Cyber Security: Bachelors, Associates & Online Course Info

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What kind of job can you get with a degree in cyber security? Find out associate's and bachelor's degree requirements, online options and info on courses and degree programs in cyber security.
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Study Cyber Security: Associate's and Bachelor's Degrees at a Glance

Cyber security professionals are responsible for protecting a company's computer networks from outside threats and cyber attacks. As a cyber security analyst, you design and develop safety practices and install firewalls to protect information. Cyber security programs are available at the associate's and bachelor's degree levels. While job opportunities are available for graduates of associate's programs, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that many security professionals have a bachelor's degree in the field. According to the BLS, employment for information security analysts is projected to increase 22% from 2010-2020.

Associate's Bachelor's
Who is this degree for? Individuals who want to transfer to a 4-year university or pursue entry-level IT positions Those who want to find entry-level cyber security jobs
Common Career Paths (with approximate average salary) - Computer support specialist ($52,000)*
- Network administrator ($74,000 - additional experience may be required)*
- Same as associate's degree
- Information security analyst ($82,000)*
- Information technology manager ($126,000 - additional experience and education may be required)*
Time to Completion 2 years, full-time 4 years, full-time
Common Graduation Requirements About 20-24 courses
- About 40-48 courses
- Capstone project
Prerequisites High school diploma High school diploma
Online Availability Yes Yes

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (May 2011 figures).

Associate's in Cyber Security

An associate's degree program in cyber security can help you acquire basic skills in detection and prevention of security threats. These programs usually explore networking, wireless devices, cyber forensics and cyber laws. You'll learn about basic network security and firewalls, and you'll study information technology essentials, ethics and routing basics. Some associate's programs in closely related fields, like computer information systems, offer information security coursework as well.

Pros and Cons

Pros

  • Can prepare you for a variety of jobs (network technician, technical support, help desk worker)
  • Associate's degree-holders can find network administration jobs that include security duties
  • Demand to protect information could spur job growth

Cons

  • While jobs are available for those with associate's degrees, related work experience may also be required
  • Job prospects may be better for those with bachelor's degrees
  • Some computer support positions require evening or weekend shifts

Courses and Requirements

An associate's degree program in cyber security combines general education coursework with core cyber security classes. General education requirements include mathematics, health and wellness, arts and humanities, English and behavior sciences. Cyber security topics may include digital technology applications, operating systems, network security fundamentals, data communications and strategic infrastructure security. You might also study network infrastructures, incident response and system forensics. Some programs require you to complete a capstone project.

Online Course Options

Online programs in cyber security are available but may be limited to for-profit schools. Some community colleges offer online cyber security programs combined with criminal justice studies. Fully online programs generally offer the same courses as on-campus programs but may not include capstone projects. You may be able to find accelerated programs that take less than 2 years to complete.

How to Stand Out

Cyber security associate's degree programs include coursework and training that can prepare you for voluntary certification in the field. Certification is one way to demonstrate your proficiency with different computer programs. Types of certifications you can pursue after completing an associate's degree program include CompTIA Network+, Cisco Certified Network Associate, Certified Information System Security Professional (CISSP), CompTIA Security+ and Certified Ethical Hacker (CEH).

Because some certifications and jobs require work experience, you may want to look for opportunities to get practical training while earning your degree. You may be able to find programs that offer hands-on training through optional cooperative work experiences.

Bachelor's in Cyber Security

A bachelor's degree program in cyber security provides students with advanced training in network security and information assurance. The curriculum covers the policies, techniques and procedures involved in protecting a security system. You can learn about real-time security, countermeasure deployment, operations recovery and forensic analysis. Most programs require students to complete foundational courses in computing and networks along with core security coursework. Your program may culminate in a final project.

Pros and Cons

Pros

  • Information security analysts earn good wages ($82,000 average salary as of May 2011)*
  • The need to protect patient information in medical settings could increase employment of security analysts in the health care sector
  • If you prefer to work independently, self-employment opportunities are available

Cons

  • Some employers look for applicants with master's degrees in business and information systems
  • Certification is often necessary to work in the security field
  • Some jobs require extensive work experience in addition to a bachelor's degree (7-10 years)

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Courses and Requirements

Bachelor's-level courses in cyber security teach you how to implement network and security monitoring solutions. Students learn how to analyze perceived threats, assess risk and determine the vulnerability of a computer system. These programs also teach you how to recover data after an attack; you may learn these skills in computer lab sessions. Core courses include security policy analysis, network security, digital forensics and cryptography. You can also take elective courses in artificial intelligence, website security and forensic psychology. A capstone course or senior project is required in order to earn your degree.

Online Course Options

If you'd like the flexibility of completing courses on your own time, you can pursue a bachelor's degree in cyber security completely online. Communication takes place through e-mail, chat rooms and discussion forums. Courses for online cyber security programs are the same courses you would take through on-campus study.

How to Stand Out

The BLS reports that cyber crimes are increasing, and analysts need to produce inventive methods to subvert cyber attackers. You can start preparing for this task while earning your bachelor's degree. For example, consider schools that encourage undergraduate participation in research efforts or cyber security competitions. You can also look for schools that allow you to participate in team projects or gain work experience through internships.

You may also consider joining a professional organization, like the Information Systems Security Association. Student members enjoy many of the same benefits as general members at a reduced cost, such as networking opportunities and access to web conferences.

Popular Schools

  • Online Programs Available
    1. Kaplan University

    Program Options

    Associate's
      • Associate: Information Technology
      • AASIT: Network Admin
  • Online Programs Available
    2. ECPI University

    Program Options

    Associate's
      • Associate's - Network Security
  • Online Programs Available
    3. Indiana Wesleyan University

    Program Options

    Associate's
      • A.S. Computer Information Technology
      • A.S. General Studies - Computer Information Technology
  • Campus Locations:
    4. Virginia College

    Program Options

    Associate's
      • Associate: Network Engineering
  • Online Programs Available
    5. Herzing University

    Program Options

    Associate's
      • Associate of Science - Information Technology Admin and Management
      • Associate of Science - Technology Studies
  • Milwaukee, WI

    Milwaukee Area Technical College

  • Online Programs Available
    7. Excelsior College

    Program Options

    Associate's
      • AAS in Technical Studies (Computer Technologies)
      • AAS in Technical Studies (Electromechanical Technologies)
      • AAS in Technical Studies (Electronic / Instrumentation Technologies)
      • AS in Science in Technology (Computer Technologies)
      • AS in Science in Technology (Electromechanical Technologies)
      • AS in Science in Technology (Electronic / Instrumentation Technologies)
  • Online Programs Available
    8. Keiser University

    Program Options

    Associate's
      • Associate of Sciences - Information Technology

Featured Schools

Kaplan University

  • Associate: Information Technology
  • AASIT: Network Admin

Which subject are you interested in?

ECPI University

  • Associate's - Network Security

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Indiana Wesleyan University

  • A.S. Computer Information Technology
  • A.S. General Studies - Computer Information Technology

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Virginia College

  • Associate: Network Engineering

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Herzing University

  • Associate of Science - Information Technology Admin and Management
  • Associate of Science - Technology Studies

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Excelsior College

  • AAS in Technical Studies (Computer Technologies)
  • AAS in Technical Studies (Electromechanical Technologies)
  • AAS in Technical Studies (Electronic / Instrumentation Technologies)

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Keiser University

  • Associate of Sciences - Information Technology

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