Master’s in Cybersecurity Programs

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Master’s in cybersecurity and information security students learn to protect information systems, prevent cyberattacks, and assess security risks for their organizations. The prevalence of cyberattacks makes individuals with cybersecurity credentials increasingly valuable to employers.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects a 31% job growth rate for information security analysts from 2019-2029.

A master’s in cybersecurity prepares graduates for high-level, in-demand careers as information security analysts, chief information security officers, security architects, and security engineers.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects a 31% job growth rate for information security analysts from 2019-2029.

Many information technology employers prefer job applicants with master’s degrees, especially managerial or high-level administrative positions. Earning a master’s in cybersecurity can help a professional improve their career opportunities and earn higher salaries.

Should I Get a Master’s in Cybersecurity?

Graduate programs provide several benefits for cybersecurity professionals who hold bachelor’s degrees and possess 1-5 years of field experience. Master’s degrees in cybersecurity can assist cybersecurity pros in landing top information security leadership positions at companies or public agencies.

  • Job Security: Individuals planning to pursue master’s degrees in the field can look to promising job growth rate projections in the field. An increased need for cybersecurity professionals in most professional sectors can be an indicator of continued job security.
  • Policy Influence: Cybersecurity has emerged as a leading concern for public policymakers. Threats to digital security affect corporations, national security, and families, making it one of our most critical modern issues.
  • High Salaries: Because jobs in cybersecurity often require technical skills and specialization, salaries in the field far exceed the median wage in the U.S. for all jobs.
  • Diverse Career Options: Master’s in cybersecurity jobs include penetration testing, security engineering, and information security analysis. Graduates can also seek careers in security leadership, academia, and research by pursuing Ph.D. degrees in the field.

What Can I Do With a Master’s Degree in Cybersecurity?

Those with master’s degrees in cybersecurity can pursue many career paths, including security engineering, penetration testing, and information security analysis. Some graduate students, however, pursue additional education instead of entering the workplace. Earning Ph.D. degrees can open pathways to teach at the university level and conduct research in the field.

Top Online Programs

Explore programs of your interests with the high-quality standards and flexibility you need to take your career to the next level.

Career and Salary Outlook for Cybersecurity Graduates

Students searching for high-paying, fast-growing tech careers can look to the cybersecurity field. Many cybersecurity jobs go unfilled due to the lack of qualified employees. The Center for Strategic Studies & International Studies projects that the global cybersecurity workforce shortage will lead to 1.8 million unfilled positions by 2022.

Because cybersecurity is one of the most in-demand fields, qualified professionals earn salaries far exceeding the median figure for all occupations. Chief information security officers and security architects earn particularly high salaries, often exceeding six figures.

The Center for Strategic Studies & International Studies projects that the global cybersecurity workforce shortage will lead to 1.8 million unfilled positions by 2022.

A bachelor’s degree opens the door to cybersecurity jobs. In many cases, however, security professionals must earn master’s degrees to advance professionally. Many cybersecurity professionals add additional certifications to their resumes to broaden their skills and career potential.

Security Engineer

Security engineers use engineering tools and techniques to develop and optimize information security systems. While other cybersecurity professionals identify security system weaknesses, engineers create security systems, including building firewalls and intrusion detection systems.

Entry-level security engineering jobs usually require bachelor’s degrees and 1-5 years of experience. More advanced positions call for master’s degrees and 5-10 years in the field.

Average Annual Salary: $94,080 | Learn More

Security Architect

Security architects identify strengths and weaknesses in organizations’ security protocols, software, and hardware. These professionals work at the intersection of technology and organizational leadership.

Security architects may conduct penetration tests, analyze risks, and assess routers or networks. They need communication, problem-solving, and organizational development skills.

Average Annual Salary: $125,570 | Learn More

Information Security Analyst

Security analysts serve as frontline professionals in the fight against cybercrime and data breaches. These computer experts develop security policies, recommend software and hardware upgrades, monitor systems for potential violations, and investigate data leaks.

Bachelor’s degrees in cybersecurity help professionals jump start their careers in this field. However, master’s degrees can lead to cybersecurity roles with more responsibility and higher pay.

Median Annual Salary: $103,590 | Learn More

Chief Information Security Officer

CISOs serve on their organizations’ senior leadership teams. They take responsibility for all aspects of data protection and management, including strategy, operations, and budgets.

These professionals typically work with other C-suite leaders to develop long-term organizational goals, plans, and priorities. Cybersecurity professionals with graduate-level education and many years of experience may qualify for high-level positions, such as CISOs.

Average Annual Salary: $166,498 | Learn More


Master’s Degree in Cybersecurity Careers: Average Annual Compensation by Experience, July 2021

Career Title ENTRY LEVEL (0-12 MONTHS) EARLY CAREER (1-4 YEARS) MIDCAREER (5-9 YEARS) EXPERIENCED (10-19 YEARS)
Security Engineer $71,940 $85,640 $102,620 $114,220
Security Architects $78,610 $93,460 $120,000 $131,420
Information Security Analyst $60,330 $68,120 $82,770 $96,540
Chief Information Security Officer $106,180 $122,810 $130,420 $169,070
Source: PayScale
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Continuing Education in Cybersecurity

Cybersecurity professionals looking to increase their salaries and advance their careers typically invest in ongoing education. Following a master’s degree, an individual can typically pursue a Ph.D. or certification.

Cybersecurity professionals wanting to pursue research or teaching positions may consider a Ph.D. degree. Individuals looking to increase their job responsibilities in corporations, agencies, or nonprofit organizations usually choose certification programs.

Ph.D.

A Ph.D. is the highest level of education a student can obtain in an academic field, preparing scholars, teachers, and researchers for leadership positions. Students in cybersecurity Ph.D. programs have already completed bachelor’s and master’s degrees, and they often hold several years of experience in the field. Ph.D. degrees typically conclude with a dissertation or research project and rigorous review by academic committees.

Cybersecurity Certifications

Universities award academic certificates, while professional organizations award certifications to demonstrate an individual’s skill and experience. Popular cybersecurity certifications include certified ethical hacker (CEH), certified information system security professional (CISSP), and the CompTIA Security+.

The CEH primarily prepares penetration testers, the CISSP emphasizes general skills, and the CompTIA Security+ serves as the baseline certification in the industry.

Earning Your Master’s Degree in Cybersecurity

Students pursuing master’s in cybersecurity degrees spend about two years learning advanced cybersecurity concepts to prepare for leadership roles in the field. Most degrees require 30-36 credits or about 10-12 classes.

Coursework often draws from cyberlaw and policy, digital forensics, cryptography, and risk analysis. Some classes focus on cybersecurity theory, while others require hands-on treatment of the real-world issues professionals encounter in the field.

These programs usually conclude with capstone projects focusing on research or field experience. Some schools allow students to research and write master’s theses for 3-6 credits of coursework.

Students can pursue cybersecurity degrees on campus or online. As a tech major, cybersecurity programs are well-suited to online learning. Students can tackle the concepts, case studies, and course challenges from their living rooms or favorite coffee shops as easily as traditional classrooms or computer labs.

Admission Requirements for a Cybersecurity Master’s Program

Master’s in cybersecurity program applicants need bachelor’s degrees for consideration. Some schools require candidates to hold computer science or cybersecurity bachelor’s degrees. Other programs may accept majors from other fields, provided students can demonstrate competency in data security.

Many schools require a minimum 3.0 GPA for admission, though this requirement varies between schools. Some institutions require minimum undergraduate GPAs, while others only consider 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 typically need some relevant professional experience and academic coursework. Interested applicants should contact their prospective schools to learn about their timelines and specific requirements.

Comparing Master’s Degree Options

Technology-focused master’s degrees include programs in computer science and subfields like cybersecurity. Some schools allow students to specialize in cybersecurity, while others include cybersecurity coursework within broader computer science programs.

Students can pursue cybersecurity careers with backgrounds in any computer-focused field, but aspiring cybersecurity professionals should specialize in the discipline.

MS in Cybersecurity: This degree prepares learners for roles protecting digital data and investigating cybercrimes. A master of science in cybersecurity degrees includes coursework in cryptography, digital forensics, and ethical hacking. Students may have academic backgrounds in computer science or possess extensive professional experience and training in cybersecurity.

MS in Computer Science: Computer science focuses on the underlying theories of the discipline. Degree-seekers may take courses in advanced machine learning, probability, and statistics. Some schools offer concentrations in software engineering, visual computing, or human-centered computing. Practicing computer scientists and engineers from other fields often enroll in this degree.

MS in Computer Engineering: In this master’s program, students learn to apply the principles of engineering to computer software and hardware. Computer engineering programs prepare enrollees for technically demanding careers in software, computer networks or hardware, and computer architecture. Curricula may include some cybersecurity courses.

MS in Information Technology: This computer science degree may include a strong cybersecurity component depending on the school. Information security programs typically include courses in application development and operating systems. This degree can lead to jobs as software engineers or computer network architects.

MS in Information Assurance: Information assurance master’s programs focus on protecting digital and physical data. This degree predates the internet and offers a broader scope than a cybersecurity degree. Coursework explores cybersecurity, cryptography, and data analysis. Graduates can compete for jobs in security leadership and management roles.

MBA in Information Security: This professional degree offers a core curriculum in business, including courses in marketing, finance, economics, and leadership. The program also provides elective or concentration coursework in information security. An MBA focuses less on the technical aspects of cybersecurity and more on its relationship to business. This program can help students kick off careers managing technical teams.

Popular Master’s in Cybersecurity Courses

Master’s in cybersecurity degrees include three types of classes: core courses, electives, and practicums. Some programs offer cross-disciplinary coursework. The following list includes common courses in cybersecurity master’s programs.

Foundations of Information Assurance

This introductory course in a master’s in cybersecurity provides basic skills and concepts related to network protection and data. Learners also consider planning, implementing, and managing security systems at the enterprise level. Topics include cryptography, network security, data mining, programming for malice, and operating system protection.

Cyberlaw and Ethics

Students in this course take a multidisciplinary approach to the legal and ethical issues related to privacy, U.S. law, fraud, trust, and international business. Learners explore government approaches to content control and rights, along with the public policy implications of content, governance, and intellectual property.

Human Factors in Security

Learners in this course consider security awareness training and information technology within organizational environments. They also explore mitigation strategies to protect organizations from human behaviors that can lead to compromised security.

Network Security

Students in this course consider the design principles of secure network protocols and systems, along with authentication, integrity, confidentiality, and privacy. Enrollees learn about digital watermarking, access control, intrusion detection, and information hiding through real-world case studies.

Applied Cryptography

Applied cryptography is a pillar course in a master’s program in cybersecurity. Topics in this information security course include cryptanalysis, cryptographic algorithms, digital signatures, public key cryptography, and hash and MAC functions.

Learn More About Common Cybersecurity Threats

The Master’s Practicum and Thesis

Most schools require a practicum as part of an MS in cybersecurity. Typically, students taking practicums receive placements in academic, corporate, or government settings to help solve major cybersecurity problems. Working under faculty direction, students document and investigate problems while experimenting with possible solutions. For many learners, the practicum offers a bridge between academia and the professional world.

In some schools, students can complete thesis projects as capstones for their master’s degrees in cybersecurity. A thesis usually involves researching a significant, well-defined problem and presenting evidence with both practical and academic merit. Typically, enrollees must present and defend their theses before faculty members or other qualified panelists.

Selecting Your Master’s in Cybersecurity Program

Prospective students should consider several factors when selecting master’s in cybersecurity programs. Cost and location rank high for most learners, but candidates should also consider the following questions:

  • School Size: Which suits your personality, learning preference, and desired outcome best: a small school with personal attention from faculty or a large school 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 possess practical and academic experience in the field?
  • Program Length: Can you fast-track your education with this program? Is it possible to take fewer courses if necessary?
  • Prestige/Reputation: How could this school’s reputation affect your job search? Will employers recognize their name?
  • Earning Potential for Graduates: What salaries do recent cybersecurity graduates earn?
  • Online vs. In-Person: Do you want to study online or in person? Is a hybrid program best? What if you want to switch approaches partway through the degree?
  • Accreditation: Does this school hold regional and/or programmatic accreditation?

Accreditation for Cybersecurity Schools and Programs

U.S. schools obtain accreditation by undergoing a third-party review of their programs, finances, and governance. Accrediting agencies approved by the Council on Higher Education Accreditation or the Department of Education conduct these reviews.

Regional accrediting agencies determine whether institutions uphold rigorous standards of academic excellence. National agencies usually accredit specialized schools, such as vocational schools and Bible colleges. Programmatic agencies accredit departments or programs. One school may hold accreditation from multiple accreditors.

Cybersecurity students should choose regionally accredited schools to assure quality, degree utility, and financial aid accessibility. They may also seek programs accredited by ABET or other recognized agencies.

What to Look For in an Online Bachelor’s Program in Cybersecurity

Distance learning programs provide flexibility for students earning their master’s in cybersecurity. Online graduate school can also offer more convenience and cost savings than traditional on-campus cybersecurity master’s programs. Below, we explain some key factors to consider when choosing an online school.

Program Format: Some programs feature synchronous, live classes that require students to log on to virtual classrooms at specific times. Others offer a more flexible asynchronous format for learners to explore materials on their own time.

Capstone Project: Some cybersecurity master’s programs feature capstone projects in their final semester. If this is important to you, make sure the school you choose offers this option.

Career Placement Assistance: Does your prospective cybersecurity program offer career placement services? Look for a career development office that offers resume assistance, mock interviews, access to a job board, and networking events.

Demo Courses: Does the program offer any free classes to sample before committing to applying or enrolling?

Tuition Rate: Some online colleges offer in-state tuition rates to out-of-state distance learners. If you plan to enroll in an out-of-state college, this could save you a lot of money.

Ranking Your Top Schools

Each student has different priorities when choosing an MS in cybersecurity program. Applicants should conduct research and ask questions when determining their top schools. Our online cybersecurity program rankings offer a great starting point.

Start your search with our program rankings:

Top Online Cybersecurity Master's Programs Top Online Cybersecurity Master's in Information Assurance Top Online Cybersecurity Master's in Information Technology

Resources

Professional Organizations for Cybersecurity

Professional organizations can help students and young professionals fast-track their cybersecurity careers. Students and professionals join these organizations to earn certifications, forge new connections, and stay up-to-date on the latest industry trends through journals and research.

Students and professionals can also access job boards, scholarships, and even health insurance through these associations. Professional organizations also allow members to share their research and knowledge at conferences or in newsletters.

  • Association of Information Technology Professionals

    CompTIA helps cybersecurity professionals stay on top of the latest skills, software, and techniques in the industry. The organization awards several certifications, along with research and analysis of relevant trends.

  • National Cybersecurity Student Association

    As the largest association of cybersecurity students in the U.S., the National Cybersecurity Student Association offers training events, networking, research, and development options. Students also pursue scholarships, internships, and jobs.

  • The SANS Institute

    The SANS Institute provides an online hub for cybersecurity research, training, and certification. Individuals interested in the field can take online or in-person classes to learn in-demand skills. Students can enroll in individual courses or earn full certificates.

  • Information Systems Security Association

    ISSA provides its members with learning opportunities, including a journal, events, a fellows program, and a job board. Students can apply to ISSA for scholarships and join local chapters.

Scholarships for Master’s Degree Programs in Cybersecurity

Financial aid from public and private sources can help cover the costs associated with cybersecurity master’s degree programs. The following scholarships represent a small selection of financial aid options for cybersecurity students. Interested applicants should contact their schools’ financial aid offices for additional support.

Raytheon CCDC Women's Cyber Security Scholarship


Who Can Apply: Applicants must have participated in National Collegiate Cyber Defense Competitions in the qualifying time frame. Each recipient must maintain a minimum 3.3 GPA. Reviewers consider online and on-campus students for this funding.


Amount: $10,000


Apply for Scholarship

CyberCorps Scholarship for Service


Who Can Apply: Students at participating institutions may apply for this U.S. government-funded scholarship. Application requirements and selection criteria vary among schools, but in all cases, only on-campus students qualify for this scholarship. Recipients must agree to work for the federal government after graduation.


Amount: Up to three years of support


Apply for Scholarship

Smart Scholarship for Service


Who Can Apply: Candidates must be at least 18 years old, interested in summer internships with the U.S. Department of Defense, and willing to take jobs with the department upon graduation. Each applicant needs a minimum GPA of 3.0.


Amount: Full tuition, board, and stipend


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(ISC)² Graduate Scholarship


Who Can Apply: Master’s and doctoral students pursuing degrees in cybersecurity can apply for this scholarship, provided that they hold 3.5 GPAs at minimum. Applicants do not need U.S. citizenship and may study on campus or online.


Amount: $1,000-$5,000


Apply for Scholarship

Deputy Scholarship for Women in Technology


Who Can Apply: Women who study full time at accredited U.S.-based colleges can apply. An applicant must hold a minimum 3.0 GPA, major in an eligible field (such as cybersecurity), and submit a 500-word essay describing their career ambitions and which tech innovations excite them the most.


Amount: $2,000


Apply for Scholarship

Frequently Asked Questions

  • How many years does it take to earn a cybersecurity master's degree?

    Full-time students take about two years to complete a master’s degree in cybersecurity. Some accelerated online options take less time. Part-time students may complete their master’s degree in 3-4 years.

  • Can you get a cybersecurity master's online?

    Yes. Many schools offer cybersecurity master’s degrees online. Students often enroll in online programs because of the freedom and flexibility they offer. Some programs may include in-person requirements, so check with your school to make sure.

  • Are there online master's cybersecurity programs that don't require a GRE?

    Yes. Prospective students can find online master’s programs that do not require GRE scores. Check the admission requirements and application process sections of your prospective program’s website for more information.

  • What is an MS in network security?

    Network security is a subfield of cybersecurity. A network security master’s degree teaches students to protect IT infrastructure in a computer network from attacks. A master’s in cybersecurity teaches learners to protect interconnected networks and systems.

Accredited Online College Programs

Recommended Reading

5 Best Online Master’s in Cybersecurity Programs 2021

5 Best Online Master’s in Cybersecurity Programs 2021

October 7, 2021   |   Victoria Leigh

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 5 Cybersecurity Schools 2021

Top 5 Cybersecurity Schools 2021

October 14, 2021   |   CyberDegrees.org Staff

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.