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.
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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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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.

Applied Cryptography

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.

Network Security

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.

Ethical Hacking

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.

Application

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.

Test Scores

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.

Essays

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.

Official Transcripts

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?

Career Outlook

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.

Career Paths

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 Architect

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

Information Systems Security Not For You? Check Out These Related Careers.

Continuing Education

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?

Cost

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.

Program Format

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.

Location

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.

Accreditation

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.

Student Support

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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Best Online Master's in Information Systems Security Programs

  1. University of Southern California
    Location

    Los Angeles, CA

    Tuition

    $36161

    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.

  2. New York University
    Location

    New York, NY

    Tuition

    $39935

    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.

  3. George Washington University
    Location

    Washington, DC

    Tuition

    $39600

    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.

  4. Brandeis University
    Location

    Waltham, MA

    Tuition

    $39735

    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.

  5. University of Dallas
    Location

    Irving, TX

    Tuition

    $25609

    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.

  6. Iowa State University
    Location

    Ames, IA

    Tuition

    $14643

    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.

  7. University of Denver
    Location

    Denver, CO

    Tuition

    $34337

    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.

  8. University of Delaware
    Location

    Newark, DE

    Tuition

    $15883

    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.

  9. Western Governors University
    Location

    Salt Lake City, UT

    Tuition

    $6670

    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.

  10. DePaul University
    Location

    Chicago, IL

    Tuition

    $30584

    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.

Frequently Asked Questions About Master's in Information Systems Security Programs

Is a master's in information systems security worth it?

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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?

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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?

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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?

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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?

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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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BestColleges.com is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.

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