Best on-campus cyber security degrees (Bachelor's)

As cybercrime continues to grow, so do opportunities in the realm of cyber security. If you have any inkling towards this area of computer science, now is a great time to consider entering the field. While you may be able to secure some entry-level roles based on experience alone, most cyber security positions require at least a Bachelor’s degree.

There are a ton of great online programs available, but many students will prefer to pursue an in-person degree. These offer face-to-face interaction with professors and other students, plus access to university facilities such as the library and study rooms.

In this article, we provide a list of some of the best on-campus cyber security degrees to help you kick off your search. We also reveal the key factors to keep in mind when choosing a program, and discuss other aspects such as tuition fees and graduate salary expectations.

Looking to complete a degree from home? Take a look at our dedicated article on the best online Bachelor’s cyber security degrees.

Best in-person cyber security degrees

Below are our recommendations for the best on-campus cyber security degrees:

1. Carnegie Mellon University

2. Purdue University

  • Location: West Lafayette, IN
  • Program: Cybersecurity, BS
  • Tuition cost: $39,968 or $9,992 per year (Indiana resident); $115,176 or $28,794 per year (Non-Indiana resident)

3. University of Michigan

4. George Mason University

  • Location: Fairfax, VA
  • Program: Cyber Security Engineering, BS
  • Tuition cost: $47,550 or $4,755 per 12 credits (Virginia resident); $164,850 or $16,485 per 12 credits (Non-Virginia resident)

5. Northeastern University

  • Location: Boston, MA
  • Program: Cybersecurity, BS
  • Tuition cost: $217,440 or $27,180 per term

6. Penn State University

7. Texas A&M University San Antonio

8. University of Texas at Austin

9. Brigham Young University

  • Location: Provo, UT
  • Program: BS Cybersecurity
  • Tuition cost: $23,880 or $5,970 per year (Latter-day Saint); $47,760 or $11,940 per year (Non-Latter Day Saint)

10. University of Southern California

11. North Carolina State University at Raleigh

12. University of Maryland

13. Worcester Polytechnic Institute

14. DePaul University

15. Arizona State University

16. Stevens Institute of Technology

17. Villanova University

18. Rochester Institute of Technology

19. Drexel University

20. University of North Carolina at Charlotte

Note: Tuition fees are based on a four-year program or earning 120 credits. They reflect information available at the time of writing and are subject to change.

How to select the right on-campus cyber security degree

You don’t have to go too far back to a time when cyber security was considered a niche topic with related degree programs only offered by a select number of institutions. However, growth in the field has seen a vast expansion in the number and scope of programs to choose from.

While we’ve listed some of the top courses above, you still need to consider a variety of factors when choosing which degree is the right fit for you. Of course, it’s a big decision, so we recommend taking time to think about the following aspects before jumping into the application process.

1. Delivery method

If you’re reading this post dedicated to in-person programs, then you may have already made up your mind that an on-campus degree is right for you. If not, you might want to consider the flexibility that an online degree can offer. Depending on where you choose to study, an online degree can cut expenses such as travel costs and rent.

Still set on an in-person degree? Many students want the full on-campus experience, including face-to-face instruction and educational and social interaction with peers. But there are still other aspects of course delivery you should consider, such as the length of the program. Most Bachelor’s degrees will take three or four years to complete, but that one year can make a difference. Others can be completed on a part-time basis which will extend the length of the course but allow you to fit it in with other areas of your life.

You may be looking for a program that has a flexible delivery schedule. Some in-person degrees offer weekend and evening classes, so they can be completed while working a regular job.

2. Location

Location is less important for online programs, but will likely be a deciding factor when selecting an on-campus degree. If you do opt for an in-person program, you need to decide how far you’re willing to travel. Will you be able to commute from home or will you have to live close to campus? Of course, if you have to move, there will be associated costs.

You also need to look at what life is like on and off campus. Does the atmosphere suit your personality and does the surrounding area interest you? While studies are important, you should consider if you’ll be happy spending several years of your life in this new place.

Another thing to bear in mind is that many universities offer steep discounts on tuition rates for students who are residents of the same state. This means you could save on fees as well as travel and living expenses.

3. School ranking

When researching various schools, it’s easy to get drawn into the hype projected by each institution. After all, universities are businesses and they invest heavily in marketing to attract applications from a large number of high-caliber students. However, once you get through the shiny facade, many schools don’t have the goods to back up the image they project on their website and other marketing channels.

Instead of believing claims that come directly from the universities themselves, it’s a good idea to consider school rankings. These vary in terms of how the lists are compiled but they generally take into account aspects such as recognition, graduation rate, and return on investment. Note that just because a school is ranked highly overall doesn’t mean it will be the best for cyber security. As such, it’s a good idea to find ranking lists that are broken down by subject.

4. Tuition and other costs

We touched on cost above, and of course, this will be an important factor in your decision. Aside from tuition fees, travel expenses, and housing costs, you also need to consider additional expenses such as books, other education materials, and administration fees.

Does it all seem overwhelming? Don’t let the high cost of a degree deter you. Many schools and local organizations offer scholarships or grants to help pay for part or all of your education. Most universities will have a section on their website dedicated to financial aid but you can also check with the admissions office for more information.

When weighing up the cost of a degree and deciding if it’s worth it, it may be helpful to consider how much you could earn once it’s complete. Although the cost of some schools is much higher than others, you may find a pricier degree will result in better job prospects upon graduation.

PayScale offers a handy repository for finding out the typical salary you can expect to earn after achieving a degree from a particular school. This information isn’t broken down by field of study but it can give you a good idea of your potential return on investment.

PayScale salary compare.

5. Course content and structure

We covered the delivery method above but it’s also important to delve a little deeper and find out about the content and structure of the program you’re considering. When it comes to content, you need to make sure the modules align with your interests and career goals. Each cyber security degree is different and you may find that one focuses more on topics that interest you while another doesn’t go as in-depth in those areas. Most programs will outline their course structures on their website, showing which specialties are available and what modules are covered in each section of the program.

Also important is how students are assessed, and there can be a great deal of variation here too. Methods of assessment include theoretical or practical examinations and individual or group assignments and projects. Some of those may appeal to you more than others, and preferred assessment style can have a significant impact on your grades and your overall enjoyment of the program.

By now, you likely know which methods and environments suit you best, so consider which styles will help you reach your maximum potential.

6. Admission requirements

Have an idea of which course you’d like to apply for? Before diving head-first into the application process, take some time to review the prerequisites. Application fees are no drop in the bucket and you don’t want to waste money applying for a program you don’t meet the requirements for. That said, some schools are flexible when it comes to admission requirements, so it’s worth checking with the admissions office if you’re looking for some wiggle room.

Advantages of earning a cyber security degree

Not convinced you want to pursue a cyber security degree? Below are some of the benefits of holding a degree in this area:

Increasing demand

Cyber security is a growing field and it isn’t showing signs of slowing down. The US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) releases job outlooks for various positions. It only has data on one cyber security role (information security analysts), but the outlook for this could well be considered indicative of the industry as a whole. Between 2019 and 2029, BLS predicts a growth rate of 31 percent. This is far higher than the average (four percent).

What this means for applicants is there will be an increasing number of open positions, so your chances of securing a role (now and in the future) will be good.

Attractive salaries

It makes sense that with growing demand comes higher salaries, as organizations will need to offer attractive packages to secure the best applicants for a given role. Currently, many entry-level cyber security positions offer healthy starting salaries. What’s more, there’s plenty of room for growth, so you can expect much higher remuneration as you progress up the career ladder, especially if you’re willing to continue your education along the way.

Valuable skills

Even if you take the time to carefully consider your career path, it’s very possible that after completing a cyber security degree, you don’t actually end up in that field. But that’s not such a bad thing, as a Bachelor’s in cyber security can leave you with lots of transferable skills. For example, this highly technical degree can be applied to other areas of computer science such as software development. What’s more, you’ll typically learn about topics such as cyber security laws and regulations which can apply to pretty much any industry.

Jobs that a cyber security degree can lead to

Cyber security is a huge industry with many and varied roles. Here are some of the positions a cyber security degree could qualify you for:

It’s worth bearing in mind that even though a cyber security degree can be important for these roles, there may be other prerequisites such as specific certifications or a minimum level of experience. That said, many employers will facilitate extra training and certifications upon landing a role.

Cyber security degree salary prospects

An important factor when considering any degree and subsequent career is the amount of money you can expect to earn. Things are looking pretty good on the cyber security front as you can see from some of these average salaries (information obtained from PayScale):

RoleAverageEntry level (<1 year)Early career (1–4 years)Mid-career (5–9 years)Experienced (10–19 years)Late career (20+ years)
Computer forensics analyst $74,262$63,000 $70,000 $86,000 $101,000 $99,000
Information security manager $116,632 $84,000 $94,000 $114,000 $121,000 $126,000
Penetration tester $85,167 $68,000 $79,000 $106,000 $119,000 $126,000
Systems administrator$62,810 $51,000 $58,000 $64,000 $71,000 $75,000

Note that these are general numbers and there is likely a wide variation depending on factors such as location, type of organization (for example government versus private), and your level of experience.

Other types of degrees you may consider

While there are many benefits to pursuing a Bachelor’s degree in cyber security, it’s not the right route for everyone. Indeed, there are other paths to a career in cyber security. For example, perhaps you already have lots of work experience in another technology-related field—such as software development—that could qualify you for a role. Some employers might accept an Associate’s degree in cyber security which can be a bit less taxing than a full Bachelor’s degree.

What if you already have a Bachelor’s degree? Depending on what field it’s in, you may not need to start from scratch. If you already hold a degree in a related subject such as computer science, you might be able to apply for a cyber security role without the need for further education. Or you can supplement your knowledge with certifications in your desired field. You may even want to consider a Master’s degree or PhD in cyber security.

On-campus cyber security degree FAQs

How much does an in-person cyber security degree cost?

There’s no doubt that a degree in cyber security (or in any field for that matter) can run up some hefty costs. How much you end up paying will depend on a large number of factors, many of which we’ve discussed above. The main costs will be tuition fees, living expenses (such as rent), travel costs (including commuting), learning material expenses, and administration fees.

Tuition fees generally fall between $20,000 and $230,000 for the full program. Some schools will greatly reduce the price if you’re a resident of the state in which the school is located, which is why you see such a huge range in fees.

What kind of degree do you need for cyber security?

While browsing cyber security degrees, you will likely find many different degree titles as well as specialization options. There is no one size fits all choice and the one you go for should be determined based on your individual interests and career goals.

For example, if you are interested in the field of digital forensics, you may want to look for a degree that offers a specialization in that area. As mentioned, you don’t necessarily have to go for a Bachelor’s degree and you may want to explore other options such as an Associate's or Master's degree, or specific certifications.

Is it worth getting a degree in cybersecurity?

The cyber security industry is booming and the job and salary prospects are looking good. Investing in a cyber security degree will likely yield you a great return in the long run. That said, it’s not for everyone. Completing a cyber security degree takes hard work and dedication so you need to have a strong interest in the subject matter if you’re going to complete the course successfully.