Per credit, students at the school pay an average of $4,064. According to the school, 67% of learners receive financial aid and 29% take out loans. Grants and scholarships can help students reduce out-of-pocket expenses. The school reports an admission rate of 11% for graduate learners.

Johns Hopkins University is accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education, an independent accrediting agency.

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FAQ's About Cybersecurity Master's Degree Programs


What kind of degree do you need for cybersecurity?

Cybersecurity professionals come from diverse academic backgrounds. However, the field's highest-paying jobs, such as cybersecurity engineer and information security manager, often go to candidates with advanced education, such as master's degrees.

What is the best degree for cybersecurity?

Most employers require a bachelor's degree for cybersecurity roles. However, bachelor's graduates may find that a master's degree can open up even more career opportunities and higher salaries in the field.

Is it worth doing a master's in cybersecurity?

Cybersecurity offers one of the fastest-growing, highest-paying careers available. Professionals may need master's degrees to compete for the most lucrative cybersecurity jobs.

How much does an MS in cybersecurity graduate make?

The cybersecurity field offers many lucrative careers. As of March 2022, Payscale reports that professionals with a master's degree in cybersecurity earned an average annual salary of $89,000. Cybersecurity engineers and information security managers can make even more.


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