Top Online Master’s in Information Assurance Degree Programs

| Kasia Kovacs

Top Online Master’s in Information Assurance Degree Programs

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Top Online Master's Degree Programs

An online master's degree in information assurance (IA) builds leadership and managerial skills. Online master's degrees in IA provide learners with the knowledge and skills to protect the integrity, confidentiality, and availability of electronic information. They also train students to take action against cyber attacks and threats and create safe environments for electronic data.

Information assurance and data security remain essential to the ever-changing information technology and information science field. Reflected in the rankings below, online master's degrees adapt to meet the evolving demands of the discipline.

What Is a Master's in Information Assurance Degree?

What Is Information Assurance?

Information assurance covers all of information security, including prevention, protection, and response to data threats. Information security analysts monitor for security breaches, investigate incidents, and create reports about disruptions and damage. IA professionals maintain the safety of electronic information and data by managing risks associated with the use, processing, storage, and transmission of digital content. Information assurance also involves protecting the integrity, confidentiality, and availability of user data.

Information assurance professionals are expected to possess strong communication and critical-thinking skills since they are expected to exchange technical details in verbal and written form. Often working with a larger team, they address security threats and concerns as needed, analyzing potential causes and appropriate solutions.

Information assurance workers need prior experience with computer systems and architecture, plus an in-depth understanding of software programs and processes, to maintain safety and security. These professionals also formulate plans to recover and restore information function and availability.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), information security analysts will experience an estimated 32% growth in employment from 2018-2028. Top employers include the computer systems design and financial industries, with pharmaceutical and medicine manufacturing companies offering the top salaries for individuals in the profession. In 2018, information security analysts earned an annual mean wage exceeding $101,000.

What Will You Learn in an Information Assurance Master's Program?

Online master's degrees in information assurance vary by department and institution. IA master's degrees emphasize technical and conceptual aspects of the discipline.

Programs comprise 30-45 credit hours of coursework. Online information assurance programs include classes in fundamentals like information security, risk management, and compliance. Core classes may explore information warfare, ethical and legal issues in computer security, and cybersecurity theory and practice.

Elective courses and degree concentrations allow students to focus their studies on aspects of the field relating to personal interests and professional goals. Programs with a leadership emphasis incorporate classes in management and organizational behavior, while specialized coursework in policy and compliance prepares learners for positions within homeland security and government service.

Program requirements may include internships and practical experience opportunities. Learners work alongside data security professionals, sometimes in their place of employment, while earning their degrees.

Does an Information Assurance Degree Program Include Training in Cybersecurity?

Cybersecurity falls within the spectrum of operations for information assurance, meaning learners can expect to take courses in relevant subjects (e.g. network security, ethical hacking, digital forensics, etc.).

Many online information assurance programs in our list are vetted and endorsed by the U.S. National Security Administration (NSA) and Department of Homeland Security and recognized as Centers of Academic Excellence (CAE) in cyber defense and/or cyber operations. Students don't need to attend NSA CAE schools to earn valuable degrees, but the designation is a quality marker. We talk more about NSA CAE benefits in our profile of top cybersecurity schools.

How Long Does It Take To Complete a Master's in Information Assurance Degree Program?

Traditional information assurance master's degrees include two years of coursework. Full-time students complete their master's in information assurance across four semesters, while their part-time counterparts earn their degrees in 3-5 years. Many master's programs mandate prerequisites for admission. Students should possess a foundation in information security, computer science, and cybersecurity. Programs may also offer preparatory courses in these areas.

Online master's degrees in information assurance may offer accelerated timelines. Schools with eight-week terms allow students to earn their degrees in 12-18 months. Learners with enough experience may receive credit for their previous work, significantly expediting their degrees.

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Why Earn a Master's Degree in Information Assurance?

Master's degrees in information security allow students to hone their skills and gain field expertise. They also prepare learners for leadership roles in cybersecurity, policy management, and digital forensics. With master's degrees, information assurance professionals also increase earning potential. Entry-level information security analysts earned an annual median salary exceeding $98,000 in 2018, while their managerial counterparts earned more than $142,000.

Who Should Earn a Master’s in Information Assurance Degree?

Individuals working in computer systems and information technology benefit from master's degrees in information assurance by expanding their knowledge and skills of the ever-changing field. Entry-level analysts gain insights into conceptual aspects of information safety while building advanced technical competencies.

Information assurance programs may include specializations in specific areas. Medical and health services managers may opt to focus on specific needs and trends within the healthcare industry. Similarly, government workers can concentrate their degrees on policy, compliance, and regulation regarding information assurance.

A master's degree in information assurance prepares students for additional industry credentials. The International Information System Security Certification Consortium, or (ISC)², oversees a certified information systems security professional (CISSP) program, which spans information security topics such as asset security and security operations. Alongside the CISSP, (ISC)² also offers extensive training and professional development opportunities.

What’s the Difference Between Information Assurance and Cybersecurity?

Cybersecurity usually functions as a subset of information assurance:

Information AssuranceInformation assurance considers information to be a corporate asset. It looks to establish an entire framework for protecting that asset and minimizing costly breaches of integrity or confidentiality. IA graduates often take on multiple strategic and management responsibilities.
CybersecurityCybersecurity deals with the ever-changing roles of technology in the protection of information. As technology grows more invasive and sophisticated, cybersecurity courses adapt to cover the latest trends.

For this reason, IA degrees incorporate major cybersecurity-related courses and feature nontechnical coursework in areas such as business practices and policies, auditing, and risk management.

Check out our guide to learn more about master's degrees in cybersecurity.

What Can You Do With an Information Assurance Master's Degree?

According to PayScale, entry-level information assurance analysts earn a median annual salary of over $60,000. With master's degrees, information assurance professionals can advance into information assurance manager positions, increasing their median salary to nearly $92,000 per year. Master's degrees in information assurance also prepare professionals to work as top executives. Chief information officers, who establish, coordinate, and evaluate information technology strategies, earn a mean annual salary of nearly $160,000.

Information assurance professionals benefit from experience tremendously. As learners apply knowledge from their IA master's degrees to managerial and executive positions, they boost earning potential. Information assurance managers with at least 20 years' experience earn a median annual salary of nearly $100,000. Chief information officers with comparable experience earn a median annual salary exceeding $176,000.

Learn More About Cybersecurity Degrees and Careers

The Best Schools With Online Master's in Information Assurance Programs for 2020

  1. Stevens Institute of Technology

    Hoboken, NJ



    Stevens Institute of Technology operates on a campus just across Hudson River from Manhattan in Hoboken, New Jersey. The school offers online degrees and in-person programs, allowing students to enroll from anywhere in the world.

    Stevens' business school offers an online master's in information systems, which educates students in organizational management with data and information technology. The degree comprises 36 credits, including business and information systems core courses. Students may also concentrate in business intelligence and analytics, business process management and service risk management, cybersecurity risk management, project management, and software engineering.

    Distance learners who want to focus on information assurance should consider the cybersecurity risk management concentration. This includes courses in information assurance principles for managers, financial cybersecurity, and web-based risk management.

    Students can enroll in this master's in information assurance either full or part time. Full-time students can graduate in 18 months, while others take longer to earn their degrees. Online courses may include both asynchronous and synchronous course components. Professors determine the number of real-time web conferencing events they want to host for each course. Synchronous components may include live lectures, class discussions, or presentations.

    Stevens requires applicants to submit GRE or GMAT scores. Prospective students must also send in undergraduate transcripts demonstrating a minimum 3.0 GPA, plus two recommendation letters.

    The business school holds accreditation from the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business. In addition, Stevens is regionally accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.

  2. University of Dallas

    Irving, TX



    The Sisters of Saint Mary of Namur founded the University of Dallas in 1956, and UD now enrolls about 1,300 undergraduate and 1,200 graduate students on its Texas campus and through distance learning.

    The master of cybersecurity degree requires 30 credits of coursework, which students can complete online. In addition to foundational courses, distance learners take courses in data analysis for decision-making, pen testing and vulnerability, and digital forensics. All students must pass a strategic cybersecurity practicum to graduate. Most master's candidates complete the program in 1-2 years.

    This program prepares graduate students for the certified information systems security professional certification exam. This credential focuses on leadership and management within information assurance. UD also offers microcredentials to its cybersecurity master's students, showing potential employers which skills learners have mastered before they graduate. Once employed, alumni go on to become security analysts, cybersecurity consultants, and cryptographers, among other jobs.

    Applicants need a minimum 2.0 undergraduate GPA and a minimum 3.0 GPA in any graduate courses. They do not need to submit GRE or GMAT scores. Incoming students without backgrounds in management, marketing, or cybersecurity must take additional foundational courses before beginning the program.

    UD holds regional accreditation from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges. The cybersecurity master's program, part of UD's business school, holds accreditation from the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business.

  3. Drexel University

    Philadelphia, PA



    Philadelphia-based Drexel University enrolls about 15,000 students, ranking it among the largest private universities in the country. The institution opened in 1891 and began granting bachelor's degrees over 20 years later. Today, the school awards degrees to both undergraduate and graduate students, who study on campus and online.

    Drexel offers an online master of cybersecurity for individuals considering careers in information assurance. The degree focuses on protecting online data and systems, covering computer networking theory and technical skills. The program holds designation as a National Security Agency center of academic excellence.

    Drexel follows a quarter system, rather than the traditional semester calendar. This means students complete four 10-week terms throughout the school year. The MS in cybersecurity comprises 45 quarter credits, including four core courses. Students can choose one of three track options (computer science, electronic and computer engineering, or information science), or they can choose their electives without following a concentration.

    Drexel prefers that applicants submit GRE scores, though it doesn't require them. Prospective students should also submit their undergraduate transcripts, a personal essay, a resume, and two letters of recommendation.

    Drexel holds regional accreditation from the Middle States Commission on Higher Education. The university's engineering and computing and informatics colleges hold accreditation from the Computer Science Accreditation Commission and the Computing Sciences Accreditation Board.

  4. Lewis University

    Romeoville, IL



    Enrolling about 6,400 students, Lewis University operates on its campus in Romeoville, Illinois, just south of Chicago. The school holds affiliation with the Catholic church, but it offers mostly nonsecular degrees, including an MS in information security, which graduate students may pursue online.

    The program requires 35-41 credits, depending on whether students take foundational courses. Incoming learners without computer science backgrounds must take two introductory courses in computer organization and programming fundamentals. The curriculum prepares learners to take the certified information systems security professional certification exam.

    Learners can choose a technical or management concentration. The technical concentration focuses on hands-on skills regarding IT security, like securing operations systems and applications. The management track trains students to become information security managers who design, recommend, and maintain IT infrastructures.

    All students must participate in two seminars meant to prepare them specifically for the professional certification exam. Distance learners should also pass a capstone course. This cumulative experience includes real-world simulations, in which students must mitigate threats and develop solutions to cybersecurity breaches.

    Lewis designed its online program specifically for adults who already work full or part time. Applicants must hold a minimum 3.0 undergraduate GPA. They should also submit a resume and two recommendations.

    The Higher Learning Commission grants regional accreditation to the university. The information security program also holds recognition as a center of academic excellence in information assurance education by the National Security Agency and the Department of Homeland Security.

  5. George Washington University

    Washington, DC



    Located in the nation's capital, George Washington University began in 1821 after Congress passed a charter. The school started with three professors and one tutor, and over the next two centuries, it became a major research institution. Now, over 26,000 students enroll at GW.

    GW's master of engineering in cybersecurity policy and compliance allows students to pursue their degrees online. The curriculum focuses on engineering management, exploring topics like cryptography, security systems, algorithms, and software paradigms. The degree requires 30 credits of coursework. Students who also work full time generally take one course each term, graduating in 2.5-3 years.

    Learners enroll in a range of courses, including security in mobile computing, secure cloud computing, and information security in government. GW runs its online courses through web conferencing software, which allows students to watch lectures, present assignments, and participate in real-time conversations with their peers. This means GW's distance learning follows a synchronous format, requiring students to log on at specific times for class. Distance learners can expect to spend about six hours per course on schoolwork each week.

    In addition, GW offers its online students several web-based resources. For instance, master's candidates can take advantage of career services, like online resume and interview critique programs. Students can access online tutoring sessions, as well.

    Applicants must hold an undergraduate degree with a minimum 2.7 GPA. Those without bachelor's degrees related to information technology (IT) also need IT work experience. GW is regionally accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education. The cybersecurity program is designated as a national center of academic excellence in cyberdefense education by federal agencies.

  6. University of Denver

    Denver, CO



    A private university founded in 1864, the University of Denver began as a seminary years before Colorado became a state. The university now grants over 200 degrees and enrolls learners from all over the U.S. and more than 80 countries, partially due to its many online programs.

    As one of these distance learning degrees, the master of information security systems educates learners pursuing certified information systems security professional certification. Students can graduate from the 48-credit program in 18 months, but many master's candidates take 2-3 years to complete it.

    Distance learners take core, concentration, and elective courses. Each course lasts 10 weeks, except for the zero-credit student success course. This experience introduces distance learners to online studying. Higher-level concentration courses include web-enabled information systems, principles of information security, computer and physical security, and network security. Online courses follow an asynchronous format so students don't need to log on at specific times.

    At the end of this program, students complete either a capstone project or a seminar. The capstone allows students to pursue a thesis, while the seminar consists of a 7,000- to 8,000-word research paper.

    Applicants should submit their undergraduate transcripts demonstrating a minimum 2.5 GPA, plus a personal statement, a resume, and two recommendation letters. DU holds Higher Learning Commission accreditation, while its information security systems degree meets standards set by the Committee on National Security Systems. The university represents a center of academic excellence in information assurance/cyberdefense education.

  7. University of Delaware

    Newark, DE



    The University of Delaware began nearly 300 years ago as a private academy in Newark. Now, the public university serves as a research institute for over 24,000 students. UD offers several online, on-campus, and hybrid degrees, including a web-based master of science in cybersecurity.

    The degree consists of 30 credits, or 10 courses. The curriculum equips students with technology skills, training them in problem-solving. Courses cover topics like system hardening and protection, digital forensics, secure software design, cryptography, search and data mining, and smart grid technologies. Courses last seven weeks, and distance learners generally graduate in about two years.

    At UD, online learning takes several forms. Students generally engage in asynchronous course commitments, meaning they can watch video lectures at their convenience, rather than logging on at specific times. Distance learners also participate in interactive assignments and learning communities through discussion forums. In addition, UD offers several support services for online students, available through the university's web-based system.

    Applicants qualify for admission if they possess programming experience and a bachelor's degree in electrical engineering, computer engineering, computer science, math, or physics. They should hold a minimum 3.0 GPA, as well. Additionally, applicants should submit GRE scores and three recommendation letters.

    The cybersecurity program holds designation as a national center of academic excellence in cyberdefense education from the National Security Agency and the Department of Homeland Security. The university is accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.

  8. University of Detroit Mercy

    Detroit, MI



    A Jesuit institution, the University of Detroit Mercy offers graduate and undergraduate programs in engineering and science, the liberal arts, and nursing, among other fields. The college of liberal arts and education offers a master's degree in information assurance, which students can complete entirely through online learning.

    This master's in information assurance focuses on protecting information and property from all kinds of digital risks and threats. The curriculum requires 30 credits, including eight core courses and two electives. The core studies cover vital concepts like cyberdefense operations and risk management processes.

    Electives allow students to delve into their personal interests, like forensic investigations and auditing, ethical hacking, or software assurance. Course offerings change each semester, so students should plan out their schedule before starting the degree.

    Learners may supplement their degrees with an ethical hacking certification. The University of Detroit Mercy offers this certified ethical hacker program in partnership with the International Council for Electronic Commerce Consultants. Students can graduate with their master's degrees in one year, but obtaining certification may take longer.

    The university only requires applicants to submit their undergraduate transcripts. However, prospective students can strengthen their admission prospects with additional materials, like recommendation letters or a personal statement.

    UDM is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission. Moreover, the National Security Agency and the Department of Homeland Security have designated this degree as a national center of academic excellence in cyberdefense education.

  9. University of Tulsa

    Tulsa, OK



    The University of Tulsa began as the Presbyterian School for Indian Girls in 1882 and became a college about a decade later. Eventually, the institution grew into its modern iteration: a private, nondenominational university of about 4,380 undergraduate and graduate students.

    TU designed its distance learning cybersecurity master's degree for professionals who work full time. Students finish this 30-credit program in two years, completing their coursework through web-based technology. Online learners may also attend an immersive week on campus during the summer term. This week usually occurs in the middle of the course, and students spend the experience learning through hands-on instruction.

    Learners must pass 12 credits of core courses, nine cybersecurity electives, and nine other electives. The cybersecurity electives cover a wide range of topics, including secure electronic commerce, software reverse engineering, security economics, and enterprise security management. For their remaining nine electives, students may complete either a thesis or a report. Alternatively, they can take non-computer science courses.

    TU also offers a cybercorps program as well, giving learners training in cyberwarfare. This program holds designation as a center of excellence in cyberoperations by the National Security Agency. Enrolling in this program bolsters students' degrees, but it requires them to attend on-campus instruction.

    Prospective students may apply if they earned a minimum 3.0 undergraduate GPA, passed at least nine credits of calculus-level math, and took the GRE. TU possesses Higher Learning Commission accreditation.

  10. Norwich University

    Northfield, VT



    With a fitting mascot called Old Sarge, Vermont-based Norwich University prides itself as the oldest private military college in the U.S. and the home of ROTC. Norwich offers plenty more than conflict- and military-related degrees, however: One of the university's many academic programs includes an online master of cybersecurity.

    The degree consists of 36 credits, which students can complete in 18-24 months. Distance learners take six courses total, and each lasts 11 weeks. The program requires a one-week residency, which counts as a culminating experience. This residency involves formal learning, informal meetings with peers, and a commencement ceremony at the end of the week. Learners also complete a case study, which allows them to assess security principles to real-word problems.

    In addition, this degree offers five concentration options: computer forensics and incident response management, critical infrastructure protection and cybercrime, cyberlaw and international perspectives on cyberspace, project management, and vulnerability management. In the end, the program prepares learners to pass the certified information systems security professional certification exam.

    Individuals can apply if they submit their undergraduate transcripts with a minimum 2.75 GPA, a letter of intention, and a recommendation letter. Norwich does not require GRE scores, but applicants can submit them to strengthen their applications.

    Norwich holds accreditation from the New England Commission of Higher Education. The cybersecurity program represents a center of academic excellence in cyberdefense, according to the National Security Agency and Department of Homeland Security.

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