How We Rank Cybersecurity Programs uses a combination of unique factors to determine the rankings of cybersecurity programs. Our ranking methodology helps prospective students find the right program for their needs. We assemble rankings based on three main factors: affordability, program appeal, and online flexibility.

Program appeal makes up the largest consideration at 60% of the total ranking. Considering subfactors that include graduation rate and student-to-faculty ratio, we measure the potential merits of a program.

Many students must balance personal and professional obligations with their studies, so flexibility is another important piece of the selection process, weighing in at 20% of the ranking.

We also place importance on affordability, which makes up another 20% of the ranking. Affordability accounts for tuition prices, financial aid, and loan default rates.

On this page, readers can learn more about this website’s data sources, national measures for cybersecurity programs, metrics of our ranking methodology, and descriptions of each relevant subfactor.

Prospective students can rest assured that these rankings run entirely free of outside influence. Schools cannot pay advertising fees for inclusion on this list. We compile data using only reputable resources, such as those provided by national databases and the federal government.

About the Data We Use

A branch of the U.S. Department of Education, the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) gathers and assesses data related to school performance within the United States. NCES reports on areas such as graduation rates, enrollment numbers, student debt, popular majors, tuition costs, and financial aid. We use official NCES data when assembling our lists of school rankings.

The National Security Agency (NSA) and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) collaborate to award superior programs in the field. The National Centers of Academic Excellence (CAE) recognize excellence in cyber defense (CAE-CD) and cyber operations (CAE-CO). While requirements vary depending on degree level, programs earn these prestigious designations through program outreach, collaboration, research initiatives, and multidisciplinary courses for cyber defense professionals.

By evaluating a program’s curriculum and checking for strong courses in cyber defense, data analysis, cryptography, law, and IT systems, the CAE carefully selects institutions that qualify for the prestigious designation. Schools can qualify for the credential under four-year (CAE-CDE), two-year (CAE2Y), or research (CAE-R).

With such rigorous requirements, a CAE approval carries strong weight with many employers. According to the NSA, only 272 institutions nationwide hold CAE-CD approval, while 21 hold CAE-CO approval. When it comes to cybersecurity, no other assessment methods can boast the same nationwide prestige.

The quality assurance team for this website checks every institution in the ranking, corroborating the information and excluding any schools with insufficient data. Regularly updated, our rankings are current and reflect changes once the NCES releases new data.

A Breakdown of Our Rankings Methodology

Online FlexibilityAffordabilityProgram Appeal

About Our Ranking Factors

Using the right methodology factors ensures our rankings remain relevant to the needs of prospective students. This site focuses on affordability, program appeal, and online flexibility, with several subfactors contributing to each heading. Program appeal merits the strongest weight at 60%, while online flexibility and affordability each contribute 20%. We prioritize simple, easy-to-understand ranking factors that matter to prospective students.

  • Subfactors for Affordability

    Net PriceThe net price of a program takes tuition and fees into account before the school awards financial aid. Price counts as a major consideration for many students as they research potential programs. Prospective applicants must decide whether entering a particular program represents a feasible financial commitment, and whether they can reasonably hope for a return on their investment. The net price therefore counts for 40% of the affordability component.
    Financial AidWhether in the form of scholarships, grants, assistantships, or work-study programs, financial aid can significantly reduce the overall cost of a degree. By considering the percentage of students that receive financial aid and weighing it at 20%, we ensure an accurate picture of a school’s overall affordability.
    Loan Default RateWhen a program’s graduates default on any educational loans, it could indicate a problem with graduate employability. High loan default rates could also indicate a high tuition price tag when compared to average salary rates for the career. For these reasons, we weigh a school’s loan default rate at 20% of the affordability factor.

  • Subfactors for Program Appeal

    Graduation RateGraduation rate measures the number of students that complete a full degree program, start to finish. High graduation rates indicate that students find sufficient value in the program’s structure, curriculum, and faculty. Therefore, graduation rate makes up 30% of the program appeal factor.
    Retention RateRetention rate measures the number of students that continue from the first year of a program to the second. Schools that focus on keeping their students enrolled often provide a superior classroom experience. When students feel a program meets or exceeds their expectations, they are more likely to continue from one year to the next. Retention rate merits 30% of the program appeal factor.
    Number of Programs OfferedThe more programs a school offers, the more learners it can support. Elective options and specializations allow students to dig deeper into their areas of interest and increase their potential employability.
    Student-to-Faculty RatioA low student-to-faculty ratio indicates increased one-on-one attention from instructors. Faculty teaching large numbers of students may rely more heavily on graduate assistants, while those with fewer students can engage more directly with participants. Student-to-faculty ratios merit 20% of the program appeal factor.
    NSA CAE Designated SchoolCAE designation is the most prestigious approval that cyber defense and cyber operations programs can attain. The NSA and DHS assess programs using rigorous federal standards before awarding CAE titles. For these reasons, CAE designation counts as 20% of the program appeal category.

  • Subfactors for Online Flexibility

    Percent of Graduate Students Enrolled Partially OnlineThe percentage of students enrolled partially online can indicate a program’s flexibility. Additionally, programs with a large percentage of students enrolled at least partially online may dedicate more resources to distance learning. The percent of students enrolled partially online merits 30% of the online flexibility factor.
    Percent of Graduate Students Enrolled Fully OnlineWhen a program boasts a large percentage of students enrolled fully online, it can serve as an indication of the program’s commitment to distance learning. Programs serving many online students may dedicate more resources to distance learning, such as better course platforms, career services, mentorships, and overall access to school functions. The percent of students enrolled fully online counts for 70% of the online flexibility component.

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