Information systems play a vital role in today's private companies, organizations and government agencies. An information system is defined as a set of tools, programs and platforms used to collect, evaluate and organize various types of data. Historically these systems have been paper-based, but most contemporary models are primarily computer-based systems consisting of software, hardware and online networks. Due to this digital reliance, the need for qualified information systems security analysts, advisors and consultants is at an all-time high.
Many of these professionals get their start at the college level. Although a bachelor's degree is considered the minimum educational requirement for most information systems security occupations, those who go on to earn a master's degree in this field will be well-positioned to compete for top jobs.
What are the best information security systems programs of 2020? Here are our top 10:
|1||University of Southern California||Los Angeles, CA|
|2||New York University||New York, NY|
|3||George Washington University||Washington, DC|
|4||Brandeis University||Waltham, MA|
|5||University of Dallas||Irving, TX|
|6||Iowa State University||Ames, IA|
|7||University of Denver||Denver, CO|
|8||University of Delaware||Newark, DE|
|9||Western Governors University||Salt Lake City, UT|
|10||DePaul University||Chicago, IL|
Master's in information systems security programs tackle two core areas of study: the algorithms, methods and platforms that drive today's information systems; and the best-practice measures for ensuring that the data in these systems remains private and protected from outside threats. The bulk of graduate-level programs available in information systems security are classified as either Master of Science (MS) or Master of Professional Studies (MPS); both pathways lean more on technical proficiency and less on theory-based coursework. These programs often culminate in a capstone course, and may also include internship requirements (though these are somewhat rare). Many of today's students are choosing to earn their online master's in information systems and technology online. Web-based students follow the same rigorous curriculum as their brick-and-mortar counterparts, leading to the same number of job opportunities for successful graduates. The asynchronous (or self-paced) schedule and study-from-home format are also ideal for students with part-time jobs, childcare duties and other commitments that may interfere with campus-based learning.
Learn more about what you can do with an online master's in information systems and technology and what kind of career opportunities you can look forward to with this comprehensive guide.
Choosing a Program
WILL AN ONLINE MASTER'S IN INFORMATION SYSTEMS SECURITY PROVIDE ME WITH THE SKILLS I NEED TO ADVANCE MY CAREER?
Since most information systems security professionals enter the workforce with a bachelor's degree (or less), the master's is an ideal stepping-stone for students who aspire to leadership positions in this field. The master's curriculum is designed to build on the foundational coursework of undergraduate studies while introducing more advanced concepts and theories related to security analysis, network administration, database management, and cybersecurity. Students who complete capstone projects will have the additional opportunity to draw on the knowledge and skills they have gained to craft — and present — a comprehensive research study related to their prospective field of employment.
WILL AN ONLINE MASTER'S IN INFORMATION SYSTEMS SECURITY PROGRAM WORK WITH MY SCHEDULE?
Online information systems security master's programs offer a flexible, easily accessible alternative to traditional college education. Students will be able to download course lectures and readings, participate in virtual discussions with other students, submit written assignments, take exams and communicate with their professors from the comfort of their home computer. Current technology also enables them to study on the go using a laptop, tablet, smartphone and other Wi-Fi-compatible devices.
WHAT JOBS CAN I GET WITH MY MASTER'S IN INFORMATION SYSTEMS SECURITY?
Those who leave school with an information systems security master's degree will likely be prime candidates for senior and management roles. Common job titles in this field include information security analysts and specialists, network architects and administrators, database administrators and information systems managers. Due to high demand, job availability for master's degree-holders in information systems security is strong throughout the private, nonprofit and government sectors, particularly in the IT, business and healthcare industries.
WHAT ARE THE BEST ONLINE MASTER'S IN INFORMATION SYSTEMS SECURITY PROGRAMS?
Choosing a program is an incredibly 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 master's in information systems security 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 are considering an online master's in information systems security, be sure to contact admissions specialists at different colleges and universities to learn more their about specific requirements and offerings.
2020 Best Accredited Online Master's in Information Systems Security Programs
University of Southern California
|Los Angeles, CA||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 92%||
The University of Southern California offers an online master of science in cybersecurity engineering through its School of Engineering. Designed for career-focused computer science professionals and students considering a doctorate, the program stresses critical proficiencies related to the design, implementation, and operation of secure computing systems.
Graduates emerge with the knowledge, skills, and policy insights necessary to work in computing environments that demand high levels of security. Full-time students can earn their degree in 1.5 years, while those attending part time can graduate in 2.5 years.
Students earning this online master's degree can engage with their on-campus peers through a virtual classroom or view lectures at their convenience. Graduation surveys indicate that approximately 96% of USC's engineering alumni secure gainful employment or pursue further study within months of graduation.
New York University
|New York, NY||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 85%||
New York University's School of Engineering offers quality cybersecurity research and academic programs. Distance learners can earn an entirely online master of science in cybersecurity at this prestigious institution.
The program features a rigorous cybersecurity curriculum that conforms to national training standards established by the Committee on National Security Systems. Coursework emphasizes the practical applications of cybersecurity theory, and remote students can access NYU's virtual computer lab.
Eligible degree-seekers can save on tuition by participating in the NYU Cyber Fellows program. This 10-course, cohort-style study path acts as a gateway to the master of science program and accepts new students annually.
George Washington University
|Washington, DC||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 82%||
George Washington University designed its online master of engineering in cybersecurity policy and compliance as a direct response to the quickly evolving nature of online threats. Learners engage with methodologies and best practices to achieve high levels of security using algorithms, cryptography, computer systems, and software solutions.
Benefitting from close proximity to the Dulles Technology Corridor, GWU holds endorsements from the National Security Agency and the Department of Homeland Security as a National Center of Academic Excellence in cybersecurity. The curriculum embraces multidisciplinary perspectives with a core focus on maintaining digital assets, safeguarding privacy, and preventing intrusions.
The 30-credit program allows students to take six electives, examining policy, risk management, and compliance topics. Graduates develop advanced incident analysis and response skills, comprehensive policy insights, and the tools required to find success in leadership positions.
|Waltham, MA||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 88%||
Brandeis University hosts a top-rated master of science in information security leadership program. This online master's in information security emphasizes the technical skills needed to prevent and respond to intrusions, as well as policy knowledge that impacts decision-making.
Degree-seekers proceed through the 30-credit program on a part-time basis. Material focuses on fundamental topics in risk management, identity verification, computer forensics, and cloud-based services.
Students also complete small seminar classes — which never have more than 20 students — ensuring faculty members have plenty of time for one-on-one interactions. The regularly updated curriculum also features input from accomplished outside experts, guaranteeing its relevance.
University of Dallas
|Irving, TX||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 66%||
The University of Dallas delivers a flexible learning experience in its master of science in cybersecurity program; participants can choose an entirely online, in-person, or hybrid learning format. This degree path includes 10 classes, and most learners complete graduation requirements in 1-2 years.
Coursework covers topics related to risk management, access management, security engineering and operations, security assessment and testing, and information security. Learners also accrue microcredentials — or "digital badges" — as they proceed through classes, elevating their visibility to employers.
Applicants need an undergraduate degree in a related field, and they must submit a current resume or CV and academic transcripts. GMAT and GRE scores are optional.
Iowa State University
|Ames, IA||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 75%||
Iowa State University offers an entirely online master of engineering in information assurance. This program meets the needs of learners with computer science degrees who want to pursue advanced, specialized cybersecurity and information security studies.
Students in this program design their own degree paths with the assistance and guidance of senior faculty. There are no campus residency or thesis research requirements. Instead, degree-seekers select classes that reflect their personal interests and career development goals from master course lists.
The admissions process is competitive, and applicants must submit details regarding their personal backgrounds and employment histories. Well-suited candidates possess a bachelor's degree in a computer science or information technology field and at least 1-2 years of related professional experience.
University of Denver
|Denver, CO||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 77%||
The University of Denver's online master's in information systems security degree features a 12-course, 48-quarter-credit curriculum. Learners take four core classes, four specialization classes, and four interdisciplinary electives.
Proceeding through coursework on 10-week term schedules, degree-seekers learn to create and implement security procedures, network applications, and encryption protocols. Admission requirements do not include GRE or GMAT scores, and motivated learners can graduate in 18 months.
Students in the program can forge a customized study path through the university's Degree Builder platform. This tool enhances individual control over educational content, leading to opportunities and options not normally included in standardized program configurations.
University of Delaware
|Newark, DE||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 81%||
The online master of science in cybersecurity offered by the University of Delaware focuses on innovation in the dynamic field of computer and information security. UD holds certification from the National Security Agency and the Department of Homeland Security as a National Center of Academic Excellence for its cyberdefense programs.
Coursework concentrates on applied theory, leading students through a hands-on curriculum that emphasizes practicality. Degree-seekers learn the fundamental principles of secure software, network, and system design. They also master proven strategies for safeguarding digital assets.
Covering 10 classes and 30 credits, the program typically takes two years to complete. New students can begin taking classes in the fall, spring, or summer. Applicants with academic backgrounds in computing, mathematics, physics, and electrical or computer engineering are encouraged to apply.
Western Governors University
|Salt Lake City, UT||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 29%||
Western Governors University's online master of science in cybersecurity and information assurance features design input from experts in the field and major employers. The curriculum meets the most recent guidelines specified by the National Security Agency and the Department of Homeland Security.
In addition to a master's degree from a highly respected university, students earn two additional professional certifications as they proceed through coursework. The program offers built-in ethical certified hacker and computer hacking forensic investigator credentials, which enhance a graduate's employability.
WGU charges tuition on a term-based schedule, giving motivated learners an opportunity to save money. More than three-quarters of degree-seekers in the program graduate within two years. Student satisfaction surveys indicate that 97% of WGU alumni would recommend the institution to others.
|Chicago, IL||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 72%||
DePaul University's master of science in cybersecurity balances theory and practice, familiarizing students with widely used computing security models and encouraging them to apply their learning in hands-on projects. Graduates hold the credentials needed to build successful careers in incident response, computer forensics, network administration, web development, and risk management.
This entirely online program culminates in an intensive 10-week capstone project that requires students to apply classroom knowledge to a directed project. Among alumni who participated in surveys, 95% of DePaul computer science graduates land jobs or go on to further study within six months of graduation.
DePaul is endorsed as a National Center of Academic Excellence by the National Security Agency and the Department of Homeland Security. Faculty members who teach in the program were also recently awarded NSA grants for innovative gamification research.
What Else Can I Expect From an Online Master's in Information Systems Security Program?
Students can pursue a variety of careers in cybersecurity with a master's in cybersecurity online degree. These programs offer a variety of concentrations that can customize a student's degree and prepare them for a specialized career in the field. However, many of the fundamental courses and learning goals are the same across all programs. The table below explores the fundamental topics that students will encounter during the completion of a master's in cybersecurity online.
- IS A MASTER'S IN INFORMATION SYSTEMS WORTH IT?
Earning a master's in information systems degree is worth it for those who a bachelor's degree in a similar subject and want to advance their career in information technology.
- WHAT CAN I DO WITH A MASTER'S IN INFORMATION SYSTEMS?
Graduates with a master's in information systems can pursue careers as computer security specialists, network architects, and information system managers. Read more here..
- WHAT IS A MASTER'S IN INFORMATION SYSTEMS?
A master's in information systems is a graduate degree that emphasizes two core areas of study: the algorithms and methods that drive today's information systems and best practices used to ensure data security from outside threats.
- SHOULD I GET A MASTER'S IN IT OT INFORMATION SECURITY?
Master's in information security programs emphasize the protection of data, while a master's in IT degree is a more generalized degree that can lead to many different careers in the field of information technology. Read more here..
- HOW MANY YEARS IS AN INFORMATION SYSTEMS MASTER'S DEGREE?
Most information systems master's degrees include 30 to 40 credits of coursework can be completed in just two years. Read more here..
Concentrations Offered for an Online Master's Degree in Information Systems Security
|Concentration||Description||Careers this concentration prepares for|
|Cyber Intelligence||Courses in a cyber intelligence concentration will prepare students to assess the intentions, capabilities, and activities of those who pose a potential threat to the cybersecurity of an organization, whether internally or externally, by mastering skills in risk management, attack methods, and counter vulnerabilities.||Cyber Intelligence Agent, Threat Intelligence Agent|
|Digital Forensics||Students with a concentration in digital forensics will learn skills and techniques to investigate computer, cyber, and electronic crimes. They will learn how to analyze attached networks, properly identify, securely collect, and present digital evidence in a criminal justice setting.||Forensic Computer Analyst, Malware Analyst|
|Information Assurance||Earning an online cybersecurity master's with a concentration in information assurance provides students with foundational knowledge that can be used to secure the integrity of stored information, protect it from unauthorized access, and maintain the confidentiality of sensitive data.||IT Security Specialist, Database Administrator|
Curriculum for an Online Master's Degree in Information Systems Security
As noted above, program requirements can vary greatly from school to school. The sample curriculum below includes key course offerings that all students earning an online master's in cybersecurity will enroll in.
- Operating Systems: Courses focused on operating systems such as DOS, Windows, and UNIX help students understand the fundamental way that computer hardware works and how computers and their hardware interact with one another. These classes usually include an overview of services provided by operating systems, including processing, storage, and output data.
- Human Factors in Security: This course teaches students how to recognize and examine the ways in which people affect cybersecurity efforts. Coursework emphasizes ethics, practices, policies, and procedures and helps students develop their awareness and strategies to better protect organizations from security risks created by human behavior.
- Network Security and Defense: Students work through a range of cyber security topics such as protocols and analysis, and access control, to develop a full understanding of defensive measures and vulnerability assessment.
- Capstone: Many students earning an online master's degree in information security will have to complete a capstone project, which assesses the ability of the student to integrate classroom knowledge and skills into a final project that is often based on finding a solution to a real-world problem.
How Long Does It Take to Get an Online Master's in Information Systems Security?
When following a university's recommended course schedule, earning an online master's in cybersecurity will often take at least two years to complete. However, the amount of time required for each individual will vary depending on several factors, including whether a student studies on a part-time or full-time basis and whether the school's program is taught in a cohort or not. Students who are a part of a cohort model move through their program together as one group. Cohorts provide students with a community of peers who can support each other during their studies and who become valuable networking connections after graduation. Students can expect to complete an average of 30 to 36 credit hours to graduate.
Certifications and Licenses a Master's in Information Systems Security Prepares For
Global Information Assurance Certification – The Global Information Assurance Certification is the gold standard for cybersecurity certifications. Exam preparation for the GIAC certification is provided by the SANS Institute, and may be taken in a classroom setting or in a self-paced online format.
Information Assurance Certification Review Board – The Information Assurance Certification Review Board sets the industry standards for information security and also offers certifications in seven different job-specific areas of the field, including computer forensics and penetration testing. Certifications are earned with the completion of a traditional multiple choice exam and a hands-on practical exam.
What's the Difference Between an Online Information Assurance Degree and an Online Information Systems Security Degree?
Although the terms "information assurance" and "information systems security" are often used interchangeably, each term bears its own distinction. The information security field focuses on technology, while information assurance is more concerned with overall risk assessment and resolution. Information assurance roles do involve a technology component, though the complexity of the technology is often much lower than it would be in an information systems security role.
Information assurance professionals create security policies and procedures and develop strategies for the tactical deployment of technology that mitigate the risk of cyber threats, while information systems security professionals focus on protecting sensitive data and hardware from unwanted access. While both information assurance and information systems security are vital parts of an organization, they each perform different specialized tasks. Information assurance professionals are often hired as analysts, while information systems security professionals often find work as security administrators, network security engineers, or security directors.
Accreditation for Online Master's in Information Systems Security Degrees
Accreditation is a formal recognition that an institution meets and maintains certain academic standards. Schools can either be nationally or regionally accredited, which can have an impact on how easily credits can be transferred from one institution to another. For example, regionally accredited schools often do not accept credits from nationally accredited institutions.
Each geographic region of the United States has a non-governmental agency that oversees the accreditation of academic institutions. Prospective online students should pay attention to these accreditations when searching for schools. The most important factor of accreditation is whether or not a school's accrediting agency is recognized by the Council on Higher Education or the U.S. Department of Education; avoid schools that aren't accredited by either organization.
The U.S. Department of Education (DOE), a government agency, and the Council on Higher Education (CHEA), a non-governmental association, are both tasked with recognizing and keeping records of legitimate accrediting organizations throughout the nation. The U.S. Department of Education provides a database of all accredited schools and is required to oversee and enforce all standards of each accreditation agency. Before choosing your online master's in information security program, make sure that your prospective school is included on either the DOE or CHEA list of accredited schools.
Financing Your Online Master's in Information Systems Security
Despite the relative affordability of online master's 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.
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.
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