Building off a background in data and computer science, an online master’s in cyber security introduces new topics that lead to well-paying careers. Not only do cyber security professionals earn high wages, but the job outlook for skills cyber security workers is highly positive. Projections by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) show a 28% job growth rate for cyber security consultants over the next decade.
This page explores the best and most affordable online master’s in cyber security degrees, including potential specializations, careers, courses students might take, and how to secure financial aid and a cyber security career.
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Not only do online degrees offer more flexibility, but many online master’s in cyber security programs also offer lower tuition rates than on-campus cyber security programs. These programs offer the best degrees at an affordable cost.
Some of the best master’s in cyber security degrees are entirely online, letting students continue to gain professional experience while earning a graduate degree. These schools demonstrate the highest quality of education, outcomes, and program options.
Understanding an Online Master’s in Cyber Security Program
Designed for current IT professionals or those with a background in computer or data science, a master’s in cyber security teaches a broad range of skills, including cloud security, data protection, and network analysis, and leads to a variety of careers.
Common Specializations for an Online Master’s in Cyber Security
Cyber Security includes a variety of topics, so many programs offer concentrations or specializations. Selecting a concentration increases your exposure to a specific field, ultimately helping graduates find a position or prepare for a doctoral program related to the concentration.
Area of Focus
Careers This Concentration Prepares For
Also known as cloud security engineering, cloud security teaches students to protect cloud-based platforms. Topics include designing and implementing cloud security controls, cloud security countermeasures, and industry best practices.
Data scientist, cybercrime analyst, IT auditor, cybersecurity analyst, cybersecurity consultant
A specialization in cyber engineering has students cover the planning, creation, and implementation of various cybersecurity programs. Some courses also focus on hardware over software.
Computer engineer, cybersecurity consultant, data scientist, information security analyst, software engineer
Digital forensics applies cybersecurity to criminal investigation. Courses in this specialization teach investigative methods, complex data analysis, and collecting and presenting evidence for prosecution.
A specialization in information assurance blends cybersecurity with data privacy. Students learn to analyze existing ecosystems and audit them to determine better data protection practices.
Cyber security analyst, data security manager, IT specialist, information risk analyst
Similar to information assurance, a specialization in information security teaches students to protect information. Courses might focus on the protection of customer data or valuable business information.
Cyber security consultant, cybersecurity analyst, IT security analyst, ethical hacker
Internet security focuses on the protection of information available online. Students learn to analyze a network’s exposure over the internet, then find ways to mitigate risk and protect data.
Data scientist, cybersecurity analyst, data security manager, IT specialist, risk analyst
A specialization in network security focuses on the protection of internal networks. Students learn to protect information and data as networks become more complex and interconnect.
Data scientist, cybersecurity consultant, IT security analyst, IT specialist, network manager
Online Master’s in Cyber Security Admission Requirements
Admission into an online master’s in cybersecurity program is highly competitive, and applicants must meet the minimum admission requirements to have their application considered. Requirements include:
Minimum GPA: Instead of requiring standardized test scores like the GRE, many online master’s in cybersecurity programs instead look for a GPA of 3.0 or higher on previous college transcripts.
Bachelor’s Degree: Applicants must hold a bachelor’s degree from a regionally accredited institution at a minimum, though most programs prefer applicants who studied computer science or a related field.
Prerequisite Courses: Even some students with a background in computer science may need to complete additional prerequisite courses before getting admitted into a master’s in cybersecurity program. Specific prerequisite course requirements vary by school.
Professional Resume: While most programs set no professional experience requirements, applicants with several years of relevant work experience often submit stronger applications.
English Proficiency/TOEFL: Students born outside of the country must prove English language proficiency. Most schools require foreign-born students to take the TOEFL.
Curriculum for an Online Master of Cyber Security Program
Every program decides what courses to include in the master’s of cybersecurity curriculum. While course names and specific materials may vary, most programs offer the following courses.
Information Assurance Analysis: Information assurance analysis introduces effective analyses to inform software development, criminal investigations, and network operations. Students also cover the collection, use, and visualization of data.
Foundations in Algorithms: Building off data structure skills that students already know, foundations in algorithms looks at different ways to design, analyze, and implement algorithms. Students then use algorithms to perform various computer science tasks.
Cryptology: Usually offered as an introduction to cryptology, cryptology looks at the classical cryptographic techniques that led to today’s modern cryptology. Students cover topics including symmetric block ciphers, public key cryptosystems, and digital signatures.
Ethical Hacking: Also known as ethical penetration testing, this course teaches students to use hacking and penetration tools to find and exploit vulnerabilities in systems. Finding and fixing these vulnerabilities is critical for cybersecurity professionals.
Malware and Attack Reverse Engineering: Malware and attack reverse engineering explores the ways that criminals use malicious software. Students then find ways to detect and prevent malware attacks through reverse engineering.
Online Master’s in Cyber Security Program Length
Before beginning a master’s in cybersecurity, understand that program length depends on several factors, including:
Part-time vs. Full-time: Selecting a full-time program means completing a degree in 1 year, compared to 2 or more for a part-time degree. However, full-time students commit to a stricter schedule.
On-campus vs. Online: Online students have more flexibility, and some choose to complete their degrees faster than on-campus students.
Accelerated Programs: Some schools offer accelerated programs that intentionally push students to graduate sooner than full-time students. These rigorous programs often use accelerated 8-week courses.
How to Pay for a Master’s in Cyber Security Degree
While online education can reduce the cost of a master’s in cybersecurity, students still must cover remaining tuition costs and fees. To do so, students take advantage of different types of financial aid, including fellowships, internships, and student loans.
Techniques for Financing a Online Master’s in Cyber Security
If students have remaining costs associated with their education, student loans provide an effective way to pay for a college degree. However, unlike funds earned from rewards or work, students must eventually pay the loans back.
Scholarships for Online Master’s in Cyber Security Students
Scholarships continue to be one of the most effective ways to reduce — or entirely cover — tuition costs. Thousands of internships are available, some of which are specific to cybersecurity and computer science.
CyberCorps: Scholarship for ServiceWho Can Apply: Any undergraduate or graduate cybersecurity students can apply for up to three years of full tuition scholarships. In return, winners must work for the U.S. Government for the same lengths as the scholarship. Amount: Full tuition up to three years
WTM Scholarship for Computer Science & GamingWho Can Apply: Created for any women pursuing a degree in computer science or gaming, the WTM Scholarship goes to applicants who exhibit leadership, a strong academic background, and diversity. Amount: $10,000
Cybersecurity Graduate ScholarshipWho Can Apply: This scholarship goes to master’s degree students focusing in cybersecurity. Applicants must have a 3.5 GPA but may study online and part-time. Amount: $1,000 – $5,000
ISSA Education Foundation ScholarshipsWho Can Apply: With multiple awards available, the ISSA accepts applicants pursuing a security-related degree. Applicants must have a 2.5 GPA and submit a letter of intent. Amount: $2,000 – $3,500
Free Online Masters in Cyber Security
Graduate students continue to seek out affordable options for college, but did you know that there are some cyber security programs that are free? While there are no full master’s programs in cyber security for free, that are accredited, there are some programs that allow students to watch lectures from past sessions and free courses from reputable institutions. Students won’t get a masters diploma in cyber security from these courses, but they can learn on par with masters students at other online masters institutions. All of this for free and 100% online. Explore the following programs below: The Open University: The Open University offers a free program called Introduction to Cyber security. University of Maryland via Coursera: University of Maryland offers Cyber Security Specialization course via Coursera. The course is free to “read and view course content”. Stanford University: Stanford University offers Cryptography 1 course via Coursera. MIT Opencourseware: MIT offers a free Computer Systems Security course from past year’s lecture.
Resources for Online Master’s in Cyber Security Students
While working toward a graduate degree, cybersecurity students can network, improve their resumes, and prepare for their future careers with the help of professional organizations. Some organizations that master’s in cybersecurity students should consider include:
Information Systems Security Association: Among the top international associations for cybersecurity professionals, ISSA offers members breaking industry information, access to content from experts, and educational opportunities.
ISC2: Along with online education and various types of training, ISC2 membership proves that professionals rank among the top in their field. Membership requirements are strict, however.
ISACA: With membership options available for current professionals and students, ISACA’s members get exactly what they need, whether that be access to networking events or meeting with local chapters.
CompTIA: A leading organization for certifying cybersecurity professionals. CompTIA’s student membership provides students with industry discounts, scholarship opportunities, and connections to internships and jobs.
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