Amid growing concerns for computer vulnerability in our increasingly digital world, the demand for cyber security experts is outpacing many other security fields with 73 percent job growth! Careers in the fast-paced, dynamic security field all share the common goal of protecting our nation’s citizens and assets from the threat of attack. That said, careers in security can vary greatly from homeland security and law enforcement to information assurance and border patrol.
Though some entry-level positions may only require training, having a security degree is nearly required for successfully entering the security field. Security programs make certain that graduates have the knowledge and skills necessary to plan emergency responses, detect terrorist activities, create security policies, prevent attacks, find signs of cyber intrusion, and act as America’s first line of defense against trouble. Putting life on hold to earn a degree is difficult, so many universities are now offering online degree programs in security specialties. Thanks to the Internet, students can attend classes whenever 24/7 in an interactive virtual classroom without interrupting their work and/or family obligations.
Ranking the Best Online Security Degrees
In order to form the below program ranking for the top 10 online security degrees in the United States for 2015, we focused in on universities that have been declared Centers of Academic Excellence (CAE) through the National Security Agency (NSA). This is an effective method for measuring the quality of the university’s security-related instruction, research, and practical learning opportunities. From there, the schools were narrowed down based on the availability of online undergraduate and graduate degree programs centered on security topics. Preference was given to universities with more academic offerings online because students are able to fit a specialization that aligns with their professional objectives.
Due to the popularity of online delivery today, we went a step further to focus in on universities that have received accolades from the U.S. News and World Report, Princeton Review, Times Higher Education, and other ranking sites. Any security-related recognitions were highly favored in the ranking. When configuring the final ranking, other factors like industry reputation, faculty credentials, student engagement, job placement, student-faculty ratio, affordability, and military personnel assistance were also considered. Therefore, students can rest assured that choosing any of the following ranked security degree programs will be advantageous to their career.
As one of the largest flagship public research institutions in the nation, Pennsylvania State University is based in the heart of “Happy Valley” to serve the academic needs of over 98,000 students both on-campus and online from afar. With an esteemed reputation for academic excellence, Penn State is ranked as the 48th best national university, 14th top public school, and 2nd best college for veterans in America by the U.S. News and World Report. The World Campus has also been recognized for the country’s #1 best online bachelor’s programs, #4 top online computer information technology programs, and #5 best online engineering degrees.
Undergraduate online learners at Penn State can earn the highly regarded B.S. in Security and Risk Analysis (SRA) in an interactive virtual learning environment. With an automatic emphasis in Information and Cyber Security, the online security degree is focused on preparing students with the tools necessary to implement policies that protect citizens, information, and other assets from attack. As an IC Center for Academic Excellence, Penn State delivers a cutting-edge curriculum of 120 credits that covers topics in information assurance, digital security, intelligence analysis, cyber forensics, and counterterrorism with an off-campus field internship.
Graduate students won’t be left out of high-quality security education either at Penn State. The World Campus gives students the option to receive a Master of Professional Studies (MPS) in Information Sciences with a concentration in Cybersecurity and Information Assurance fully online. The online Master of Professional Studies (MPS) in Homeland Security at Penn State also offers unique specializations in Agricultural Biosecurity and Food Defense, Geospatial Intelligence, Information Security and Forensics, or Public Health Preparedness. Online graduate certificates are also available in Homeland Security, Information Systems Cybersecurity, and Disaster and Bioterrorism.
Named among the top five schools nationwide in Security Magazine, Drexel University is a major comprehensive private research institution providing co-operative education to more than 26,000 students annually. Based in downtown Philadelphia, Drexel is currently ranked as the 95th best national university, 10th top up-and-coming school, and 18th best college for veterans in the country by the U.S. News and World Report. Thanks to Drexel’s eLearning division, the university is also highly regarded for having the 62nd best online bachelor’s programs and 29th best online graduate engineering programs in America.
At the undergraduate level, online Drexel students can work towards receiving the B.S. in Computing and Security Technology. Offering credit for IT certifications like Oracle 9i, DBA, CCNA, and A+, the online degree program is focused on preparing security professionals who can play critical roles in addressing threats to computer systems. In a flexible 185-credit format, students will take courses related to network security, web development, information technology security, operating systems architecture, network administration, disaster recovery, incident response, risk assessment, and intrusion detection. Hands-on education to apply learned fundamental concepts in a typical work environment is built into the curriculum.
Graduate students at Drexel University have three great options to further their security career beyond the bachelor’s level fully online. In the College of Computing & Informatics, the M.S. in National Security Management program is delivered online with concentrations in Continuity Management, Cybersecurity Law and Policy, Homeland Security, or Intelligence. In the College of Engineering, the M.S. in Cybersecurity program offers a highly interactive online learning environment for developing strategies to contract emerging cyber threats. An M.S. in Professional Studies with a concentration in Homeland Security Management is also available.
As the online division of the U.S. New and World Report’s 62nd best national university and 20th top public school, the University of Maryland University College (UMUC) is one of the largest public distance learning institutions in the world with over 90,000 students. With more than 95 degree programs delivered through WebTycho from its headquarters in Adelphi, UMUC has an open admissions policy for its undergraduate offerings. In the #1 spot for educating military veterans, UMUC also has been ranked 16th among America’s “Best Buy” online programs for tuition rate affordability on GetEducated.com.
Undergraduate students at UMUC have their fair share of security-related majors to choose from in a student-centered online community. Offered with rigorous 120-credit curricula, UMUC has online bachelor’s degrees for Computer Networks and Security, Cybersecurity, Investigative Forensics, and Software Development and Security. Some aspiring security professionals may also wish to pursue the online undergraduate major in Public Safety Administration, which is focused on developing the decision making, teamwork, technology, leadership, communication, and risk management skills necessary to protect citizens from harm. Minors in Corporate Security, Emergency Management, Homeland Security, Cybersecurity, or Terrorism and Critical Infrastructure may be helpful too.
Both featuring a 36-credit online curriculum, the M.S. in Cybersecurity and M.S. in Cybersecurity Policy programs at UMUC are popular for security professionals wishing to advance their knowledge of protecting an organization’s cyber assets. An online M.S. in Digital Forensics and Cyber Investigation is available for mid-career professionals needing a skills boost to meet new challenges in uncovering digital evidence. UMUC also provides a Master of Science in Management (MSM) program fully online from anywhere with security-related specializations in Criminal Justice Management, Emergency Management, Homeland Security Management, Intelligence Management, and National Security.
Well-known for its program ranking among HP’s “Best Schools for Cybersecurity,” the University of Southern California (USC) is an elite private nonsectarian research institution based in Los Angeles to educate more than 43,000 students both online and on-campus. Along with being in the Top 10 Dream Colleges, USC is named the 25th best national university, 41st best value school, and 5th top up-and-coming college by the U.S. News and World Report. In fact, USC is distinguished for having the #1 top online graduate computer information technology degrees and #3 best online graduate engineering programs in the United States.
Although there aren’t any online security degree options for undergraduates, USC makes up for this by offering a wide array of programs at the graduate level. In the elite ABET-accredited Viterbi School of Engineering, USC students can receive the Master of Cyber Security (MCBS) completely online over just two years full-time. Graduate students in the MCBS program are well-equipped with the computer network knowledge necessary for careers in homeland security, computer engineering, information security, software development, intelligence analysis, network administration, and more. The online M.S. in Computer Science program can also be tailored with a concentration in Computer Security.
For those looking beyond the cyber world, USC provides a fully online Master of Public Administration (MPA) program that can be earned with a Certificate in Homeland Security and Public Policy. Through the highly ranked Sol Price School of Public Policy, online learners will refine their risk management and security analysis skills for building a successful career in homeland security. MPA graduates from USC often go on to assume high-level administrative positions in government to keep citizens in our modern, interconnected world safe.
Sitting on University Hill in the heart of Central New York as a major private research institution of over 21,000 students, Syracuse University is well-known for being a stop on the recruiting tour for the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) and National Security Agency (NSA). This comes as no surprise since SU is ranked as the 58th best national university, 47th top value school, and 7th best college for veterans in America by the U.S. News and World Report. Thanks to its highly developed iSchool, SU also maintains a stellar reputation for hosting the 57th best online business degrees and the 9th top online graduate computer information technology programs.
In a unique hybrid format that blends online learning with evening on-campus work, SU offers undergraduates the opportunity to earn a B.S. in Information Management & Technology with a concentration in Information Security Management. Within the 120-credit curriculum, students will learn how to investigate the vulnerability of an organization’s hardware and software to hackers as well as malicious viruses. Nearly 100 percent of graduates from this program are employed within six months and report the highest starting salaries. Beginning in 2017, students will be required to complete a global experience by studying abroad for one or more semesters.
At the graduate level, SU students can participate in the M.S. in Information Management program fully online from anywhere with an Internet connection. Within the 42-credit structure, students have the option to receive a Certificate of Advanced Study (CAS) in Information Security Management, which is sponsored by the DHS to develop a high degree of knowledge in technical security, risk management, and security technology. It’s worth a mention that all online SU students will need to complete a seven-day summer residency in Syracuse during their first year with other information management students.
In addition to its campuses in Boston, Charlotte, and Seattle, Northeastern University uses its status as a prestigious private non-profit research institution to deliver quality education online at a distance. With a rough enrollment of around 20,100 students, Northeastern is currently ranked as the 42nd best national university and 4th top up-and-coming school in the United States by the U.S. News and World Report. Recently given an A+ grade from College Prowler for its overall online academic environment, Northeastern is also proud to deliver the 17th top online graduate business degrees and boasts a student-faculty ratio of 18:1.
For aspiring information security professionals, Northeastern delivers an online B.S. in Information Technology degree to develop a strong foundation in the basic IT skills that are necessary for careers in network administration and security. Online students are required to complete at least 160 quarter hours while choosing a specialization in Web and Multimedia, Database Technologies, Computer Information Infrastructure, Applications Development, or Business Systems. Pairing this degree with an online post-baccalaureate certificate in Global Studies and International Relations can create vast career opportunities.
Through the College of Computer and Information Science, online Northeastern students can expand their education to the graduate level by completing the Master of Science in Information Assurance (MSIA) program. From an interdisciplinary approach, information assurance majors will develop detailed knowledge on the best tactics for protecting the cyber and physical assets of government organizations to tackle security issues. The M.A. in Homeland Security program is also structured in a convenient online format to prepare the nation’s next generation of emergency managers, intelligence analysts, and homeland security experts. Requiring 45 quarter credits, the program comes with concentrations in Emergency Management and Geographic Information Technologies or Organization and Infrastructure Continuity.
Fully accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC), Colorado Technical University is a highly regarded independent for-profit institution first founded in 1965 in Colorado Springs with the goal of training former military service members. With more than 70,000 successful graduates across the globe, CTU is ranked #1 among “Best for Vets” schools in America within the Military Times magazine. As a pioneer in distance education, CTU is also acclaimed for hosting the 125th best online bachelor’s degrees, 18th best online computer information technology programs, and 22nd best online criminal justice programs by the U.S. News and World Report. CTU won the ITC 2015 Award for Outstanding eLearning as well.
Through the Virtual Campus, students at Colorado Technical University have a wide number of academic options when it comes to security education. Online learners can earn the Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice with a concentration in Cybercrime and Security, Forensic Investigation, or Homeland Security and Emergency Management. The Bachelor of Science in Cyber Security program is delivered fully online with concentrations in Computer Systems Security or Information Assurance. Students pursuing the Bachelor of Science in Information Technology online can also select a specialization in Information Security.
Oddly enough, graduate students at CTU have even more quality options available while earning a self-paced education from the comfort of home. The Master of Science in Computer Science program is delivered in an online format with a specialization in Computer Systems Security. Online students can pursue the Master of Science in Criminal Justice online with a concentration in Homeland Security. The Master of Science in Homeland Security offers online specializations in Cybersecurity Policy, Emergency Management and Public Health, or Information Systems Security. There’s also an online Master of Science in Cybersecurity Policy.
Enrolling more than 22,200 students, Towson University is a large public four-year teaching institution that grants degrees in eight academic colleges both on-campus in Maryland and online from anywhere at any time. Along with being named among the top 100 best values in public colleges in Kiplinger’s Personal Finance, Towson is ranked as the 60th best regional college, 15th top public school, and 21st best university for veterans in the North by the U.S. News and World Report. As the safest university in the state, Towson has won the Governor’s Award for Crime Prevention for 29 years, which shows the school’s commitment to security.
There’s currently no fully online undergraduate programs in security available at Towson for the bachelor’s level, but it’s possible for post-baccalaureate learners to earn the Security Assessment and Management Certificate fully online. Featuring just five core courses, this online program enables students to forego a master’s degree while still building essential content knowledge in homeland security, risk management, emergency response, and crisis protection. Students build on the skills learned in their accredited bachelor’s program by becoming more familiar with overall issues and concerns towards homeland security measures in today’s volatile world.
Online graduate learners at Towson can be prepared to fulfill our nation’s critical need for facing threats towards national security by earning the M.S. in Homeland Security Management. Within the 36-credit curriculum, students are given the freedom to select a concentration in Information Assurance, Health Preparedness, or Security Policy. In the final semester, a practical problem-solving experience is required for students to work on an actual security assignment offered from a local, state, or federal government agency. Online students are also welcome to join Towson’s Order of the Sword & Shield National Honor Society to gain professional connections.
Initially founded by industrialist Andrew Carnegie in 1900, Carnegie Mellon University is now a prestigious private institution with very high research activity on its spacious campus within just three miles from downtown Pittsburgh. Serving more than 14,000 students both on-campus and online, CMU is ranked as the 25th best national university and 38th top value school in America by the U.S. News and World Report. In fact, the ARWU even named Carnegie Mellon the 51st best university in the entire world. CMU has also been recognized by the Wall Street Journal for having the #1 best computer science programs according to job recruiters.
Within the Open Learning Initiative, the H. John Heinz III College at Carnegie Mellon is known for delivering an innovative part-time online Master of Science in Information Technology program. Within the 144 units of graduate coursework, online learners view video-captured lectures streaming on-demand from campus with no residency requirements in Pittsburgh. In the rigorous training, students are asked to select a concentration in Information Technology Management, Information Security and Assurance, or Business Intelligence and Data Analytics. Blackboard helps create an interactive virtual classroom where students complete the same case studies, group projects, and exams as their traditional counterparts.
At Carnegie Mellon, it’s also possible to receive a Master of Science in Information Security Policy and Management (MSISPM). Offering access to the world-famous CERT, this 138-unit innovative program is sponsored by the DHS to prepare future leaders for deploying effective policies and creating proven technical defenses to combat cybersecurity challenges. Although not offered completely online, it’s worth mentioning CMU’s Ph.D. in Information Systems and Management program too. Doctoral students are able to work in the renowned Cylab to conduct research specialized in information security and privacy.
As the eighth largest private non-profit research institution in America with 28,400 students, Nova Southeastern University is based on a main campus in Davie within South Florida’s Broward County to deliver both on-campus and convenient online education. Along with being named one of the best distance learning graduate schools by the Princeton Review, NSU is acclaimed for being a top provider of degrees to minority students through the U.S. Department of Education. With a solid reputation for academic excellence in its virtual classroom, NSU is also distinguished by the U.S. News and World Report for having the 22nd best online graduate criminal justice programs in the United States.
Undergraduate online learners at Nova Southeastern University can earn the B.S. in Computer Information Systems with a minor in Information Assurance and Security. Following the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM), this online security degree is focused on giving students a broad foundation for working with computer and network security infrastructures. In the 115-credit online program, students will conveniently take courses on computer programming, data structures, network communication, software engineering, database management, information science, computer security, and data processing on their own schedule. A senior capstone project or internship is required for all computer information systems majors.
Individuals who’ve already received an accredited bachelor’s degree have several more online graduate learning options at NSU. Boasting support from the DHS, the M.S. in Computer Science program is offered online with a Security Concentration to build 36 credits of advanced coursework related to disrupting cyber breaches before damage sets in. Aspiring security professionals can also benefit from completing the M.S. in Criminal Justice, M.S. in Conflict Analysis & Resolution, M.S. in Information Security, or M.S. in National Security Affairs programs online. For research-driven doctoral students, there’s also a Ph.D. program offered in Information Assurance through a blend of online and on-campus work to prepare for key positions in government agencies.
Overall, earning a security degree is a smart idea for anyone looking to advance their career to new heights in protecting fellow Americans from terrorist attacks, natural disasters, cyber breaches, and other looming threats. Security degree programs can cover everything from creating emergency response plans and handling hazardous materials to protecting national borders and checking for vulnerabilities in computer systems. Aspiring security professionals can greatly benefit from gaining a degree to enter the law enforcement field with confidence and a higher salary potential. Consider attending one of these online security degree programs that blend top-ranking education and practical experiences with a conveniently flexible format.