Modern computer networks are remarkable tools for communication and collaboration, but they also are rife with vulnerabilities, and frequently exploited through hacking, viruses, identity theft, and fraud. A network security degree puts you at the forefront of the fight against cybercrime, and trains you to secure computer networks and protect them against unauthorized intrusions.
The increased threat of cyberattacks has created a massive demand for information security analysts, and the Bureau of Labor Statistics projects the field to grow by 18% between 2014-2024. If you're interested in pursuing a network security degree online, the schools in this ranking represent some of the top programs in the country, combining affordability, convenience, and academic excellence.
What Are The Best Online Associate in Network Security Programs?
Dakota State University
|Madison, SD||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 44%||
Located in Madison, South Dakota, Dakota State University was founded in 1881 as a teacher training school. Today, the university operates as a public university and maintains its heritage mission to provide high quality education to students. In 1984, the university expanded its scope to specialize in programs in computer information systems, computer management, and several online opportunities such as an online network security associate degree.
DSU's online network and security administration program teaches students the basic security, systems, and networking fundamentals they need to begin working in the field immediately after graduation; and if students want to continue their education after they graduate, their associate courses count toward their bachelor's degree requirements. The university boasts approachable instructors with real-world experience who engage students within an open learning environment. These instructors often maintain partnerships with other industry leaders, sometimes leading to viable internship opportunities for students.
Students enjoy small class sizes at DSU. Classes of 25 students or fewer allow for a more personalized educational experience. Online students can participate in student clubs and activities such as the gaming club or the computer club. They can also attend events and research opportunities on campus, leading to the ability to network and make lasting business connections.
Minnesota West Community and Technical College
|Granite Falls, MN||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 36%||
MWCTC features campuses in Granite Falls, Pipestone, Worthington, Canby, and Jackson, Minnesota. It also has learning centers in Redwood Falls, Luverne, and Marshall. Students can earn their associate degree or certificate across more than 60 disciplines at MWCTC, including an online network security associate degree.
MWCTC's online associate of applied science in computer information security and assurance prepares students to administer, assess, and secure computer information networks and systems by conducting technical security audits and implementing a variety of technical information solutions to bring all networks into compliance. The curriculum covers data security awareness, information technology customer service, computer forensics, and routers and switches. Students access all online materials and assignments on the D2L learning platform. For technical issues, they can seek additional help from the Minnesota West AskJay Helpdesk.
Applicants to MWCTC must rank in the upper half of their graduating high school class or score above the 50th percentile on the ACT or SAT (home schooled applicants must submit ACT scores). To apply, students should meet with their high school counselor to discuss career plans and review graduation requirements. From there, they can complete the college's admissions application and submit official transcripts. Once their application processes, applicants will receive either an acceptance or denial letter detailing next steps.
Central Texas College
|Killeen, TX||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 16%||
Founded in 1965, Central Texas College in Killeen, Texas, offers associate of arts, associate of science, associate in applied science, and associate of arts in general studies, along with more than 40 certificate programs. Students can also explore online opportunities at the college, including an online network security associate degree.
The online cybersecurity degree at CTC teaches students how to control access to data in today's business world. It prepares graduates for the potential of identity theft, loss of company secrets, and computer fraud that impact organizations around the world.
The program features different pathways, allowing students to select where their degree takes them. For example, a certificate in cybersecurity typically leads to short-term employability while an associate of applied science in information security can open up more long-term career opportunities. Students can pursue their associate of applied science or a certificate in cyberdefense information assurance, or they can earn a certificate in cybersecurity. All of these options feature online, on-campus, and evening course offerings.
Online programs at CTC feature monthly start dates, self-paced classes, and course durations ranging from 5-16 weeks, allowing students to pick what works best for their goals and scheduling needs. Applicants must provide high school transcripts along with a completed admissions application. The college does not guarantee admission to specific programs.
Westmoreland County Community College
|Youngwood, PA||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 16%||
Located in Youngwood, Pennsylvania, Westmoreland County Community College was founded in 1970 during an era of community college proliferation within Pennsylvania. The suburban location attracts students from both Westmoreland County and the Monongahela Valley. The college also extends its outreach of services to students from Indiana and Fayette counties, and students can explore online opportunities like an online network security associate degree.
The online cybersecurity program at WCCC offers both a certificate and degree option for students. The program provides students with a comprehensive foundation in the application and theory of the nontechnical and technical security skills they will encounter in the field. Specifically, it explores how to identify, mitigate, analyze, and communicate risks to digital systems by using different techniques, tools, and technologies. Students who excel at problem-solving, thinking creatively, and working with teams prove a great fit for this online degree.
The program prepares students to apply the components and principles of cybersecurity and use computer forensics to implement ethical hacking and investigate cyberattacks to assess cybersecurity. Students also learn how to implement and design secure networks and how to analyze and solve computer software and hardware issues. Graduates find employment as consultants or analysts in private security firms; private investigation firms; and within local, state, and federal law enforcement agencies.
Palo Alto College
|San Antonio, TX||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 26%||
A public community college in San Antonio, Palo Alto College serves as one of five separately accredited colleges in the Alamo Colleges District. The college attracts students throughout Bexar County and nearby counties. Students can pursue several programs in supply chain management and logistics, and many students pursue the flexible online network security associate degree.
PAC features distance education courses to fit the needs of students who lead busy lifestyles. Students can access their online courses at any time and from any place by using a computer with internet access and minimal system requirements. They can also use the computers at PAC's computer labs.
Students at PAC can explore hybrid opportunities that combine traditional on-campus courses with computer-based learning. The videoconferencing system uses real-time video and audio between instructors and students. This option offers gives students the chance to participate in their course online at the same time as their instructor and enjoy the ability to engage with peers and instructors. Students enrolled in online courses must complete either an on-campus or an online orientation before beginning their courses.
The online associate of applied science in information security and assurance requires students to complete 60 credits of coursework in information technology security, introduction to digital forensics, and implementing and supporting servers. The program prepares students to design, secure, and implement secure computer networks. Students also learn how to install security software and monitor networks.
What Else Can I Expect From an Online Associate in Network Security Program?
- Time to Complete
1.5 to 2 Years
- Credit Hours
60 credits total
30 credits per year
- Program Costs
- Core Courses
- Computer Operating Systems
- Network Security Management
- Computer Systems Technology
- Network security
- Cyber security
- Digital forensics
Accrediting Board for Engineering and Technology (ABET.
What Can I Do With an Associate in Network Security Degree?
An online associate degree in network security prepares you for a range of IT and digital security positions, from network administration to network security to technical support. Generally, these positions require you to develop and maintain network systems, monitor their operation, and assist other employees with network troubleshooting and operations. To succeed in network security, you need problem solving skills, attention to detail, communication skills, and knowledge of the latest developments in networking technology.
- Network Support Specialist
By supporting IT employees within an organization, network support specialists assist with networking software and hardware. While an associate degree is often adequate for these positions, some employers prefer a bachelor's degree.
Median Annual Salary - $52,160
Projected Growth Rate - 12%
- Information Security Analyst
These employees protect networks and computer systems against cyberattacks and other unauthorized intrusions. More advanced analysts may also design network security systems and protocols, though these higher-paying positions usually require at least a bachelor's degree.
Median Annual Salary - $92,600
Projected Growth Rate - 18%
- Network Systems Administrator
Systems administrators perform the vital work of maintaining day-to-day operations of computer networks. They manage system organization and address networking problems as they arise, ensuring a network's functionality.
Median Annual Salary - $79,700
Projected Growth Rate - 8%
Many colleges allow you to apply transfer credits from your online associate degree in network security toward a bachelor's degree, which can increase your career options and your earning potential. Depending on the school and the degree you pursue, you may be able to complete your baccalaureate network security degree with less than two years of additional study. Many higher-level positions in the field, such as cyber security analysts or network security engineers, typically require at least a bachelor's degree.
- Computer Forensics: This degree emphasizes investigating and preventing cybercrime, and examines the field from both a technical and legal perspective. Coursework includes data analysis, digital evidence and forensics, and network intrusion detection.
- Information Assurance: Students in these programs develop strategies for safeguarding digital information at businesses and other organizations. The degree highlights the design and maintenance of digital information systems and safeguards.
- IT Network Administration: The network administration degree prepares students for careers as network server administrators, overseeing network development and management for businesses. This comprehensive degree includes topics in data management, security, programming, operating systems.
Employment Outlook for Associate in Network Security Graduates
Along with experience and education, location also has an impact on average salary for graduates of online network security degree programs. The following table collects data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, showcasing the differences in median salary by U.S. state. The highest-paying states are on the East Coast, with California rounding out the top five.
Network Support Specialist Salary by Location
|District of Columbia||$89,460|
Network security professionals have several options to participate in trade groups and associations. Many organizations offer membership opportunities to both students and working professionals, allowing access to resources such as workshops, conferences, professional certification training, career services, and networking opportunities. Joining one or more of these organizations is a great way to develop professionally, and to pursue greater opportunities for your career.
Financing Your Online Associate in Network Security Program
Earning a network security online degree is certain to increase your earning potential, but it's still important to understand the different options for financing your education. One of your first steps should be to complete the FAFSA, which determines your eligibility for federal funding sources such as grants, scholarships, work study opportunities, and loans. Online research can also help you locate scholarships specifically intended for students pursuing network security degrees. Other funding opportunities may be available for students with certain backgrounds or who are pursuing certain career paths.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.