Best Online Master’s in Information Systems Security Programs
We've ranked the best online master's in information systems security programs. Learn about courses, admission requirements, and career opportunities.
Updated April 26, 2022
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Information systems security specialists protect data and information systems. They ensure their integrity and confidentiality, preventing loss, unauthorized access, and deleted or stolen data. Cybersecurity, which focuses on digital information, is a subset of information security.
An online master's in information systems security can prepare students to enter this dynamic and critical field. The Identity Theft Resource Center reports that the number of data breaches through the third quarter of 2021 surpassed the number of all the events in 2020, indicating a record-breaking year.
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The rise in compromised data results in high demand for those who understand how to protect it. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects 33% job growth for information security analysts between 2020 and 2030, much higher than the average 8% growth rate for all occupations during the same period. These professionals earn a median annual salary of $103,590 in May 2020.
An online master's in information systems security takes about two years to complete. Top online schools may offer accelerated tracks. The College Board reports that the average annual tuition for a master's degree was $8,950-$29,670 during the 2020-2021 academic year.
What Can I Expect From an Online Master's in Information Systems Security Program?
Many students who succeed in this graduate program possess technical aptitude, strong diagnostic and analytical skills, and a passion for learning. Security threats and protective measurements seem to evolve daily, requiring professionals to stay up-to-date on trends.
This program requires learners to complete 30-48 credits over two years of full-time study. Some accelerated tracks can lead to a degree in 18 months.
Colleges offer numerous master's degrees in this field. The following represent a few examples of the different degree titles:
- Master of Science in Information Systems Security
- Master of Science in Cybersecurity
- Master of Science in Cybersecurity and Information Assurance
- Master of Engineering in Information Assurance
- Master of Engineering in Cybersecurity Policy and Compliance
Information systems and assurance programs explore the protection of all data, both non-digital and digital. They may offer more courses in data analysis and computer forensics. On the other hand, cybersecurity programs focus on digital information, including mobile and cloud security. Despite their subtle differences, both degree programs require students to complete similar coursework.
A master of engineering typically focuses on practical, technical skills and may not require a thesis. A master of science may focus more on research and statistics. Many programs culminate in a capstone project that offers real-world experience or challenges students to develop a solution to a relevant IT security issue.
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Featured Online Programs
Learn about start dates, transferring credits, availability of financial aid, and more by contacting the universities below.
What Courses Will I Take in an Online Master's in Information Systems Security Program?
Identity and Access Management
This course teaches students how to design and implement access control procedures on networked systems. Students learn about securing each layer of the system, appropriate authentication methods, and control mechanisms.
Principles of Information Security
This class explores security measures, including cryptography, cloud and network security, and physical controls. Covered topics include computer security regulations, encryption, and techniques for analyzing security issues.
This course examines cryptographic algorithms, including hash functions and key cryptosystems. Students learn about authentication, digital certificates and signatures, and applying this information to security architectures, such as the IP network stack.
This class explores the issues in securing computer networks. Students learn about the vulnerabilities in wireless security, internet security, and firewalls. Covered topics include Trojan horses, viruses, biometrics, and password security.
This course covers hacking technologies, hijacking concepts, and social engineering techniques. Students learn to identify server and web application vulnerabilities and the methods to protect against these susceptibilities.
What Are Admission Requirements for an Online Master's in Information Systems Security Program?
On-campus and online master's in information systems security programs usually list similar graduate admission requirements. Applicants must hold a bachelor's degree. Some programs prefer an undergraduate degree in computer science, information systems, or a STEM field.
Candidates with at least two years of professional work experience may qualify with a bachelor's degree in a different field. These applicants may need to demonstrate their aptitude in computer programming or take prerequisite coursework.
Some colleges may also require or reserve the right to request a phone or online interview.
Most institutions accept applications through an online portal or website. Some still accept applications in a hardcopy format. The application form asks for personal details, test results, and a student's academic record. Schools may also ask applicants to include referrals and a resume or CV.
Some graduate programs require GRE scores. While programs differ, average required test scores are 150 on the verbal and quantitative exams, with some recommending a minimum of 155 on the quantitative section. Many schools focus more on an applicant's professional experience. International students generally submit official TOEFL or IELTS scores to show proof of English proficiency.
Letters of Recommendation
Most graduate programs require 2-3 letters of recommendation. These references should come from advisors, professors, mentors, or supervisors. Applicants may select people who can address their prior academic and in-field performance and their potential for success in this field. Make sure to request recommendation letters early.
Resume and Work Experience
Many programs prefer applicants with significant work experience in network security and information technology. Some schools accept experience gained in volunteer positions, educational opportunities, and internships. Students should also include any scholarly achievements and memberships in organizations in their professional resumes.
An essay or personal statement can allow applicants to express their character and demonstrate their writing ability. Consider how the program aligns with your career and academic goals. Additionally, applicants may describe their professional experience and how it sets them up for success in a graduate program.
Candidates must request official transcripts from all postsecondary institutions they have attended. Make sure to request these early so that they arrive by the application deadline. Most online master's in information systems security require a 2.5-3.0 GPA. Most programs also accept transfer credits earned from a regionally accredited institution.
What Can I Do With an Online Master's in Information Systems Security Degree?
An online master's in information systems security can prepare graduates for managerial roles and increase potential earnings. According to Payscale, individuals with a bachelor's in information systems security earned an average annual salary of $77,000 in January 2022. Those with a master's made $96,000 in December 2021.
In 2020, almost 18,000 government agencies and businesses received a malware-infected software update from SolarWinds, including the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the Treasury Department. Growing awareness of hackers' ability to infiltrate vital computer systems has led to an accelerated need for professionals who can prevent and respond to these threats.
Over 80% of employers reported a cybersecurity skills shortage in a 2019 Center for Strategic and International Studies survey.
Graduates can find roles in almost every industry, including government, finance and insurance, biotech, and computer systems design services. Positions include information security analyst, computer network architect, and chief information security officer.
See where a master's degree in information systems security can take you. Learn more about information systems careers.
Information Security Analyst
Information security analysts protect an organization's computer systems and networks. They may monitor them for security breaches and conduct penetration testing to investigate vulnerabilities. These analysts also install systems to protect against attacks, such as data encryption programs and firewalls. They may also develop emergency recovery plans.
Median Annual Salary (May 2020): $103,590
IT and Networking Security Consultant
IT and networking security consultants protect organizations and institutions against external and internal data theft. These consultants may assess a network's vulnerabilities and then design or improve upon a company's security system. They may also develop emergency plans designed to help companies respond and recover from network security incidents.
Average Annual Salary (January 2022): $87,790
Computer and Information Research Scientist
Computer and information research scientists enhance and design computing methods. They act as trailblazers, developing new digital technologies, repurposing older technology, and researching and testing information systems and computer programming software. These professionals work in nearly every field, including aerospace, robotics, and food service, and require a strong background in computer science.
Median Annual Salary (May 2020): $126,830
Information Security Manager
Information security managers usually oversee IT professionals, ensuring data security and confidentiality. They may identify security risks, manage security testing platforms, and supervise training. Additional tasks include addressing security breaches, developing security strategies, and implementing or recommending updates to current systems.
Average Annual Salary (January 2022): $119,070
Security architects identify weaknesses and strengths in an organization's computer security systems and networks. They may perform ethical hacks, penetration tests, and risk analyses. These security professionals also respond to breaches, assessing the damage and the ability to recover data, and upgrade systems to increase security structures.
Average Annual Salary (January 2022): $126,830
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Students may continue their education and receive a doctoral degree. A Ph.D. program is designed for students considering a career in research or academia. A doctorate focuses more on practical problems and applying learned principles in the field, leading to policymaking and leadership roles. The following represent a few of the common advanced degrees.
- Doctorate in Cybersecurity or Ph.D. in Cybersecurity
- Doctorate in Information Assurance
- Doctorate in Business Administration with a focus on Cybersecurity Management
- Ph.D. in Information Security
- Ph.D. in Digital Forensics
- Ph.D. in Information Systems with a specialization in Computer Security
Additionally, graduates may pursue industry certifications, boosting their credibility and demonstrating their proficiency. A few examples of these include the certified information security manager, certified information systems security professional, and certified ethical hacker.
How Do I Choose an Online Master's in Information Systems Security Program?
The National Center for Education Statistics reports that the average graduate tuition at public schools was $12,410 during the 2019-2020 academic year. The average tuition at nonprofit private institutions was $28,430 during the same period. In-state students attending public colleges tend to pay the lowest tuition. However, some online programs do not charge nonresident fees, while others charge higher tuition than on-campus programs.
Programs offer online master's programs in information systems security in synchronous and asynchronous learning formats. Synchronous programs may require scheduled virtual class sessions. Students attending asynchronous programs may complete studies at their own pace as long as they submit their coursework by set due dates. Online programs also usually offer full-time and part-time options.
Some online master's in information systems security programs maintain some on-campus requirements or offer networking opportunities and seminars. Others charge out-of-state tuition fees. For these reasons, it's important to consider the school's location even if you plan to enroll in an online program. Research each program to determine its unique requirements and opportunities.
Online college accreditation ensures a school and program meet the highest academic standards. Accreditation affects financial aid opportunities and transferable credits. Currently, there is no standard agency that accredits master's in information security programs. A few programs receive accreditation from the Accreditation Board of Engineering and Technology.
Programs differ in their online student support services. Some offer online mentorships, career and personal development coaches, and support in finding internship opportunities close to home. Additional student support services may include tutoring and access to alumni. Belonging to an alumni association can help you develop a solid professional network.
Best Accredited Online Master's in Information Systems Security Programs
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Frequently Asked Questions About Master's in Information Systems Security Programs
Is a master's in information systems security worth it?
A master's in information systems security can prepare graduates for advanced roles in a growing field. This degree also qualifies graduates to work in secure government positions, protecting agencies and the nation from data breaches and terrorist ransomware attacks. This includes positions with the CIA, FBI, and DHS.
Today, almost every business and industry needs qualified personnel capable of securing information systems and protecting data. While a bachelor's degree can prepare graduates for entry-level positions in this growing field, an online graduate degree can increase earning potential, job opportunities, and career advancement.
What can I do with a master's in information systems security?
Earning a master's in information systems security can lead to several career opportunities. With experience, graduates can pursue roles as security architects, information security managers, and chief information security officers (CISOs). A CISO is a senior-level executive who develops information security programs to protect a company's systems and assets.
Graduates may also work for government agencies, software companies, healthcare organizations, and finance and insurance businesses. Many companies and industries need professionals with the skills to secure an organization's computer systems and networks and react to breaches when they occur. These professionals also develop a business's emergency recovery plan.
Are information systems security graduates in demand?
Information systems security graduates are in high demand. According to Forbes, 2020 saw a record number of data breaches and cyberattacks, with the average cost of a breach at $3.86 million. As a result, companies are scrambling to find qualified people capable of securing and protecting their data. Professionals possessing both technical aptitude and business leadership acumen may see particularly strong demand.
The BLS projects 33% employment growth for information security analysts between 2020 and 2030, with an average of 16,300 job openings every year. Industries expected to create even greater demand for these professionals include computer systems design, financial institutions, and healthcare.
How much money can I make with a master's in information systems security?
This degree can lead to a rewarding and lucrative career. However, salaries vary based on the employer, industry, location, and experience level. For example, the BLS reports that information security analysts earned a median annual salary of $103,590 in May 2020. However, those that work in information earned $107,310, while others in finance and insurance made $106,430.
These professionals boast even greater earnings in California and New York, with average annual wages of $125,990 and $125,920, respectively, in May 2020. These graduates may also pursue roles as IT networking and security consultants, who earned an average annual salary of $87,8790 in January 2022, according to PayScale.
What are the highest paying jobs with a master's in information systems security?
Chief information security officers are some of the highest-paid professionals with a master's in information systems security. PayScale reports that these workers earned an average annual wage of $167,120 in January 2022. This role requires an advanced understanding of IT systems and several years of experience.
Security architects earned an average yearly salary of $126,830 during the same period, according to PayScale. These professionals design security features and test final security structures.
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