Career advancement, better pay, more options, specialized research, switching fields — these are just a few reasons why people decide to enroll in an online master’s in cybersecurity. In this fast-moving field, a master’s degree is a great way to stay competitive, learn the latest technology and tactics, and build a valuable professional network.In this guide
- Why an online master’s
- What you will learn
- Degree requirements
- Funding your degree
- Career paths
- School listings
The good news is online cybersecurity degree programs offer a number of options for students looking for flexibility while they study. In the end, students graduating from online cybersecurity programs obtain the same degree as their campus-based counterparts, and professionals with a master’s degree in cybersecurity are projected to be in high demand well into the future.
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Featured Cybersecurity Masters
|School Name||Program||More Info|
|UC Berkeley School of Information||Online MS in Cybersecurity | No GRE/GMAT Required||website|
|University of Maryland Global Campus||Online Master's in Cybersecurity||website|
|Syracuse University||Online MS in Cybersecurity | Complete in 15 Months||website|
|Southern New Hampshire University||Online MS in Cybersecurity||website|
|Georgia Tech||Online MS in Cybersecurity | Tuition under $10k||website|
|Purdue University Global||Online MS in Cybersecurity Management||website|
One thing is for sure, that given the diversity of options for graduate education in cybersecurity there is surely a program that is a good fit for several career interests, professional and academic backgrounds, and commitment level.
“Our graduate degrees are all online, 100 percent either asynchronous or synchronous…You can take them in-person or online. Our online offerings allow us to be truly global. For example, we have students in South America and Afghanistan, and an instructor in Australia.”
— Ralph Russo, director of the Professional Advancement Information Technology Program at Tulane University.
In fact, this guide is partly motivated by the fact that there are so many good options out there that prospective students often need to spend some time and energy finding the perfect fit.
Why an online master’s in cybersecurity degree?
An online master’s degree in cybersecurity is designed to provide the same education as an on-campus cybersecurity master’s degree. The main difference is that the course content is provided online rather than in-person classes.
The format of an online master’s degree provides more flexibility than on-campus options. Students can decide to take courses full or part-time, and they can take classes synchronously or asynchronously, enabling them to fit the courses into their schedules. Also, online coursework means that students can learn from anywhere.
Pursuing a master’s in cybersecurity may be essential for gaining promotions and usually accompanies a significant pay hike. According to PayScale, the average salary for an MS in cybersecurity is $87,292 compared to $71,033 for a BS in cybersecurity. The $16,259 difference in average pay can cover the cost of the most affordable online master’s programs in under a year.
Be sure to check out the related guide about online master’s degrees in information technology.
Online master’s in cybersecurity coursework
Online master’s degrees are designed to provide the same experience as in-person degrees. This means that these programs will likely cover the same core concepts, including:
- Foundations of cybersecurity
- Network security
- Computer security
- Cybersecurity law and ethics
Beyond the core curriculum, students will also have the opportunity to take electives or pursue a specialization. Some examples of these include:
- Digital forensics
- Cyber crime
- Critical infrastructure
- Malware analysis
- Incident response
- Penetration testing
- Cryptology and cryptography
A cybersecurity master’s program should also provide the opportunity to gain hands-on experience working in cybersecurity via labs, internship opportunities, and capstone projects. Through these opportunities and other career-building and networking events, students can meet people in the field and explore potential opportunities and job prospects for after graduation.
Online master’s in cybersecurity requirements
Like any other degree-granting program, an online master’s degree in cybersecurity has certain requirements for admissions. Some of the most common requirements include:
Bachelor’s degree: Many online cybersecurity master’s degree programs will include a bachelor’s degree in their admission requirements. In some cases, an applicant may be able to substitute demonstrated years of relevant work experience for this requirement. (Check out the related cybersecurity degree page)
Prerequisites: Cybersecurity master’s degree programs often require coursework or work experience in certain fields as a prerequisite. Examples of common prerequisites include computer systems, networking, and programming.
Recommendations: Many master’s degree programs require two or three letters of recommendation as part of the admissions process. These can be from professors or colleagues familiar with the applicant’s work.
Beyond these core requirements, different schools may have additional requirements for admissions into an online master’s degree program. Some programs require applicants to take the Graduate Record Examination (GRE) or the Graduate Management Admission Test (GMAT). Applicants may also be requested to provide a resume or CV, write an essay, or undergo interviews as part of the admissions process.
When evaluating potential online master’s programs, take a look at their admissions process. The admissions requirements and the acceptance rate can provide clues regarding the quality of the master’s program and how well respected the online degree will be.
Funding an online cybersecurity master’s degree
Paying for an online degree can be different from an on-campus degree. Two important considerations are the affordability of the degree program and the availability of scholarships and other financial aid.
Online degrees are often more affordable than on-campus ones for a few different reasons:
Synchronicity: Unlike on-campus classes, courses in an online degree can include pre-recorded lectures combined with virtual Q&A sessions and office hours. This can reduce the cost per credit because courses can be larger or more numerous.
Infrastructure: Online courses require less infrastructure (classrooms, dorms, etc.) than in-person ones. This means that a college has less overhead for online courses, which reduces the price.
Housing: When pursuing a degree program on-campus, it is necessary to live by the school providing the degree. This requires either paying room and board on-campus or renting nearby. With an online degree, there is no need to be near a particular campus. Additionally, students can take advantage of geographic arbitrage, where they live in one location and attend a more competitive or less expensive college elsewhere.
To better compare and contrast program costs, and to learn more about which online master’s programs are the most affordable, check our most affordable online master’s page.
Scholarships and financial aid
While online master’s programs are often more affordable than on-campus options, they still cost money. However, a few options exist to help defray the cost of tuition.
A number of cybersecurity master’s scholarships are available from government organizations, reflecting the need for well-qualified professionals in both the public and private sectors. A few examples of cybersecurity master’s scholarship opportunities include:
The National Science Foundation’s Graduate Research Fellowship Program. This is not only a great funding opportunity but is a big resume-building opportunity. The fellowship is open to both master and doctoral students.
The Navy’s Information Assurance Scholarship is open to bachelor through doctoral students both as service members and civilians (although civilians are required to work for the Navy in a non-uniformed role upon graduation).
The Department of Defense provides the Science, Mathematics, and Research for Transformation (SMART) Scholarship for Service Program. This is also open to bachelor’s through doctoral students and cybersecurity is included as a critically important area.
The public sector is not the only source of potential funding for graduate school. Some additional sources of potential tuition assistance include:
Corporate sponsorship: The cybersecurity skills gap is a major concern for many organizations. For this reason, an organization may be willing to provide tuition assistance or full reimbursement for employees pursuing a degree in cybersecurity.
Private scholarships: Beyond the federal government, there are private scholarships as well. Some companies and professional societies offer scholarships to candidates pursuing degrees in particular fields.
Research positions: Research assistantships are a common source of funding for on-campus Master’s degree programs, and online students may be eligible for them as well. Cybersecurity is a field where graduate research can be performed off-site without access to a specialized lab.
Prize money: A number of different cybersecurity capture the flag (CTF) competitions are held each year. Some of these offer scholarships or other cash prizes that can be used to help pay for an online Master’s degree in cybersecurity.
Career paths with a cybersecurity master’s degree
The cybersecurity industry is experiencing a significant skills gap with an estimated 3.12 million unfilled positions worldwide. The demand for cybersecurity professionals is expected to continue to grow, creating many opportunities for qualified cybersecurity professionals.
The core curriculum of a cybersecurity master’s degree is designed to provide students with a broad grounding in cybersecurity. This positions a student well to work in various capacities based on the area of cybersecurity they choose.
However, cybersecurity master’s programs also offer opportunities to choose electives and specializations. Taking advantage of these opportunities can enable a student to lay the groundwork for more specialized roles, such as a cloud security architect, forensic analyst, etc.
While cybersecurity professionals are needed in general, these specialized skill sets can be in even greater demand. Taking the opportunity to explore specializations and gain these skills during a master’s program opens up a variety of potential roles. Check out the complete guide for more info about the skills and experience needed for specific cybersecurity careers.
FAQs for online cybersecurity master’s programs
The average salary for an MS in cybersecurity is over $16k higher than the average for a BS in cybersecurity. This is more than the price of many of the most affordable online MS in cybersecurity degree programs. An advanced degree also can unlock additional career paths and opportunities.
A master’s degree in cybersecurity provides a thorough grounding in cybersecurity and the opportunity to explore various cybersecurity specializations through electives. It also provides hands-on experience through lab exercises, internships, and capstone projects. With an MS in cybersecurity, a student gains the skills and credentials needed to pursue a variety of career paths in cybersecurity.
An online master’s in cybersecurity is designed to be an accessible degree. With the required pre-requisites and/or equivalent experience, a student should be able to successfully work through the curriculum.
Most online graduate programs require between 27 and 45 credit hours. This equates to about one to two years of full-time schooling. However, online degrees are often designed to be taken part-time, so the actual duration depends on a student’s course load.
Cybersecurity is generally not a math-heavy field, and this is reflected in master’s in cybersecurity programs. An MS in cybersecurity student should be able to do some programming (which requires some mathematical knowledge), but advanced mathematics is not required.
Cybersecurity master’s degrees online: Complete listings
Here is a complete list of all schools offering an online master’s in cybersecurity.