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A cybersecurity degree prepares graduates to pursue careers in the expanding computer and information technology landscape. Specialists in this field protect individuals and organizations against the growing threat of cybercrime.

While the cybersecurity industry has experienced incredible development and investment since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, the sector has also encountered a startling increase in cybercrime. A special report from Canalys found more digital records compromised in 2020 than the combined 15 years prior.

As our reliance on information, network, and cloud-based technologies increases, our need for enhanced security measures must keep pace. The top cybersecurity schools focus on emerging technologies to ensure graduates receive the most relevant training.

This guide explores cybersecurity in detail, highlighting the schools, programs, and careers available in this exciting field. To help you choose the ideal path, we rank the best schools for cybersecurity.

What Is Cybersecurity?

Cybersecurity is an exciting and in-demand field concerned with safeguarding valuable and sensitive information from cyberattacks by hackers and other malicious actors. As a subfield of computer science, cybersecurity experts work to protect computer systems, devices, and networks.

Cyberattacks can cause individuals and organizations to lose valuable, private, and proprietary information. Cybersecurity professionals identify vulnerabilities and monitor systems for threats. As organizations store more data online and cyberattacks increase, the demand for cybersecurity professionals will also likely grow.

Cybersecurity experts once primarily worked in specialized areas like defense and government, but industries like finance, retail, insurance, and healthcare now demand these experts' knowledge, as well. The cybersecurity field tends to attract detail-oriented, analytical problem-solvers with knowledge from previous experience in tech.

Why Go to College for Cybersecurity?

Students attending cybersecurity schools may be interested in working with computers and security programs or drawn to varied work environments in the field.

Cybersecurity students are often interested in justice, privacy, and information security. These individuals may already possess computer, math, analytical, and problem-solving skills. Earning a degree in cybersecurity can help students develop the technical skills and theoretical foundation to pursue computer and IT jobs as information security analysts.

For many candidates, the growing field offers opportunities for professional growth and security. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), which categorizes most cybersecurity professionals under information security analysts, ranks these experts among the fastest-growing occupations.

While cybersecurity bootcamps can lead to employment in the field, most students pursue cybersecurity degrees to meet the minimum requirements for cybersecurity careers.

Many employers prefer or require applicants who possess bachelor's degrees. However, specializing in cybersecurity at any degree level helps students stand out from applicants with more general IT or computer science backgrounds. Some technical industry certifications required by employers also call for bachelor's degrees.

  • Job Growth: The BLS projects a 33% employment growth rate in the information security analysis field from 2020-2030, which is more than four times the average for all occupations.
  • Widely Applicable: As a specialization within the broader computer science field, cybersecurity training can lead to careers in other computer and information technology professions, such as computer systems analysts and information systems managers.
  • Salary Potential: According to the BLS, the median annual salary for information security analysts was $102,600 in May 2021 — more than $55,000 higher than the median annual salary for all occupations.

Types of Cybersecurity Degrees

As shown below, the type and level of cybersecurity degree can directly influence a graduate's career and salary potential. Professionals with more advanced training and credentials can pursue senior-level and leadership positions, such as management, research and development, and teaching.

The following sections explore cybersecurity education at every level.

Certificate in Cybersecurity

A cybersecurity certificate may appeal to individuals who cannot or do not want to invest the time and money to earn full degrees. Tuition costs, program length, and required credits vary by school.

Certificates usually take less time and have less stringent admission requirements than degrees. Earning a certificate may be ideal for people seeking career changes or entry-level jobs. Tech professionals with degrees in other fields can also benefit from certificates.

Do not confuse a certificate in cybersecurity with a certification. Professional certifications are voluntary credentials awarded by organizations to demonstrate specific skills.

Undergraduate, graduate, and postsecondary students can pursue cybersecurity certificates. Learners can often apply certificate credits to full degrees. Common classes include fundamentals of infrastructure security, ethical hacking, and computer forensics.

Cybersecurity certificate-holders can pursue jobs like cybersecurity analyst, computer user support specialist, cybersecurity technician, and network systems administrator.

Associate Degree in Cybersecurity

Students can earn associate degrees in cybersecurity online or in person. Schools offer associate of arts (AA) and associate of science (AS) degrees in cybersecurity. These degrees typically share similar coursework and can count toward the first two years of a bachelor's degree. An AS focuses more on science and math, while an AA typically includes more liberal arts classes.

An associate in cybersecurity takes 1.5-2 years to complete and requires 60 credits. Typical courses include computer networking, cybersecurity foundations, database management systems, and communication and network security. Students gain broad information technology and security skills and learn to identify and mitigate risks.

Common admission requirements include a high school diploma or GED certificate. Applicants do not complete prerequisites. Tuition varies by school, but public community colleges commonly offer the most affordable options. Students who earn their associate cybersecurity degrees online can pursue entry-level positions like cybersecurity specialist and cybersecurity analyst.

Bachelor's Degree in Cybersecurity

Bachelor's in cybersecurity programs may culminate in bachelor of arts (BA) or bachelor of science (BS) degrees. A BS focuses more on technical courses within the major, while a BA is broader and encompasses classes in other disciplines.

A cybersecurity degree at the bachelor's level usually requires around 120 credits and takes about four years to complete. Students who earn their cybersecurity degrees online may be able to graduate in less time than those who attend in person.

The cost of a bachelor's varies by school, but cybersecurity colleges offer many financial aid opportunities. Entrance requirements usually include a high school diploma or its equivalent. Other admission criteria may include SAT or ACT scores, a minimum GPA, and a personal essay.

Typical courses for cybersecurity majors include introduction to scripting, security risk management, securing visual and cloud systems, and a cybersecurity capstone. Cybersecurity degree-holders can seek jobs like information security analyst, security engineer, and security architect.

Master's Degree in Cybersecurity

Master's students can pursue cybersecurity degrees online or in person. A master's in cybersecurity usually takes 1-2 years to complete and requires 30-36 credits. Tuition for master's in cybersecurity programs varies depending on the school type (public or private), in-state vs. out-of-state residency status, and school prestige.

Core courses for master's in cybersecurity programs include enterprise architecture, risk management, information security assurance, and cybersecurity management. Some cybersecurity master's programs require thesis projects or capstone experiences.

Admission requirements typically include a bachelor's degree, a minimum GPA, letters of recommendation, and a resume. Some cybersecurity colleges require GRE scores. Depending on previous education and experience, applicants may need to complete prerequisite computer science courses.

A master's in cybersecurity can qualify graduates for advanced, senior-level positions in the field. Potential jobs include chief information security officer, security manager, security director, and information security consultant.

Ph.D. in Cybersecurity

A doctoral cybersecurity degree typically takes 4-5 years and totals 48-75 credits. Common courses include software vulnerabilities and security, computer hardware and system security, and assurance controls and compliance management. A cybersecurity Ph.D. student may need to pass a comprehensive exam and complete a doctoral research dissertation.

Admission requirements typically include a bachelor's or master's degree in computer science or a related field and a minimum 3.0 GPA. An applicant typically must submit letters of recommendation, writing samples, a resume, and transcripts.

Cybersecurity program costs at the doctoral level vary by institution, but students who qualify for assistantships or fellowships may receive tuition waivers and living stipends.

Graduates with cybersecurity Ph.D.s can pursue university teaching and advanced research positions. Careers include professor, information security consultant, and computer and information research scientist.

Jobs for Cybersecurity Graduates

Cybersecurity degree-holders can qualify for in-demand, high-paying jobs in the tech field. Specific opportunities and earning potential depend on the candidate's education, experience, location, and industry. However, job-seekers with bachelor's degrees may qualify for more roles in cybersecurity and receive higher salaries for entry-level positions.

Potential careers include information security analyst, security architect, and security engineer. Cybersecurity graduates with advanced degrees or several years of experience can pursue roles as security managers, chief information security officers, and security consultants.

Below, we explore five cybersecurity careers, including the level of education and years of experience typically required for the role.

Information Security Analyst

These professionals help organizations improve their security systems and processes. They may advance in this field by developing their own programs and pursuing management roles. According to the BLS, information security analysts primarily work in computer systems design services, finance and insurance, and information industries.

Required Education: Bachelor's degree

Job Outlook (2020-30): +33%

Median Annual Salary: $102,600

Computer and Information Systems Manager

These professionals oversee computer-related activities and operations within organizations. They handle staffing, budgeting, systems security, and project management. According to the BLS, computer and information systems managers work in industries like computer systems design services, finance and insurance, and manufacturing.

Required Education: Bachelor's degree

Job Outlook (2020-30): +11%

Median Annual Salary: $159,010

Computer Systems Analyst

These professionals assist organizations in improving computer system effectiveness and efficiency. They may develop and implement their own improvements and manage teams of analysts as they advance within the field. According to the BLS, computer systems analystswork in the government, finance and insurance, and information industries.

Required Education: Bachelor's degree

Job Outlook (2020-30): +7%

Median Annual Salary: $99,270

Computer and Information Research Scientist

These professionals design new technologies and new technological systems to solve problems for people and organizations. They develop theories and solutions, run tests, and present their findings in various ways. According to the BLS, computer and information research scientists primarily work in the government, education, and research and development industries.

Required Education: Master's degree

Job Outlook (2020-30): +22%

Median Annual Salary: $131,490

Forensic Computer Examiner

These professionals collect and analyze evidence in computer-based crimes. They record their observations and findings from the digital data with care and precision in compliance with the law. According to the BLS, forensic computer examiners typically work in the government, testing laboratories, and medical laboratories.

Required Education: Bachelor's degree

Job Outlook (2020-30): +16%

Median Annual Salary: $61,930

Choosing the Best College and Cybersecurity Program for You

To find the right cybersecurity school and program, start by considering your personal and professional goals. Next, evaluate and compare programs for how they meet your needs.

Start by ensuring that your prospective schools hold institutional accreditation. Those recognized as National Centers of Academic Excellence in Cybersecurity or featuring programs accredited by the Computing Accreditation Commission of ABET might stand out even more.

From there, find a school that meets your ideal size, location, culture, and diversity standards. Research the number and quality of resources and facilities available and the extracurricular opportunities provided. Next, consider if you can meet the admission and tuition requirements to attend.

Investigate program lengths, delivery methods, coursework, and specializations that appeal to you. Look up any available internship and computer lab opportunities and the program's reputation in the cybersecurity field.

Should You Get Your Degree Online?

Students may pursue online learning, on-campus education, or a mix of the two types in a hybrid program. Online learning allows degree-seekers to access more schools and programs to study with more flexible schedules than with traditional platforms. Enrollees may attend virtual classes in real-time with synchronous delivery or study asynchronously at their convenience.

Many of the best colleges for cybersecurity run successful online programs because of the discipline's reliance on computers and computer-based information. Cybersecurity students tend to be more technologically inclined, which can help them to navigate online platforms and materials. Conversely, online programs may feature less classroom and campus integration and communication, which some students prefer.

Top 5 Cybersecurity Schools and Programs

Below, we rank the top five cybersecurity schools and programs in the country for 2022. You will also find a link to our ranking methodology for more information on the process we use to determine what schools make the list.

#1

United States Air Force Academy

School Information
Location USAF Academy, Colorado
Admission Rate 11%
Graduation Rate 85%
Accreditation Yes Higher Learning Commission

From its campus in Colorado, United States Air Force Academy enrolls students as a public institution. The school offers top-ranked programs that provide a rigorous course of study. The programs cover a variety of academic disciplines. Students choose from 39 total undergraduate and graduate programs.

A bachelor's degree requires a minimum of 120 credits and takes four years. Undergraduates often take general education courses in the liberal arts. Upper-division courses provide advanced training within the major. A minor or concentration lets degree-seekers customize their bachelor's degree. 

Graduate programs vary, with master's programs taking 1-2 years and doctoral programs requiring 3-6 years. Graduate training prepares professionals for career advancement. Experiential learning opportunities teach students how to apply lessons in real-world contexts. Internships offer hands-on training for degree-seekers.

Learners benefit from tutoring services and other forms of academic support. The admission rate is 11% for incoming students. Prospective students typically submit school transcripts for admission. Some programs offer a waiver for standardized test scores. United States Air Force Academy has been accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

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#2

Taylor University

School Information
Location Upland, Indiana
Admission Rate 68%
Graduation Rate 77%
Instituation Type Private
Accreditation Yes Higher Learning Commission
Percent Online Enrollment 18% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.

Taylor University, located in Upland, Indiana, operates as a private institution. Degree-seekers benefit from rigorous programs that rank among the best in the nation. Programs in diverse disciplines provide a variety of choices for students. Degree-seekers choose from 81 undergraduate and graduate programs at the school.

Undergraduates typically earn a bachelor's degree in four years. Many undergraduate programs incorporate lower-division coursework in the liberal arts. Upper-division credits focus on various concepts in the major. A minor or concentration lets degree-seekers customize their bachelor's degree. 

Graduate degrees take anywhere from 1-7 years to complete and train learners in various professional fields. The institution may allow learners to earn credit for internships and service-learning experiences. Students can explore the school’s website to learn how to earn credit for internships and graduate-level, hands-on learning opportunities.

Advisors and tutors help learners reach their academic goals. The school reports a 68% admission rate. Students can expect to submit school transcripts as part of the admissions process. Depending on the program, applicants may need to submit standardized test scores. Taylor University has received accreditation from the Higher Learning Commission, an independent accrediting agency.

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#3

Randolph-Macon College

School Information
Location Ashland, Virginia
Admission Rate 71%
Graduation Rate 68%
Instituation Type Private
Accreditation Yes Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges

Randolph-Macon College, located in Ashland, Virginia, operates as a private institution. The school's rigorous programs rank among the best in the nation. The programs cover a variety of academic disciplines. Learners choose from 40 undergraduate and graduate programs at the institution.

Bachelor's programs require a minimum of 120 credits and take around four years. Many majors incorporate lower-division coursework in the liberal arts. Upper-division classes emphasize critical thinking and analytical skills. The institution also offers minors and concentrations to customize the degree. 

Graduate degrees take between 1-7 years depending on the program. Graduate programs prepare students for diverse career paths. The school may allow degree-seekers to earn credit for internships and service-learning experiences. Students can explore the school’s website to learn how to earn credit for internships and graduate-level hands-on learning opportunities.

Students benefit from academic support, including tutoring services. The admission rate is 71% for new students. Students submit transcripts as part of the admission process. Applicants may also need to submit test scores. The school has been accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

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#4

University of Richmond

School Information
Location University of Richmond, Virginia
Admission Rate 28%
Graduation Rate 89%
Instituation Type Private
Accreditation Yes Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges
Percent Online Enrollment 2% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.

Located in University of Richmond, Virginia, University of Richmond operates as a private institution. Students benefit from rigorous programs that rank among the best in the nation. Students choose from programs in diverse fields.

Bachelor's programs require at least 120 credits, which typically takes four years. Many majors require general education coursework in the liberal arts. Majors build their critical thinking and analytical skills with upper-division classes. Undergraduates complement their major with a minor or concentration. 

Graduate programs require 30-90 credits and take 1-7 years. Professionals advance their knowledge and skills through diverse graduate programs. In addition to coursework, students can receive credit for completing service-learning experiences. Students can explore the school’s website for details about graduate-level experiential learning opportunities.

Tutors and advisors help students reach their academic goals. The admission rate is 28% for incoming students. Prospective learners submit transcripts during the admission process. Some students qualify for test-optional admissions. University of Richmond holds accreditation from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges, an independent accrediting agency.

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#5

Point Loma Nazarene University

School Information
Location San Diego, California
Admission Rate 74%
Graduation Rate 75%
Instituation Type Private
Accreditation Yes Western Association of Schools and Colleges Senior Colleges and University Commission
Percent Online Enrollment 26% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.

Located in California, Point Loma Nazarene University is a private institution. Learners enroll in top-ranked programs that offer a rigorous course of study. The school's programs cover a variety of disciplines. In addition to 71 bachelor's degrees, students enroll in 9 master's degrees and 1 doctoral degrees.

A bachelor's degree requires at least 120 credits and takes around four years. Students often complete general education coursework in the liberal arts as part of their bachelor's degree. Majors build their critical thinking and analytical skills with upper-division classes. Undergraduates balance their courses of study with a minor or concentration. Graduate students spend 1-7 years to earn a master's or doctorate. 

Graduate programs prepare professionals for many career paths. In addition to coursework, degree-seekers can receive credit for completing service-learning experiences. The school’s website provides more information about how graduate students can pursue these options.

The institution's advisors help students reach their academic goals. The admission rate is 74% for new students. Learners submit transcripts to gain admission to the school. Some programs provide a test-optional admission option. Point Loma Nazarene University has received accreditation from the Western Association of Schools and Colleges Senior Colleges and University Commission, an independent accrediting agency.

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Questions About Colleges With Cybersecurity Majors


What to Expect From Cybersecurity Degree Programs

Coursework varies by cybersecurity college and the level and type of degree. In general, however, these programs focus on identifying and mitigating threats to computer systems and networks. Topics usually include cryptography, programming, development, analysis, and forensics.

Cybersecurity majors also learn to test systems for vulnerabilities and create backups and recovery plans. Some learners can specialize in one area of the field, such as risk assessment, security architecture, or cyberlaw. Though not typically mandatory, the Computing Accreditation Commission of ABET provides programmatic accreditation to certain programs.

Is cybersecurity worth learning?

Yes. Students can receive plenty of value from a cybersecurity degree. The BLS projects a 33% employment growth rate for information security analysts from 2020-2030 — significantly higher than the national average for all occupations — signaling consistent growth in the sector.

Which degree should I get to work in cybersecurity?

Cybersecurity professionals come from many disciplines and levels, but a bachelor's in cybersecurity likely provides the most direct route to the profession. Other possible disciplines include programming or computer science.

Do I need to go to school to get a cybersecurity job?

According to the BLS, most employers look for cybersecurity professionals with bachelor's degrees at a minimum. They may also want certified candidates, which typically require a bachelor's degree and experience. However, some jobs may hire self-taught candidates or bootcamp graduates if they possess enough experience.

How much can I earn with a cybersecurity degree?

Cybersecurity salaries depend on the job, employer, location, and individual. According to the BLS, the median annual salary for these professionals was $102,600 as of May 2021. Meanwhile, the top 10% in the field made more than $165,920.

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