A Guide to Online Information Security Degrees

Whether using a degree in information security to advance a current career or to start a new one, students face many choices when it comes to academic options. The following guide discusses degrees and coursework within the field of information security, with a focus on online learning. With so many things to consider, a little research can push you in the right direction.

Like many other disciplines, information security degree programs are offered in three modes. Campus-based programs offer the opportunity of a traditional college experience, where students meet in-person for classes, lectures, and to work with peers. All assignments are turned in and accepted in person. Online programs offer remote or distance learning, where all aspects of the class are administered online, usually through an online course management system. Along those same lines, projects and assignments are also submitted electronically. Lastly, hybrid programs blend the best of both options. While some coursework and collaboration take place online, students also spend time working in a lab or completing similar in-person requirements.

IN FOCUS: ONLINE INFORMATION SECURITY DEGREES

Doctors have patients; teachers have students; and salespeople have customers. These “people-centric” professions are at home in the traditional collegiate classroom. Information security students are sometimes called upon to work in groups, but the technological emphasis of the degree easily lends itself to an online learning environment.

Interactive tools such as Blackboard or Adobe Connect allow for remote collaboration and instruction. They also offer an easy way for students to complete and submit assignments, research, and other course-related materials.

COURSE DELIVERY MODES

Online information security degree programs are usually taught in one of two ways: self-paced and real-time. Self-paced degrees offer freedom to the student, allowing the student to progress through courses at his/her own pace. Within a real-time program, courses progress according to a schedule created by the professor, and students must submit assignments and essays or collaborate with peers at predetermined times.

TECHNOLOGY REQUIREMENTS

Colleges often require students have certain technology and equipment for online learning. Usually, this includes a reliable computer or laptop, a consistent broadband connection, the ability to stream videos, an up-to-date web browser, and word processing software. However, certain courses in an information security degree program may have additional requirements, such as a more formidable computer and specific software programs. Consider contacting a department administrator for a full list of technology requirements prior to enrolling in an online program.

Student Profile #1 - Matt

Matt got into information security because he heard that the job market was hot. After earning his associates degree, he decided to stick with it and complete his bachelor’s degree, making him much more appealing to potential employers.

ONLINE ASSOCIATE DEGREES IN INFORMATION SECURITY (2 YEARS)

An online associate degree in information security builds the foundation for a career in the field. Year one focuses on general education and students take courses such as English and mathematics, while gaining an introduction to IT fundamentals and reasoning. Year two completes the training with web technologies and operating systems. The following table outlines the four semesters of an online associate degree in information security:

First Semester (Freshman) Credits Overview
IT Fundamentals I 3 Using the internet/web as a base, this course explores hardware and software of networking and customization.
Foundations of College Mathematics 3 Course focuses on basic geometry, algebra, calculation, probability, and numeracy skills.
Reasoning and Problem Solving 3 Course focuses on researching problems, identifying assumptions, interpretation and analysis, reaching logical conclusions.
English Composition I 3 This course introduces learners to the types of writing and thinking that is valued in college and beyond.
Second Semester (Freshman) Credits Overview
IT Fundamentals II 4 This course focuses on the components of personal computers and their functions.
IT Fundamentals III 4 *See IT Fundamentals II
Finite Mathematics 2 This course focuses on the application of graph, number, set, and logic theories.
English Composition II 3 The course evaluates the quality, credibility, and relevance of evidence in order to integrate evidence into a final research paper.
Third Semester (Sophomore) Credits Overview
Project in Web Development Fundamentals 1 This is the final performance project in Web Development Fundamentals.
Web Development Fundamentals 2 This course focuses on programming, troubleshooting, debugging, scripting and configuring web applications.
Web Technologies 4 Through dynamic web fundamentals and programming languages, this course explores using and updating client web software and web page creation.
Natural Science Elective 3 Students may take any advisor-approved science elective.
Natural Science Elective Lab 1 All science electives have required lab space and schedule.
College Algebra 3 The course offers an education in basic algebra: concepts, functions, and use in the real world.
Fourth Semester (Sophomore) Credits Overview
Software Development Fundamentals 4 This course focuses on the fundamentals of core programming, object-oriented programming, software development, web applications, desktop applications and user interfaces, and databases.
Windows OS Fundamentals 3 Course provides an introduction to the basics of Windows-based operating systems.
Elements of Effective Communication 2 This course is an exploration into the base traits of an effective communicator.
Application of Effective Communication 1 This is the performance final project of Elements of Effective Communication.
Natural Science Elective 3 Students may take any advisor-approved science elective.
Natural Science Elective Lab 1 All science electives have required lab space and schedule.

Student Profile #2 - Kevin

Kevin entered into the information security world during his first year in college, and he was fascinated by the in-depth study of operating systems. The internship between his junior and senior year was a success and poised him to accept a position with the same firm after graduation.

BACHELOR’S DEGREES IN INFORMATION SECURITY (4 YEARS)

Two years beyond an associate degree in information security is the bachelor’s degree. Exploring web programming, database administration, and network devices, this online program culminates in a capstone project completed during a student’s senior year. Junior and senior year of an information security degree may resemble the following:

Fifth Semester (Junior) Credits Overview
Security 4 This course focuses on authentication and using it to increase security and reduce cyber threat.
Operating Systems I 2 Students in this course will learn to install, troubleshoot and configure the LINUX OS.
Operating Systems II 2 This course focuses on shells, scripting and data managements, user interfaces and desktops, administrative tasks, essential system services, networking fundamentals and security.
Leadership Concepts and Applications 3 This course focuses on the human side of technology, exploring different styles and techniques of leadership in the business world.
Geography 3 This course focuses on fundamentals of geography, places and regions, physical and human systems, and the environment.
Sixth Semester (Junior) Credits Overview
Fundamentals of Interconnecting Network Devices 3 This course investigates features or networking hardware and software to create, configure, or troubleshoot.
Introduction to Probability and Statistics 3 The class evaluates categorical and quantitative data using appropriate numerical measures and graphical displays.
Project Management 6 Focuses on skills and concepts students need to know to plan and implement projects.
Literature, Arts and the Humanities 3 Students may enroll in any one of various advisor-approved electives.
Seventh Semester (Senior) Credits Overview
Interconnecting Network Devices 3 *See Fundamentals of Interconnecting Network Devices
Literature, Arts and the Humanities:Analysis and Interpretation 2 Students may enroll in any one of various advisor-approved electives.
Web Programming 4 Provides the knowledge and skills to create and manage websites using tools such as Dreamweaver and Dynamic HTML
Organizational Behavior and Leadership 3 This course focuses on management and leadership concepts and applications.
Designing Customized Security 4 The course identifies technical and security issues, and creates conceptual designs for network infrastructure security.
Eighth Semester (Senior) Credits Overview
Project in Introduction to Programming 2 This is the performance final project in Introduction to Programming.
Introduction to Programming 2 Using program code as its base, this course develops working programs, control structures, and execution paths.
Principles of Management 4 This course offers a crucial understanding of how to manage and lead in the business market.
Database I 4 This course distinguishes between simple database terms and concepts, usage, and database languages.
IT - Security Capstone Written Project 4 The Capstone Project is the culmination of the degree program, requiring students to create a synthesis of research and coursework over the past four years.

Student Profile #3 - Nick

Nick landed a solid job, working with information security, after finishing his bachelor’s degree. It opened the door to quite a few workplace options, but Nick began to see an achievement ceiling. He decided to go back to school and acquire his master’s degree, making him qualified for more advanced positions in the field.

ONLINE MASTER’S DEGREES IN INFORMATION SECURITY

For students seeking even more in-depth knowledge of information security, a master’s degree is the next level of education. Most universities offer two graduate study tracks: a thesis option and a non-thesis option. The thesis option, often chosen by potential doctoral candidates, ends with a final paper or project to be reviewed by a board of professors and defended by the student. Those students who do not see a PhD in their futures tend to choose the non-thesis option, which culminates in comprehensive exams or projects.

In an online information security master’s program, students learn advanced concepts, knowledge, and analytical skills, allowing them to design, develop, and enhance cyber security technologies and programs. With such expertise, graduates are prepared to guard against—as well as combat—complex and unique security vulnerabilities and risks.

Below is an example of coursework students can expect to take in an online information security master’s program:

Master’s Program Core Courses Overview
Orientation to Graduate Studies An introduction to the planning skills and work habits that create an atmosphere of graduate study success.
Information Technology Foundations A fundamental study of technology and its applications, as well as the economic and social issues they have raised.
Information Technology Infrastructure A study of systems analysis and design, using selected engineering and management science techniques and practices.
Information Systems Analysis, Modeling, and Design A study of systems analysis and design, using selected engineering and management science techniques and practices.
Information Technology Project Management An examination of the fundamental principles and practice of managing programs and projects in an information processing and high-tech environment.
Economics and Financial Analysis for Technology Managers A study of the financial tools managers use to assess the financial conditions of the firm.
Foundations of Information Security and Assurance Topics include administrative and technical security controls to prevent, detect, respond to, and recover from cyber-attacks.
Network and Internet Security An introduction to the security concepts needed for the design, use, and implementation of secure voice and data communications networks, including the Internet.
Intrusion Detection and Intrusion Prevention An exploration of the theory and implementation of intrusion detection and intrusion prevention.
Cryptology and Data Protection An overview of the theory of encryption using symmetric and asymmetric keys, current protocols for exchanging secure data (including the Data Encryption Standard and the Advanced Encryption Standard), and secure communication techniques.
Computer Forensics An introduction to the fundamental concepts behind the collection and analysis of the digital evidence left behind in a digital crime scene.
Security Policy, Ethics, and the Legal Environment An overview of laws and ethics related to information assurance.

ONLINE DOCTORAL DEGREES IN INFORMATION SECURITY

Another four years separates master’s graduates from their PhDs, and those years are full of research and fieldwork, bringing the theoretical and the practical together. This combination offers the basis for a candidate’s dissertation, a long paper to be review by a board of professors and to be defended by the candidate.

In an online PhD in information security program, students further develop their theoretical knowledge and conduct in-depth research to advance the field of information security. Coursework may be similar to that of a master’s program; however, much more independent research is expected at this level, making graduates experts as well as leaders in the field.

Schools with Information Security Programs

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DEGREES OFFERED
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SCHOOL NAME CITY, STATE STUDENT POPULATION SCHOOL TYPE TUITION PROGRAM TYPE PROGRAMS
University of Phoenix-Online CampusPhoenix, AZ307,871Private, 4-year$9,216Campus
Bachelor’s
  • Computer and Information Systems Security/Information Assurance
American Public University SystemCharles Town, WV50,838Private, 4-year$6,000Campus
Bachelor’s
  • Computer and Information Systems Security/Information Assurance
Master’s
  • Computer and Information Systems Security/Information Assurance
Indiana University-BloomingtonBloomington, IN42,731Public, 4-year$8,750Campus
Master’s
  • Computer and Information Systems Security/Information Assurance
University of Maryland-University CollegeAdelphi, MD42,713Public, 4-year$6,024Campus
Bachelor’s
  • Computer and Information Systems Security/Information Assurance
Master’s
  • Computer and Information Systems Security/Information Assurance
Florida State UniversityTallahassee, FL41,087Public, 4-year$4,587Campus
Bachelor’s
  • Cyber/Computer Forensics and Counterterrorism
University of HoustonHouston, TX39,820Public, 4-year$7,176Campus
Master’s
  • Computer and Information Systems Security/Information Assurance
University of Southern CaliforniaLos Angeles, CA38,010Private, 4-year$43,722Campus
Master’s
  • Computer and Information Systems Security/Information Assurance
College of Southern NevadaLas Vegas, NV37,717Public, 4-year$2,265Campus
Associate
  • Cyber/Computer Forensics and Counterterrorism
Capella UniversityMinneapolis, MN36,375Private, 4-year$11,952Campus
Bachelor’s
  • Computer and Information Systems Security/Information Assurance
Master’s
  • Computer and Information Systems Security/Information Assurance
Doctorate
  • Computer and Information Systems Security/Information Assurance
City College of San FranciscoSan Francisco, CA34,558Public, 2-yearNRCampus
Associate
  • Computer and Information Systems Security/Information Assurance