The cyber security industry is growing quickly. All kinds of organizations are seeking out people with strong cyber security skills. This is especially the case now since more businesses are moving their operations online. This means that staff are increasingly relying on digital platforms to communicate, while users are sharing sensitive and private information more widely. These changes in business practices and consumer behavior require cyber security experts to help protect vulnerable data.
If you have an interest in cyber security and want to enter the field, you’ll want to know what qualifications you need to get started. Many employers hiring for entry-level positions will ask for a Bachelor’s degree in a relevant subject. However, it is feasible to secure junior positions with an Associate degree (a few years’ experience in IT alongside this degree will also improve your employability). This level of qualification is between a high school diploma and a Bachelor’s degree.
There are a plethora of Associate degrees that you can study online. The advantage of an online Associate degree lies in its flexibility and convenience. This kind of degree allows you to study at home (or wherever there is a wi-fi connection).
But given how many schools and degrees there are to choose from, you may struggle to make a definite decision. This article explores the best-rated cyber security Associate degrees that you can complete online. We also delve into key points you should keep in mind when making a decision, such as course structure, tuition fees, and career prospects.
Best online Associate degrees in cyber security
An online Associate degree will offer you much more flexibility than an in-person degree. By completing your degree online, you can also save on costs, as these degrees can be cheaper than on-campus degrees. Here are our top picks for the best online Associate degrees in cyber security:
1. Georgia Military College
- Program: AS in Cyber Security
- Tuition cost: $13,965
2. Palo Alto College
- Program: Associate of Applied Science in Information Assurance and Cybersecurity
- Tuition cost: $5,940 for Texas residents and $12,900 for out-of-state residents
3. University of the Potomac
- Program: Associate of Science in Network Security Management
- Tuition cost: $16,650
4. Guilford Technical Community College
- Program: Associate of Applied Science in Information Technology: Security and Data
- Tuition cost: $5,016 for North Carolina residents and $17,688 for out-of-state residents
5. Community College of Allegheny County
- Program: Associate of Science in Cybersecurity
- Tuition cost: $7,080 for Allegheny County residents, $14,160 for Pennsylvania residents, and $21,240 for out-of-state residents
6. Bismarck State College
- Program: Associate in Applied Science in Cybersecurity and Computer Networks
- Tuition cost: $9,872 for North Dakota residents and $14,448 for out-of-state residents
7. Central Texas College
- Program: Associate of Applied Science in Cyberdefense: Information Assurance
- Tuition cost: $5,700 for in-district Texas residents, $7,140 for other Texas residents, $14,880 for out-of-state residents
8. Mohave Community College
- Program: Associate of Applied Science in Cybersecurity and Network Support
- Tuition cost: $4,860 for Arizona residents and $17,010 for out-of-state residents
9. Nash Community College
- Program: Associate in Information Technology: Cybersecurity
- Tuition cost: $5,264 for North Carolina residents and $17,552 for out-of-state residents
10. Franklin University
- Program: Associate of Science in Cybersecurity
- Tuition cost: $12,338
How to choose the right Associate cyber security degree
The abundance of degrees in cyber security reflects how quickly this industry is growing, and how in-demand these skills are. The list above should give you some options for further research. But you’ll need to take stock of your priorities to figure out which degree is right for you. Here are some aspects of an Associate degree to consider when deciding which school and course to go with:
First, think about whether you want to study online or in-person. There are benefits and downsides to both options. With an in-person degree, you get support from your teachers, the opportunity to talk with other students, and access to libraries and other useful amenities.
With an online degree, of course, you eliminate the need to travel, which can save you time, money, and hassle. This will be especially important if you are working or have a busy home life. An online Associate degree will also offer a high degree of flexibility. You may have options to attend weekend or evening classes, alongside – or instead of – weekday classes. It might also be possible to extend the length of the course to fit your needs.
These aspects of an online degree will make it easier to accommodate a job, family responsibilities, travel, and other areas of your life.
2. School ranking
School rankings can serve as an indicator of the quality of the degree and the credibility of the institution offering it. To get an idea of a school’s credibility, bear in mind the following factors used to calculate its ranking:
- Social mobility
- Faculty resource
- Research quality
- Staff to student ratio
- Financial resources per student
- Student satisfaction
- Average total debt upon graduation
- Teaching quality
- Graduation rates
- Retention rates
Choosing a highly reputable institution will ensure that you receive a valuable and useful education. You want to opt for a school that will offer an enjoyable learning experience, adequate support, and the knowledge necessary for your first cyber security job.
3. Degree pricing
You will notice from the degrees listed above that tuition costs can vary quite widely. Price may be a significant factor in determining which degree you choose. For this reason, you should be aware of exactly what your expenses will be and the financing options available to you. After all, the cost of your education will include more than tuition. There are extra costs to factor in, such as learning materials and administration fees.
In terms of financing, if you don’t want to take out a loan, scholarships and grants may be options. If you qualify for these, you could greatly reduce the cost of your studies.
Once you calculate an estimate of the overall cost, research the career outcomes of graduates. Based on the work that graduates end up doing, you will be able to work out your return on investment. Even entry-level cyber security jobs pay reasonably well, so the cost of an Associate degree will make your investment of time, money, and effort worth it. Refer to PayScale for information on the average salary of those holding an Associate degree in cyber security.
4. Course structure and content
Each online Associate degree in cyber security will have its own unique course structure and content. When thinking about which degree to study, you should ensure that the content of the degree matches your interests and career goals. You don’t want to study a degree just because it’s reputable, only to end up learning topics that don’t interest you or are irrelevant to your chosen career path.
The structure of the degree, including how you will be assessed, is also important. Would you prefer a degree that is more exam-based or project-based? Do you thrive when you work on individual assignments or team-based projects? These aspects can all vary between degrees. To ensure you enjoy your course and increase your chances of doing well, ideally, you want to align the course structure with your personality and preferences.
5. Course requirements
When choosing an online degree, it’s crucial to check for any prerequisites. These typically include a high school diploma or its equivalent. You may also need to have attained a specific minimum GPA. On the other hand, some community colleges have open admissions, meaning there are no restrictions on enrollment.
Even if there are any requirements you don’t meet, you can always contact the admissions department directly to see if they can offer any leeway.
The benefits of an online Associate cyber security degree
Studying an online Associate cyber security degree entails a number of benefits, including:
Improved job opportunities
Having a few years’ experience in IT under your belt will be helpful when applying for cyber security positions. However, it is best to supplement your work experience with a relevant Associate degree. Gaining this qualification will give you the technical knowledge and skills you need to transition smoothly into a junior role.
In the US, cyber security is one of the fastest-growing career areas. According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), information security analyst positions will grow 31 percent through 2029. This rate of growth is more than seven times faster than the national average job growth rate of 4 percent. What this trend means is that you should have an easier time securing a job compared to many other professions. It also indicates a strong degree of job security, given how in-demand cyber security positions are.
You can expect attractive salaries with cyber security positions, including entry-level roles. Salaries are relatively high in this field because of the high demand for trained personnel as well as the importance of your skills and responsibilities. Cyber security employees help to protect an organization’s IT system, preventing and resolving issues like cyber attacks.
In a junior position, you will still play a vital role in maintaining network and systems security. For this reason, you will likely start your role with a decent pay package. You can expect it to be higher than the salaries of entry-level positions in many other industries.
Check out the salary section below to find out what you could be earning with an Associate degree and how your salary will likely increase over time.
An online Associate degree in cyber security will provide you with a diverse range of technical skills and knowledge that you can apply to many different professions. For instance, you could use the skills you gain in your course in software or web development roles. Transferable hard and soft skills include:
- Computer forensic skills
- Knowledge of security across platforms
- Attention to detail
- An understanding of hacking
- Communication skills
Less time-consuming than a Bachelor’s degree
A Bachelor’s degree usually takes four years to complete. An Associate degree, on the other hand, typically takes two years to finish, so half the time of a Bachelor’s. This is ideal if you can’t – or simply don’t want to – commit to a more time-intensive qualification.
What jobs can you get with an Associate degree in cyber security?
Once you have obtained an Associate degree in cyber security, you will be in a good position to apply for a range of entry-level cybersecurity jobs, including:
- Network or IT security analyst
- Cyber security associate
- Cyber security or cyber threat analyst
- Information system security officer
- Cyber security penetration tester
We should stress, however, that some employers may require or prefer additional qualifications, such as a Bachelor’s degree or certificates relevant to the job. Sometimes, employers will be willing to fund these qualifications, so find out whether that’s an option before funding them yourself.
Cyber security Associate degree salary
The next aspect of an Associate degree we should describe is the salary you can expect to earn once you graduate and as you progress in your career. Looking at a few of the positions above, PayScale provides the following average salaries:
|Role||Average||Entry level (<1 year)||Early career (1–4 years)||Mid-career (5–9 years)||Experienced (10–19 years)||Late career (20+ years)|
|Cyber security analyst||$76,596||$63,000||$71,000||$88,000||$101,000||$113,000|
|Information security officer||$92,469||$67,000||$76,000||$91,000||$107,000||$115,000|
|Network security analyst||$72,405||$57,000||$64,000||$81,000||$94,000||$90,000|
Here we should underline that these salaries can vary based on factors like location, level of experience, company, and other criteria.
Other types of degrees to consider
Since an Associate degree involves two years of education, you’ll usually be able to transfer to a Bachelor’s program, with only two years of extra studying necessary. This should be a route to consider if there are employers or roles you have in mind that require or prefer a Bachelor’s degree. Of course, you can continue your education even further with a Master’s qualification, which will open you up to more senior – and better paid – positions.
Other options include completing an Associate degree but in a slightly different subject. For example, you might be interested in cyber security but you want to become trained in computer programming. Organizations also need coders to design and improve their IT security systems. Or the legal aspect of cyber security might appeal to you more, in which case an Associate degree in cyber security law would be suitable.
Cyber security Associate FAQs
How much does an Associate cyber security degree cost?
The exact cost of an Associate cyber security degree will depend on a variety of factors, such as the school, whether you study online or in-person, and the length of the program. Tuition fees for an Associate degree will typically be lower than those of a Bachelor’s degree since the time spent studying is shorter. You should be prepared to pay between $5,000–$20,000 in tuition fees over the course of two years.
On top of your tuition, you will need to factor in the other necessary costs, including learning materials, and application and administration fees.
Is an Associate degree in cyber security worth it?
Often, an Associate degree in cyber security will be the minimum you need to secure an entry-level cyber security position. If an employer or role you have in mind requires an Associate degree but not a Bachelor’s degree, then it might make more sense to opt for the former over the latter. Nonetheless, since many companies ask for a Bachelor’s degree as a minimum, you should think about pursuing a Bachelor’s instead, or continuing your studies after earning your Associate degree.
An Associate degree will be preferable to a Bachelor’s if you want to gain foundational knowledge and skills without committing to the time and cost of a Bachelor’s degree. If you want to pursue an Associate degree, you should also be prepared for the structure it involves and be able to fit your studies around other aspects of your life.
Is cyber security a good career?
You can expect to see the field of cyber security grow rapidly in the next decade. Cyber security jobs tend to include high starting salaries, a strong level of job security, room for growth, and plenty of exciting job opportunities.
However, a cyber security role may be stressful at times. After all, you’re being trusted to handle a lot of sensitive and private information. You’ll be dealing with situations that can affect many people’s lives. The flipside of this, of course, is that you get to help protect the privacy of many people. Having this positive impact can make cyber security a rewarding career path.