Written by CyberDegrees.org Staff Writer
Last Updated: April 1, 2020
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.
Top 10 Best Online Master's in Information Assurance Programs
|1||Stevens Institute of Technology||Hoboken, NJ|
|2||University of Dallas||Irving, TX|
|3||Drexel University||Philadelphia, PA|
|4||Lewis University||Romeoville, IL|
|5||George Washington University||Washington, DC|
|6||University of Denver||Denver, CO|
|7||University of Delaware||Newark, DE|
|8||University of Detroit Mercy||Detroit, MI|
|9||University of Tulsa||Tulsa, OK|
|10||Norwich University||Northfield, VT|
The Best Schools With Online Master's in Information Assurance Programs for 2020
How We Rank Cybersecurity Programs
Want to know how we create our rankings? We assess schools based on academic quality, affordability, and online flexibility.
Affordability (20% of total score)
Program Appeal (60% of total score)
Online Flexibility (20% of total score)
Stevens Institute of Technology
Online Master of Science in Information Systems
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.
University of Dallas
Online Master of Science in Cybersecurity
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.
Online Master of Science in Cybersecurity
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.
Online Master of Science in Information Security
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.
George Washington University
Online Master of Engineering in Cybersecurity Policy and Compliance
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.
University of Denver
Online Master of Science in Information and Communications Technology with a concentration in Information Systems Security
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.
University of Delaware
Online Master of Science in Cybersecurity
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.
University of Detroit Mercy
Online Master of Science in Information Assurance
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.
University of Tulsa
Online Master of Science in Cyber Security
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.
Online Master of Science in Cybersecurity
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.
New York University
Online Master of Science in Cybersecurity
New York University began enrolling students in 1831, aiming to make higher education accessible to everyone, including those who historically couldn't afford it. NYU now enrolls over 58,000 students, ranking as one of the largest private higher education institutions in the nation.
The online cybersecurity master's degree NYU's Tandon School of Engineering follows a 30-credit curriculum, covering computer science and security core. Electives allow students to pursue their own interests, as well. Elective options include digital forensics, machine learning, penetration testing and vulnerability analysis, and cloud security. NYU also offers a cyberfellows scholarship for these master's students, which covers 75% of tuition.
Master's candidates can pursue either a research project or a master's thesis to complete their degrees. The research project serves as a preliminary step to obtaining a Ph.D., while the thesis allows students to defend their research to a faculty committee.
Moreover, distance learners can also pursue a cyberops concentration. This pathway combines computer science, computer engineering, and electrical engineering with courses focusing on operating systems and cryptography. Students who choose this specialization participate in a 12-week summer program, which includes an internship.
Prospective students may apply if they hold a "superior undergraduate record," though NYU does not specify a minimum GPA. Applicants should have completed math and science courses for their bachelor's degrees. They must also submit their GRE scores and a statement of purpose.
The National Security Agency designates this program as a center of academic excellence in cyberoperations and cyberdefense research. NYU also holds accreditation from the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.
James Madison University
Online Master of Science in Information Security
With a campus in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia, James Madison University educates about 20,000 undergraduate and 2,000 graduate students. Learners can often pursue these programs, including JMU's web-based MS in information security, through distance learning.
The curriculum requires 33 credits of coursework in a cohort model, so students follow a planned-out course schedule. Learners enroll in five semesters plus a summer session. They graduate in about two years.
Courses cover topics like secure programming, computer forensics, network security, and cryptography. Incoming students without computer science backgrounds or who need a refresher should also complete non-credit preparatory courses before beginning the program. At the end of every semester, students take a final exam for each course.
Before graduating, master's students decide whether to follow the thesis or non-thesis option. Thesis students carry out their own research during the last semester, while non-thesis learners take two special topics instead. In addition, non-thesis candidates must pass a comprehensive exam to graduate.
JMU does not require applicants to submit GRE scores, but the school does recommend it for those aiming to strengthen their applications. Prospective students should submit their undergraduate transcripts, a resume, and a personal statement.
The National Security Agency and the Department of Homeland Security designate JMU as one of the first seven national centers of academic excellence in information assurance/cyberdefense. JMU also holds regional accreditation from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.
Rochester Institute of Technology
Online Master of Science in Computing Security
When the Rochester Institute of Technology opened its doors in 1829, it began as the Rochester Athenaeum, a cultural center offering public lectures and debates. It later merged with a technical training institute and granted the first bachelor's degree over a century after its 1955 founding. Now, RIT offers several bachelor's and master's degrees on its campuses in New York state and online.
The online MS in computer security at RIT educates students with theoretical foundations and equips them with professional skills in the information security field. The program consists of 30 credits, starting with the nine-credit MicroMasters graduate certificate program. Full-time students complete the MicroMasters program in one year, while part-time learners take two years.
This certificate acts as a prerequisite to the remaining 21 credits of coursework. These advanced-level courses include cryptography and authentication, computer system security, and research courses.
At the end of the program, students can choose from three pathways: Write a thesis, complete a professional project, or enroll in a capstone course. The thesis allows students to carry out original research and submit it to a journal or conference. The professional project involves executing an initiative in the computer security field, which students must defend in front of faculty. The capstone course requires students to solve real-world problems in information assurance.
Prospective students may apply if they hold a minimum 3.0 undergraduate GPA. RIT recommends but does not require GRE scores. RIT is regionally accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.
Online Master of Science in Information Security
Champlain College began as the Burlington Collegiate Institute and Commercial College in Burlington, Vermont in 1878. Though the school started as for-profit, it now operates as a nonprofit private college offering degrees in more than 150 subjects.
The online master's in information security prepares students for jobs as forensic experts, chief infosec officers, and security consultants. The degree comprises 30 credits, which students complete through eight-week courses. The program allows professionals to continue working part or full time. To begin the program, distance learners take 12 credits of core courses like managing risk in IT organizations and threat and vulnerability analysis.
Learners' remaining credits fall within two possible concentrations: operations and management. The operations pathway focuses on technical security knowledge in game theory, security scripting, and malware analysis. The management specialization, on the other hand, focuses more on administration. Management students enroll in courses like project management; the self as a values-driven leader; and group dynamics, communication, and negotiation. Learners in both concentrations must complete a capstone.
Champlain designed this degree for individuals with at least two years of professional experience in a technology field. Prospective students should also hold a bachelor's degree in a related subject with a minimum 2.5 GPA.
The information security program holds designation as a national center of academic excellence in cyberdefense education from the National Security Agency and the Department of Homeland Security. Champlain holds regional accreditation from the New England Commission of Higher Education.
Robert Morris University
Online Master of Science in Cybersecurity and Information Assurance
With about 5,000 students, Robert Morris University defines itself as a small college with the academic priorities of a large research university. The Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania-based school offers 27 online programs, plus its traditional on-campus degrees. Students can complete the MS in cybersecurity and information assurance entirely online.
The degree consists of 30 credits. Students learn about operating systems, database management, computer network security, and secure programming. Distance learners who choose a concentration in enterprise systems must also take courses in cobol programming and enterprise transaction processing systems.
At the end of this master's in information assurance, learners complete a cybersecurity capstone and a noncredit program outcome assessment. The capstone allows students to take on a major project, like carrying out research, putting together a portfolio, or pursuing professional certification. Students may also opt to participate in an internship, which can count for up to nine credits of coursework.
Courses last eight weeks, so RMU runs six terms throughout the year. Courses typically follow an asynchronous format, meaning students do not log on at specific times, except for in special cases.
Interested individuals can apply by submitting their undergraduate transcripts, a resume, two recommendation letters, and an essay outlining their goals for the program. This degree does not require applicants to submit GRE scores. RMU holds regional accreditation from the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.
Online Master of Science in Cybersecurity
Chicago-based DePaul University represents the largest Catholic university in the United States. The institution enrolls about 22,000 students, marking significant growth since its first class of 70 students in 1898. Now, the school offers over 300 undergraduate and graduate programs, including an online MS in cybersecurity.
The 52-credit degree gives students three concentration options: networking and infrastructure; governance, risk management, and compliance; and computer security. Infrastructure students learn about the building blocks of network security, like firewalls and VPNs. Governance learners study information security risk management at an enterprise level. Finally, computer security students become experts in preventing software vulnerabilities and responding to threats.
Learners in all specializations must pass five foundational courses with a minimum 3.0 GPA before they can move on to more advanced subject material. Foundational courses cover topics like digital forensics techniques, governance policies in information assurance, and network security. Students also choose from a wide selection of electives within their specializations.
All students must take a capstone course, as well, though capstone requirements differ by concentration. Governance students must design and configure realistic enterprise computing and networking environments. Infrastructure and computer security students may choose that option, or they can complete a thesis or research project instead. Online courses at DePaul generally involve asynchronous learning. Students stream lectures online on their own schedule, though they take proctored exams within a specific time frame.
The program holds designation as a national center of academic excellence in cybersecurity by the National Security Agency and the Department of Homeland Security. DePaul also holds regional accreditation from the Higher Learning Commission.
Iowa State University
Online Master of Science in Cyber Security
Originally called the Iowa Agricultural College and Model Farm, Iowa State University began in 1858. Located in Ames, Iowa State became home to the nation's first public veterinary school in 1879. It's since added more degrees and programs and now educates about 35,000 students.
The master of engineering in cybersecurity comprises 30 credits, including 18 in core coursework, six in thesis research, and nine in electives. Core courses include information warfare, steganography, and wireless security. Students can also take a capstone course instead of completing a thesis. The capstone only requires three credits, meaning students who go this route can take an additional elective. All students -- including distance learners -- must pass a comprehensive oral exam before graduating.
Iowa State's online learning platform is asynchronous, allowing students to watch streaming lectures at their convenience. Online students can access several resources to help them with online learning, including an academic resource center, a tutoring center, and a writing center. These resources can prove especially helpful for individuals returning to school after an extended period of time.
Prospective students must submit GRE scores and undergraduate transcripts. Individuals with three years' work experience in a related field may bypass the GRE requirement. All applicants should also submit a personal statement and recommendation letters. Iowa State holds regional accreditation from the Higher Learning Commission.
University of Southern California
Online Master of Science Cyber Security Engineering
The Los Angeles-based University of Southern California is a private university with about 48,500 enrolled students. USC started with much smaller statistics when it opened in 1880; 10 instructors taught 53 students when the university first opened its doors.
USC offers a 28-credit master of science in cybersecurity engineering. Students can complete the program online through the Viterbi School of Engineering. Alumni pursue careers in the fields of homeland security, computer engineering, information security, intelligence analysis, and network administration.
The curriculum includes four required courses and three electives. Core courses cover security systems and computer systems assurance, while electives include applied cryptography, computer forensics, and secure systems administration. Full-time students graduate in 1.5-2 years, while part-time students can complete the program in 2.5-3.5 years.
Online students view recorded lectures, which on-campus USC students watch in person. In addition, distance learners can visit campus to watch lectures if they wish. Distance learners can receive additional assistance from the instructional support center.
Applicants should submit their GRE scores and undergraduate transcripts. USC may waive GRE scores for undergraduate engineering students who achieved a minimum 3.2 GPA at USC. The university holds regional accreditation from the Western Association of Schools and Colleges.
Nova Southeastern University
Online Master of Science in Information Assurance and Cybersecurity
Nova Southeastern University began as the Nova University of Advanced Technology in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, in 1964. The institution initially granted graduate degrees in the physical and social sciences, but it expanded over the next 50 years to add programs in law, business, and other areas.
Students who enroll in the online MS in cybersecurity management pursue a 30-credit curriculum. This degree focuses on network security engineering, teaching students to design network infrastructure and carry out security analysis. Full-time students can graduate in 12-14 months, while professionals who enroll part time may need 16-24 months.
Learners follow a schedule of required courses rather than choosing electives. Those courses include applied cryptography, software engineering, and computer and network forensics. Students can choose to complete a thesis, which adds an extra three credits to their course load. In addition, incoming students without backgrounds in computer science may need to take 1-4 prerequisite courses in Java programming, math, computer architecture, and data structures and algorithms.
Interested individuals may apply if they possess an undergraduate degree in computer science, information systems, information technology, engineering, mathematics, or physics. They should also hold a minimum 3.0 GPA in all upper level undergraduate courses.
The program holds designation as a national center of academic excellence in information assurance and cyberdefense education from the National Security Agency and the Department of Homeland Security. NSU is also regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.
University of Rhode Island
Online Master of Science in Cyber Security
With a main campus in Kingston, the public University of Rhode Island also educates its 18,000 students on campuses in Providence, Narragansett Bay, and Alton Jones. Students also can enroll in distance learning programs, including the online professional science master's in cybersecurity.
Run through URI's digital forensics and cybersecurity center, this 36-credit professional master's differs from a traditional master's degree, because it does not require a capstone course or thesis. Many distance learners enroll in the program while working full time. They can access recorded lectures on demand and participate in cloud-based labs. Students can graduate in 1-2 years, depending on their course load each semester.
The curriculum consists of five core courses and four electives. Incoming students without computer science backgrounds must complete a fundamentals course the summer before their enrollment. Possible electives include digital forensics, advanced incident response, and penetration response. Instead of a thesis, learners must complete an internship in the cybersecurity field. They may obtain this internship with their current employer or at a new place of work.
Applicants must hold a bachelor's degree demonstrating a minimum 3.0 GPA, preferably in a field related to information technology. URI does not require applicants to submit GRE scores.
The National Security Agency and Department of Homeland Security designate this program as a national center of academic excellence in cyberdefense education and research. In addition, URI holds accreditation from the New England Commission of Higher Education.
Saint Leo University
Online Master of Science in Cyber Security
Saint Leo University is a Catholic-affiliated institution in Florida. Established by the Benedictines in 1889, it remains the state's oldest Catholic university, but it offers many secular programs and degrees as well.
About 86% of students enroll in adult learning programs through web-based education; one such online program is the master's in cybersecurity. The program prepares students to work as cryptographers, security architects, and forensic auditors.
The program consists of 36 credits, and students take all required courses instead of choosing from electives or concentrations. An orientation prepares students for the rest of the curriculum, while other courses cover topics like secure software design, cloud computing technology, network security management, advanced penetration testing, and strategic planning for cybersecurity. Distance learners generally take two courses each semester.
The curriculum aligns with guidelines set by the National Security Agency. It also prepares learners for several professional certifications, including the certified information systems security professional, systems security certified practitioner, and certified information security manager designations.
The online learning system at Saint Leo keeps its distance learners supported with several web-based services. Students can access tutoring at their convenience, available 24 hours a day. They can also take advantage of career services, including career counseling and resume assessments.
Applicants should submit their undergraduate transcripts, a resume, a personal statement, and recommendation letters. Saint Leo is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.
SUNY Polytechnic Institute
Online Master of Science in Cybersecurity: Network and Computer Security
Based in Utica and Albany, the State University of New York Polytechnic Institute educates about 3,000 students through its five colleges. The institute remains relatively new, established in 2014 as a merger between two state universities in New York. The university offers several online programs, including a master's in network and computer security with a cybersecurity emphasis.
Students take 33 credits of required courses, and they may complete a research project or thesis research as well. Learners take courses like VoIP and multimedia security, wireless and mobile networks, and network firewalls and intrusion detection systems. To pursue either a thesis or research project, students need advisor approval, after which they design and carry out the research worth 1-6 credits on their own. Full-time students generally graduate in 18 months.
SUNY Poly designed this program for learners with undergraduate degrees in computer science, computer security, electrical engineering, or a similar field. Incoming students with different backgrounds may still enroll if they take prerequisite courses in calculus, discrete mathematics, computer systems, and programming.
Applicants should submit their undergraduate transcripts and GRE scores. SUNY Poly considers prospective students with a minimum 3.0 GPA and GRE scores of at least 153 on the quantitative section and 140 on the verbal sections. Applicants must also send in a resume and one reference.
SUNY Poly holds regional accreditation from the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.
Online Master of Science in Information Assurance and Cyber Security
Founded in 1866, Davenport University operates as a private, nonprofit higher education institution with about 7,000 students. The university educates students on its main campus in Grand Rapids, but it also enrolls students on an additional 13 campuses across Michigan and in several web-based programs.
DU's online MS in information assurance and cybersecurity consists of 34 credits, including nine core courses, two electives, and a thesis. Courses include advanced computer forensics, project management and risk mitigation, and analytical statistics for management. Incoming students without academic backgrounds in computer science must also take up to six foundational courses in computer programming, information security, and statistics.
Elective courses cover a wide range of topics, which students can tailor to their professional interests. These include healthcare security, banking and financial security, and wireless and mobile security. Electives also include specific courses to prepare students for professional certification, including the project management professional certification. Finally, learners can complete an internship in place of one elective course. This internship requires about 150 hours of supervised work, and students must file weekly reports.
For a capstone, students complete a thesis or a comprehensive research paper covering everything they learned in the program. Distance learners must submit a thesis proposal before the last semester and work under the guidance of a faculty advisor.
This master's in information assurance holds designation as a national center of excellence for information assurance education from the National Security Agency and the Department of Homeland Security. DU also holds Higher Learning Commission regional accreditation.
Online Master of Science in Information Security Leadership
Established as a Jewish university in the Boston suburb of Waltham in 1948, Brandeis University remains committed to its religious roots while welcoming students of all faiths. The institution enrolls nearly 6,000 learners and considers itself a private research university with a liberal arts focus.
Brandeis offers a 30-credit MS in information security leadership for individuals with undergraduate degrees and work experience in computer science and security. Students pursue their degrees online on a part-time schedule, completing six required courses and four electives. Distance learners graduate in 15-30 months. After graduating, program alumni find positions as software engineers, systems support specialists, IT directors, and cybersecurity engineers.
Required courses cover the foundations of information security, computer incident response, risk management, and computer security leadership. Electives include a wider range of subjects, including launching fintech ventures, Python programming, cloud security, identity management and access control, and secure mobile applications and data. This program does not require a final capstone course, research project, or thesis.
Distance learning at Brandeis follows an asynchronous course format. Online students do not need to log on at specific times, but they must turn in weekly assignments. Courses do not exceed a 20-student enrollment, so distance learners can easily and virtually connect with their peers.
Applicants should submit their undergraduate transcripts, but Brandeis does not require GRE scores. Brandeis is regionally accredited by the New England Commission of Higher Education.
Capitol Technology University
Online Master of Science in Cybersecurity
Originally called the Capitol Radio Engineering Institute when it was founded in 1927, Capitol Technology University originally prepared students for positions as radio and electronics technicians. Though Capitol began in Washington, D.C., it relocated to Laurel, Maryland, where it continues to operate as a private nonprofit institution of about 800 students.
The MS in cybersecurity at Capitol requires 36-39 credits of coursework, depending on whether students come in with an information technology background. Learners take 24-27 credits of required courses and 12 elective credits.
Electives fall into two categories: information assurance and project management. Students can choose electives in both of these categories, or they can stick to one as a concentration. Information assurance electives include SCADA networks and ICS security, healthcare information system security, and cloud network design and services. Possible project management electives include managerial economics and web analytics.
Courses last eight weeks and follow an asynchronous schedule, offering flexibility to students who work part or full time. Upon completing the program, students may take the certified information systems security professional certification exam.
To apply, prospective students must hold a bachelor's degree demonstrating a minimum 3.0 GPA. Capitol does not require GRE scores for admissions decisions, except in special cases. The National Security Agency and the Department of Homeland Security designated this program a National Center of Excellence in Cyberdefense Education. The university also holds regional accreditation from the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.
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.
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:
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.