Information Systems Security: Master, Certificate & Online Degree Info

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What will you learn in an information systems security program? Read about programs requirements, the pros and cons of a certificate and master's and potential careers.
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Studying Information Systems Security: Degrees at a Glance

Any organization that uses computers has an interest in keeping the information on those computers secure. Individuals in all areas of technology, including software development, network administration, and database administration can enhance their skill set by being knowledgeable about information security management. A certificate program in information systems security includes introductory coursework for individuals new to the field, while degree-holders with work experience may find that a degree in information security makes them eligible for managerial positions such as information security auditor or information security manager. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) stated that it expects demand for information security analysts is grow during 2010-2020.

Certificate Master's
Who is this program for? Individuals in information technology wishing to increase their skill set
- Individuals in other fields seeking introductory knowledge about information security
-Individuals seeking leadership positions in information security
-Individuals preparing for a doctoral program
Common Career Paths (with approximate median annual salary) - Database administrator ($75,000)*
- Information Technology Manager ($118,000)*
- Information Security Manager ($103,000)**
- Systems Security Analyst ($84,000)**
Time to Completion 1-2 years 2-3 years
Prerequisites Bachelor's degree Bachelor's degree
Online Availability Yes Yes

Sources: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (May 2011 figures), **Salary.com (June 2012 figures).

Graduate Certificate in Information Security

Graduate certificate programs are usually designed for working professionals seeking to move into management positions or for computer scientists interested in adding to their skill set. They may also serve as an introductory program for individuals in other industries who want to familiarize themselves with information security. Although these programs generally do not require you to have an undergraduate degree in computer science, they usually require you to have some knowledge of the field.

Pros and Cons

Pros

  • Because information security technology changes so quickly, you may find the information provided in a short-term program certificate program more applicable than that provided in a 4-year program
  • Information security can be incorporated into multiple areas of information technology and can serve as a way for all IT professionals to improve their skill set and advance their careers
  • Information security is needed in a wide range of fields and industries, leading to potential job opportunities with nonprofit organizations, government agencies and corporations

Cons

  • In the high-stakes area of information security, employers may be looking for training that is more extensive than what is provided in a certificate program
  • Managing a company's IT security will likely require long work hours; in 2010, approximately 24% of IT managers reported working more than 50 hours per week*
  • Since many programs require only 15-18 credits of study, you may not have the opportunity to fully address all of the areas of information technology applicable to your career goals

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Courses and Requirements

These programs usually include at least four courses in information security. These classes may cover topics like creating and conducting a security audit, implementing security measures, developing a security policy and establishing security technology. Other available courses may include:

  • Cryptography
  • Data mining
  • Network security
  • Database security
  • Digital forensics

The curriculum may also include a laboratory course in which you obtain hands-on experience. Sometimes, earned credits transfer to a master's degree program.

Online Degree Options

Online certificate programs are available. Some programs are hybrid programs, while others are fully online. Online programs are often designed for individuals with IT work experience. Coursework in these programs is similar to that of an on-campus program, and typically includes classes in network security, database security, forensics and cryptography.

Getting Ahead with This Degree

To stand out with this degree, consider specializing. Choosing to attend a program that focuses on the information security needs of a particular topic of the field or industry, such as nonprofit donor management or health care, may help you find employment after graduation.

Also consider attending cybersecurity conferences. These conferences, which are commonly sponsored by corporations and professional organizations, may discuss information security as it pertains to specific industries, such as the military. Attending these conferences provides you with information about the most recent developments in the field as well as networking opportunities.

Master's Degree in Information Systems Security

A master's degree may help you specialize in information security or help you obtain a position as an information security analyst or information security manager. Many of these programs are designed for working professionals. In most programs, you study issues in information security, and may even be able to concentrate in a specific area of the field.

Pros and Cons

Pros

  • As long as there are computers, there will be a need for individuals to protect information; a career in information security likely means consistently available job opportunities
  • Employment of computer and information systems managers is expected to grow 18% from 2010-2020*
  • If you seek a challenge, a career in information security requires that you stay ahead of cyberattackers, meaning that your skills and job tasks can constantly change

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Cons

  • The high level of accountability affiliated with working in the field may be stressful
  • Your job may include investigating security violations, which may require reporting coworkers to senior management or law officials
  • Some employers prefer information security analysts to have Master of Business Administration degrees, which means you could compete with MBA holders for jobs

Courses and Requirements

In these programs, you take core courses in information systems and security before completing elective courses related to your career goals. Classes also teach you the fundamentals of operating systems and software programs. In some programs, you can complete a management or leadership track. Available courses include:

  • Security risk analysis
  • Security policy
  • Cryptography
  • Information warfare

Online Degree Options

Many information security programs are designed for working professionals with experience in information technology. To that end, master's programs in the field are available online in both hybrid and fully online formats. The curriculum of these online programs are similar or identical to on-campus programs. In an online program, you take courses in data networking, encryption, ethics and risk management.

Getting Ahead with This Degree

To get ahead with your degree, stay abreast of new technology developments. New viruses and security threats are released on a regular basis. In addition to attending security conferences, subscribe to publications that discuss new threats to ensure that you are knowledgeable about recent changes in the field.

Additionally, consider taking business courses. Because some employers prefer applicants with business degrees, being knowledgeable about business topics such as organizational management, human resources, finance and marketing can help you compete against those individuals.

Degree Alternatives

A MBA with a concentration in management information systems could make you more competitive in the field. The coursework in these programs combines business courses, such as accounting and marketing, with IT coursework in database management and systems planning.

Popular Schools

  • Online Programs Available
    1. 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
    2. 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
    3. Ashford University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • MS/Criminal Justice - Homeland Security
      • MS/Criminal Justice - Cybercrime and Technology
      • MBA - Information Systems
  • 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. 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
    6. Keiser University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • Master of Business Admin - Information Security Management
  • Online Programs Available
    7. 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
    8. University of Delaware

    Program Options

    Master's
      • Master of Science in Cybersecurity
  • Ames, IA

    Iowa State University

  • Ypsilanti, MI

    Eastern Michigan University

Featured Schools

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?

Ashford University

  • MS/Criminal Justice - Homeland Security
  • MS/Criminal Justice - Cybercrime and Technology
  • MBA - Information Systems

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Northcentral University

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

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Herzing University

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

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Keiser University

  • Master of Business Admin - Information Security Management

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Utica College

  • MBA - Cyber Policy
  • MBA - Cybersecurity
  • MBA Economic Crime and Fraud Management

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University of Delaware

  • Master of Science in Cybersecurity

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