Best Online Cyber Security Programs

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Cybersecurity, also known as computer security or information technology security, is a field that covers the tools and systems used to monitor, mitigate, and prevent online threats. Cybersecurity professionals use innovative technology to combat hackers, cyberterrorists, network outages, and other technical problems that could compromise network security. Due to our growing reliance on web-based technology at home and in the workplace, this fast-paced profession has grown quickly over the past two decades. Today, the U.S. government maintains a National Cyber Security Division under the Department of Homeland Security; additionally, the Internet Crime Complaint Center is comprised of personnel from the FBI, the National White Collar Crime Center, and the Bureau of Justice Assistance.

Most careers in cybersecurity are attainable with a bachelor’s degree. While some schools offer standalone cybersecurity programs, most students pursue a cybersecurity specialization or concentration as part of a larger major, such as criminal justice, information technology, or network administration. Often, cybersecurity programs facilitate internship opportunities for their students, allowing them to spend time at a practical worksite, where they receive supervised training from experienced professionals.

Today, many students are choosing to earn their bachelor’s in cybersecurity online. The best online cybersecurity degree programs equip students with the knowledge and skills needed to launch a career in this dynamic field. The asynchronous format used by most web-based programs is particularly convenient for students with part-time jobs, childcare responsibilities, or other commitments that make it difficult to attend class on campus.

Read on to learn more about cybersecurity as an academic discipline, and to discover what kind of professional opportunities you can pursue with a degree in the field.

WILL AN ONLINE CYBERSECURITY BACHELOR’S PROGRAM PROVIDE ME WITH THE SKILLS I NEED TO ADVANCE MY CAREER?

Distance learners who enroll in online cybersecurity programs will be introduced to the fundamentals of cybercrime and digital forensics. They will learn about best-practice methods and strategies for defending networks and information systems, as well as the latest platforms used to track and monitor illicit online activities. Students will also become proficient in subjects like math, computer programming, and information technology.

WILL AN ONLINE CYBERSECURITY BACHELOR’S PROGRAM WORK WITH MY SCHEDULE?

An online bachelor’s in cybersecurity program offers a flexible alternative to traditional brick-and-mortar education. Students can access course readings and lectures, submit written assignments, take exams, and communicate with professors on their own schedule. Current technology also enables them to study away from their home computer using a laptop, tablet, smartphone, and other Wi-Fi-compatible devices. For additional convenience, online students can often coordinate internships at sites near their residence.

WHAT JOBS CAN I GET WITH MY CYBERSECURITY BACHELOR’S DEGREE?

Students who graduate with a bachelor’s degree in cybersecurity will be qualified for most entry-level positions in the field, along with some managerial roles normally reserved for candidates who have completed a four-year education. Common careers for cybersecurity degree recipients include data analysts, software development, network administration, and digital forensics.

WHAT ARE THE BEST ONLINE CYBERSECURITY BACHELOR’S PROGRAMS?

Choosing a program is a very personal decision, and only you can properly evaluate whether a target school’s strengths match your educational needs. The following ranked list of schools should serve as a helpful starting point in your search for the best online cybersecurity programs in the United States. Our ranking is based on the courses schools offer, available specializations, student outcomes, career support services, and other criteria used to determine academic excellence. If you want to pursue a degree in cybersecurity, and you value the opportunity to study online, read on to learn more about the top online cybersecurity programs in the country.

Rank School Name Ranking Score Relative Cost Graduation Rate Location Description
1

Drexel University

 5/567.36%Philadelphia, PA

campus-Drexel-University

The B.S. in Computing and Security Technology combines hands-on learning with laboratory experiences in an online environment. This cybersecurity program is designed for students who are currently employed in the IT field and seeking professional advancement; those interested in computing and security technology and looking to change careers; or working adults with a completed associate’s degree or at least two years of college work.

Students select a degree concentration in either computing technology or computing security and complete 58 courses, including all electives and core/concentration requirements. Courses are delivered through the online Blackboard learning platform. Both degrees require students to complete both an independent and team portion of a senior project over the span of two course periods.

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2

University of Maryland – University College

 2/58.33%Adelphi, MD

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University of Maryland-University College offers three different B.S. in Cybersecurity degrees: Cybersecurity Management and Policy, Computer Networks and Cybersecurity, and Software Development and Security. UMUC was named a National Center of Academic Excellence in Information Assurance and Cyber Defense Education by the NSA and DHS in 2015. Military service members are offered discounted tuition rates, as well as scholarships and other benefit options.

Courses are accessed through the college’s new Learning Experience Online (LEO) platform. The UMUC Virtual Security Lab is also used to simulate cybersecurity attacks and develop real-world experience. Students who choose the Computer Networks and Cybersecurity concentration can select a further focus for their major, such as a Digital Forensics or Microsoft emphasis, to complement career goals.

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3

Kennesaw State University

 2/542.63%Kennesaw, GA

campus-Kennesaw-State-University

The BBA in Information Security and Assurance from Kennesaw State University (KSU) prepares students to both protect information systems as well as manage an organization. Students can choose from two focus areas: Security Policy Development and Compliance or Systems Security Administration. KSU is recognized by the NSA and DHS as a National Center of Academic Excellence in Information Assurance/Cyber Defense Education.

All online cybersecurity program classes are delivered through KSU’s Dream2Learn (D2L) Brightspace learning management system. In addition to major coursework in this online cybersecurity program, students also take courses in accounting, finance, management, and marketing in order to build a business acumen. Students complete 43 courses covering general education and major requirements; full-time students generally complete the degree in two years for a total of 123 credits.

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4

Robert Morris University

 4/562.17%Moon Township, PA

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Robert Morris University (RMU) offers a BS in Cyber Forensics and Information Security. This online cybersecurity program builds a foundation in technology, business, organizational behavior, and law. RMU Online has received multiple top rankings and recognitions for both affordability and professional value.

Courses are delivered through the Blackboard learning management system. Program enrollment has grown over the past few years, but class size is relatively small, with an average of less than 150 students enrolled in the program during a given semester. Students complete 41 courses, including core and major/concentration requirements, to earn their degree. Concentration classes include Digital Evidence Analysis and Mobile Forensics.

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5

Western Governors University

 2/516.74%Salt Lake City, UT

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Western Governors University (WGU) is a fully online university with a competency-based learning structure. The BS in Information Technology - Security prepares students in security management as well as seven industry certifications, including Cisco’s CCNA certification. This online cybersecurity program is designed for IT security managers looking to enhance their career, IT professionals aiming to advance into security and assurance roles, or individuals who have completed some college coursework and want to complete their bachelor’s degree requirements. WGU is accredited by the Committee on National Security Systems (CNSS).

Courses are delivered through the MyWGU Portal. Students who have an associate’s degree in IT or IT work experience may be able to transfer prior that experience towards the waiver of some degree requirements. All students complete a capstone project, usually focused on finding a solution to an issue encountered in the workplace. Completion of degree requirements is self-paced. The average degree completion time is two to three years, though how quickly an individual finishes is largely dependent on past experience and pace of passing assessments.

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6

Davenport University

 3/539.57%Grand Rapids, MI

Davenport University (DU) offers a BS in Digital Forensics and a BS in Network Security. Students who pursue the Digital Forensics degree are prepared to find and assess computer-related evidence in support of investigations, while those who opt for the Network Security degree prepares students to oversee network security policies for an organization. DU is designated as a National Center of Academic Excellence in Information Assurance Education by the NSA and DHS, and is also a military-friendly school offering tuition discounts and credit for military experience.

Classes for these two online cybersecurity programs are accessed through the Blackboard learning platform. Students complete 40 courses to earn a Digital Forensics degree or 38 courses to earn a Network Security degree. Linux/MAC, Network, and Windows Digital are just some of the forensics courses taken in the Digital Forensics program. Students in the Network Security program will learn core operation systems, including PC and UNIX.

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7

Wilmington University

 2/535.06%New Castle, DE

The BS in Computer and Network Security from Wilmington University provides students with a strong security background that can be applied across fields in the public and private sectors. In addition to learning technical skills, students complete coursework that prepares them to understand the legal, ethical, and historical aspects of the computer security field. Students will also be qualified to take exams for a number of industry certifications, including CompTIA Network+. Wilmington is recognized by the NSA and DHS as a National Center in Academic Excellence in Information Assurance/Cybersecurity through 2021.

Wilmington uses the Blackboard platform to deliver the online learning experience. This cybersecurity degree program requires students to complete 40 general and core courses. A completion degree option is also available for students who have already completed a related associate’s degree at an accredited institution. Students have the option of completing six credit hours via a final, individualized co-op assignment through Wilmington’s Community and Academic Partnerships (CAP) program.

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8

Pennsylvania State University – Berks

 3/556.93%Reading, PA

Penn State Berks’ BS in Security and Risk Analysis (SRA), with an Information and Cyber Security emphasis, prepares professional analysts to handle modern threats to security and respond to emergency situations. Student learning goals include using proactive problem-solving strategies and making informed decisions from multiple perspectives by considering legal and cultural issues. In addition to careers, students are prepared to continue their education at the graduate school level. Penn State is recognized by the NSA and DHS as a National Center of Academic Excellence in Information Assurance/Cyber Defense.

This hands-on cybersecurity degree program, available through the Penn State World Campus online, includes problem-based learning, team projects, and a required internship. Students are responsible for finding their own internship, part-time or full-time, in an SRA-related field. Courses are delivered through the Canvas learning management platform.

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9

Limestone College

 4/528.38%Gaffney, SC

The BS in Computer Science - Computer and Information Systems Security from Limestone College gives students the skills needed to handle high levels of threat within the public or private sectors. Students are also prepared to take at least one certification exam, such as the CISSP, in their area of expertise. Limestone is a military-friendly institution, offering discounted tuition and other benefits to active duty and retired veterans. In addition, Limestone College has a number of corporate partnerships; students who have a participating company are eligible to receive a corporate grant each semester.

Limestone uses the Blackboard learn management platform to deliver its online experience. Courses are structured in an accelerated 8-week format, and students have the option to take up to two courses per semester, with a total of 41 courses required to earn the degree. All students complete a final capstone project that aligns with their career goals, along with comprehensive exams from core and concentration courses rolled into this online cybersecurity degree program.

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10

Dakota State University

 2/540.7%Madison, SD

Dakota State University (DSU) offers both a BS in Cyber Operations and a BS in Network and Security Administration through its online degree program in most states. Students in the Cyber Operations program are trained to understand the mentality, motivations, and techniques of the hackers behind increasingly common cybersecurity attacks. In 2015, the DSU cybersecurity team ranked top in the nation in the National Cyber League (NCL) competition for the second consecutive year. DSU is an NSA Center of Academic Excellence in Cyber Operations, one of 13 programs nationwide. The Network and Security Administration cybersecurity program provides a business management background with additional coursework in networking, virtualization, forensics, and cybersecurity.

All online courses are accessed through the Dream2Learn (D2L) learning platform. These classes are often held collaboratively with on-campus classes. DSU also offers virtual labs; cyber operations students learn how reverse engineering works, how to analyze malware, and how to exploit software, while network and security students use enterprise hardware to practice building configurations. Both programs require students to complete 41 courses in mathematics, communication, and major-related topics.

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11

Mercy College

 3/528.8%Dobbs Ferry, NY

The BS in Cybersecurity degree program offered through Mercy College prepares students to implement the latest security systems and policies, and protect and recover business systems in the event of disaster. Upon graduation, students are also prepared to take the CISSP certification exam. For those looking to advance their skills further and pursue leadership positions, Mercy also offers a B.S./M.S. Cybersecurity program designed to be completed in five years. Mercy College is recognized as a National Center of Academic Excellence in Information Assurance Education by the NSA and DHS.

Students access classes through the Blackboard learn platform. Coursework includes topics like Linux Administration and Forensic/Electronic Discovery. In addition to the core courses, additional course options include Artificial Intelligence, Web Site Administration, and Computer Architecture, among others. Mercy allows students to transfer up to 75 credits from two-year colleges and up to 90 credits from four-year institution. Degree requirements are usually completed in four years.

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12

Champlain College

 5/557.12%Burlington, VT

Champlain College offers a BS in Computer Forensics and Digital Investigations, a BS in Cybersecurity, or a BS in Economic Crime Investigation, the latter of which combines coursework in accounting, criminal justice, and computer forensics and digital investigation. These online cybersecurity programs are designed for working adults to complement students’ existing careers and experience in the field. The online program offers students the opportunity to earn certificates in their area of expertise while completing their degree. Champlain is recognized as a Center of Academic Excellence by the NSA and DHS, as well as a DC3 National Center of Digital Forensics Academic Excellence by the U.S. Air Force Office of Special Investigations.

Champlain uses the Campus management system to deliver coursework. Courses are designed in an accelerated, 7-week format, and students are required to complete 40 courses to earn the degree. Program activities include hands-on learning in the Leahy Center for Digital Investigation, which features a virtual digital forensics and cyber crime laboratory. Students have the option to transfer up to 90 credits of approved previous experience and training.

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13

Liberty University

 4/550.41%Lynchburg, VA

Liberty University Online offers a BS in Information Technology - Data Networking and Security and a BS in Information Systems - Information Assurance. Both programs include coursework in information security planning, Web architecture, and cybersecurity. Students in the Data Networking and Security program are trained for careers such as Network Security Manager and Security Auditor, and the Information Assurance program prepares students for work as Business Risk Analysts and Systems Administrators. Liberty University is a Christian institution, and courses are taught from a biblical perspective.

Courses for Liberty’s cybersecurity degree programs are structured in an 8-week format and delivered via the Blackboard learning platform. Both programs require 40 courses for degree completion. The Data Networking and Security program requires students to complete an internship. Students in the Information Assurance Program are given the option to transfer up to 40 credits towards the total 120-credit requirement.

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14

Baker College of Port Huron

 2/514.49%Port Huron, MI

The BS in Information Technology and Security from Baker College of Port Huron provides students the education needed to lead technology teams and manage network infrastructure and security. Students choose a concentration in Cisco Networking, Information Assurance, Internetworking Administration, or Microsoft System Administration. Students are also taught the business fundamentals necessary for working in corporate organizations in the areas of networking administration, systems analysis, and other areas. Baker is recognized for offering one of the best online cybersecurity degree program in the country and as one of the most military-friendly schools by Military Advanced Education (MAE). BC offers discounted tuition structured around military benefits to eliminate out-of-pocket costs.

All programs require students to complete 36 general education and informational technology courses, along with nine additional courses for the Cisco Network concentration and 12 courses for the other three program concentrations. Students access all courses through the Blackboard learning management platform. Students are required to complete an initial three-week course that introduces them to the online learning classroom before taking additional courses.

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15

Utica College

 1/544.01%Utica, NY

Utica College’s online BS in Cybersecurity degree program was developed in collaboration with the research Center for Identity Management and Information Protection. Students can choose a specialization in Network Forensics and Intrusion Investigation, Information Assurance, Cybercrime and Fraud Investigation, Homeland Security and Emergency Management, or Cyber Operations. Utica has multiple recognitions, including as a National Center of Academic Excellence in Information Assurance/Cyber Defense by the NSA and DHS, and as an Academic Center of Excellence by the EC-Council, a recognized leader in the field of cybersecurity.

The online Cybersecurity degree requires that students enter with at least 57 credits or an Associate’s degree from a qualifying 4-year institution. Students complete 13 core courses and 7 major courses excepting the Network Forensics concentration, which requires 8 courses; online courses are structured in an accelerated 8-week format. Utica uses the Engage online course management system to deliver coursework. All programs also require completion of an internship or a senior project.

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Timeline
2 to 4 years
Program Costs
$8,000 to $25,000 in annual tuition
Popular Minors and Dual Areas of Study
Information Technology, Network Administration, Digital Forensics, Homeland Security, Computer Science, Software/Hardware Engineering, Criminal Justice, Law Enforcement
Accreditation
There is no programmatic accreditation for this major field of study at the undergraduate level. Students should defer to the regional or national accreditation of their four-year college or university.
Additional Considerations
Most colleges and universities offer ‘cybersecurity’ as a specialization or concentration for bachelor’s degree programs in broader fields, such as information technology, computer science, or law enforcement.

Job Placement

Cybersecurity is projected to grow significantly over the next decade. Consequently, the employment outlook for professionals in the field is relatively strong. Keep in mind though, growth projections vary markedly between positions, as demonstrated by the latest projections from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Using BLS data, the following table lists industry growth expectations from 2014 through 2024.

Occupation Projected Industry Growth (2014-24) Projected Change in Number of Jobs (2014-24)
Network and Computer Systems Administrators 8% +30,200
Computer Systems Analysts 21% +118,600
Operations Research Analysts 30% +27,600
Information Security Analysts 18% +14,800
Software Developers 17% +186,600

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS)

As the table indicates, all five cybersecurity-related occupations listed above are expected to grow substantially between 2014 and 2024. By comparison, the BLS notes that the projected growth rate across all industries is 7%.

Earning a Living

According to a 2014 survey by Georgetown University’s Center on Education and the Workforce, the average college graduate with a bachelor’s degree in any computer-related field (including cybersecurity) and no work experience earns approximately $36,000 annually. By comparison, experienced employees with the same educational background earn an average salary of $66,000 per year. Like with unemployment rates, salaries for specific cybersecurity positions will vary depending on a number of factors, including location.

Occupation Median Annual Salary for Entry-Level Employees (0-5 Years) Median Annual Salary for Mid-Career Employees (10+ Years) Median Annual Salary for Experienced Employees (10-20 Years) Median Annual Salary for Late-Career Employees (20+ Years)
Computer Security Specialist $59,040 $80,139 $76,355 $92,500
Information Security Analyst $63,911 $79,558 $90,578 $89,631
Computer Programmer $51,422 $39,926 $45,742 $58,590
Criminal Justice and Law Enforcement Teachers, Postsecondary $43,000 $65,169 $72,883 $76,986
Operations Analyst $50,609 $56,777 $61,308 $63,288

Source: PayScale

In all five of the occupations listed above, employees can expect their salaries to grow by more than 25% over the course of their career. Computer security specialists saw the highest growth rate, at 56.7% between the entry-level and late-career marks. These professionals also enjoy the highest late-career salaries. Computer programmers ranked second, with nearly 50% salary growth after two decades in the workforce.

Career and Further Education Opportunities

Students who successfully complete an online bachelor’s degree program in cybersecurity will be qualified for dozens of entry-level and mid-level jobs. Below, we’ve covered four of the most common professional pathways for graduates with a cybersecurity degree in detail.

Network and Computer Systems Administrators: These professionals oversee network activities, operations, and traffic. They are often responsible for installing different types of networks, including local area networks and wide area networks. They also install upgrades and conduct required maintenance tasks on existing systems.

Computer Systems Analysts: Computer systems analysts create computing systems on behalf of their client or organization. They must research the organization’s day-to-day operations in order to create efficient and sustainable systems. They also design systems using different techniques, including data modeling.

Operations Research Analysts: These professionals employ various mathematical and analytical methods in order to determine the most efficient and cost-effective operations for a company or organization. Many of these analysts specialize in a specific area of operations, such as finance, marketing, recruitment, or logistics.

Information Security Analysts: Information security analysts create the software programs and tools used to safeguard organizational networks and computer systems from ongoing outside threats. They also investigate security breaches and perform system upgrades to deter future attacks. Information security can be a demanding profession; according to the BLS, roughly 25% of current information security analysts work more than 40 hours per week.

Occupation Median Annual Salary
Network and Computer Systems Administrators $77,810 ($37.41 per hour)
Computer Systems Analysts $78,630 ($37.80 per hour)
Operations Research Analysts $78,630 ($37.80 per hour)
Information Security Analysts $90,120 ($43.33 per hour)

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

Students who graduate with a bachelor’s degree in cybersecurity often go on to pursue a master’s degree. For more information about opportunities for grad students, please visit our Guide to Online Emergency Management Master’s Programs.

Professional Organizations

Making connections and learning as much as you can about cybersecurity is crucial to your professional success. Professional organizations offer a great entry point for students who want to learn more about their chosen career path. Below you’ll find three of the country’s most prominent organizations established for cybersecurity professionals. These organizations host networking events, provide online trainings, maintain active job boards, and offer other services for career-ready college graduates.

  • Information Systems Security Association: Currently representing more than 10,000 members across the globe, ISSA is a non-profit organization created to provide professional development and advocacy for information systems security personnel. The organization maintains local chapters around the world, including 99 chapters headquartered in the United States. Other perks for members include an invitation to ISSA’s yearly international conference and full access to the organization’s online, peer-reviewed journal.
  • International Association for Counterterrorism and Security Professionals: The IACSP’s mission serves two overarching goals: developing and disseminating tools and resources used to minimize the threat of terrorism, and promoting legal and ethical behavior within counterterrorism. Member benefits include online journal and newsletter subscriptions, discounts on entrance fees to IACSP events, and access to additional resources on the organization’s website.
  • SEARCH: SEARCH is a national nonprofit organization that connects and improves communication between various state, local, and tribal law enforcement and public safety agencies. SEARCH’s website features a variety of resources; visitors will find information about cyber-crime, data analysis, public safety, and other subfields in law enforcement and homeland security, along with podcasts, blog posts, and other multimedia resources.

    Despite the relative affordability of online programs, most students still need financial assistance. Students should complete a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) form to learn more about loans, grants, and other opportunities offered through the U.S. government. Additionally, private grants and scholarships are widely available through nonprofit organizations, companies, and other sources. Check out our collection of resources below to learn more about financial aid options.

    AN OVERVIEW OF FINANCIAL AID

    Approximately two-thirds of today’s college students rely on loans to fund their education, but there are plenty of overlooked financing options you can use to reduce your overall student debt.

    UNDERSTANDING THE FAFSA

    Completing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is a crucial first step for any student with financial needs. Our FAFSA guide features a step-by-step rundown on the process and answers to several frequently asked questions.

    FINANCIAL AID FOR ONLINE COLLEGE STUDENTS

    Financial aid for online learning is equivalent to what you’ll find for campus-based learning, but that hasn’t always been the case. Learn about the changes that have taken place, as well as the different funding opportunities available to online students.

    SCHOLARSHIPS FOR WOMEN

    Online programs can provide an affordable and flexible option for women trying to balance the demands of work, family, and earning their degree. We’ve curated a list of valuable scholarships specifically for women.

    SCHOLARSHIPS FOR SINGLE PARENTS

    Online college programs can be a flexible, affordable option for single parents who are interested in earning a degree and securing their family’s financial future. We’ve compiled a list of scholarships, grants, and other financial aid options geared toward single moms and dads.

    FINANCIAL AID FOR VETERANS AND ACTIVE MILITARY

    Millions of dollars in free money is available to U.S. military personnel, but much of it goes unused. Learn more about grants, scholarships, and other financial aid opportunities available to veterans, active-duty service members, and reservists.