5 Best Online Master’s in Cybersecurity Programs 2021

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Find the right education path to take advantage of this fast-growing industry and join the front-lines on technology and security.

Cybersecurity professionals use complex systems to identify technological security threats. Their duties may include monitoring individual security on a personal device or handling national security on large, mission-critical networks. With the recent uptick in demand for qualified cybersecurity specialists, earning a master’s in cybersecurity offers increased overall value.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects rapid, substantial growth for jobs in information security analysis over the coming years. A 2020 project from the Enterprise Strategy Group (ESG) and Information Systems Security Association (ISSA) reported an ongoing and worsening cybersecurity skills shortage. The industry needs qualified, skilled professionals, making right now a great 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.

Explore This Page: Why Online? | Admission Requirements | Typical Courses | Jobs for Graduates | Choosing Your School | Top Master’s Programs | FAQs

What Is a Master’s in Cybersecurity?

Cybersecurity master’s programs emphasize the systems and technology used in cyberdefense and operations. This differs from information security and information technology (IT); IT explores the use and storage of information using technology, and cybersecurity focuses on methods for securing computers, networks, and other technology 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 take on more 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 course and credit requirements, but many require 30-45 credits. Students complete core requirements followed by courses in their chosen emphasis or concentration.

Many programs offer online students subsidized or flat-rate tuition, and some learners may incur lower costs by completing their degrees at an accelerated pace.

Read More About Master's in Cybersecurity Programs

Why Get Your Master’s in Cybersecurity Online?

More and more, students turn to online options to earn their degrees. Earning a degree online offers a great deal of flexibility for learners, particularly those with personal and professional obligations that make traditional on-campus programs difficult. Online programs often allow students the option to complete all work asynchronously and move through course requirements at their own pace.

Earning a master’s in cybersecurity online offers even more advantages specific to this field. For instance, students practicing skills in cybersecurity can do so 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 will suit their needs. Distance learners must possess strong skills in time management and organization. They must also commit a certain number of hours per week to coursework and studying, in addition to their other commitments.


MS in Cybersecurity Admission Requirements

Admission requirements for MS in cybersecurity programs vary, but many programs maintain similar standards for admission and seek common characteristics among applicants.

  • Education: Generally, master’s programs prefer applicants who already hold a cybersecurity or computer science bachelor’s degree. Cybersecurity programs may look for applicants with a background in computer science or experience with programming and the basic elements of cybersecurity. Some programs admit applicants without backgrounds in computer science or cybersecurity, typically requiring those students to complete prerequisite courses.
  • Scores: Some programs mandate that applicants submit GRE scores, and many admit only applicants with certain GPAs; for instance, top programs often require candidates to demonstrate a minimum 3.0 undergraduate GPA.
  • Supplemental Materials: Graduate programs often require other application materials, as well, such as letters of recommendation or evidence of work experience 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.


Typical MS in Cybersecurity Online Courses

Online cybersecurity master’s programs cover concrete skills, analysis, critical thinking, and theory. Through coursework, students apply concepts and theoretical knowledge to real-world, hands-on cybersecurity systems and threat scenarios.

Core courses in these online programs typically examine topics such as internet security, information security, algorithms, and engineering security systems. Depending on their chosen concentration, students may also pursue specialized courses in areas such as data mining, software modeling, programming, and information systems.

Master’s programs in cybersecurity may also require a capstone course, practicum, or thesis.

The list below describes some common offerings in online MS in cybersecurity programs. Keep in mind that course content varies from school to school.

  • Cyberlaw and Ethics: This course explores the legal aspects of online commerce and business. Students explore issues in digital property and information, with a focus on how the law protects private data and online transactions.
  • Computer Security: This course builds upon foundational knowledge of computer security, 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 in this course examine various security protocols and security systems. Students learn to conduct vulnerability assessments and identify weak areas that are susceptible to breaches.


Jobs for MS in Cybersecurity Graduates

Fortunately, 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 for a 2020 report; 48% of respondents said the cybersecurity skills shortage had not improved in recent years, and 45% said it had gotten worse. Prospective cybersecurity professionals can leverage this skills shortage in their job search.

Careers in cybersecurity often provide highly competitive salaries. For instance, information security analysts earned a median salary of $103,590 as of May 2020. Earning advanced degrees and certifications may increase earning potential. Growth projections for most cybersecurity careers remain positive.

Explore Top Jobs for Master’s in Cybersecurity Graduates:

Discover More Cybersecurity Careers

How to Find the Right Online Master’s Cybersecurity Program

Schools in our top 5 boast outstanding credentials. They hold National Centers of Academic Excellence in Cybersecurity (NCAE-C) designations, they have great professors, and they are concerned with real-world challenges. When making a decision, you may also consider factors such as the following.

  • 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 to your job? Will you be able to earn professional certificates, continuing education units, and/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. How many students in your class receive sponsorship from their employers? Does the university arrange interviews or hold virtual career fairs? Can you receive job coaching via phone or Skype? In this section, you’ll also find statistics on job placement rates and 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 often offer more scholarships and sponsorship deals.

Remember, too, that an online master’s in cybersecurity is just one option. This ranking does not include schools that only offer online cybersecurity graduate certificates. Visit our directory of online certificate programs for alternative ideas.


Best Online Master’s in Cybersecurity Programs for 2021

Earning a master’s in cybersecurity online prepares learners for advanced careers in a rapidly growing, in-demand industry. This guide ranks the best cybersecurity programs based on a variety of important factors, including affordability, flexibility, and overall program appeal. These rankings offer prospective students some insight into the top programs in the field and provide a framework for choosing the right program.

View our methodology

  • 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 schools and cybersecurity programs share similar characteristics. The list below includes some of these commonalities.

    • They Are Accredited: Accreditation provides assurance 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 seek graduates from accredited programs. Institutions may hold regional or national accreditation, and some programs may also hold programmatic accreditation. Our rankings only feature accredited programs.
    • 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 stand out to employers, since they provide crucial experience and training in cyberdefense and operations and prepare students for in-demand careers.
    • They Are Affordable: Pursuing a master’s in cybersecurity can incur some steep costs. 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 top 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 Provide Strong Online Programs: Many of the top cybersecurity schools offer strong, well-developed online programs. These programs may also provide a variety of specialization options. Several top programs provide students with the flexibility to attend lectures and complete coursework at their convenience. Strong cybersecurity programs show evidence of high retention and graduation rates, and some enroll a high percentage of online students.

  1. University of San Diego
    Location

    San Diego, CA

    The University of San Diego sits on 180 acres overlooking the city and the Pacific Ocean. This private Catholic research university serves its diverse student body with compassion, academic excellence, and a collaborative spirit.

    MS in Cybersecurity Operations and Leadership

    USD's online master's in cybersecurity enables graduate students to complete their degree in just 20 months. The 31-credit curriculum suits even learners with limited cybersecurity experience.

    Students take one asynchronous course at a time; each class lasts seven weeks. Required courses include applied cryptography, cyberintelligence, and a final capstone course where students put together a cumulative portfolio.

    Alongside theoretical knowledge and practical cybersecurity applications, USD's program emphasizes ethical leadership. Throughout the program, learners focus on key principles of management, business services, and strategic decision-making.

    Applying to USD

    USD admits new online cybersecurity students on a rolling basis, with spring, summer, and fall start dates. Applicants with an undergraduate GPA below 2.75 may need to submit standardized test scores. All applicants must submit a statement of purpose, resume, and letters of reference.

    Program at a Glance

    • School Type: Private
    • Accreditation: WSCUC
    • Tuition: $925/credit
    • Required Credits: 31 credits
    • Program Length: 20 months (full time)
    • Delivery Format: 100% online (asynchronous)
  2. New York University
    Location

    New York, NY

    One of the largest private higher education institutions in the country, New York University enrolls nearly 60,000 students annually, with graduates forming a vast global alumni network. NYU's campus buildings are spread throughout midtown Manhattan, Greenwich Village, and downtown Brooklyn.

    MS in Cybersecurity

    NYU's Tandon School of Engineering offers a 30-credit master's in cybersecurity both online and on campus in downtown Brooklyn. Online learners can complete the degree in two years when studying full time and 2-3 years when studying part time.

    In addition to core computer science and security courses, learners select three electives from options like digital forensic, machine learning, and mobile security. Students can also complete a research project or a thesis to culminate the degree.

    NYU offers unique benefits, including a cyberops specialization, a remotely accessible virtual laboratory, and the NYU Cyber Fellows program, which provides a 75% tuition scholarship for part-time students.

    Applying to NYU

    For admission consideration, applicants must have a high undergraduate GPA. The program prefers applicants with a bachelor's in relevant disciplines like computer science, mathematics, or engineering. Other requirements include working knowledge of a programming language, a statement of purpose, and GRE scores.

    Program at a Glance

    • School Type: Private
    • Accreditation: MSCHE, ABET
    • Tuition: $1,943/credit
    • Required Credits: 30 credits
    • Program Length: 2 years full (time); 2-3 years (part time)
    • Delivery Format: 100% online (asynchronous)
  3. DePaul University
    Location

    Chicago, IL

    Founded in 1898, DePaul University is a private Catholic research university located in the heart of Chicago. Over 22,000 students enroll each year to pursue undergraduate, graduate, and professional programs.

    MS in Cybersecurity

    Students pursuing a master's in cybersecurity online at DePaul take a total of 52 credits -- though some students may need to take additional prerequisite coursework. The program offers three concentrations: computer security; governance, risk management, and compliance; and networking and infrastructure.

    DePaul's online, asynchronous degrees provide maximum flexibility for students, with program start dates in fall, winter, spring, and summer. Online students view recorded lectures from campus classrooms. Lectures can be streamed or downloaded for offline viewing.

    A survey of graduates from DePaul's School of Computing, which houses the cybersecurity master's program, found that 95% of students reported they were employed, pursuing continuing education, or not seeking employment.

    Applying to DePaul

    Applicants to DePaul's master's in cybersecurity program need a bachelor's degree from a regionally accredited institution and a minimum 2.5 undergraduate GPA. Students can also provide optional supplemental materials including letters of recommendation or a resume.

    Program at a Glance

    • School Type: Private
    • Accreditation: HLC
    • Tuition: $865/credit
    • Required Credits: 52 credits
    • Program Length: 2 years (full time)
    • Delivery Format: 100% online (asynchronous)
  4. Webster University
    Location

    Saint Louis, MO

    Independent, private, and nondenominational, Webster University operates a main campus in St. Louis and more than 50 sites near domestic military bases. A small, 9-to-1 student-to-faculty ratio ensures personalized attention for all 13,000 learners.

    MS in Cybersecurity

    Offered through the George Herbert Walker School of Business and Technology, Webster's master's in cybersecurity is available online and at select U.S. campuses. Cybersecurity students complete 36 credits in preparation for demanding public and private sector careers in fields like intelligence, digital forensics, and fraud prevention.

    Required courses include cybersecurity infrastructures, encryption methods and techniques, and practical research in cybersecurity. Students can complete an optional internship to gain real-world job experience prior to graduation.

    Webster fosters a flexible online learning environment through asynchronous formatting like discussion modules and weekly assignments.

    Applying to Webster

    Webster offers admission consideration to all prospective graduate students with a bachelor's degree and minimum 2.5 undergraduate GPA. Applicants interested in the cybersecurity program should possess knowledge of computer systems, digital networks, and mathematics.

    Program at a Glance

    • School Type: Private
    • Accreditation: HLC
    • Tuition: $780/credit
    • Required Credits: 36 credits
    • Program Length: 2 years (full time)
    • Delivery Format: 100% online (asynchronous)
  5. DeSales University
    Location

    Center Valley, PA

    Founded in 1965 as Allentown College, this small Catholic institution underwent several decades of expansion and became a university in 2000. Today, DeSales University enrolls over 3,000 undergraduate and graduate students.

    MS in Cybersecurity

    Delivered entirely online, the cybersecurity master's degree at DeSales is designed with working professionals in mind. The program offers a combination of asynchronous and interactive lectures, hands-on experience, group work, and research.

    All students complete 36 credits to graduate. DeSales currently offers a concentration in information systems, with additional concentrations in development. The program's final capstone requires a comprehensive project in students' areas of interest.

    Students in DeSales's cybersecurity program also benefit from the school's Center for Homeland Security. This institute offers resources that connect students to industry professionals for networking and training.

    Applying to DeSales

    Applicants should possess a bachelor's degree in a relevant discipline with a minimum 3.0 GPA. Two letters of recommendation, a resume, and personal statement are required. DeSales admits new students on a rolling basis.

    Program at a Glance

    • School Type: Private
    • Accreditation: MSCHE
    • Tuition: $855/credit
    • Required Credits: 36 credits
    • Program Length: 2 years (full time)
    • Delivery Format: 100% online (synchronous and asynchronous)

Questions About Cybersecurity Master’s Degrees

  • Who may want to earn a cybersecurity master's degree?

    A degree in cybersecurity can lead to a fulfilling, lucrative career in fields such as business, homeland security, and forensics. 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 including 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 2020-30, indicating 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 may be learned in a cybersecurity master's program?

    A master’s in cybersecurity trains students to identify, analyze, prevent, and combat electronic 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 transferable research, analytical, and problem-solving skills.


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Find the right education path to take advantage of this fast-growing industry and join the front-lines on technology and security.