According to the National Association of Colleges and Employers’ Winter 2018 Survey, Computer Science and IT degree security jobs rank as one of the most valuable degrees in the employment market. Starting salaries for graduates with these degrees is around $66,065.
The good news is cyber security specialization within IT leads to higher pay than entry-level IT positions. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average starting salary for IT security managers is about $160,000 to $170,000. This is three times the amount of money a person with an entry-level computer science degree would make, and it certainly makes the monthly payments on a $35,000 student loan debt affordable. Until the year 2026, the Bureau of Labor Statistics says information security jobs are expected to increase by 28 percent. This is eight percent more than all occupations across the board.
The key to selecting the right degree programs lies in examining what each program offers. Unlike other degree programs, which typically offer similar courses from college to college, cyber security degree programs each have a niche and vary greatly in course offerings. For example, some programs could focus more on training and interaction with local companies, while others stay focused on specialized research and new developments in the industry.
Criteria: Ranking the Best Online Associate’s IT Security Degree Programs
This Top 10 list was compiled based first on school reputation with student reviews and national polls. This ranking also gives some diversity in program concentrations. As a lot of these programs are offered by a community college, tuition rates will vary based on state residency. These schools are not necessarily the cheapest tuition, but because of the possible job security, opportunity for scholarships, and strength of the academic and technological offering, we feel they offer the best value for the cost of tuition.
1. University of the Cumberlands
The University of the Cumberlands offers an online IT Associates degree for students preparing for a career in computer science, including the foundations of network security and cybersecurity. Coursework includes Web Design, Databases, Networking, Hardware, Software, and Server Administration.With recognition from the Department of Homeland Security the National Security Agency as a National Center of Academic Excellence in Cyber Defense, Cumberland’s IT associates degree online is one of the best online IT degree programs for the start of an information security career.
The University of the Cumberlands is a private institution of higher learning affiliated with the Southern Baptist Convention. It was established in 1889. The University of the Cumberlands has created the Quality Matters Initiative and is recognized as one of the country’s Best Christian Colleges at an affordable price.
Degree: Associate’s Degree in Information Technology (Online)
2. University of Alaska – Fairbanks
The University of Alaska Fairbanks’ (UAF) eCampus offers one the most affordable and best online IT degree programs. UAF’s AAS IT degree requires the completion of 60 credits and gives students the opportunity to choose a concentration in Network and Cybersecurity. Graduates are prepared for entry-level work as an IT professional and to succeed in the workplace settings of the government, education, and corporations. The University of Alaska Fairbanks’ IT Associate degree can be completed in 24 months and offers low-cost tuition for those seeking to enter the Information Technology industry. The online learning platform provides flexibility and convenience as well.
The University of Alaska, Fairbanks, established in 1917, is the flagship school of the University of Alaska System. It also holds the distinction of a land-grant, sea-grant and space-grant university. This institute of higher learning actually began as a federally funded experiment station for agricultural services. UAF is comprised of nine schools that offer nearly 200 distinct degrees in 120 disciplines.
Degree: Associate of Applied Science in Information Technology
3. Florida State College at Jacksonville
Florida State College (FSC) offers an online IT degree in Computer Information Technology (IT) on an accelerated path. With tracks in Database and Data Science, IT students have the foundation for a career in data security. Students have the opportunity to complete this fast track program in only 20 months. Degree candidates must complete 60 credits and an internship of 50 hours.
Florida State College was established in 1966 as a junior college. The school’s urban campus is located in the heart of downtown Jacksonville, FL. In 2009, Florida representatives faced a shortage of four-year schools which encourage them to pass a law that allowed quality 2-year schools to provide a limited amount of 4-year degrees. Florida State College was selected as one of the few schools to have been included in this new legislation.
Degree: Computer Information Technology Associate in Science
4. Georgia Military College
The Georgia Military College (GMC) offers an affordable online Associate of Applied Science (AAS) in Information Technology (IT) that provides flexibility and convenience for attending students. Graduates of the GMC IT programs online in Information Technology allows graduates to enroll in a bachelor’s degree program. With its connection with the US Army, GMC graduates have a clear track to a career in information and data security in the military and government agencies. The Georgia Military College AAS degree in Information Technology’s coursework requires 90-96 quarter hours to graduate.
The Georgia General Assembly established the Georgia Military College in 1879. GMC’s 25-acre campus is home to more than 8,000 students. The Georgia Military College is one of 4 military prep schools designed for students seeking early commissioning to the US Army. The Georgia Military College has received accreditation the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC).
Degree: AS degree in information technology
5. College of Southern Maryland
The College of Southern Maryland (CSM) offers an online IT Associates degree (AAS) in Information Services Technology (IT) that is convenient, flexible as well as affordable. Their IT programs online include 60 credits of coursework to be completed to graduate. Courses in areas like Cyber Ethics and Cyber Security provide a foundation for further specialization in information security. While students can complete this affordable program entirely online, there are lecture and web-hybrid learning formats.
The College of Southern Maryland was established in 1958. CSM is a community college that serves the southern Maryland counties of Calvert, Charles, and St. Mary’s. The College of Southern Maryland has received accreditation from the Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools. CSM maintains more than 60 transfer agreements with a variety of four-year schools for graduates seeking employment after graduation. Maryland has also enacted legislation entitled “Near Completers and Maryland Community College Promise Scholarships” to assist students to meet the financial obligations of earning an AAS degree in IT.
Degree: Information Services Technology, AAS
6. Indiana Wesleyan University
Indiana Wesleyan University (IWU) offers an online (or on campus) Associate of Science (AS) in Computer Information Technology. Degree candidates are prepared to understand the process of ethical decision making from a Christian perspective, and the application of basic information technology with regards to business principles and analysis skills. The degree program is competitively priced and requires a total of 60 credit hours to graduate. Indiana Wesleyan University does not charge an application fee when applying for acceptance.
Indiana Wesleyan University was established in 1920 and is affiliated with the Wesleyan Church. Widely recognized as a military-friendly school, IWU offers outreach to military personnel and veterans; for military students, the online AS in Computer Information Technology can be a smooth segue into an information security career. Student aid is available in the form of a scholarship, a veteran’s benefit, a grant or a student loan. Indiana Wesleyan University has received accreditation from the Higher Learning Commission.
Degree: Associate of Science in Computer Information Technology
7. Saint Leo University
Saint Leo University offers IT associate’s degree that is affordable and convenient. This reasonably-priced Information Technology Associate’s degree prepares graduates to hone their problem-solving abilities, enhance their critical thinking skills and to rely on creativity when resolving outstanding issues. The culture and mission of Saint Leo University are deeply rooted in the Benedictine tradition. Online IT degree graduates from Saint Leo University learn to apply Information Technology applications locally, regionally and globally.
Saint Leo University was originally established in 1889. The first Roman Catholic school located in the state of Florida, Saint Leo is better known as a pioneer in distance education for military personnel, beginning with correspondence courses during the Vietnam War. Today, Saint Leo’s outreach to military and veterans allows them to offer the online IT associate’s as a stepping stone to a government career in data and information security. According to US News & World Report, Saint Leo University is ranked among the top institutions of higher learning in the southern part of the United States.
Degree: Information Technology, Associate of Arts
8. University of Massachusetts Lowell
The University of Massachusetts Lowell offers an affordable online IT degree (AS) degree Information Technology (IT). UMass Lowell’s IT associate’s degree online program has been designed to meet the growing need for IT professionals across many industries – government, education, and business, among others. UMass Lowell’s low-cost tuition rates are the same for in-state residents and out-of-state residents.
The University of Massachusetts Lowell was established in 1894 as a teacher training school. Today, UMass Lowell is better known for professional education. Recognized as a National Center of Academic Excellence in Cyber Defense Research by the NSA and the Department of Homeland Security, UMass Lowell’s IT and computer science programs are steeped in the most current cyber, information, and data security research. UMass Lowell’s online education platform enrolled nearly 29,000 students in 2017, a 7% increase year over year.
Degree: Associate of Science in Information Technology
9. St. Petersburg College
St. Petersburg College’s affordable online IT associates degree (AS), IT Cybersecurity AS, and Cybersecurity certificate prepare graduates with the technical skills required for entry-level IT careers. These skills includeDatabase Programming and Information Technology Security. Degree graduates are required to complete an internship in Computer Information Technology. Graduates have the option to sit for several industry certifications that include CompTIA Network+, MOS Access, and MOS Excel, among others.
St. Petersburg College was established in 1927 as a junior college. The school evolved to a public institution of higher learning in 1948, though even today, St. Petersburg College is not a residential college – strictly commuters, making it attractive to working adults. SPC has received accreditation the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC).
Degree: Computer Information Technology A.S. Degree, IT Cybersecurity AS, and Cybersecurity certificate
10. Point University
Point University’s affordable, online IT associate’s degree program is designed for the convenience of working adults. Point’s IT program places particular importance on “best practices, safety, security, and preventive measures,” with ample coursework to provide a foundation for further study in cybersecurity and information assurance. While students have the convenience of studying on their time, most degree candidates complete the 60 credit hour degree program in 24 months.
Point University is a liberal arts Christian university about 60 miles from Atlanta. Point University was established in 1937. Point’s online learning platform is now their fastest course delivery modality. More than 90% of students receive some form of financial aid. All students attending the online IT associate’s degree program at Point University are discounted 40% off on-campus tuition rates. Distance learning from Point University is flexible and convenient. Student-Professor to student ratio at Point University is 18:1.
Degree: Online Associate of Science in Information Technology
Should I Choose an Online IT Degree or an On-Campus Program?
The short answer: it’s up to you. Either an online IT degree or a traditional program comes with pros and cons. Take some time to think about what you need before doing that “information technology colleges near me” search.
Unlike getting an associate’s degree online, on-campus classes provide direct, hands-on experience. In many cases, you can work directly with the technology that you study. Since your instructor will be right there in the classroom, you can ask questions as you think of them instead of waiting for an email response. If these things matter for your education, then go ahead and do that “information technology colleges near me” search. The in-person option will serve you well.
However, getting an associate’s degree online comes with its own advantages. While you don’t get face-to-face interaction, you do get a lot of flexibility. The online route works well for adults with jobs and kids. If that describes you, then you should think about getting an associate’s degree online instead of in person.
What Will I Take in an Online IT Associate’s Degree Program?
Every online IT Associate’s degree will vary depending on the school. However, most schools that offer a computer science degree in 2 years will have similarities in their coursework. If you do want a computer science degree in 2 years, you can expect to take some foundational courses. You’ll learn about basic IT principles with your online Associate’s degree. Other information technology degree requirements include computer programming, information assurance, and database technology. All of these information technology degree requirements can be ideal foundations for further study and certification in information assurance and cybersecurity.
That said, if you’re interested in any particular school, you should look up that school’s online IT Associate’s degree requirements. Many schools list their IT degree requirements on their websites. If you can’t find a course list on the website, call the school and ask about their information technology degree requirements. They’ll be happy to give you an overview.
What If I Don’t Want an Associate’s Degree?
While some IT jobs require a degree, others will happily accept employees who have completed information technology certification programs instead. You can find IT certificate programs online. Many schools that offer online degree programs also offer information technology certification programs, so you can look for an information technology program online from a respected and accredited school. These IT certificate programs online are often highly specialized; they might be focus entirely on cybersecurity, network security, or database security, for instance, for students who just need a little more development of their security skills.
When looking for IT certificate programs online, make sure that you put just as much thought and research into your choice as you would for an online degree. After all, whether you choose the degree route or go for a different kind of information technology program online, you’re investing in your education. Make sure that you get the most out of it.
Can I Get a Computer Science Degree Online Free?
Looking for the cheapest online IT program? Unfortunately, when it comes to getting a computer science degree online, free usually isn’t an option. That said, you can take some courses for free. They won’t count toward a degree, but they will help you sharpen your skills and give you an edge if you do decide to get a degree later.
You have other options to help you save money, too. If you’re searching for the cheapest online IT degree, look for programs with scholarships. Also, since you want an online degree, the location shouldn’t matter. You can go ahead and look for the cheapest options without worrying about travel.
Sometimes, when you want to further your education, getting started is the hardest part. Once you take the plunge, though, you’ll be glad that you did. Have any more questions about getting your IT degree online? Feel free to get in touch at any time.