Online Master of Cybersecurity
Master of Cybersecurity In Context

In an era in which technology is advancing at an incredible rate, the threat of cyber crime is bigger than ever.

Government agencies, private corporations, and the general public are frequently adopting newer and more advanced technologies that do not always account for adequate security protection. This makes the nation vulnerable to new and constantly evolving cyber attack risks.

There is currently a skills gap in the field of cybersecurity, and both universities and the government are keen to fill it by offering cybersecurity master’s degrees. With thousands of cybersecurity jobs on the market and the number of jobs projected to increase, now is the time to forge a new career in an expanding industry. A Master of Science in Cybersecurity degree could help you develop this critical expertise.

What is a master’s in cybersecurity?

A cybersecurity master’s degree focuses on the process of securing and protecting electronic information. The degree is not to be confused with a Master of Information Technology, which focuses on the management of information via systems development.

Instead, a master’s in cybersecurity will concentrate on the detection and prevention of information security risks via a variety of techniques, including data analysis, network administration, and systems engineering.

A master’s in cybersecurity will provide students with a strong foundation in digital investigations, forensic accounting, fraud prevention and management, information assurance compliance, cryptography, and security risk analysis. These skills can be applied to computer and web systems, networks, cloud-based computing, and digital applications.

Students can also expect to develop their expertise to inform government policies relating to cyber risks and information protection, and address the evolving digital threats and cyber crimes that the nation confronts daily.

Advancing Cybersecurity Careers

in cybersecurity programs are designed to help prepare professionals in information security to broaden their technical skill set to include the area of cybersecurity. This is often due to genuine interest and passion for the subject, and to advance their career opportunities and earning potential.

Admission requirements for cybersecurity programs are relatively open, welcoming students from a wide variety of educational and career backgrounds. This makes the degree an excellent “career changer” path for individuals who are interested in the strong projected financial and advancement opportunities in the field.

Why earn a Master of Science in Cybersecurity?

Employment opportunities

Research has found that demand for cybersecurity professionals will open up an incredible 6 million new jobs worldwide by 2019 [2]. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment of cybersecurity professionals in U.S. is expected to grow 18% by 2014 from 2014. This proves that employment opportunities are increasing for those equipped with a cybersecurity master’s degree.

Additional cybersecurity career opportunities

Cybersecurity master’s programs can provide students with a variety of managerial and leadership skills not typically taught at a bachelor’s level, on top of the technical cybersecurity skills and knowledge. These skills can be applied to a variety of senior management positions, both within and outside of the information technology and cybersecurity fields.

Leadership skills in cybersecurity

When you earn your master’s degree in cybersecurity, you will have the opportunity to develop the following skills and competencies:

  • Business management
  • Policy awareness and adherence
  • Communication
  • Team leadership
  • Project management
  • Critical thinking
  • Data analysis
  • Problem solving
Salary increases in cybersecurity

Cybersecurity professionals tend to earn on average 9% more than other IT workers, with the median range in salaries $70,000 to $118,000 [3]. The BLS calculates the median salary for an Information Security Analyst to be $90,120 per year. The lowest 10% earn less than $51,280, and the highest 10% earn over $143,770 [4].

The BLS currently reports that typical entry-level education is a bachelor’s degree. As the field of cybersecurity develops and more specialized education programs are created to support projected growth, degrees such as a master’s in cybersecurity is expected to become an increasingly sought-after credential [5].

Career shifts into cybersecurity

The breadth and depth of concentrations taught during a Master of Science in Cybersecurity program are valuable for students who want to become highly specialized within a fast-developing and vital field. Popular concentrations relate to homeland security, cyber forensics investigations, and other areas that address government security concerns.

Personal satisfaction of earning a cybersecurity degree

Aside from professional development, students in the field of cybersecurity tend to be passionate about working in an area of technology that is quickly developing, and which impacts the greater good. With national security an important focus of cybersecurity, professionals are responsible for protecting confidential data from ever-evolving digital security threats and crimes, and their expertise can be put to good use in a variety of sectors. This helps professionals find a particular niche in a growing field.

Master of Cybersecurity Career Advancement
Career paths for cybersecurity professionals include specialized roles as an engineer, specialist, analyst, or integrator. Each path has different demands, with requirements for degree level and licensure varying, along with income potential.
Cybersecurity job growth

Cybersecurity is a rapidly growing field, with the job market expanding at an impressive rate. For those looking to progress their career within IT, a master’s in cybersecurity could grant access to this thriving job market. Consider these U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics [6] projections for the period between 2014 and 2024:

  • 12% increase in jobs created in core computer and IT
  • 488,500 new computer and IT jobs created
  • 4,800 new information security manager positions added
What are possible job titles and salaries for cybersecurity graduates?
Because information security jobs earn higher salaries on average than general IT positions, a master's in cybersecurity can help graduates prepare to pursue top-paying jobs within the computer and IT fields. Below, find a sample of possible jobs for cybersecurity graduates.

Information Security Analysts

Median Annual Salary – $90,120
Highest 10% earn more than $143,770 [7].

Duties include monitoring and investigating their organization’s network for security breaches, managing the protection of sensitive data, preparing reports in relation to breaches of security, and continuously performing penetration testing to analyze system vulnerabilities. Information Security Analysts are also responsible for keeping abreast of current IT security trends in order to reduce the risk of breaches, developing best practices to maintain high standards of security for their organization, making recommendations to senior staff for improving security, and supporting non-IT staff in the use of security products.

Computer and Information Systems Managers

Median Annual Salary – $131,600
Highest 10% earn more than $187,200 [8].

This role involves complete management of an organization’s computer needs, from providing recommendations of hardware upgrades, to planning and executing the installation of new software systems. Network security will also be an important part of the role, although this is frequently performed with the support of dedicated information security analysts. Managers typically head a team of other IT professionals, including systems analysts, software developers and support specialists.

Computer Systems Analysts

Median Annual Salary – $85,800
Highest 10% earn more than $135,450 [9].

Systems Analysts focus on analyzing their organization’s current computer needs and developing and implementing new systems to improve the organization’s efficiency. They prepare analyses of costs and benefits to help management understand the financial benefits of upgrading infrastructure and can be expected to oversee the installation of new systems, including the training of end users.

Software Developers

Median Annual Salary – $100,690
Highest 10% earn $153,710 [10]

The primary role of software developers is to design applications or systems that will meet the needs of their client or organization. They oversee each step of the development process, from working with users to determine essential functionality, through planning, designing, testing, developing, and launching new software, usually in collaboration with other IT specialists.

What are the types of careers in cybersecurity?
Within the field of information security, there is a vast range of highly specialized roles to consider.


Uses encryption to build security software, secure sensitive information, and develop stronger encryption algorithms.

Network Security Analyst

Analyzes network infrastructure to detect and improve weak points, investigates existing breaches of security, analyzes compliance with security policies and assists in creation, implementation, and management of security software.

Chief Information Security Director

Oversees the overall IT security infrastructure, managing security projects and ensuring they remain in line with their organization’s business goals, budgets, and security policies.

Security Administrator

Provides, installs, configures, operates, and maintains their organization’s systems hardware, software, and any related infrastructure, specifically in relation to cybersecurity.

Security Architect

Establishes and implements IT security infrastructure, managing both hardware and software to maintain protection against breaches.

Forensics Investigator

Investigates systems after a security breach to establish how the breach occurred and who was responsible, or to retrieve information from data storage devices to aid in criminal investigations.

Security Systems Auditor

Evaluates efficiency of existing IT systems, and designs and helps to implement new systems to improve their organization’s functionality.

Security Engineer

Monitors security systems to detect incidents, investigates breaches, and stays at the forefront of new technology and trends to enhance security standards and prevent incidents.

Security Systems Integrator

Brings together multiple components and subsystems to ensure they function successfully as a whole.

Security Consultant

Provides specialist support and advice to protect all aspects of an organization’s IT, including hardware, software, networks, and data.

Where do cybersecurity professionals work?
Since information security is a rapidly growing field, cybersecurity graduates can expect to find work in a wide range of environments and sectors, from private corporations to government agencies.


Cybersecurity professionals are necessary, not only to protect sensitive government data, but also to help combat cyber crime that puts people at an increased risk of theft and fraud. Both government secrets and the safety of the general public are top priorities for the NSA and Department of Homeland Security, suggesting that their demand for cybersecurity graduates will not wane as technology continues to develop.


With technology playing an important role in the military’s weaponry, it is essential that it has thorough cybersecurity measures in place to defend against enemy hacking. Not only that, but sensitive military secrets must be protected via highly secure cyber defense strategies. The more technology evolves, the increased risk there is of warfare occurring in cyber format, meaning that cybersecurity will continue to be at the forefront of military defense.

Educational institutions

Institutional resources and data, as well as private student data, must be carefully protected by educational institutions, which find themselves at increased cybersecurity risks. Not only that, but schools and colleges have a duty to protect their students from cyber crime, meaning that they must invest in new security technologies to do so. Plus, with cloud technology on the rise, education institutes face new challenges in keeping both their own and their students’ information protected.

Health care

Sensitive patient information is increasingly being digitized, which means healthcare organizations must invest time and money in developing secure information infrastructures to maintain client confidentiality. With many new treatment methods relying on digital technology, hospitals must also protect themselves from the risk of hacking.

Technology companies

Organizations that are responsible for developing and managing technologies used by other businesses have increased responsibility to keep their systems running securely – failure to do so could result in vital client information being leaked. Companies at the forefront of technology innovation must also maintain exceptional cybersecurity to keep their data veiled from the eyes of competitors.


Any corporation should want to keep secrets of their business safe from cyber threats, but government policies regarding privacy and public safety also demand high cybersecurity measures to ensure sensitive public data isn’t leaked. Private corporations of all sizes are therefore increasing their focus on cybersecurity to ensure they remain ahead of the hackers who could put their business and reputation at risk.

Financial institutions

Modern technology makes it possible to rob a bank without even stepping foot on the premises. For this reason, financial institutions are under a lot of pressure to protect themselves from cyber crime. They also have a duty to protect their customers from potential cyber crimes, particularly at a time where internet banking is the norm.

Master of Cybersecurity Curriculum
Potential students should ensure their chosen master's program has a curriculum which gives a broad overview of cybersecurity, from both a technical and non-technical perspective, and consider a wide variety of settings, such as business, law, and medicine, each of which faces distinct cybersecurity challenges. This is in line with the Association for Computing Machinery's cybersecurity curricular guidelines [11]. Students may also wish to consider the National Center of Academic Excellence (CAE) programs in cyber defense [12]. These formally recognized degrees have been developed by the Department for Homeland Security to ensure that the curriculum educates students to a level that makes them suitable to fill the DHA's growing number of cybersecurity positions.
Typical cybersecurity core courses

The following core courses are designed to provide students with a solid overview of cybersecurity, which will prepare them for a wide variety of job roles and industries.

  • Digital Forensics and Investigations
  • Network Forensics
  • Advanced Digital Forensics (Malware Forensic Analysis)
  • Developing Secure Systems
  • Cybersecurity
  • Advanced Coding Theory
  • Information Theory and Coding
  • Managing Information Security

The CAE curriculum incorporates much of the same information, with the emphasis being on aspects of cybersecurity most relevant to the government and the general public. Educational institutes that have been designated as CAEs can apply to deliver specific focus areas, which focus their core courses on cybersecurity specializations. These focus areas include:

  • Cyber Investigations
  • Data Management Systems Security
  • Data Security Analysis
  • Digital Forensics
  • Health Care Security
  • Industrial Control Systems – SCADA Security
  • Network Security Administration
  • Network Security Engineering
  • Secure Cloud Computing
  • Secure Embedded Systems
  • Secure Mobile Technology
  • Secure Software Development
  • Secure Telecommunications
  • Security Incident Analysis and Response
  • Security Policy Development and Compliance
  • Systems Security Administration
  • Systems Security Engineering
Specializations and electives

Many cybersecurity programs will allow students to hone their expertise through elective courses. Some electives may focus on the process of administration or operations within cybersecurity, while others focus on specialized issues and industries, such as law, business, or intelligence. Additional options combine various aspects of cybersecurity to provide a comprehensive education within highly specialized areas. Examples of popular specializations include:

  • Cybersecurity and Information Assurance
  • Information Security Analysis
  • Auditing
  • Information Security Engineering
  • Intelligence
  • Computer Forensics
  • Cyber Operations
  • Homeland Security Management
  • Emergency Management
  • Ethical Hacking
What are the most popular concentrations/specializations within Master of Science in Cybersecurity programs?

Cyber intelligence

The process of recognizing indicators of threat and carrying out counteractions, often in time-sensitive scenarios [13].

Digital forensics

The investigation of information stored on hard drives or other digital storage devices to assist in the prosecution of crimes [14].

Information assurance

Protection of information and systems by taking measures to maintain their availability, integrity, confidentiality, and authentication [15].

Computer security

Protection of computing systems and the data stored on or accessed by computers.

Cyber crime investigation

Aiding in the investigation of cyber crimes by collecting digital evidence such as cellphone data, GPS location services, network servers, and computers. [17]

What concentrations or specializations are in high demand in regards to careers and certification?

With a major shortage of cyber crime professionals within the public sector, concentrations relating to government cyber crime priorities are in high demand. This includes:

  • Cyber Investigation
  • Homeland Security
  • Forensics and Network Intrusion
  • Cryptography

Private organizations also have increased demand for cybersecurity professionals who can help protect their systems and information from the increased threat of cyber crime. Concentrations most relevant to careers in the private sector include:

  • Information Security
  • Information Assurance
  • Vulnerability Assessment
  • Technology Management
  • Disaster Recovery Planning
Experiential learning/field placement

Some cybersecurity schools provide experiential learning and field placement as methods for gaining course credit, with opportunities to work in organizations both on and off campus.

The requirements for this type of field placement will vary from program to program, so be sure to research this when considering any particular Master of Cybersecurity program. Many programs provide summer internships to allow students to gain experience, while others allow field placement to run concurrently with other courses. Some may even accept previous work experience as credit toward experiential learning, which is ideal for those who already have some hands-on experience in the field of cybersecurity.

Universities often have a team dedicated to approving agencies which offer field placement to students. This is to ensure they can provide a high-quality working environment that meets the standards of the degree program and complements the subject matters explored in class. Be sure to check how much support you can expect to receive from any program you’re considering so that you can be prepared to find a placement that aligns best with your personal requirements.

Master of Cybersecurity Program Length

The length of an online master’s degree program can depend on a number of variables, perhaps the most prominent of which is the pace at which you choose to study. You can finish a typical master’s degree program in about two to three years if you choose to study full-time, although some accelerated programs may be able to help you finish more quickly.

Online master’s degree programs tend to offer flexibility suitable for students who choose to study part-time. This option will likely extend your time to completion, but it can allow you to study while fulfilling your familial, social, and professional obligations.

You can find more information on this topic at our program length overview page.

Master of Cybersecurity Admissions Requirements

While each program will set its admission requirements based on its own criteria, many requirements are universal across all programs. No matter where you apply, you can expect to provide items like transcripts from previous degrees or coursework; standardized test scores; a personal statement or essay; letters of recommendation; and an overview of relevant work experience.

In certain cases, some of these requirements may be waived.

For more information about admissions, please visit our admissions requirements page.

Master of Cybersecurity Alternative Degree/Field of Study Options

Cybersecurity is just one of many areas within the field of IT and computing. Many aspects of cybersecurity overlap with different computer-based disciplines, and it can be helpful to learn about alternative degree pathways to ensure that you’re choosing the right path toward your desired career.

Some alternate fields of study that may be of interest to you include:

  • Computer Science: The general study of the principles and uses of computers
  • Computer Information Systems: The gathering, processing and interpretation of data using systems of people and computers
  • Business Analytics: The process of continuously analyzing business operations to inform future business plans and decisions
  • Health Informatics: The study of resources and methods for managing, processing, and interpreting health information
  • Telecommunications: The process of transmitting data with the use of electromagnetic signals
  • Data Management: The development of architectures, practices and procedures to manage data within an organization
Master of Cybersecurity Accreditation

Regional accreditation is the most prestigious type of accreditation that an online or traditional college or university can receive. It is granted only after careful consideration by private, not-for-profit organizations tasked with evaluating educational quality.

Regional accreditation is particularly important if you anticipate that you might want to transfer credits from one online degree program to another or use those credits to pursue another degree. Most regionally accredited schools will only accept credits from other regionally accredited institutions of higher learning.

You can learn more on this topic at our regional accreditation page.

Specialized accreditation

In regards to cybersecurity master’s programs, you may wish to consider the National Centers of Academic Excellence Cyber Defense program, a government-approved program sponsored by the Department of Homeland Security and National Security Agency.

Various universities throughout the U.S. have been designated to deliver programs which adhere to focus areas that align closely with CEA-CD’s knowledge units [26]. Designated universities have been deemed to show proficiency in their curriculum with the government’s knowledge units featuring in course syllabi, prerequisite courses and degrees, modules, assignments, and certifications. These programs are often seen as the standard for cybersecurity and information security courses.

Master of Cybersecurity Licensure and Certifications

Certificates can allow cybersecurity professionals to advance their expertise in key areas, which is particularly important in an age in which technology is constantly evolving and posing ever-changing security threats. The certificates demonstrate to potential employers that an individual has tested, verifiable proficiency in the field, and can help professionals to advance their career in the form of promotions and salary increases.

Many master’s degrees in cybersecurity will prepare students for industry certification exams. Although such certifications aren’t mandatory, they can be very valuable investments for students who wish to concentrate their expertise in specific areas and make themselves more marketable in a fast-growing industry.

Common certification levels include:

  • CompTIA A+ [18]
  • CompTIA Cybersecurity Analyst (CSA+) [19]
  • CISSP (Certified Information Systems Security Professional) [20]
  • CCSP (Certified Cloud Security Professional) [21]
  • SSCP (Systems Security Certified Practitioner) [22]
  • CAP (Certified Authorization Professional) [23]
  • CCFP (Certified Cyber Forensics Professional) [24]
  • HCISPP (HealthCare Information Security and Privacy Practitioner) [25]
History and Evolution of Master of Science in Cybersecurity Studies

Cyber crime and cyber warfare are two of the most serious threats the U.S. faces in the modern world. As organizations have invested in new technologies, they have exposed their information systems to attack while underinvesting in cybersecurity. The result is a dramatic increase in cyber attacks. Cybersecurity professionals are therefore needed to analyze weak points in an organization’s infrastructure and develop solutions that will prevent hackers from stealing sensitive data or attacking computer networks [27].

The increase in cybersecurity degrees available is in direct response to the need for highly specialized professionals which can reduce the vulnerability of the national information infrastructure. The government is so invested in the need for increased cybersecurity expertise that it has developed its own National Centers of Academic Excellence in Cyber Defense master’s program with the aim of protecting the nation from cyber attacks.

Master of Cybersecurity Tuition and Fees

There are a number of factors that can greatly affect how much your education will cost. These include whether you attend a public or private institution; whether you attend as an in-state or out-of-state student; and whether you qualify for financial aid like grants or scholarships.

For a more detailed breakdown of tuition, fees, and other financial issues, please visit our tuition and fees page.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

People desire networked connections between data, people, and physical objects. This desire drives technological advancement, which leads to an increased need for security. The field of cybersecurity is in high demand. Earning an MS in Cybersecurity can be driven by various motivations:

  • Job opportunity: For those looking to enter the field, one of the entry roles might be an information security analysts. According to U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, job growth for this profession will increase 18% from 2014 to 2024. [38] According Cisco’s Security Capabilities Benchmark study, there are an estimated 1 million unfilled security jobs worldwide. [38]
  • Salary: Related to job opportunities, cybersecurity roles can come with a 9% salary premium over IT jobs overall. [40]
  • Personal satisfaction: Those already in the field might leverage a MS in Cybersecurity to further their knowledge, validate their expertise, and do better work.

No, but the majority of master’s programs in cybersecurity are Master of Science degrees. Other degree types include Master of Professional Studies.

The MS in Cybersecurity degree is suited for beginner, mid-career, or advanced cybersecurity professionals. Many master’s in cybersecurity programs are multidisciplinary, so students from almost any background with no professional work experience in cybersecurity can apply. This degree is a good choice for:

  • Those looking to enter the cybersecurity field with working knowledge of programming, data structures, and statistics
  • Those with some work experience in IT looking to switch into cybersecurity
  • Those already working in the field looking to stay up-to-date with current environments or to specialize in a category to broaden knowledge for advancement opportunities

The focus is to help students develop advanced knowledge and skills to protect information systems, support information infrastructure, and conduct advanced research in security and assurance. Courses touch on computer networking, mathematics, policy, ethics, privacy, and legal issues.

When considering an MSC degree, key attributes to look for can be categorized into two types:

  1. Core competencies needed for your career/area of interest in cybersecurity:
    1. Accreditation: Is the program or the school accredited to ensure I am getting the best quality of education?
    2. Curriculum: How will this prepare me for my career? Does it address technology, methodologies, and tools used in today’s environment?
    3. Concentration/specialization options: What are the available concentrations and are they of interest? What kind of courses are included in each?
    4. Internship availability: Is an internship an option if I want to build work experience?
  2. Logistics of the program:
    1. Delivery method: Is it 100% online? Otherwise, how much time is required on campus?
    2. Program length: What is the recommended time to completion? What is the average time to completion?
    3. Tuition and fees: Is there a difference in tuition for in/out of state? Are there additional fees on top of tuition?
    4. Student support: What support systems are in place for my success?

Tuition for typical cybersecurity master’s programs ranges from $25,000 to $40,500. Credit requirements can range from 30 to 45 credits.

Both degrees are within a similar realm of study. Cybersecurity master’s programs focus on the protection (prevent, detect, and respond to threats) of infrastructure and data, mainly in the digital/web sphere. Information technology degrees are broader and oriented in the overall development, organization, and implementation of technical solutions to improve business processes (i.e., operating networks, cloud services).

Both degrees are in a similar realm of study. Cybersecurity master’s programs focus on the protection (prevent, detect, and respond to threats) of infrastructure and data, mainly in the digital/web sphere. Computer science degrees are focused on programming computers and how computers work.

They are in the same realm of study. As you research, you will come across master’s degrees in each or a blend of the three. Comparing the curriculum of each program will help you better understand the intended learning outcomes rather than comparing degree titles.

In recent years, cybersecurity has been adopted to be inclusive of information assurance in its definition as per the U.S. Department of Defense. [37] However, it’s not widely adopted across education institutions. As you research master’s degrees in cybersecurity, you can still come across degrees in information assurance and information security, or even information sciences as a general name.

Degree programs in cybersecurity have typically focused on the study of infrastructure and information protection mainly through the digital realm.

Information assurance has typically been a broad study of methods or policies to maintain confidentiality and accessibility of data across platforms from creation to destruction. This also includes restoration.

Information security can often be defined as data security. It has typically focused on the study of the technology or operations to ensure data or content in any form is kept secure.

Yes. Many institutions offer cybersecurity degrees online.

Online and on-campus degrees typically look identical. Most institutions do not indicate on the degree that it was earned online.

Yes, typically schools follow the same curriculum for their online programs as they do for their campus-based programs.

Asynchronous coursework can be completed on your own time — a big plus for many online graduate students who may be working around a busy work schedule or home life. Synchronous coursework has to be completed within a set timeframe. This is typically done for group projects, seminars, presentations, and other learning initiatives that require multiple attendees.

The elements of asynchronous and synchronous learning in your online program depend on the professor and the course. Once you enroll, reach out to teachers for specifics, but remember that the curriculum may be divided into these two subsets.

Admissions requirements will vary from program to program, but MS in Cybersecurity programs typically require a grade point average of at least 3.0.

Yes, most require or prefer applicants to submit GRE or GMAT scores.

No, it’s not usually required of applicants to have a background in cybersecurity. However, having a working knowledge of programming language, data structures, or mathematics is both beneficial and recommended.

Some programs offer preparatory courses for students with little to no knowledge of programming or background in mathematical models.

The majority of the programs do not require prior work experience. For those that do, admissions may consider substituting GRE or GMAT scores for work experience.

Most online MS in Cybersecurity programs do not require a specific undergraduate degree. Some do prefer you to have an undergraduate degree in computer science, mathematics, science, or engineering, while others prefer a bachelor’s degree with a heavy mathematical focus.

No, MS in Cybersecurity programs typically do not have prerequisite coursework. Some may offer preparatory courses to help you build a stronger technical background.

Generally there are supplementary costs apart from tuition. The tuition does not usually include the cost of books or additional fees. These additional costs will vary from program to program.

The largest provider of student financial aid in the nation is the Federal Student Aid office in the U.S. Department of Education. It supplies college-level or career school students with loans, grants, and work-study funds. You can apply for federal financial aid through the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, commonly known as FAFSA.

There are numerous other scholarships available, but you will need to research which opportunities you’re qualified to pursue. Many states, associations, websites, and businesses award scholarships based on specific criteria. Be sure to do your research and apply for any scholarships you’re qualified to be awarded. [45]

Look for an MS in Cybersecurity online curriculum that suits your interest and reflects current innovations. As technology constantly evolves, you want to ensure your coursework is relevant and professors are experts in the field. Some programs have a defined curriculum and no electives while others require you to select electives. Pick a format that aligns with your interests and career goals. Find a curriculum that also fits your schedule or helps you get one step closer to certification or career advancement.

Additionally, students should consider National Center of Academic Excellence programs that have a designation from the U.S. government as a formally recognized degree program.

Typical core courses include:

  • Computer networking
  • Design and analysis of algorithms
  • Applied cryptography
  • Network security
  • Principles of cybersecurity
  • Probability and random variables
  • Forensic examination and analysis

Curricula can be a blend of technical, non-technical, and operational courses. Every program has its own set of core courses. Review each course description and determine if the classes are of interest and can support your goals. If you choose a program with concentration or track options, there are specific courses required to complete the concentration or track.

Typical completion time for this program is two years. Most students have up to five years to complete their degrees.

This is not typically required. Some programs may require a research paper/project as capstone. Some programs offer co-op/internship opportunities, but it’s optional for students to participate.

Yes, there are many cybersecurity master’s programs online.

Online and on-campus degrees typically look identical. Most institutions do not indicate on the degree that it was earned online.

Yes, most online programs are the same as campus-based programs if they are also offered on campus. The course requirements might change slightly based on schedule availability. Otherwise, the faculty behind an online program is usually the same as those teaching on campus. Students of online programs usually have the same access to on-campus resources such as student advising, career center, and network events.

Asynchronous coursework can be completed on your own time — a big plus for many online graduate students who may be working around a busy work schedule or home life. Synchronous coursework has to be completed within a set timeframe. This is typically done for group projects, seminars, presentations, and other learning initiatives that require multiple attendees.

The elements of asynchronous and synchronous learning in your online program depend on the professor and the course. Once you enroll, reach out to teachers for specifics, but remember that the curriculum may be divided into these two subsets.

Master of Science in Cybersecurity programs can also offer students the chance to specialize their focus through elective courses. Some concentrations have a more operational focus, some a more administrative focus, while others focus on specialized issues such as law, business, and intelligence. Others combine them equally for a comprehensive education. Some specializations/tracks include:

  • Auditing
  • Cyber intelligence
  • Cyber operations
  • Cybersecurity and information assurance
  • Digital forensics
  • Emergency management
  • Ethical hacking
  • Homeland security management
  • Information security analysis
  • Information security engineering

While a general MS in Cybersecurity will provide students a comprehensive learning experience where you may touch on different specializations in small doses, picking a specialization will help give you an advantage in that specific discipline. With various categories of cybersecurity and employment opportunities, a specialization can help you become a subject matter expert in that area. This can be helpful if you are looking to advance your career within a special track or looking to broaden your experience with another discipline through this education.

Whether you are looking to advance in or enter the field, most cybersecurity job openings require at least one certification. Some of the certifications include:

  • Certified Authorization Professional (CAP) [46]
  • Certified Ethical Hacker (CEH) [47]
  • Certified Information Systems Auditor – IT Certification (CISA) [48]
  • Certified Information Security Manager – IT Certification (CISM) [49]
  • CompTIA Security+ Certification [50]
  • Computer Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP) [51]
  • Global Information Assurance Certifications (GIAC) [52]

Those with an MS in Cybersecurity degree typically pursue careers in areas such as threat analysis, cyber defense, network security, penetration testing, and digital forensics.

MS in Cybersecurity graduates can be found in public, nonprofit, and private sectors, but many roles are related to the federal government or related contractors. Some of the roles include:

  • Chief information security officer
  • Cyber network security engineer
  • Cyber operator
  • Information security manager
  • Network architect

Depending on experience, annual salary can range from $50,000 to $140,000. The average salary of a cybersecurity professional has been reported at $116,000. [41]

MS in Cybersecurity graduates are found in both the public and nonprofit sectors such as federal agencies, military services, universities, and hospitals. There are also many in the private sector for organizations such as national financial institutions and corporations in a range of technological, aviation, and medical services.

With the growth of Internet of Things, the cybersecurity market is estimated to grow 10.6% ($79 billion) from 2016 to 2021. The global cybersecurity market is expected to be worth $202 billion by 2021. [42] According to IDC, the hot areas for growth are security analytics/SIEM (10%); threat intelligence (10% +); mobile security (18%); and cloud security (50%). [43]

Cybersecurity as an overall field is in high demand — both in job opportunity and venture capital funding. According Cisco’s Security Capabilities Benchmark study, [39] there’s an estimated 1 million unfilled security jobs worldwide. This gap will continue as regulatory requirements and networking technology rapidly evolve. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, job growth for information security analysts will increase 18% from 2014 to 2024. [38]

Whether you are contemplating a switch into cybersecurity or already in the security field, a master’s program can help you stay current and advance your knowledge. A master’s program can broaden your horizons through advanced coursework exposing you to new scenarios. It can also help you gain insight into other perspectives through networking with faculty and students. With the rapid changes and growth of technology, a master’s degree can also help you stand out by showing your commitment and drive.

No, attaining management/senior positions is not guaranteed through the completion of a master’s degree. These positions often require many years of experience and a significant level of career achievement. However, an advanced degree can help you develop the necessary knowledge and skills required for these positions and also prove your dedication to the field.

There are two types of accreditation/designation to consider: programmatic and institutional.

The primary designation body for cybersecurity programs and institutions offering these programs is the National Centers of Academic Excellence in Cyber Defense (CAE-CD). [53] The CAE-CD designation program is sponsored by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the National Security Agency (NSA). It is a voluntary process for cyber-related degree programs across the U.S., including Puerto Rico. The CAE-CD recognizes programs that are robust and aligned to identified core areas of topics.

You will come across these designations based on the nature of institution and program:

  • CAE-CDE: National Centers of Academic Excellence in Cyber Defense Education
  • CAE-2Y: National Centers of Academic Excellence in Cyber Defense 2-Year Education
  • CAE-R: National Centers of Academic Excellence in Cyber Defense Research

Separately, institutional accreditations are administered by regional agencies. They evaluate colleges and universities as a whole to ensure they meet certain standards of educational quality. You can see a full list of accrediting agencies recognized by the U.S. Department of Education at their website. [16]

Accreditations are a strong indication of quality, but are also required for students who plan to apply for federal financial aid. Accreditation ensures that your degree is recognized by employers, professional associations, and other accredited institutions of higher education.

Based on the CAE-CD accreditation requirements, students can have peace of mind that the program quality has met a standard of what’s currently important in this field. Potential employers may also have more confidence in hiring graduates from an accredited program.

As a student of a CAE-CD accredited institution, you may also be eligible to apply for scholarships and grants offered through the Department of Defense Information Assurance Scholarship Program and the Federal Cyber Service Scholarship for Service Program.

SARA (State Authorization Reciprocity Agreement) applies only to distance education programs in the United States that cross state lines. This agreement is made between member states and establishes comparable postsecondary national standards for distance education courses.

Not every state is a SARA member. Through SARA, member states only have to receive authorization in their home state. Without SARA, non-member states would have to receive authorization in their home state and the state of each of their online students.

Every school has a department or team responsible for online education. This department will be able to answer questions regarding compliance for your home state. Additionally, you can locate the school through SARA (if it is a SARA institution) to confirm compliance.