Information Security Specialist Degrees: Associate, Bachelor & Online Info

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What kind of job can you get with an associate's or bachelor's degree in information security? Find out degree program requirements, online options and info on courses and information security training programs.
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Studying Information Security: Degrees at a Glance

Information security specialists monitor business networks for security breaches and use investigative techniques to resolve threats when violations occur. Businesses across multiple sectors need security professionals to design, implement and maintain complex security protocols. Employers want professionals with current knowledge and skills in the latest security concepts and technologies.

The associate's degree program offers basic training that can prepare you for entry-level positions in the tech industry. The bachelor's degree program offers a deeper foundation and can make a career in management an option. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reveals that job growth should be strong; database administrators could expect a 31% increase in job growth over the 2010-2020 decade (www.bls.gov). Information security analysts, Web developers and computer network architects could expect a 22% increase.

Associate's Bachelor's
Who is this Degree for? Individuals interested in entry-level security, data or Web security positions People who want to pursue a career in network architecture or information system management
Common Career Paths (with approximate median annual salary) - Computer network support specialist ($48,000)*
- Security management specialist ($64,000)*
- Information security analyst ($78,000)*
- Database administrator ($75,000)*
- Computer and information systems manager ($118,000)*
Time to Completion Two years full time Four years full time
Common Graduation Requirements - Roughly 60 credits- Roughly 120 credits
Prerequisites High school diploma or equivalent High school diploma or equivalent
Online Availability Yes Yes

Source: *O*Net OnLine (2011 figures).

Associate's in Information Security

The associate's degree program offers a basic education in the theories, tools and techniques used by information security specialists. Programs offer courses that introduce students to information system integrity, confidentiality and authentication. You learn to design and manage information systems that guard against malicious intrusions and unauthorized attempts to access information. Many schools offer programs structured to prepare students for industry certification examinations. The program can prepare you to enter financial institutions, software development firms or government agencies, to name a few.

Pros and Cons

Pros

  • Associate's degree holders earned relatively competitive salaries in some positions; computer network support specialists earned a median annual wage of $48,000*
  • Job growth for related occupations was projected to be robust; information security analysts could expect growth of 20%-28% from 2010-2020**
  • Information security programs are relatively new and offer a flexible education and skills that transfer to alternative occupations in the tech industry

Cons

  • Competition against bachelor's and master's degree holders may be keen for information security analyst positions
  • Job opportunities or access to positions in information systems management will most likely require a bachelor's degree
  • Maintaining certifications and staying updated on technical skills requires commitment of your finances and time over the lifetime of your career

Source: *O*Net OnLine (2011 figures).

Common Courses and Requirements

The associate's degree program provides the training required to identify security threats, troubleshoot security issues and implement proactive measures to prevent breaches. You will take roughly 60 credits in mathematics, technology and information security coursework. Some programs offer a concentration in a specific operating system or environment; courses in Microsoft, Unix/Linux or CISCO are examples of modern specializations. Following are some common courses offered by the program:

  • Fundamentals of computer networking
  • Microsoft server infrastructure
  • Network security
  • Security policies
  • Implementing firewalls
  • Security management practices
  • Intranet network administration

Online Degree Info

The online associate's degree program offers coursework similar to traditional classes; programs emphasize forensics, investigation and network security concepts. Some schools design coursework to articulate to a bachelor's degree program and you may find several that offer a complete online experience.

Stand Out with This Degree

Experience and skill influence employment potential; employers prefer to hire candidates who have work experience in a closely related occupation. Proven skills in the investigation, identification and resolution of security violations can also influence your marketability. Following are a few steps you can take to stand out:

  • Take internships in the industry you plan to pursue. For example, if you prefer database security, consider taking entry-level database developer internships to gain familiarity with database structures and security weaknesses.
  • Take courses in emerging technologies, such as cloud computing and security, to expand your skills and keep up with technological advances.
  • Skills validation through certification offers a common approach to proving technical proficiency. Several security certifications exist, including Certified information Systems Security Professional and Certified Computer Security Incident Handler, and each requires experience and education for eligibility. Internships can assist you with gaining the minimum required experience.

Bachelor's in Information Security

The bachelor's degree program offers a broader range of skills and deeper knowledge through an area of emphasis. You learn the essentials of networking, intrusion prevention and network routing protocols. Laboratory training may comprise a large percentage of classroom time; some schools design programs to provide 60% of subject matter courses in the lab. The knowledge you gain can make careers in database administration, network architecture and network support available. Many programs offer preparation for industry certification exams.

Pros and Cons

Pros

  • Jobs attainable by those with a bachelor's degree paid competitive salaries; computer and information systems managers earned a median annual wage of $118,000*
  • Programs offer a strong technical foundation and courses may prepare you to take industry-standard certification exams
  • Some programs provide an education in a broad range of topics, including database technology, enterprise architecture and programming

Cons

  • Salaries for some positions were comparable to those earned by associate's degree holders; information security analysts earned a median annual wage of $78,000 vs. database administrators who earned $75,000*
  • Employers may prefer to hire candidates with a master's degree in information systems for some opportunities
  • A few related occupations, including network architect, will experience slower job growth from 2010-2020 due to advances in cloud computing

Source: *O*Net OnLine (2011 figures).

Common Courses and Requirements

Core coursework represents a large percentage of the roughly 120 credits required by the bachelor's degree program. You learn to secure networks using standard practices and utilize management techniques to plan and budget new security objectives. Programs offer courses in information security management, recover planning, business continuity, Linux and Windows security, operating system security, ethical hacking and security compliance. Many schools recommend an information security internship or travel course and may require a senior seminar.

Online Degree Info

The online bachelor's degree program offers coursework similar to that of campus-based options. Many schools offer programs that you can take completely online. Colleges usually design programs to meet the needs of working professionals; courses are offered in an accelerated format and the degree can be completed in less than four years. You may find the program listed under a school's information technology department with a specialization in security.

Stand Out with This Degree

Seeking universities that offer preparatory certification courses and sitting for relevant examinations can improve your marketability. Courses in emerging technologies, disaster recovery, vulnerability assessment and computer forensics help you gain solid skills in managing security in most business settings. In addition, selecting a specialization early may ease the transition into an employment opportunity. Employers may prefer candidates with experience in a specific technology and taking internships in network support, for example, can provide a hands-on approach to applying your education and exploring security concepts.

Popular Schools

  • Online Programs Available
    1. Kaplan University

    Program Options

    Bachelor's
      • BS in Information Technology/Information Security and Assurance
      • BS in Cybersecurity
      • BSIT - Information Management
      • Bachelor of Science in Information Technology
  • Online Programs Available
    2. ECPI University

    Program Options

    Bachelor's
      • Bachelor's - Network Security
      • Bachelor's - Cloud Computing
  • Online Programs Available
    3. Ashford University

    Program Options

    Bachelor's
      • BA/Sports and Recreation Management - Information Systems
      • B.A. - Business Information Systems
  • Online Programs Available
    4. Colorado Technical University

    Program Options

    Bachelor's
      • Bachelor of Science in Cyber Security - Computer Systems Security
      • Bachelor of Science in Cyber Security - Information Assurance
      • Bachelor: Information Technology
      • BS - Business Administration - IT
      • BS - IT - Security
      • Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice - Cybercrime and Security
  • Online Programs Available
    5. Grand Canyon University

    Program Options

    Bachelor's
      • B.S. in Information Technology with an Emphasis in Cyber Security
      • B.S. in Information Technology
      • Bachelor of Science in Business Information Systems
      • Bachelor of Science in Applied Business Information Systems
      • B.S. in Computer Programming
  • Online Programs Available
    6. Herzing University

    Program Options

    Bachelor's
      • B.S. - Information Technology: Security Technology Concentration
      • Bachelor: Technology Management
      • B.S. - Information Technology: Network Management Concentration
      • B.S. - Information Technology Admin and Management With No Declared Minor or Concentration
  • Online Programs Available
    7. Trident University

    Program Options

    Bachelor's
      • Bachelor's - Computer Sciences
      • Bachelor's - Information Technology Management
  • Online Programs Available
    8. Colorado State University Global

    Program Options

    Bachelor's
      • BS - Information Technology
  • Campus and Online Programs
    9. Virginia College

    Program Options

    Bachelor's
      • Bachelor: Management Information Systems
  • Online Programs Available
    10. Indiana Wesleyan University

    Program Options

    Bachelor's
      • B.S. Business Information Systems
      • B.S. General Studies - Computer Information Technology

Featured Schools

Kaplan University

  • BS in Information Technology/Information Security and Assurance
  • BS in Cybersecurity
  • BSIT - Information Management

Which subject are you interested in?

ECPI University

  • Bachelor's - Network Security
  • Bachelor's - Cloud Computing

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Ashford University

  • BA/Sports and Recreation Management - Information Systems
  • B.A. - Business Information Systems

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Colorado Technical University

  • Bachelor of Science in Cyber Security - Computer Systems Security
  • Bachelor of Science in Cyber Security - Information Assurance
  • Bachelor: Information Technology

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Grand Canyon University

  • B.S. in Information Technology with an Emphasis in Cyber Security
  • B.S. in Information Technology
  • Bachelor of Science in Business Information Systems

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Herzing University

  • B.S. - Information Technology: Security Technology Concentration
  • Bachelor: Technology Management
  • B.S. - Information Technology: Network Management Concentration

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Trident University

  • Bachelor's - Computer Sciences
  • Bachelor's - Information Technology Management

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Colorado State University Global

  • BS - Information Technology

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