Study Network Security: PhD, Master's Degree & Online Class Info

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Master's and PhDs in network security can lead to careers in the information technology field. Get the truth about the requirements, courses and online options, and find out what you can do with your degree.
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Network Security Master's and PhDs: Degrees at a Glance

Network security is a field that concentrates on protecting computer networks from threats. It is often offered as part of an information technology degree, or as a concentration in a larger computer science or computer engineering degree. A degree in this field is applicable to businesses in a wide variety of different industries.

There are several potential careers available. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor and Statistics (BLS), many of these careers pay above average salaries, and potential job growth was expected to be from average to above average. For example, information security analyst positions were expected to increase by 22% between 2010 and 2020.

Master's Doctorate
Who is this degree for? - Individuals who want to protect computer systems and data - People wishing to research network security, including in academic settings
Common Career Paths (with approximate mean annual salary) - Security management specialist ($64,000)**
- Computer network architect ($78,000)**
- Information security analyst ($82,000)*
- Information systems manager ($126,000)*
Same as master's, as well as:
- University professor ($80,000)*
- Information research scientist ($103,000)*
Time to Completion 1.5-2 years 3-7 years after bachelor's
Common Graduation Requirements - Between 30 and 55 credit hours
Some may also require:
- Master's thesis/research paper
- Projects
- 70 to 90 credit hours
- Articulation courses
And some combination of the following:
- PhD qualifier exams
- Thesis
- Dissertation
-Dissertation defense
Prerequisites Bachelor's degree in a related field, such as computer science
- GRE scores
- Prerequisite courses
Bachelor's or master's degree in a related field such as computer science
- GRE scores
- Interview
Online Availability Yes Some

Sources: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (May 2011 statistics), **O*NET Online (2011 figures).


Master's Degrees in Network Security

Network security is usually not offered as its own degree, but is normally included within an information security, cyber-security or information sciences degree. It may be offered as a concentration, or just included in the standard curriculum. Aside from master's degree programs, some schools offer master's certificates in network security, which can be added on to another master's program or taken individually. Programs focus on computer systems, security and networks, and are designed to take about two years to complete.

Pros and Cons

Pros

  • Stable, high-earning career opportunities*
  • Potential careers have average to above average growth prospects from 2010 to 2020*
  • Able to use the latest technology*

Cons

  • Some positions require only a bachelor's degree*
  • Overtime may be required regularly*
  • May have to compete with jobs sent overseas*

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

Common Courses and Requirements

Master's programs typically require between 30 and 55 credit hours to complete. Required courses depend on the focus of the specific program, but typically involve some mixture of introductory courses, core courses and electives. Additionally, some programs may require a master's thesis, research paper or project in order to graduate. Electives are usually computer-related, but may be related to a specific industry.

Some classes you may take include:

  • Security principles
  • Intrusion detection
  • Computer networks
  • Information science
  • Risk management
  • Digital forensics

Online Degree Options

Several schools offer either online degrees or online courses. This may be because, being computer-focused, the necessary materials for courses can be accessed from anywhere. These options are found both at public institutions as well as private for-profit schools.

Like on-campus programs, online or distance learning network security degrees can be found within broader degrees, such as information security. Some may also have concentrations specifically in network security.

Stand Out With This Degree

If possible, having previous experience with information technology or computer systems may help you get a better position. For example, according to the BLS, having worked with databases previously may aid you in getting a job working in database security. Some employers may also prefer to hire employees with some background in business or leadership. Additionally, keeping up with technology and programming may be of use, and if you want to go into a position that involves some programming, organizations such as the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) offer programming certifications.

Degree Alternatives

If you're interested in computers, but think you'd prefer creating programs instead of than working with security, you might consider becoming a software developer. Software developers have a degree in computer science or computer engineering. While some positions will take an applicant with only bachelor's degree, some employers prefer those with master's degrees. Software developer positions were expected to increase by 30% between 2010 and 2020, with applications developers earning approximately $92,000 a year and systems developers earning about $100,000 a year, per BLS reports of 2011.


PhDs in Network Security

Network security is almost never offered as its own degree, but rather as a concentration or area of study within a computer science or computer engineering PhD program. In general, these programs can be entered directly from a bachelor's degree, though some programs will grant credit towards coursework for those with a master's degree. Less often, programs may require applicants to already have completed a master's degree in a similar field. PhD programs may take up to seven years to complete, and there may be time limits within this for the allowed amount of time to pass between milestones.

Pros and Cons

Pros

  • Potential careers typically pay a higher salary than average*
  • Will have the ability to conduct research on new and existing technology*
  • Research positions in high-demand by companies*

Cons

  • Can be removed from program for not progressing in a sufficient manner**
  • Path to PhD requires many years of schooling
  • May have to compete against master's degree holders for non-research positions*

Sources: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, **Stevens Institute of Technology.

Common Courses and Requirements

PhD programs vary in the amount of credits and time necessary to graduate, but tend to include a variety of coursework, dissertation hours, research and program milestones. These milestones include qualifying reviews, exams, dissertation defenses and progress reviews. Also, you will need to specify an area of study or concentration; those that include network security may be under sections like computer networks and computer security, information security or cyber security.

Classes you may take include:

  • Cryptography
  • Network security
  • Secure computer systems
  • Computer forensics
  • Artificial intelligence

Online Degree Options

While less common than master's programs, some online or distance learning PhD programs exist. These programs often are similar to on-campus programs and, in some cases, may even include courses that are taken by students both on-campus and online. Additionally, even if an online PhD program is not offered, some schools may offer courses online that may be used toward the degree.

Stand Out With This Degree

As with master's programs, having experience in an area of specialty or field may help you gain a position in that field. Additionally, certifications are available. For example, the International Information Systems Security Certification Consortium offers a Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP) credential. The credential can be earned through experience or by passing an exam.

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. Colorado State University Global

    Program Options

    Master's
      • Master - Information Technology Management
      • Graduate Specialization - Information Technology
  • Online Programs Available
    4. Georgetown University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • Masters of Professional Studies in Technology Management
  • Online Programs Available
    5. 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
    6. Southern New Hampshire University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • MS Information Technology: Internet Security Concentration
      • MS in Cyber Security with a concentration in IT management
      • MS in Cyber Security
      • MS in Information Technology with a concentration in software application development
      • MS Information Technology
      • MS Information Technology: Web Design Concentration
  • Online Programs Available
    7. University of Delaware

    Program Options

    Master's
      • Master of Science in Cybersecurity
  • Online Programs Available
    8. 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
    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. Virginia International University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • MPA in Information Systems
      • Master of Science in Computer Science (MCS)
      • Master of Science in Information Systems (MIS)
      • Master of Science in Information Systems Management (MISM)
      • Master of Science in Information Technology (MIT)

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

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Colorado State University Global

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

What is your highest level of education?

Georgetown University

  • Masters of Professional Studies in Technology Management

What is your highest level of education completed?

Northcentral University

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

What is your highest level of education?

Southern New Hampshire University

  • MS Information Technology: Internet Security Concentration
  • MS in Cyber Security with a concentration in IT management
  • MS in Cyber Security

What is your highest level of education?

University of Delaware

  • Master of Science in Cybersecurity

What is your highest level of education completed?

American InterContinental University

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

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