United States Master's or PhD in Cyber Security Degree Programs
What Is a Masters in Cyber Security?
A masters in cybersecurity studies digital crime. It then applies current tools and methods to prevent, detect and combat cyber attacks.
Cybersecurity classes build wide and deep knowledge. Some topics are technical. They cover the computing methods used to keep a network safe. Other topics are managerial. These often build skills in analysis and problem solving within privacy related areas.
written by Rana Waxman
What Can You Do With a Masters in Cyber Security?
The atmosphere in the cyber security workforce is one of high growth and opportunity. One reason is that data breaches are on the rise and more complex. Another is a third of companies are not prepared to handle internal and external threats.
Three main career paths have the fastest growth rate. The first is Info Sec Analysts where experts predict a 28% ;rise in demand to 2026. A close second is in the area of information research science which is growing at a pace of 19%. Third is for Computer and Information Systems Managers. In this field, the job outlook is also favorable though somewhat lower (12% through 2026).
Despite high demand, the industry has a low supply of skilled manpower. About 1.85 million people work in information security. Yet experts predict a global shortage of 3.5 Million of unfilled cyber positions by 2021.
The fear of being at risk coupled with new privacy rules is also driving up IT spending. Over half (54%) of companies expect to invest in data-centric security in 2019. So, if you want a degree you might rely on and that may offer a chance for growth, cyber security is the place to be.
Do You Need a Masters in Cybersecurity?
Many careers in the cyber sector do prefer candidates with a master’s or MBA. These include:
- Info Sec Analysts
- IT Managers
- Computer Research Scientists
- Computer Network Architects
- Chief Information Officers (CIOs)
- Chief Technology Officers (CTOs)
If you are a career mover or want to climb the ladder, it may be helpful to add this level of study. Here are a few reasons to pursue a master’s in cyber security degree:
- Gain the skills the industry needs
- You’ll have the opportunity to build on basic bachelor's level knowledge
- Practice problem solving and researching usually this requires a doctorate degree (BLS.gov)
- Develop as a leader, manager and strategist
- Refine expertise in popular areas like Information Assurance, Digital Forensics, Cyber Operations and Cybersecurity Policy
- Stay in the know about the latest methods, tools and practices
- Prepare for a potential boost in income - In one study, Info Sec Analysts with a masters degree earned a premium over workers with a bachelor's degree
What Jobs can you get with a Masters in Cybersecurity?
A master's in cybersecurity may prepare you to pursue a range of six figure career paths. Keep in mind the type of program you choose may shape your job search.
Some of these jobs are in computer research. In fact, most modern theorists, designers or inventors have a master's degree. These professionals are on the front lines of solving problems.
Other cyber jobs feature a high level of responsibility. You may need to set policies and make data-driven decisions. Or use informed strategy to manage an enterprise’s security practices. Such professionals often work as Computer and Information Systems Managers. Or have related job titles like MIS Director of Computing Services Director.
Beyond this, you may pursue other jobs in the broader field of IT. In these areas, you’ll need mastery of the latest technology. This may include skills in data analysis and penetration testing.
One such career is Info Sec Analysts. They plan and execute the security measures necessary to shield organizations from cyberattacks and infiltrations. Look for related job titles like Data Security Administrator and Network Security Analysts.
The chart below outlines some of the job titles in the market along with average salaries and workforce data.
Information Security Analysts
Computer Network Architects
Computer and Information Systems Managers
Computer and Information Research Scientists
Top States for Employment: Information Security Analysts
|State||Employment||Annual Mean Wage|
|Metro Area||Annual Mean Salary||Employment|
|New York-Newark-Jersey City, NY-NJ-PA||$119,920||7,380|
|San Francisco-Oakland-Hayward, CA||$116,980||2,270|
|San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara, CA||$116,390||1,170|
According to BLS.gov, most Info Sec Analysts work in Computer Systems Design and related services. Other major industries include Management and Consulting.
Popular Cyber Security Degrees in United States
The National Center for Education Statistics (under the category of Computer and Information Systems Security and Computer and Information Sciences and Support Services) reported 4,503 Cyber Security degrees awarded.
In fact, in the most recent update of the data (2009/10), across the U.S, there were 820 Computer and Information Systems Security degrees awarded to graduate students. The majority (31.6 percent) of these programs were at the master’s degree level.
MBA vs Master of Science, What’s the Difference?
The MS and MBA in Cybersecurity each have a distinct focus.
In a MS, you'll get a comprehensive view of Info Sec while choosing an area in which to gain depth. In contrast, the MBA starts you out with a core of modern-day business operations. Then merges managerial concerns with a few courses in IT and enterprise security.
An MBA in Cybersecurity might prepare you to oversee spending for security products. Or, help you grow as a leader. The MS may provide more hands-on practice with tools, specific scenarios and protocols. As such, it may help career professionals hone investigative skill sets.
Since reading through course plans is important, we’ve provided samples below.
Masters in Cyber Security Degree Guide
MBA (Masters of Business Administration)
Master of Science in Cyber Security
Length of Program: 54 credits
Length of Program: 30 credits
Combines business growth planning and strategic management with enterprise security and a brief intro to cybercrime and cybersecurity
A holistic grounding in the technology and practices of cybersecurity to help career professionals develop their skill sets.
No specific accreditations (other than regional) but VA Approved
No specific accreditations (other than regional)
For those who want to aim higher than a master’s and are eager to innovate, you may want to think about a PhD. Many programs (Capella is one) offer terminal degrees in information technology with a focus in info sec. These may cover research methods as well as systems applications.
Apart from courses, PhD students spend time in independent research. There may also be some practice teaching or consulting. Often, this blend fosters expertise, and thought leadership. To this point, to earn a PhD, one usually writes and defends a dissertation. The goal of this work is to advance information security as a whole.
What Classes Are Needed for Cyber Security?
To enroll in a cybersecurity master's program, you'll need to have a bachelor's degree. There are programs that may appeal to different interests, goals and prior learning. Many of these programs range from 30 to 36 credits.
General programs may bring less tech-savvy students up to speed with intro courses. These might cover basic programming or computer networks. More technical ones often need a specific background. Math, engineering or computer science are some examples.
For this reason, the classes you’ll take depend on which type of degree you choose to pursue (MS vs MBA vs PSM vs MSIT). The core content provides the focus and tone. Around this core, you may need to complete a capstone project or final thesis.
To give you a sense of how this works, we’ll look at a few different kinds of cyber security degrees. We’ll use examples from a few partner schools. Keep in mind cyber security schools craft their own course names.
MS in Information Security:
A typical MS in Info Sec is computer-focused. Most courses deal with programming. They approach cyber security through the lens of technology. Key topics cover cryptography, forensics and networks.
MS in Computer Science:
A Masters in Computer Science with a focus in cyber security is another hi-tech program. This typically covers classes in upper level computing. Often, it includes hands-on practices to boost problem solving and analysis. You may also design software, tools and networks to fight cyber threats.
MPS in Cybersecurity Management:
An MPS degree often targets seasoned students. The courses may touch on real-world world cyber problems and how to solve them. Key topics help to identify security risks and known threats. At the same time, they may hone skills in formulating a security budget and governance policy.
MS in Cybersecurity:
A typical MS in Cybersecurity covers 4 main areas. These often provide hands-on training in simulations of real incidents. Some courses look at how to prevent and detect cyber attacks. Others examine the ways a business can recover from security breaches.
A few of the common course themes are centered on principles, investigations and intelligence. Exploring these areas a bit more deeply, sample course descriptions would include:
Principles of Cybersecurity:
This class reviews the impact of cybersecurity on various sectors. These are institutions, privacy, business and government applications. It may also analyze networks, protocols, operating systems, and associated tools.
Cyber Crime Investigations:
This type of class touches on key technical aspects. It may describe threats, types of attacks and defenses. You may learn how cyber terrorists and criminals hack into computer systems.
Often this class starts with some history of past methods and practices. Then analyze what techniques and processes generated success and failure.
What Should I know About Accreditation in Cyber Security Degrees?
Regionally accredited Cyber Security Schools meet standards set by the Department of Education. This basic credential vets a school as a whole. One by product of choosing an accredited school is you may apply for federal aid.
Such schools may also have another tier of approval. They can be Centers of Academic Excellence in Cybersecurity (CAE-C). Also Cybersecurity Defense (CD). Since a school must apply for this status it goes through another process of quality control.
The National Security Agency (NSA) and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) are co-sponsors of two programs. The National Centers of Academic Excellence in Cyber Defense (CAE-CD) program. One goal of this venture is to promote quality research. Another is to help set high standards for cyber professionals.
Schools who want this status must also meet a set a core set of knowledge units (KUs):
- Cyber Defense
- Cyber Threats
- Data Analysis
- Intro to Cryptography
- IT Systems
- Policy, Ethics, Law, and Compliance
- Information Assurance Fundamentals
Since any type of accreditation involves renewal, you can check if your program is up-to-date on agency websites. This may help to generate confidence in what and where you study.
How Long Does it take to earn a Masters in Cyber Security?
If you are a full time student, it may take about 2 years to earn a master's degree in cybersecurity. A PhD in Cybersecurity may take about 5 to 7 years to complete if you enter as an undergrad and study full time. Many cybersecurity schools offer accelerated programs and/or have robust transfer policies. Fewer credits to complete means a shorter time to completion.
|University||# Of Credits Required||Start Dates||Minimum Months to Complete|
What is the Cost of a Masters in Cyber Security?
The average cost of a of a graduate degree from a public institution is $11,617 per year. This means you will be able to find programs both more affordable and more expensive than the average.
To give specific examples, this visualization shows graduate tuition costs of 4 institutions with Cyber Security Graduate Programs as reported by the NCES. We have then compared those costs to the most affordable and most expensive college options.
Instate/Out Of State Tuition
What are the Costs per Credit for Masters in Cyber Security?
Cost per credit of course is different at every College or University. State Universities are also likely to have in state costs vs out of state costs. Below are a few examples of the cost per credit as reported by each one of these institutions.
|University||# Of Credits Required||Cost Per Credit||Total Tuition Cost|
Bellevue University George Mason
University of San Diego Winthrop
Syracuse University Our Lady Of The Lake
Utica College Temple
Cyber Security Graduate Programs: Professional Insight
“The decision to obtain a Master’s Degree in Cybersecurity was a combination of my desire to better myself in the field of cybersecurity and my passion for technology and helping those around me safeguard themselves from emerging threats. Throughout the course of study in my Master’s program, I learned an immense amount of information about the field of cybersecurity and developed and harnessed the necessary skills that has enabled me to become a well-rounded and security consultant.”
- Michael Doran, security consultant, enterprise incident management at Optiv
Top 46 Cyber Security Graduate Programs in United States
- IT majors including cybersecurity, IT Management and software development.
- Some of the nation's most affordable tuition rates, from a private, nonprofit, NEASC accredited university
- Qualified students with 2.5 GPA and up may receive up to $20K in grants & scholarships
- Multiple term start dates throughout the year. 24/7 online classroom access
Northcentral UniversityDoctor of Philosophy in Business Administration - Computer and Information Security Doctor of Business Administration - Computer and Information Security Doctor of Philosophy in Technology and Innovation Management - Cybersecurity Master of Science in Cybersecurity Master of Business Administration - Computer and Information Security
Roger Williams UniversityM.S. Cybersecurity
Temple UniversityProfessional Science Master's (PSM) in Computer and Systems Security
Boston CollegeCybersecurity Policy & Governance
Southern New Hampshire UniversityMS Information Technology w/conc in Information Security MS Cyber Security MS Cyber Security w/conc in IT Management
Walden UniversityMS in Cybersecurity – General
Colorado Christian UniversityCyber Security, M.S.
American InterContinental UniversityMaster of Science (MSIT) - Information Assurance and Security
University of TampaMaster of Science in Cybersecurity
Purdue University GlobalM.S. in Information Technology - Information Security and Assurance M.S. in Cybersecurity Management
Grand Canyon UniversityM.B.A. with an Emphasis in Cybersecurity
Colorado Technical UniversityMaster of Science in Management - Cybersecurity Management Master of Science in Information Technology - Security Management Doctor of Computer Science - Information Assurance (Executive Format) Master of Science in Homeland Security - Cybersecurity Policy Master of Science in Computer Science - Computer Systems Security Master of Science in Management - Information Systems Security Master of Science in Cybersecurity Policy
Brown UniversityExecutive Master in Cybersecurity
Sacred Heart UniversityMaster of Science: Cybersecurity
Montclair State UniversityCISCO Certificate