Information Security Degrees: PhD, Master's & Online Class Info

About this article
What will you learn in an information security degree program? Read about degree requirements, the pros and cons of a master's and PhD and potential careers.
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Study Information Security: Degrees at a Glance

As technology becomes used more frequently to store data and information, companies need information security professionals to ensure that their computerized data is safe. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that the federal government is just one of the industries expected to increase employment of information security analysts through 2020 (www.bls.gov).

Most entry-level information security job positions require only a bachelor's degree. However, a master's degree can prepare you for managerial positions in the field. A doctoral degree usually leads to a career in research, academia or in computer science.

Master's PhD
Who is this degree for? Those seeking advancement in their current information technology careers or who intend to continue their studies in a PhD programIndividuals who wish to work in research or academia
Common career paths (with approx. median salary)* - Information security analyst, web developer or computer network architect ($82,000)*
- Computer and information systems manager ($126,000)*
- Network and computer systems analyst ($74,000)*
- Computer and information research scientist ($103,000)*
- Post-secondary teacher ($80,000)*
Time to completion3 years full time 3 years full time
Common graduation requirements - Core courses
- Courses in an area of specialization
- Research project
- Written qualifying examination
- Oral examinations
- Dissertation
Prerequisites - GRE
- Strong background in computer science
- Master's degree in a related discipline
- GRE
Online availability YesNo

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

Master's Degree in Information Security

Master's degree programs in information security focus on teaching you the skills and understanding you need to obtain leadership positions in the field. Through your studies, you are trained to predict and thwart cyber attacks on computerized data and other information. In these programs, you complete core courses in information security as well as courses in an area of specialization. Commonly offered specializations include information security policy, technical information security and management in information security.

Pros and Cons

Pros

  • Prepares you for leadership positions in the field
  • Internshipsprepare you to enter the workforce by providing you hands-on experience working in the field
  • You are able to concentrate on an area of information security that best suits your interests and professional goals

Cons

  • A master's degree is not generally required to begin a career in information security
  • Employers may require that you have additional certification
  • You usually need a strong background in computer science to be admitted into a master's program

Courses and Requirements

The curriculum of a master's degree program in information security includes core courses and classes in an area of specialization of your choice. Core courses may include:

  • Secure computer systems
  • Information security laboratory
  • Information security strategies and policies
  • Network security
  • Introduction to information security

Online Degree Options

Many colleges and universities offer online degree master's programs in information security. These programs are ideal for working professionals because they they allow for working towards a degree on the student's own time. Students in these programs can complete the same courses and hands-on projects as they would if attending an on-campus program.

Stand out with this Degree

Earning additional certification is one way to stand out with this master's degree. Certification shows that you have gone above and beyond the requirements for a graduate degree, and is something you can add to your resume to show your competency in one or more areas. For example, certification is available for system administrators, system certifiers and senior system managers. These certifications act as a benchmark for your computer systems understanding, and tell employers that you are capable of working proficiently and effectively to fulfill their information security needs.

PhD in Information Security

A PhD in information security prepares you for a career in research or academia. In general, colleges and universities offer a PhD in information technology or computer science with a concentration in information security and assurance. These programs give you foundational knowledge that builds upon the curriculum of a master's degree program. In these programs, you complete qualifying examinations to prove your grasp of this fundamental knowledge before beginning research in your specialization for your dissertation.

Pros and Cons

Pros

  • Allows for specializing in an area of your choice
  • Many times, scholarships and other funding is available to pay for PhD program tuition
  • Program prepares you to continue your research after graduation, which may be an essential component to a research or academic job

Cons

  • Programs usually require passing several qualifying examinations prior to beginning working on a dissertation
  • PhD not required for non-research or academic information security jobs
  • Specialization options differ in each program, and it may be difficult to find a program that offers the specific one you seek

Courses and Requirements

The majority of the time spent working towards your PhD consists of studying and completing examinations and research. Examinations commonly test on areas such as information security, operating systems, artificial intelligence, software testing and applied statistics. Prior to beginning research, you take core courses like:

  • Computer architecture
  • Analysis of DoD critical infrastructure protection
  • Security management of systems
  • Network vulnerability assessment
  • Security policies, models and formal methods

Online Degree Options

Online PhD programs in information security are unavailable. This is likely due to the fact that so much of these degree programs concentrate on research and examinations, making it difficult to complete them remotely. Attending an on-campus program allows you to work with supervisors, faculty and advisers when working on examinations or your dissertation.

Stand out with this Degree

To stand out with this degree, consider completing statistics courses. Familiarity with gathering an analyzing numerical data is a skill that employers may prefer.

Additionally, consider taking classes in software development and testing. An ability to create software programs that protect against cyber threats can help you stand out against your competition when applying for a job outside of research or academia.

Popular Schools

  • Online Programs Available
    1. Grand Canyon University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • Bridge to the M.S. in Information Technology Management
      • M.S. in Information Technology Management
      • M.S. in Instructional Technology
      • Master of Science in Cyber Security
      • Master of Science in Cyber Security (Bridge)
  • Online Programs Available
    2. Kaplan University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • Master: IT/Information Security and Assurance
      • MS in Cybersecurity Management
      • MSM in Information Technology
      • Master: Information Technology
      • Master: Information Technology - Project Management
  • Online Programs Available
    3. Colorado Technical University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • MS - Management - Information Systems Security
      • MS - Computer Science - Computer Systems Security
      • M.S. - Information Technology - Security Management
      • M.S. - Information Technology
      • Master of Science in Cybersecurity Policy
      • Master of Science in Homeland Security - Cybersecurity Policy
  • Online Programs Available
    4. Northcentral University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • MBA - Computer and Information Security
      • MSTIM - Cybersecurity
      • MSTIM - Computer Science
      • MSTIM - Information Systems
      • MBA - Management Information Systems
      • MBA - Applied Computer Science
  • Online Programs Available
    5. American InterContinental University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • Master of Information Technology - Information Assurance and Security
      • Master of IT: Project Management
      • Master of Science in Information Technology
  • Online Programs Available
    6. Georgetown University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • Masters of Professional Studies in Technology Management
  • Online Programs Available
    7. Colorado State University Global

    Program Options

    Master's
      • Master - Information Technology Management
      • Graduate Specialization - Information Technology
  • Online Programs Available
    8. Herzing University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • MBA Dual Concentration: Accounting and Technology Management
      • MBA: Technology Management
      • MBA Dual Concentration: Public Safety Leadership and Technology Management
      • MBA Dual Concentration: Project/Technology Management
      • MBA Dual Concentration: Business Management and Technology Management
      • MBA Dual Concentration: Healthcare Management and Technology Management
  • Online Programs Available
    9. Utica College

    Program Options

    Master's
      • MBA - Cyber Policy
      • MBA - Cybersecurity
      • MBA Economic Crime and Fraud Management
      • MS in Cybersecurity - Computer Forensics
      • MS in Cybersecurity - Cyber Operations
      • MS in Cybersecurity - Intelligence
  • Online Programs Available
    10. University of Delaware

    Program Options

    Master's
      • Master of Science in Cybersecurity

Featured Schools

Grand Canyon University

  • Bridge to the M.S. in Information Technology Management
  • M.S. in Information Technology Management
  • M.S. in Instructional Technology

What is your highest level of education?

Kaplan University

  • Master: IT/Information Security and Assurance
  • MS in Cybersecurity Management
  • MSM in Information Technology

Which subject are you interested in?

Colorado Technical University

  • MS - Management - Information Systems Security
  • MS - Computer Science - Computer Systems Security
  • M.S. - Information Technology - Security Management

Are you a US citizen?

Northcentral University

  • MBA - Computer and Information Security
  • MSTIM - Cybersecurity
  • MSTIM - Computer Science

What is your highest level of education?

American InterContinental University

  • Master of Information Technology - Information Assurance and Security
  • Master of IT: Project Management
  • Master of Science in Information Technology

Are you a US citizen?

Georgetown University

  • Masters of Professional Studies in Technology Management

What is your highest level of education completed?

Colorado State University Global

  • Master - Information Technology Management
  • Graduate Specialization - Information Technology

What is your highest level of education?

Herzing University

  • MBA Dual Concentration: Accounting and Technology Management
  • MBA: Technology Management
  • MBA Dual Concentration: Public Safety Leadership and Technology Management

What is your highest level of education?