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Cybersecurity professionals help identify and prevent digital security threats. Their duties may include monitoring security on personal devices or large, mission-critical networks. With the increased demand for qualified cybersecurity specialists, earning a master's in cybersecurity offers value to professionals and employers.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects rapid, faster-than-average growth for information security jobs from 2020-2030. A 2020 report from the Enterprise Strategy Group (ESG) and Information Systems Security Association (ISSA) describes an ongoing and worsening cybersecurity skills shortage. The industry needs qualified, skilled professionals, making now a good time to earn a cybersecurity master's degree.
Keep reading to learn more about how to earn your master's in cybersecurity online and explore our ranking of affordable, accredited programs.
What Is a Master's in Cybersecurity?
Cybersecurity master's programs cover cyberdefense and operation systems and technology. This differs from information technology (IT). IT explores the use and storage of information, and cybersecurity focuses on ways to secure computers and networks from attack or misuse. However, some cybersecurity programs offer concentrations in IT and other closely related fields, as these topics overlap in many ways.
Cybersecurity master's programs prepare students to pursue advanced roles in the field and include classes in specialized topics, such as applied cryptology. These programs vary in length depending on credit requirements. Typically, students can earn a master's in cybersecurity in 1-3 years.
Master's in cybersecurity programs often vary in courses and credit requirements, but many require 30-45 credits. Students complete core requirements and courses in their concentration.
Many programs offer online students the same tuition rate whether they're in state or out of state. Some learners may incur lower costs by completing their degrees at an accelerated pace.
Top Online Cybersecurity Master's
Best Online Master's in Cybersecurity Programs
Earning a master's in cybersecurity online prepares learners for advanced careers in a fast growing, in-demand industry. This guide ranks the best cybersecurity programs based on various factors, including affordability, flexibility, and overall program appeal. These rankings offer prospective students some insight into the top cybersecurity schools so they can choose the right program.
What the Best Online Cybersecurity Master's Programs Have in Common
Like every college experience, cybersecurity programs vary between schools. However, despite their differences, many top cybersecurity schools share similar characteristics:
- They Are Accredited: Accreditation ensures that a school offers a high-quality education and meets established standards for instruction and curriculum. Choosing an accredited program should be a top priority for prospective students. Federal financial aid requires enrollment in an accredited institution, and future employers typically prefer graduates from accredited programs. Our rankings only feature accredited schools.
- They Hold National Security Agency Center of Academic Excellence Designation: The NSA sponsors two types of awards for excellence in cybersecurity programs: a designation in cyberdefense and one in cyberoperations. To earn this distinguished credential, programs must meet strict criteria for curriculum and focus areas. The designation highlights programs that feature special technology and techniques. These programs provide crucial experience and training in cyberdefense and operations to help prepare students for in-demand careers.
- They Are Affordable: Completing a master's in cybersecurity is an investment. However, many of the top programs offer affordable, flexible options for students. Online master's in cybersecurity programs sometimes allow enrollees to complete required coursework at an accelerated pace, which can lower overall costs. Some programs also offer in-state tuition rates for all online learners. Online programs allow students to avoid on-campus costs such as commuting expenses, activity fees, and parking permits.
- They Offer Strong Curricula: Many of the top cybersecurity schools offer strong, well-developed online programs. These programs develop advanced technical skills, emphasize real-word applications, and provide various specialization options. Strong cybersecurity programs also show evidence of high retention and graduation rates.
1. University of California-Berkeley
University of California-Berkeley offers multiple online master's programs, including a cybersecurity degree. With multiple online graduate programs, the public institution ranks among the top online universities. Distance learners benefit from online support services, academic advising, and career services.
During the master's in information and cybersecurity, enrollees receive graduate-level training in the field. The program's rigorous curriculum incorporates industry-relevant topics. The flexible enrollment options help busy students complete a graduate degree on their schedule.
A graduate degree allows professionals to move into advanced cybersecurity careers. Students pay for their master's degree using federal loans, scholarships, and other forms of financial aid. The university provides additional information on application requirements and deadlines online. The total number of online students is 2,342.
- University of California-Berkeley Numbers:
- Distance Learning Master's Programs: 2
- Online Student Enrollment: 2,342
- Average Cost Per Credit: $2,712
- Average Price After Aid: $18,522
- Students Awarded Financial Aid: 63%
- Percentage of Learners Awarded Student Loans: 22%
- Awards Transfer Credits: Yes
University of California-Berkeley holds accreditation from the Western Association of Schools and Colleges Senior Colleges and University Commission.View School Profile
2. University of Southern California
University of Southern California offers several online graduate programs, including a master of science in cyber security engineering. Located in Los Angeles, California, the private institution acts as a leader in distance education. The university offers academic advising and career services to support distance learners.
The master's in cyber security engineering provides graduate-level training in the field. The rigorous curriculum emphasizes industry-relevant topics and abilities. The flexible schedule helps working professionals and busy students complete a graduate degree.
A graduate degree in cybersecurity prepares graduates for career advancement. At the accredited institution, online graduate students qualify for federal student aid, scholarships, and institutional aid. Visit the program website for more about application requirements and deadlines. The total number of online students is 8,203.
University of Southern California Facts:
- Number of Online Master's Degrees: 55
- Total Online Student Enrollment: 8,203
- Average Cost Per Credit: $1,948
- Average Net Price: NA
- Percentage of Students Awarded Financial Aid: 69%
- Students Receiving Loans: 26%
- Awards Transfer Credits: No
The school is accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges Senior Colleges and University Commission.View School Profile
3. Florida International University
Florida International University offers graduate programs that prepare students for new job opportunities and career advancement. Experts in the field teach courses in the accredited master's in global affairs, cybersecurity and technology policy track. Prospective students can use test scores to bolster their application. The school provides advisors, IT support professionals, and other support staff to help distance learners. Distance learners communicate with faculty and peers in a virtual learning environment.
Grad students use financial aid such as loans and scholarships to cover their tuition expenses. Master's programs help learners gain the knowledge and skills they need to secure roles in their field.
Florida International University Numbers:
- Total Number of Online Students: 39,863
- Number of Online Master's Options: 31
- Grad School Tuition: $8,912 in-state; $21,393 out-of-state
- Average Aid Per Learner: $8,958
- Average Price With Financial Aid: $9,888
The school is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges, a regional accrediting body.View School Profile
4. Johns Hopkins University
Johns Hopkins University is located in Baltimore, Maryland. The accredited cybersecurity program offers a rigorous curriculum taught by experts. Degree-seekers can use college admissions tests to strengthen their application. The school offers advisors, IT support professionals, and other support staff for distance learners. The virtual classroom setting lets learners interact with faculty and peers through an online format.
Students can apply for grants and scholarships to reduce the financial burden of earning a degree. Grants and scholarships help grad students lower their costs. The admission rate across all programs is 11% for new students.
Johns Hopkins University Fast Facts:
- Total Number of Online Students: 12,506
- Number of Online Master’s Programs: 30
- Graduate School Tuition: $55,350 in state and out of state
Johns Hopkins University has been accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education, an independent accrediting agency.View School Profile
New York University
Students interested in cybersecurity can earn their master's degree online at New York University. Graduate learners enroll in traditional programs on the New York, New York campus and in online programs at the private institution. Online master's students receive services like academic advising and career counseling.
The master's in cybersecurity provides graduate-level training in cybersecurity. The program's rigorous curriculum incorporates industry-relevant topics. The flexible schedule appeals to busy students balancing graduate school with other responsibilities.
With a master's degree, graduates advance their cybersecurity careers. At the accredited institution, online master's students qualify for federal loans, scholarships, and other forms of financial aid. Visit the program website for more about application requirements and deadlines. The total number of online students is 5,468.
New York University Fast Facts:
- Online Master's Program Count: 28
- Online Student Enrollment: 5,468
- Average Cost Per Credit: $1,867
- Percentage of Learners Receiving Aid: 52%
- Percentage of Students Awarded Loans: 29%
- Awards Transfer Credits: No
New York University has received accreditation from the Middle States Commission on Higher Education, an independent accrediting agency.View School Profile
Why Get Your Master's in Cybersecurity Online?
Many students turn to online programs to earn their degrees. Earning an online degree offers flexibility for learners, particularly those with personal and professional obligations that make on-campus programs difficult. Online programs often follow asynchronous formats, allowing students to view lectures when convenient.
Earning a master's in cybersecurity online may offer even more benefits specific to this field. For instance, students can complete coursework at home from their own computers and devices. Students already working in the field may find that online courses in cybersecurity help them grow and prepare to take on more professional responsibilities.
Prospective online learners should consider their lifestyle when deciding whether online learning works for them. Distance learners need strong time management skills and self discipline to complete coursework in addition to their other commitments.
MS in Cybersecurity Admission Requirements
Admission requirements for MS in cybersecurity programs vary, but many programs have common standards.
- Education: Generally, master's programs prefer applicants with a cybersecurity or computer science bachelor's degree. Cybersecurity programs may prefer applicants with a background in computer science, programming, or cybersecurity. Yer, some programs admit applicants without backgrounds in computer science or cybersecurity, typically requiring those students to complete prerequisite courses.
- Scores: Some programs require GRE scores or GPAs. For instance, top programs often require a minimum 3.0 undergraduate GPA.
- Supplemental Materials: Graduate programs often require other application materials, such as letters of recommendation or resumes showcasing work experience in the field.
Typical MS in Cybersecurity Online Courses
Online cybersecurity master's programs cover applied skills, analysis, critical thinking, and theory. Students apply concepts and theoretical knowledge to real-world cybersecurity systems and threat scenarios.
Core courses in these online programs examine internet security, information security, algorithms, and engineering security systems. Depending on their concentration, students may also take specialized courses in data mining, software modeling, programming, and information systems.
Master's programs in cybersecurity may also require a capstone course, practicum, or final thesis.
The list below describes some common courses in online MS in cybersecurity programs. Keep in mind that course content varies.
- Cyberlaw and Ethics: This course explores the legal aspects of online commerce and business. Students explore issues in digital property and information, focusing on how the law protects private data and online transactions.
- Computer Security: This course builds on computer security fundamentals, exploring different types of computer security systems and how they function. Students learn about authentication processes, access control, viruses, and potential software vulnerabilities.
- Network Defense: In addition to exploring techniques for building secure networks, students examine various security protocols and security systems. They also conduct vulnerability assessments and identify areas susceptible to breaches.
Jobs for MS in Cybersecurity Graduates
The cybersecurity field continues to grow at a rapid rate. According to some estimates, the number of job openings in cybersecurity greatly surpasses the number of qualified professionals, creating a critical shortage in workers. ESG and ISSA surveyed cybersecurity professionals in a 2020 report: 48% of respondents said the cybersecurity skills shortage had not improved in recent years, and 45% said it had gotten worse.
Cybersecurity careers can offer highly competitive salaries. For instance, information security analysts earned a median salary of $103,590 in 2020. Earning advanced degrees and certifications may increase earning potential. Growth projections for cybersecurity careers remain positive.
Explore Top Jobs for Master’s in Cybersecurity Graduates:
Top Online Cybersecurity Master's
How to Find the Right Online Master's Cybersecurity Program
All the programs in our ranking boast hold National Centers of Academic Excellence in Cybersecurity (NCAE-C) designations. In addition to accreditation and distinguished faculty, you may also consider other factors in your school search.
- Tailored Cybersecurity Curriculum: Does the curriculum give you a chance to gain hands-on experience in virtual labs? Does it include a capstone project where you can apply your knowledge? Will you be able to earn professional certificates, continuing education units, or credits toward professional designations?
- Online Admissions and Student Profile: This section can help you decide whether the program offers the right fit for your level of experience. Is it designed for IT professionals who want to move into security, for mid-stage tech gurus who aspire to become chief information security officers, or for executives who need a systematic view of information security? Is the program friendly to veterans, women, and minorities? Pay attention to the acceptance rate and the average GPA, as these metrics often indicate high-quality technical programs.
- Career Support and Outcomes: Career assistance is a huge plus in an online degree, especially if you're working toward a promotion or new career. Does the university arrange interviews or hold virtual career fairs? Can you receive virtual job coaching? Find out if the program shares job placement rates and average graduate debt.
- Financial Aid: Many scholarship and fellowship programs exist for students pursuing a degree in cybersecurity or computer science. Students may also take advantage of employee discounts, veterans' benefits, and university aid. Public schools are usually more affordable than private schools, but private schools may offer more scholarships and sponsorships.
Questions About Cybersecurity Master's Degrees
Who may want to earn a cybersecurity master's degree?
A degree in cybersecurity can lead to in-demand careers in homeland security, digital forensics, and network security. Individuals with a background or interest in information technology, computer systems, and related topics can gain insights into how to keep data safe.
Why should you earn a master's in cybersecurity?
By earning an advanced degree, entry-level cybersecurity professionals enhance their existing knowledge and skills and can advance to leadership roles with higher earning potential. An online master's in cybersecurity covers advanced topics in digital forensics, ethical hacking, and risk management.
What are a few career paths one may take with an MS in cybersecurity?
Opportunities for individuals with a master's degree in cybersecurity include computer and information systems manager, cybersecurity consultant, and information security analyst. The BLS projects a 33% job growth rate for information security analysts from 2020-2030, which is much higher than the 8% average. This indicates strong employment potential in the field.
How long does it take to earn a master's in cybersecurity?
Students can complete a traditional cybersecurity master's degree in two years. Over four semesters, learners complete 30-36 credits. Online master's programs may offer opportunities to earn a degree on an accelerated schedule. Individuals with extensive experience and a strong background in cybersecurity can earn an accelerated master's degree in as few as 18 months.
What are some skills that students may learn in a cybersecurity master's program?
A master's in cybersecurity trains students to identify, analyze, and prevent security breaches and threats. Students may find opportunities to specialize in computer and network security, governance and compliance, or information technology auditing. Learners also build research, analytical, and problem-solving skills.
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