Ready for the challenge of a graduate degree in information assurance? Still unsure about which school or program is right for your goals? We’ve done the research for you! Our list of the top 20 Online Master’s Degree Programs in Information Assurance has all the facts you need to make a decision.
Here you’ll find info on faculty, curricula, career opportunities, graduate funding, and more. Each highly-respected institution offers strong, real-world coursework and a solid return on investment. If you’d prefer a little more background on the field, we’ve also included advice on choosing the right IA program and a breakdown of the methodology used for our rankings.
The Best Schools with Online Master’s in Information Assurance Programs
20. Liberty University
Practical and affordable, Liberty University’s online MSIS in Information Assurance is a blended program. Although the degree is officially administered by Liberty’s Christian-based School of Business, many MSIS faculty are involved in the university’s Center for Cyber Excellence. That means the degree maintains a judicious balance between technical and management coursework.
- If you’re a programmer or security analyst, you’ll gain applicable skills in business operations and policies & procedures.
- If you’re in low- or mid-level management, you’ll get a lot more exposure to IT infrastructures and major risk concerns.
Graduates often proceed to careers in security governance & management, risk management, systems integration, IA consulting, and executive management (e.g. CISO).
Liberty’s program consists of 36 credit hours and takes around 1.5 years to complete. You’ll be required to tackle core courses (24 credits) in information systems (e.g. Enterprise Models; IT Infrastructure; Systems Analysis, Modeling & Design, etc.) and business (e.g. Executive Leadership & Management; Ethics & Legal Issues; Operations Management).
But you’ll also be able to take 4 concentration courses (12 credits) in key information assurance topics, including:
- Telecommunications & Network Security
- Secure Enterprise Design & Development
- Information Forensics, Compliance & Risk Management
- Information Operations & Security
The MSIS also includes an integrated, 3-credit capstone project. You can apply your newly acquired information assurance skills to a current job challenge and come away from the program with an improved résumé.
The course delivery platform is highly flexible, with each course lasting only 8 weeks long. There are no specific login times and the rolling enrollment process means you can start on one of eight dates during the year.
When it comes to prerequisites, you’ll be expected to have completed coursework in computer programming (C, C#, C++, or Java), algebra, and statistics. If not, these subjects will be added to your course load. In addition, students who do not meet the Information Systems/Technology Core Professional Component (ISCPC) may need to take a foundation course.
Already have some credits? Liberty has an extremely generous transfer policy—as long as the courses meet Liberty’s standards, up to 50% of program hours can be transferred into the degree.
Looking to offset the cost? Liberty offers a number of institutional scholarships to online students, as well as generous tuition discounts for military servicemembers and first responders. Online student monthly payment plans are also available.
19. Johnson & Wales University
JWU’s online MBA in Information Security/Assurance comes to you courtesy of its College of Online Education. As the name would suggest, this management-focused program favors the business side of information assurance over the tech side. IT operations, cyber security, and incident response are integral parts of the curriculum, but the real emphasis is on leadership and administration. You’ll learn how to:
- Acquire and interpret decision-making information at an operational level
- Analyze IA challenges, propose solutions, and evaluate the impact of executive decisions
- Incorporate relevant security solutions and methodologies into the workplace
The 45-credit MBA kicks off with a prerequisite course in statistics, followed by 3 foundation courses in economics, accounting, and network fundamentals, and 7 core courses in business administration (e.g. Financial Management; Operations Management; Effective Leadership; Strategic Marketing; etc.).
For the IS/IA concentration, you’ll take 4 courses:
- Foundations of Information Security Management
- Business Continuity Planning
- Risk Management and Incident Response
- Cyber Science & IT Business Operations
Again, you’ll notice that the coursework is concerned with governance, including planning for security threats & failures, as well as mitigating, minimizing, and transferring risk. Toward the end of your MBA, you’ll be able to use this knowledge in a 3-credit career capstone project on Business Policy & Strategy.
Like Liberty, JWU utilizes accelerated 8-week online courses for its MBA program. This means you can typically graduate in two years or less.
Applicants must have a 2.41 – 2.84 undergrad GPA, and maintain a 3.0 GPA during the MBA program. You’ll be required to submit two letters of recommendation related to your likelihood of success in the program, plus a 500-word statement of purpose.
One place where JWU really stands out is career preparation:
- The Experiential Education & Career Services Office has info on internship programs, interview preparation, resume writing assistance, and individualized career mentorship.
- jwuLink contains an extensive network of potential employers and career resources (e.g. job listings)
- If you’re unsure about the benefits of an online MBA vs. other graduate degrees (e.g. MSIS), the university’s free Career Coach tool can help direct your efforts.
We also recommend you check to see if your company is one of JWU Online’s corporate education partners. Employees of these partners are eligible to receive a 20% partner scholarship. As of 2018, JWU no longer offers Military Tuition Assistance for new students, but it does participate in the Post-9/11 GI Bill and Yellow Ribbon program.
18. Hampton University
Founded in 1868, Hampton University is an NSA CAE school and a recognized player in information assurance. The online MS in IA is administered by Hampton’s School of Science, home to the Department of Computer Science and the Information Assurance and Cyber Security Center (IAC). IAC faculty have a diverse range of research interests. And the program really digs deep into technical work (e.g. forensics, cryptography, etc.).
Over the course of the 2-year degree, you’ll learn how to defend and safeguard information, create and implement security strategies, and design secure information systems. If you’re looking for a qualification that will set you up for a career in the heart of security operations, this is a strong pick.
The 36-credit online MS in IA includes 8 core courses (24 credits), a comprehensive exam, and 4 electives (12 credits).
For the core, you’ll be immersed in all the major areas of cyber security, including courses in Cryptography, Secure Software Engineering, Computer Forensics & Incident Handling, Computer Viruses & Malicious Software, and Advanced Computer & Network Security.
When it comes to electives, you can customize the program to suit your goals. Hampton offers credits in:
- IA Management Electives: Systems Security Administration, Management, and Certification; Risk Management; and/or Systems Security for Senior Management.
- Networks & Systems Electives: Network Security and Intrusion Detection; Wireless Networks; and/or Secure Distributed Computing.
- Special Topics
Due to the technical nature of the program, applicants are expected to have an undergraduate degree in computer science or a STEM field and a background in computer science. If you don’t have this foundation, Hampton offers a 13-credit Bridge Program, that includes courses in programming and operating systems.
Once you’re accepted, you can start forging connections with the IAC and its government & industry partners. The Center collaborates with related institutions (e.g. Women in CyberSecurity) to form a broad regional network, and it encourages graduate students to participate in related conferences & symposiums.
Want the best news? Hampton University participates in the CyberCorps: Scholarships for Service program, which includes funding for Hampton’s Graduate Education Scholarships in Information Assurance (HU GETS-IA) Program. Not only does this scholarship cover tuition & fees, books, professional development, and health insurance costs, it provides a generous annual stipend! The IAC also lists external scholarship opportunities from industry leaders such as Microsoft and Google.
17. Robert Morris University
The MS in CSIA is the poster child of RMU’s Center for Cybersecurity Education, which is organized and hosted by the Department of Computer and Information Systems in the School of Communications and Information Systems (SCIS). That means it’s a tech-oriented program with an emphasis on engineering secure and compliant IA systems for a wide range of industries.
But it’s also remarkably flexible. You’ll be able to focus on one of three career-orientated concentrations. In two of those concentrations, you can have your pick of courses taught by Computer & Information Systems faculty. And you’ll be finished with your studies in short order—the degree has fewer credits than many on our list.
The online MS in CSIA consists of 7 required courses (21 credits) and 3-5 courses in a concentration (9-15 credits). Because each concentration has a slightly different curriculum, we wanted to break them down for you:
- Cyber Security & Information Assurance Concentration: Your 21-credit core will include courses in network technology & management, network security, secure programming, IT governance, and the like. But you’ll have options when it comes to systems courses (e.g. enterprise operating systems vs. hardware & operation systems). Plus the entire 9-credit concentration is up to you. Any course in the Computer & Information Systems discipline is eligible.
- Internship Concentration: This concentration has the same 21-credit core as the one above, including the choice of systems courses. When you reach the concentration, you must complete 6 credits in Computer & Information Systems (any course) and 9 credits in an internship.
- Enterprise System Concentration: This is for IA experts who are required to develop and maintain mainframe-based secure enterprise information systems. The curriculum is fixed—there are no choices—and you’ll be required to take courses in enterprise operating & database systems, COBOL programming, and enterprise transaction process systems. The concentration is 9 credits long.
The CSIA and enterprise system paths require 30 credits; the internship option requires 36 credits. You can view a full course list for each concentration in the RMU catalog.
Candidates for the online MS in CSIA are expected to have completed an object-oriented programming course at the undergraduate level (e.g. C++ and Java or equivalent).
As of 2018, RMU was an NSA CAE candidate, a member of the National CyberWatch Center, and a partner of CyberWatch West (CWW). If you’re interested in a particular field of IA research, you should check out the list of funding opportunities in its Research & Grants Administration section.
We’re also pleased to see that RMU has a proven reputation for bridging education and employment:
- Top employers for the MS in CSIA program include Alcoa, Bayer, FedEx, Deloitte, Goodwill, ATI, Allegheny Health Network, and more.
- 95% of RMU alumni report they were selected for either a job or further schooling within a year of graduation.
- Employees of select corporate partners are eligible for a break on tuition costs—RMU will match a participating company’s tuition reimbursement up to $5,250 annually.
16. University of Detroit Mercy
The University of Detroit Mercy’s online MSIA in Cyber Security can be completed in as little as one year. It may be quick, but it won’t be fluffy. Detroit Mercy is an NSA CAE school; faculty are pulled from the Department of Cybersecurity & Information Systems (CIS); and the director of the program is the principal investigator and senior research scientist at the university’s Center for Cyber Security & Intelligence Studies.
What’s more, UDM has set up the program to train students for roles specified by the NIST National Initiative for Cybersecurity Education (NICE) Workforce Framework. Think careers in cyber security, security engineering, software assurance, enterprise network security, systems forensics, security compliance, and the like. Graduates have gone on to work for the Department of Defense, TACOM, GM, Chrysler, Ford, and Samsung. (Note the strong links with automotive companies!)
The curriculum for this 30-credit online MSIA consists of 9 core classes (27 credits) and 1 elective (3 credits).
- Required Courses: Core credits cover all the key security bases, including courses such as Principles of Cybersecurity, Incident Response, Cybersecurity Technologies, and Cyber Defense Operations. But attention is also given to important IA realms, including Cyberlaw, Secure Acquisition, Risk Management Processes, Cybersecurity Control Processes, and an Information Audit.
- Electives: Though you won’t have much time with your elective, you will have plenty of choice. Courses such as Software Assurance, System Forensics, Ethical Hacking, and Security Analyst are all on the menu.
Detroit Mercy has a relatively lenient admissions policy. Typical candidates include bachelor’s degree holders with an interest in employment in government or business security work; law enforcement professionals and first responders; IT individuals in relevant management or technical positions; and military veterans.
Trying to stand out in a crowded job field? Detroit Mercy has a longstanding partnership with the EC-Council to offer Online Certificates in Hacking at a discounted price to its MSIA students. The Center for Career & Professional Development can also assist with employment advice.
Facing a tough budget? Detroit Mercy’s section on Graduate Aid has the rundown on tuition discounts.
- Employees of well-known companies and government organizations (and their spouses and dependents) should check out the generous Vendor Discount program (25% on tuition).
- Employees of automotive companies should also take a look to see if they qualify for the Employer Assistance Discount.
15. Norwich University
Norwich’s hybrid MSISA was developed for students who want a rigorous technical & management program with a choice of concentrations. We’re especially pleased to see that:
- Norwich is an NSA CAE school with close military ties and a history of excellence in cyber defense. The Cyber Conflict Research Institute (CCRI) and the Defense Technologies Research Institute (DTRI) are part of the well-known Norwich University Applied Research Institutes (NUARI).
- The degree is administered by the College of Graduate and Continuing Studies (CGCS), which focuses on accommodating working professionals.
- All instructors must be currently certified as a CISSP or CISM and many adjunct MSISA faculty currently work in high-powered security jobs (e.g. CISO, security architect, etc.) at major companies.
Graduates are often on the path to positions as cyber security engineers, IT security managers, and security compliance managers—just to name a few. With enough job experience, you can also be looking at Chief Information Assurance Officer (CIAO) and Chief Information Security Officer (CISO) titles.
The 36-credit curriculum can be completed in 18 months. Each course is 6 credits and 11 weeks in length. You’ll be required to take 4 courses (24 credits) in IA subjects and 2 courses (12 credits) in a concentration.
Core classes tackle information assurance fundamentals and best practices (e.g. IA foundations, IA technology, human factors & risk management, and IA management & analytics). Once you’ve got those down, you can focus on your career goals. Concentration options include:
- Computer Forensics and Incident Response Team Management Concentration: Computer Security Incident Response Team Management; Computer Forensic Investigation.
- Critical Infrastructure Protection & Cyber Crime Concentration: Cyber Crime; Critical Infrastructure Protection.
- Cyber Law & International Perspectives on Cyberspace Concentration: Cyber Law; International Perspectives on Cyberspace.
- Project Management (PMI Accredited) Concentration: Project Management Techniques, Tools, and Practices; Project Management Leadership, Communications, and Teams; Strategic Management in Project Management.
- Vulnerability Management Concentration: Vulnerability Management and Penetration Testing I; Vulnerability Management and Penetration Testing II.
The program also includes a real-world case study and a one-week residency capstone at the end of the degree. This will give you the chance to forge useful connections with faculty, professors, and the aforementioned adjuncts.
It’s also nice to note that members of ISACA or (ISC)2 are eligible to receive continuing professional education credits for their studies. Students who wish to take the CISSP certification exam may be able to do so during the one-week residency, but the residency doesn’t explicitly provide preparation for this.
Online MSISA applicants are required to have an undergraduate GPA of at least 2.75. There’s no requirement for a GRE or GMAT. Norwich accepts up to 12 transfer credits; grades on those courses must be equivalent to 3.0 or higher on a 4.0 scale.
When it comes to tuition breaks, Norwich offers a wide variety of discounts through partnership programs, as well as scholarships based on merit and financial need. Awards include a Military Scholarship for Online Master’s Programs, Norwich alumni scholarships, and a CISSP Certified Scholarship for current CISSP holders.
14. Sam Houston State University
SHSU’s online MSIAS is the work of its Department of Computer Science. It’s a customizable degree built on a sturdy base of systems security and IA principles. Students are armed with real-world methods for protecting corporate information resources and trained to tackle a range of issues, from securing network systems to implementing strategic plans for disaster recovery.
In short, it’s a solid technical bet. Although it’s not an NSA CAE school, SHSU often features in the top 20 of U.S. News & World Report rankings for Best Online Graduate IT Programs. The Department of Computer Science has a roster of committed faculty, including the director of SHSU’s interdisciplinary Cyber Forensics Intelligence Center. And the university itself has ties to Houston’s hub of industries (e.g. energy).
The 36-credit program consists of 6 courses (18 credits) in core classes and 6 courses (18 credits) in electives.
- Required Courses: For the core, you’ll be studying major security silos (e.g. Operating System Security; Database Security; Organization System Security) and fundamentals of IA management (e.g. Principle & Policy – Info Assurance; Business Continuity Management; Directed Management & Development Project).
- Electives: With the help of a graduate advisor, you’ll also be allowed to choose 6 approved graduate courses in Information Assurance and Security. Most of the electives fall under the category of digital forensics (e.g. cyber warfare & terrorism, cyber law, multimedia forensics, cloud computing forensics, etc.). However, you may be able to add relevant computer science subjects (e.g. cryptography, malware, etc.).
Applicants should have an undergraduate degree or minor in computer science or a degree in a relevant technical field. Real-world professional experience may serve as a replacement for folks without the recommended academic background. SHSU Online applicants without the necessary technical background will be required to take STEM classes to prepare them for the tech-heavy curriculum. Preference is given to candidates with at least a 3.0 GPA.
You can find help with career planning, alumni services, and JOBSforKATS in the Career Services section. If you’re keen on networking, the SHSU chapter of the Association of Information Technology Professionals is worth investigating.
Modest scholarships are available to graduate students. Depending on your grades and area of interest, you may be eligible for the SHSU Computer Science Department Scholarship or the ASIS International Houston Chapter John Tullie Brady Scholarship in Security Management Studies.
13. Davenport University
Designed to meet NSA and CNSS training standards for Information Systems Security (INFOSEC) Professionals and Security System Managers, this online MSIA is a super-structured program that covers the most important IA fields. We’re talking about everything from risk mitigation and project management to the design and implementation of secure systems.
Though it may not have the reputation of a Carnegie Mellon, Davenport has:
- A bona fide NSA CAE designation
- A College of Technology with its own Information Security and Assurance Center (ISaAC)
- Dedicated IA faculty and a low student-to-teacher ratio
Graduates often find work as security incident responders, information security officers, IT security consultants, senior security analysts & strategists, and more.
The 34-credit curriculum consists of 9 core courses (27 credits), one upper-level elective (3 credits), and a mandatory thesis (4 credits).
- Required Courses: Core classes deal with standard security topics (e.g. Information Security Planning; Application Security; Network Security; Research Techniques for Information Assurance), business-related concerns (e.g. Analytical Statistics for Management; Project Management and Risk Mitigation; Legal and Ethical Security Topics), and relevant technical skills (e.g. Applied Cryptography; Advanced Computer Forensics).
- Electives: You may choose one elective course from the following titles: Wireless and Mobile Security; Banking and Financial Security; Health Care Security; IT Business Continuity and Best Practices; Certified Project Management Professional; IT Business Continuity and Best Practices; Comprehensive Issues; or Information Assurance Internship.
The final capstone is a thesis project. You’ll be required to submit your proposal for approval by the IA faculty before beginning work, but a faculty supervisor will assist you throughout the process.
A bachelor’s degree is required to apply. Before starting 600-level classes, students of the program must have finished undergraduate courses related to networking, statistics, and security. Completion of certain security certifications (Security+, CISSP, GSE, CCSP, SSCP, CIW, or RSA) can be substituted, but students lacking the necessary background must take foundational courses to catch up.
Davenport gives students a combined $15 million annually in institutional and foundation scholarships. One of the most stunning awards is the Department of Defense – Information Assurance Scholarship Program (IASP), which provides $30,000 to graduate students. The College of Technology also has a useful list of external scholarships.
The Career Services section has links to job & internship opportunities (don’t forget that you can opt for an internship as your elective). According to the university, IA graduates are highly-sought commodities, being hired by nationally recognized organizations and companies such as the Department of Energy, the National Security Agency, Boeing, CITI, and Hewlett Packard.
12. Dakota State University
DSU’s online MSIS is intended to prepare graduates for mid-level roles within the IA world. Unlike programs that focus on security and disregard the rest, this MSIS takes a broader MBA-like view of the field. It provides a business & managerial education for those with an existing technical background, as well as fundamental IS/IA training for those looking to enter the profession.
And it’s a degree with pedigree. In addition to being a well-respected public university, DSU carries NSA CAE designations in Cyber Defense and Cyber Operations. The College of Business and Information Systems is responsible for the bulk of the coursework and faculty are invested in a range of relevant research projects (e.g. database security).
The curriculum for the MSIS consists of 30 credits, which means full-time students can complete the degree in just four semesters.
6 mandatory core classes (18 credits) make up the general “Information Systems” part of the degree. You’ll be required to take courses in system analysis & design, project management, enterprise modeling & data management, and the like.
In addition, there are 3 required courses (9 credits) for the career-focused IA specialization:
- Principles of Information Assurance
- Managing Security Risks
- Data Privacy or Ethics and Information Technology or Compliance and Audit
DSU offers two options to complete the program. Students may either a) work on a research activity involving the design of a real-world information systems project, or B) complete an additional three credit, 700-level course with a comprehensive final exam.
Candidates are expected to have an undergraduate GPA of 2.70 or greater. They must also be able to show proof of an appropriate academic background or sufficient work-related experience in business administration and information systems (or a combination of the two). Those without such experience will need to take foundational courses in information systems and programming prior to beginning.
Although DSU is a public university, in-state and out-of-state graduate students pay the same online tuition rate. Graduate scholarships are few & far between, but standard financial aid options are available.
11. Pennsylvania State University-Main Campus
Online Master of Professional Studies in Information Sciences – Cybersecurity and Information Assurance
Although it’s run by the Penn State World Campus, the online MPS in IS is the brainchild of the College of Information Sciences and Technology (IST) and its experienced IST faculty. During this challenging program, students gain an in-depth knowledge of how information is stored and secured, how to recognize sophisticated internal and external cyber threats, and how to address them (e.g. risk management, security planning & policies, etc.).
Penn State is a longstanding NSA CAE school and a powerhouse of online learning—the World Campus is often in the top 10 of U.S. News & World Report rankings for Best Online Graduate Computer IT Programs. IST receives a huge amount of research money, which helps fund 7 centers, including the Center for Cyber-Security, Information Privacy, and Trust (LIONS Center) and its labs.
Thanks to the MPS’s emphasis on technical skills, graduates often find jobs as IA analysts, IA managers and IA engineers, as well as enterprise architects, risk analysts, security analysts, security engineers, and more.
The online MPS in IS is a 33-credit program that can be finished within two years, even if you’re studying part-time. The curriculum is broken into 3 core courses (9 credits), 4 specialization courses (12 credits), 3 electives (9 credits), and a 3-credit capstone experience.
- Core Courses: Network Management and Security; Web Fundamentals; Knowledge Management.
- Specialization Courses: Information Security Management; Intelligent Agents and Distributed Decision Making; Foundations of Information Security and Assurance; Introduction to Multisensor Data Fusion.
- Electives: Choices include Enterprise Architecture; Enterprise Modeling; Network Security; Web Security & Privacy; Computer & Cyber Forensics; Cybersecurity Analytics; etc.
The final capstone covers two semesters. You’ll be expected to tackle a research paper or project on one specific IA challenge. If you’re working while you’re studying, you should have plenty of ideas!
Not sure if you’re ready for the full master’s? PSU encourages mid-level and high-level IT professionals to consider the 15-credit Postbaccalaureate Certificate in Information Systems Cybersecurity. You can walk away with a graduate certificate or apply those credits to the MPS in IS.
PSU bills the MPS in IS as a multidisciplinary program, but it still wants applicants to have some prior math & IT knowledge. The program accepts students with bachelor’s degrees in science and technical disciplines (or a related fields). If you have sufficient work experience or professional training in IT, you’ll also be considered. Applicants should possess an overall 3.0 GPA and are allowed to transfer up to 9 graduate-level credits.
You’ll find answers to many questions about distance learning on the World Campus’s How it Works (FAQs) page. We’d also like to highlight the College of IST’s Career Solutions & Corporate Engagement section, which has links to internships & job postings, career fairs, career assessment tools, and a whole lot more.
The World Campus doesn’t offer graduate scholarships, so you’ll need to dig deep to find funding. PSU’s Graduate School has details on Graduate School Award Programs, but we recommend you check to see if MPS programs apply (they’re intended for working professionals, not research students). Military benefits are outlined on the World Campus website.
10. Towson University
The School of Emerging Technologies is responsible for Towson’s “build your own” online MS in AIT. It’s a good pick for aspiring & current IT professionals who want to bone up on the latest skills and practices, as well as the life cycle of IA systems. Students work simultaneously towards the degree and the completion of one graduate certificate. Each certificate can be finished within a year, which means you can immediately improve your job prospects.
Towson is an up-and-comer on our list. The public university doesn’t merit many U.S. News & World Report rankings in relevant areas, but it’s an NSA CAE school with Cyber Defense and Cyber Operations designations and dedicated faculty members. Some of them are involved in the Interdisciplinary Cybersecurity (Cyber4All) special interest group—a collaborative discussion and research forum covering topics related to the technical aspects of the IA field.
The 33-unit MS in AIT program is split in two parts: 5 mandatory courses (15 credits) that are counted toward a graduate certificate and 6 courses (18 credits) of electives. Full-time students may expect to finish within four semesters. Here’s how a degree in IA would pan out:
- Information Security & Assurance Graduate Certificate: Required courses include IT Infrastructure; Systems Development Process; Information Systems Vulnerability and Risk Analysis; Network Security; and Case Studies in Information Security. The Case Study is a 140-hour capstone project that should address a current problem (e.g. information security in distributed information systems).
- Electives: You can choose from a list of 22 options. Sample courses include Client/Server-Side Programming; Software Engineering Fundamentals; Mobile Device Forensics; Database Management Systems; etc. Independent study and an internship are included as elective options. Full descriptions are available in the Course Catalog.
Application requirements are flexible. Students may enter the program with—or without—a bachelor’s degree in IT, computer science, or information systems. The program is customizable enough to build on existing foundations for advanced students, as well as to introduce new concepts to those just preparing to enter the IA field. For full admission, applicants should have a minimum 3.0 undergrad GPA. Conditional admission is an option for those with at least a 2.75 GPA. Towson allows transfer credits of up to 50% of the degree, with approval.
Towson likes to boast that more than 75% of AIT graduates reported that their degree helped them get a new job or a promotion. If you’re looking for extra resources, take a moment to explore Towson’s Career Center, which has some helpful links. Working professionals may also be happy to hear that Towson has a Tiger Installment Plan, which allows students to spread tuition payments throughout the semester.
Are you a military member? The Military & Veterans Center has info on benefits. Are you a Tiger alumni? You should qualify for the modest Alumni Association Graduate Fellowship. More details about external scholarship opportunities are available on the Graduate Fellowships & Scholarships page.
9. National University
This private university’s claim to fame is offering non-traditional formats catering to working students. Developed by NU’s School of Engineering and Computing, the online MS-CSIA is a real-world program designed for professionals interested in technical and management skills. Students can expect to dive into concepts of models, architectures, risk mitigation, cyber law, network security practices, infrastructure hardening techniques, and the like.
Overall, it’s a “practice & project” degree that merits a look, especially if you have a military background. National is an NSA CAE school with a Cyber Defense Education designation. Many of its graduate online programs (but not Computer IT) are ranked by U.S. News and World Report. And the 4-week course format means you can study in manageable chunks in time.
The online MS-CSIA consists of 58.5 graduate units (each 4-week course counts as 4.5 units). There are 9 core classes (40.5 credits) and 4 courses (18 credits) in a mandatory specialization.
The core is built around cyber security, and examines areas such as threat modeling & intelligence, ethical issues, wireless & mobile security, net defense & cloud security, etc. It also includes 3 mandatory courses: Cyber Security Project I, II, and III. You’ll be involved in the creation of an original and practical project that incorporates policy, regulatory, and testing concepts. Special emphasis is placed on IA project management, ethics, and legal usage.
On top of this, the program offers two specialization options. Both are IA-related:
- Information Assurance and Security Policy Specialization: Ethical Hacking; Disaster Recovery & Business Continuity; Information Assurance; Certification & Accreditation.
- Ethical Hacking & Pen Testing Specialization: Ethical Hacking; Information Systems Vulnerability & Attacks; Red Teaming; Red & Blue Team Exercise.
Generally speaking, the first specialization takes a big picture approach to IA—risk mitigation & security planning, enterprise disaster recovery & business continuity planning, national & global IA issues, etc. Ethical hacking is more focused on systems-level vulnerabilities.
All potential students must participate in an interview with the Academic Program Director prior to enrolling—NU presumably wants to determine if you have enough relevant work & education experience to handle the coursework. You can also meet with an advisor to determine suitability for transfer credits; up to 13.5 quarter units are allowed. Better yet, NU has year-round enrollment, which means applicants can apply or transfer at any time of the year.
NU is a veteran-founded institution and has always been keen to offer unique services and tuition discounts to military members and vets, including a Veterans’ Victory Scholarship and a Military Tuition Scholarship (preference is given to undergraduates, but it never hurts to apply). It’s a Yellow Ribbon school and it accepts Post-9/11 GI Bill benefits.
8. Western Governors University
WGU’s online MSCSIA puts you on the fast track to earning your degree! Offered by the College of Information Technology, the MSCSIA tackles all the major IA subjects (e.g. security, network design & management, risk management, hacking, forensics, disaster recovery, etc.). Along the way, you’ll be able to earn two valuable EC-Council security credentials (CEH and CHFI)—exam costs are covered by tuition & fees.
Unlike the other schools in our rankings, WGU has developed an unusual competency-based education model—there are no traditional lectures and you dictate the pace of your learning. Each course is 3 or 4 units long and you must complete 8 competency units in a 6-month term. 72% of MSCSIA students finish within 6 to 20 months.
Recent graduates have been well-placed to apply for jobs as cyber security analysts, systems analysts & administrators, network architects, and IA consultants in government organizations, law enforcement, and companies such as Boeing and NSTec.
The MSCSIA consists of 10 courses (no electives) that align closely with National Initiative for Cybersecurity Education (NICE) guidelines. Each course ends with a practical assessment to ensure students have understood and retained the information presented. In the standard path for course completion, students take classes in the following order:
- Risk Management
- Secure Network Design
- Cyberlaw Regulations and Compliance
- Secure Software Design
- Security Policies and Standards – Best Practices
- Ethical Hacking
- Forensics and Network Intrusion
- Disaster Recovery Planning
The final course is an Information Security and Assurance Capstone Project. This requires a thoughtful and articulate solution to an actual business challenge within the IT field, plus a compelling oral argument before a committee.
As we mentioned, you’ll also complete two EC-Council certifications during the program.
Applicants are expected to have a bachelor’s degree in IT security or networking or a bachelor’s degree and relevant security skills (either through work experience or professional certifications). The Admissions section lays out the precise terms. A few specific EC-Council certifications can be transferred for course credit.
WGU charges per term, not per credit—the more quickly you finish the degree, the cheaper it will be. The program website has a helpful breakdown of projected total costs. You can reduce your expenses by applying for various scholarships. Relevant options for the MSCSIA include the:
Alumni and relatives of alumni should look into the:
It’s also important to note that the Department of Defense has approved WGU’s competency-based degree programs for Military Tuition Assistance. In addition, WGU has developed special Military & Veterans Scholarships and part-time program options for active duty students.
7. Florida Institute of Technology
Florida Tech’s online MSIACS was created to help seasoned professionals confront the ever-evolving security threats posed to modern international corporations and government agencies. The core focuses on technical realms and advanced skills in cyber security, but you can customize the degree with IA electives. Sample job titles for graduates include computer security specialist, computer forensic investigator, and Chief Information Security Officer (CISO).
In addition to being an NSA CAE school, Florida Tech can often be found in the top 40 of US News and World Report’s rankings for Best Online Graduate Computer IT Programs. In fact, the MSIACS has close ties to the Harris Institute for Assured Information (HIAT), which was founded to investigate how users think about information in order to find better ways to protect it. It’s an interdisciplinary approach that involves computer science, biology, human psychology, and business principles.
The MSIACS is a 33-credit program consisting of 11 courses: 6 required courses (18 credit hours) and 5 electives (15 credit hours). Courses are 8 weeks in length and the entire degree takes up to two years to finish.
- Required Courses: Courses deal with major security issues (e.g. Computer and Information Security; Host and Application Security; Secure Operating Systems; Secure Data Communications and Networks; Biometric Authentication Technologies; Cryptography and Information Hiding).
- Electives: You can choose any course from the catalog as long as it has a Computer Science (CSE), Information Assurance & Cybersecurity (CYB), or Software Engineering (SWE) prefix. However, as part of your 15-credit electives, you must complete a 6-credit thesis or a 3-credit Capstone Project in Information Assurance.
A full description of each course is available through the Florida Tech catalog.
Applicants are expected to have an undergraduate GPA of 3.0 and a bachelor’s degree in computer science, computer engineering, or a related discipline. Candidates who have completed relevant coursework (e.g. stats, discrete mathematics, and programming) will also be considered. GRE scores (General Test only) are required.
Graduate students are automatically considered for applicable merit-based Florida Tech Graduate Scholarships. The school also provides funding through a limited number of donor-based awards & scholarships and a special alumni scholarship to anyone who has earned an undergraduate degree from Florida Tech.
Florida Tech is regarded as being military-friendly. The university offers a 10% graduate tuition discount to military, spouses, and dependents as well as law enforcement and public safety professionals. Servicemembers can visit the Military & Veterans section of the Office of Online Learning for more details on benefits.
6. Nova Southeastern University
Nova Southeastern’s College of Engineering and Computing (CEC) is responsible for its hard-core online MSIAC. Designed for IT professionals who want to learn more about secure network infrastructures and the security of network traffic, this program falls on the engineering side of information assurance. (If you’re interested in management and policy training, Nova Southeastern’s MS in Cybersecurity Management is a better bet.)
With all this emphasis on technical know-how, it’s no surprise that Nova Southeastern is an NSA CAE school. The CEC has its own Center for Information Protection, Education, and Research (CIPhER), student research is encouraged, and CEC faculty members are required to hold a PhD degree.
Graduates of the program have found jobs as information systems security officers, network security administrators, compliance managers, security analysts, and CISOs. You can also consider NSU’s PhD in Information Assurance.
The online MSIAC is a 30-credit program. There are 10 required courses in the curriculum and each course is worth 3 credits. Electives are not mandatory, but you may be allowed to take some—in addition to the 10 courses—with pre-approval from the program office. Full-time students typically complete the standard degree in 12-14 months.
As we mentioned, the program is technical in nature and covers a wide spectrum of critical IA topics (e.g. access control, telecommunications, network security, information security governance, risk management, disaster recovery, security architecture, physical security techniques, etc.). You’ll take courses in:
- Operating Systems
- Computer Networks
- Software Engineering
- Database Systems
- Fundamentals of Cybersecurity
- Applied Cryptography
- Database Security
- Computer and Network Forensics
- Advanced Network Security
- 3-Credit Information Security Project or a 6-Credit Thesis
The final project revolves around best practices in network security engineering and the protection of information infrastructures—students must develop a solution to an existing, real-world issue. You can view examples of some of these master’s projects on the CIPhER website.
Candidates are expected to have a bachelor’s degree in a relevant major, a 2.5 GPA, and a firm background in applicable concepts. Applicants who lack that background may need to take prerequisites such as Java Programming Language, Computer Organization and Architecture, Mathematics in Computing, and Data Structures and Algorithms.
Tuition rates for NSU are higher than other schools on our list, but you are taking fewer credits. To offset your costs, we suggest you consult the Graduate Scholarships section of the university’s website and browse through the various veterans benefits. You may also wish to consider staggering your tuition through NSU’s payment plan.
5. Oklahoma State University-Main Campus
Looking for an affordable public university with an NSA CAE designation? Interested in the field of telecommunications security? The Watson Graduate School of Management in OSU’s Spears School of Business offers an online MSIA for students wanting a mix of the technical and management worlds of IA.
The curriculum has a healthy number of hands-on security courses; graduates have good job placement records in major companies (e.g. Amazon, Dell, ExxonMobil, Pfizer, and IBM); and faculty are drawn from the Department of Management Science and Information Systems (MSIS). A number of these professors also work in OSU’s specialized Center for Telecommunications and Network Security (CTANS), which is dedicated to IA education and research. You’ll notice that the MSIA curriculum favors those two areas of interest!
The 35-36 credit online MSIA consists of 10 required courses (30 credits) and at least 2 courses (5-6 credits) worth of electives in business or related disciplines. When it comes to technical work, you’ll be tackling:
- Telecommunications Systems
- The Upper Layers of Telecommunications Systems
- Applied Information Systems Security
- Scripting Essentials
- Advanced System Certification and Accreditation
- Information Assurance Offense
Management and business coursework will include:
- Information Assurance Management
- Legal and Ethical Issues in Information Technology
- Secure Information Systems Administration
The final required course is an IA capstone project, which focuses on “a strategic view of corporate information assurance.” You’ll be expected to cover the physical elements of IA, as well as cyber security, and demonstrate a solid understanding of applicable federal and state regulations.
Applicants to the program should have a BS in a relevant discipline, a good undergrad GPA, and GMAT or GRE scores above the 51 percentile (waived in certain circumstance). For example, IT professionals with 3-5 years of work experience and a 3.0 undergraduate GPA can request a GMAT/GRE waiver. See the Admissions page for details.
Oklahoma students are eligible for the low resident tuition rate (but even non-resident tuition rates for graduate students are reasonable). While you’re creating your budget, be sure to take a look at the MSIS Scholarships and the Spears School of Business Graduate Scholarships sections. Online MSIA students are eligible for a few of these awards.
Not quite ready to commit to a full-on degree? CTANS also offers a multidisciplinary, 15-credit hour Graduate Certificate in Information Assurance. Coursework covers much of the same ground as the MSIA core, but as far as we can determine, the certificate is only offered on-campus.
4. Iowa State University
Created by the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering (ECE), ISU’s online MEngr in IA is a streamlined technical program for folks who want the challenge of advanced coursework. It makes the top 5 of our rankings because:
- ISU is an NSA CAE school (Cyber Defense and Research) with a hyper-active Information Assurance Center (IAC) and a long list of security-minded faculty.
- The IAC continues to forge links to industry and share technological advances in cyber security through the Information Systems Security Laboratory (ISSL), the Iowa Cyber Alliance, and the Information Assurance Research Consortium.
- ISU’s College of Engineering is a juggernaut, with an excellent graduate placement rate and solid U.S. News & World Report rankings for all of its departments, including the ECE.
Note: If you’re looking for a research-focused program, ECE also offers an Online Master of Science in Information Assurance (MSIA). The core curriculum is similar to the MEngr, but students are required to complete a thesis or creative component and pass an oral exam. Students in the MSIA program can transfer up to 6 credit hours of non-ISU graduate credit into the degree.
The 30-credit online MEngr in IA is based on coursework credits only—there’s no required thesis or campus visit. The program consists of 4 courses (12 credits) in required coursework, 2-4 courses (6-12 credits) in cyber security topics, 1-3 courses (3-9 credits) in electives, and a capstone course.
- Required Courses: Advanced Computer Networking; Computer Security; Information Warfare; Ethical and Legal Issues in Computer Security
- Cyber Security Courses: Cryptography; Steganography; Forensics; Wireless Security.
- Electives: Any 500-level computer engineering course. (Computer science courses are not offered online.)
The capstone course is a comprehensive one. You’ll be expected to design a security policy, create & implement a security plan, consider legal and ethical issues, and even launch an attack on another student’s environment in order to conquer its security systems.
Applicants are expected to hold a bachelor’s or master’s degree in computer engineering or a related field, with an undergrad GPA of 3.0 or higher. Along with the usual statement of purpose and recommendation letters, you’ll also need to submit a GRE score of at least 700 (waiverable with sufficient work experience). Candidates with an undergraduate degree in a non-computing field and at least 3 years of work experience in IT will also be considered.
The ECE website has a lot of useful guides for prospective graduate students, including sections devoted to Electrical & Computer Engineering Career Resources (interview advice, internships, job search sites, etc.), Financing a Graduate Degree, and Scholarships & Financial Aid. For scholarships, be sure to consider:
- Cyber Corps Scholarships via ISU: This prestigious graduate fellowship pays for all tuition and fees, and gives awardees a $25,000 stipend each year. Recipients will need to agree to take three leadership courses, complete a paid summer internship commitment, and finish two years of paid federal employment.
- External Graduate Scholarships & Fellowships
Iowa residents and non-residents pay the same online graduate tuition rate.
3. University of Arizona
Offered by U of A’s famous Eller School of Management, this online MS MIS is a short & sweet program with a lot of real-world clout. In addition to receiving training in areas such as business intelligence, data management, data mining, and systems design, you can choose to take electives that will earn you a career-focused Graduate Certificate in Enterprise Security. It’s not as technical as some of the programs in our list, making it a good choice for current IT professionals who are eyeing IA management roles.
When it comes to U.S. News & World Report rankings, U of A is often in top 10 of Best Online Online Graduate Computer IT Programs and the top 5 of Best Information Systems Programs (right up there with Carnegie Mellon and MIT). Eller has its own Information Assurance and Security Center (IASEC) with experienced faculty who teach in the online MIS program. And the university holds NSA CAE designations for both Cyber Defense and Research.
Note: U of A also offers an MS MIS/MY CYBSEC dual degree for professionals who are aiming to transition from a non‐IT related job into a dedicated security position. This program includes in-depth coursework in cyber security fields (e.g. penetration testing, cyber warfare, systems cyber security engineering, etc.).
The online MS MIS is a 30-credit program composed of 10 courses (3 credits each). In order to specialize in enterprise security, you’ll be expected to take 6 core courses (18 credits) in MIS subjects, 3 courses (9 credits) in security, and 1 capstone course (3 credits). Each course is 8 weeks long and the entire degree can be completed in 10 months.
- Required Courses: Software Design & Integration; Business Foundations of IT; Enterprise Data Management; Information Systems Analysis & Design; Data Mining for Business Intelligence; Project Management.
- Enterprise Security Certificate Courses: Information Security in Public & Private Sectors; Information Security Risk Management; Systems Security Management.
- Capstone: Master’s Project Report.
U of A goes out of its way to make the enterprise security option applicable to the workplace. Once you’ve completed the 3 courses, you’ll receive CPE credits for multiple (ISC)² certifications (e.g. CISSP), ISACA certifications (CISM and CRISC), and one year of qualified work experience toward CISM certification.
Applicants should have at least two years of work experience in IT and a 3.0 undergraduate GPA, but a bachelor’s degree in computer science is not required—U of A accepts students from a range of academic and professional backgrounds. Intermediate level programming experience & knowledge is considered useful, but not necessary (you can take a Fundamentals of Object-Oriented Programming course as a pre-requisite if you need the skills).
While you’re planning your career path, be sure to check out the page on the MS MIS placement rate, with its list of regular employers, and Eller’s MIS Graduate Association (MISGA), which has developed strong ties to companies with job & internship opportunities.
Online graduate tuition is the same for residents & non-residents. Scholarships are thin on the ground, so we recommend you look elsewhere for funding (e.g. grants, loans, etc.). On the other hand, the program qualifies for veterans education benefits and U of A employees can take advantage of the Qualified Tuition Reduction waiver to help cover costs.
2. University of Maryland-University College
UMUC’s job-focused online MSIT in IA falls under the scope of its Graduate School. It’s a professional, no-nonsense program designed for students who are in the middle of their careers or looking to shift fields (veterans take note!). The core of the curriculum places a heavy emphasis on information systems & infrastructures, while the IA specialization includes real-world training in risk analysis, vulnerability assessment, intrusion detection, forensics, encryption techniques, and more.
In the world of IA and cyber security, UMUC is not as famous as the University of Maryland—College Park, but it’s still a highly respectable choice. It has won multiple awards for online learning throughout the years, as well as Academia Circle of Excellence awards from the EC-Council in 2017 & 2018. Faculty have close working links to major industries and government organizations. And the Council of Graduate Schools has granted the program a Professional Science Master’s Degree designation. All in all, it’s affordable, flexible, and military-friendly.
The 36-credit online MSIT in IA consists of 5 core courses (15 credits), 6 courses (18 credits) in the IA specialization, and 1 capstone course (3 credits). You must maintain a minimum GPA of 3.0 during the degree and complete it within five years. A maximum of 6 transfer credits are eligible for consideration.
- Required Courses: IT Foundations; Computer Systems Architecture; Information Systems Infrastructure; Information Systems Analysis, Modeling & Design; IT Project Management.
- Specialization Courses: Foundations of Information Security & Assurance; Network & Internet Security; Intrusion Detection & Intrusion Prevention; Cryptology & Data Protection; Computer Forensics; The Law, Regulation & Ethics of Information Assurance
- Capstone Course: Information Assurance Capstone
Some of this coursework is deliberately intended to prepare you for CompTIA Security+ and (ISC)²’s Associate, SSCP, and CISSP certification exams. All courses for the program can be taken online; certain classes may also be completed via a hybrid format at participating locations.
Applicants should either have a background in computing and programming, or be ready to take a couple of recommended programming courses (Essentials of Computer Programming and Structure of Computer Programming) to get up to speed. A GRE score is not required.
As we mentioned, the university tries hard to keep costs down. In-state residents receive a significant discount on tuition; military members, spouses, and dependents are eligible for the same rate (the MSIT is a standard graduate program).
In addition, UMUC offers oodles of scholarships to graduate students, including military funds and UMUC Foundational Scholarships (100+ awards for current UMUC students). You may also want to look into the interest-free monthly payment plan.
1. Carnegie Mellon University
CMU’s management-focused Heinz College and the CERT Division of the university’s Software Engineering Institute are the two driving forces behind this online MSIT in ISA. Designed for part-time learners, it’s a program for mid-tier IT professionals and executives who are interested in mixing technical courses with a lot of groundwork in IA corporate processes, strategy, and policy. You can customize the electives to suit your goals.
We can’t say enough about the quality of CMU. It’s a long-standing NSA CAE school with a dedicated CyLab Security and Privacy Institute. It’s invariably in the top 3 of U.S. News & World Report rankings for Best Information & Technology Management Programs and Best Information Systems Programs. And faculty are ridiculously qualified.
If you earn a degree from this school, people will know the name. Typical employers include companies such as Accenture, BNY Mellon, Boeing, Deloitte, General Motors, the U.S. Departments of Defense & Justice, IBM, Microsoft, Oracle, and more.
The online MSIT in ISA is a 144-unit program that consists of 7 core courses (60 units) and an additional 84 units of electives. Part-time students can complete the program in 2-3 years; the maximum allowed time is 5 years (unless there are extenuating circumstances). A maximum of 24 transfer credits are accepted.
- Required Courses: Introduction to Information Security Management; Network and Internet Security; Telecommunications Management; Software and Security; Information Security Risk Management; Cyber Security Policy and Governance; Privacy in the Digital Age.
- Electives: You’ll have your pick of computer science and business electives, including advanced cyber security courses (e.g. applied threat analysis, cryptography, ethical penetration testing, network defense, etc.) and management topics (e.g. financial accounting, IT project management, statistics for IT managers, etc.).
Although it’s specifically designed as a part-time program, Carnegie Mellon’s MSIT does allow for hybrid learning opportunities for those who prefer to take classes in-person. Local students are eligible to take graduate electives from other departments across campus.
Candidates should have 3 + years of relevant work experience (the average is closer to 8 years); a bachelor’s degree in computer science/IT, engineering, or business/management/finance; and an undergraduate GPA of 3.0 or higher. That being said, the MSIT is made to appeal to a broad range of students, not just those with highly technical backgrounds—the admissions section has more details on suggested prerequisites.
Want some advice on navigating the admissions process? Interested MSIT students can participate in an online information session, attend a graduate school event in their area, and/or reach out directly to a current student.
Heinz has also compiled an entire section on MSIT scholarships, which includes links to Veterans Education Benefits and financial aid advice. A Yellow Ribbon school, CMU offers up to a 25% tuition scholarship for eligible military veterans!
What is a Master’s in Information Assurance Degree?
Long before the advent of cyber security, there was information assurance (IA). It’s a field that encompasses areas such as risk management, cyber law, security policies, business strategy, continuity planning, and the like.
A master’s degree in information assurance is often more encompassing than a cyber security qualification. It will include technical training, but it will also provide you with a solid working knowledge of business practices and policies. You will be schooled in the latest methods for safeguarding valuable and sensitive records, regardless of their format.
What Will You Learn in an Information Assurance Program?
The curriculum for a master’s degree in information assurance varies from school to school, so we recommend you check the details carefully. An online MSIA developed by a university’s Department of Computer Science is going to be much more technical than an online MBA in IA offered by a School of Business.
Generally speaking, you’ll learn how to:
- Handle and protect the internal data of an organization
- Evaluate security measures for digital and non-digital data and records
- Assess the nature of internal and external threats
- Establish proven techniques designed to minimize risks
- Contend with the intentional or unintentional loss of control (i.e. hacks or leaks)
Does it include training in Cyber Security?
Yes. Because cyber security falls within the spectrum of operations for information assurance, you can expect to take courses in relevant subjects (e.g. network security, ethical hacking, digital forensics, etc.).
That also means many online IA programs in our list are vetted and endorsed by the NSA and the DHS and recognized as Centers of Academic Excellence in Cyber Defense (CD) and/or Cyber Operations (CO). You don’t have to go to an NSA CAE school to get a great degree, but the designation is a quality marker. We talk more about NSA CAE benefits in our profile of Top Cyber Security Schools.
How Long Does it Take to Complete a Master’s in Information Assurance Degree Program?
A typical Master of Science in Information Assurance will take 1-2 years of full-time study, depending on how the program is structured. On average, part-time students can expect to spend up to four or five years studying.
Ask the program coordinator about the average completion time. Some online degrees allow undergraduate courses to be counted as part of an accelerated program. Some universities have even developed shortened courses (e.g. 4-8 weeks) to help speed up the process.
Credit hours range from 30 to 36. A few programs (e.g. MBA) may go higher if they are incorporating additional coursework outside of the IA realm.
Is Information Assurance Right for Me?
Who should earn a Master’s in Information Assurance Degree?
IT professionals who are interested in management careers that involve protecting computer networks or other data systems—and investigating and mitigating data breaches—may do well in the no-nonsense field of IA. Corporations, government branches, banks, and the military-industrial complex are always on the lookout for sharp information security officers, managers, and analysts.
A bachelor’s degree in computer science or information technology will come in handy, as will a knowledge of computer programming languages. Some universities are willing to forgo these requirements if you have relevant work experience, or you’re ready to take foundation courses before the program starts.
There are also various industry certifications (e.g. CISSP), which go hand-in-hand with an IA master’s degree. Check to see if the program includes preparation for the exams.
What’s the difference between information assurance and cyber security?
Cyber security is usually viewed as a subset of information assurance:
- Information Assurance: IA 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.
- Cyber Security: Cyber security deals with the ever-changing roles of technology in the protection of information. As technology grows more invasive and sophisticated, cyber security courses adapt to cover the latest trends (e.g. Cloud, IoT, etc.).
For this reason, a degree in IA will incorporate major cyber security-related courses, but will also feature non-technical coursework in area such as business practices and policies, auditing, and risk management.
What can I do with an Information Assurance degree?
Because of the demand for security experts with a “big picture” view of management issues, employment opportunities for IA graduates abound:
- Mid-Level: Typical job titles include information assurance analysts, consultants, and managers, as well as enterprise architects, security incident responders, risk analysts, security analysts & strategists, security compliance managers, and security engineers.
- High-Level: The most common C-suite options are Chief Information Security Officer (CISO), Chief Information Assurance Officer (CIAO), Chief Information Officer (CIO), and Chief Technology Officer (CTO).
We’ve listed potential career paths and industries in our ranking profiles, but don’t be afraid to ask the program coordinator where students have ended up. You can also check the LinkedIn profiles of recent graduates to see a) what job they now hold b) what professional certifications they’ve pursued.
To create our list of the 20 Best Online Master’s in Information Assurance degree programs, we considered a wide-range of pertinent factors. Then we combined them to create an overall ranking of each institution.
- NSA and DHS designation as a Center of Academic Excellence in Cyber Defense (CAE-CD)
- U.S. News & World Report ranking for Best Information Systems Programs
- U.S. News & World Report ranking for Best Online Graduate Programs in Information Technology
- U.S. News & World Report ranking for Graduate Computer Science Programs
- Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS) data on master’s degree completions for:
- Computer/Information Technology Administration and Management
- Information Technology
- Our own ranking of Top Cyber Security Schools
Schools don’t have to feature in all of these categories to be considered. For example, even if a university doesn’t hold an NSA CAE designation, it can still be ranked highly due to its degree completion rates and its U.S. News & World Report appearances.
As always, we encourage you to do a little homework when you’re determining the quality of any particular IA program. Talk to program directors and admissions staff. Contact faculty members to chat about potential capstone projects. Connect with former graduates to see if they think their degree was worth the money. You want a real-world qualification with minimum debt.