The cyber security industry is continuing to grow rapidly and there is a strong demand for relevant skills. If you’ve gained a Bachelor’s degree in a cyber security-related field and are looking to advance in your career, you may want to consider supplementing your studies with a relevant online Master’s degree.
For many cyber security positions, a Bachelor’s degree will be the minimum qualification you need to get your foot in the door. But in a competitive market like cyber security, a Master’s degree can give you a better chance of landing your ideal job.
The major benefit of an online degree is that it offers flexibility and convenience. But with so many universities and degrees to choose from, it can be difficult to know how to make the right choice.
In this article, we explore the top-rated online cyber security Master’s degrees, as well as important factors to keep in mind when making a decision, such as delivery methods, tuition costs, and job prospects.
Best cyber security Master’s degrees online
An online Master’s degree can provide you with much more flexibility than an in-person course. By completing a degree online, you can also save on the costs associated with in-person programs, such as rent or travel expenses. Here are our top picks for the best online Master’s degrees in cybersecurity:
1. Western Governors University
- Program: M.S. Cybersecurity and Information Assurance
- Tuition cost: $4,190 per 6-month term
2. Florida Tech Online
- Program: MS in Information Assurance and Cybersecurity
- Tuition cost: $16,128 per year
3. Saint Leo University Online
- Program: M.S. in Cybersecurity
- Tuition cost: $23,700 or $790 per credit
4. Southern New Hampshire University Online
- Program: MS in Cybersecurity
- Tuition cost: $22,572 or $627 per credit
5. Liberty University
- Program: MS in Cybersecurity
- Tuition cost: $20,340 or $565 per credit
6. Regent University Online
- Program: M.S. in Cybersecurity
- Tuition cost: $20,250 or $675 per credit
7. University of Delaware
- Program: Master of Science in Cybersecurity
- Tuition cost: $33,678 per year
8. Murray State University
- Program: MS in Cybersecurity Management
- Tuition cost: $15,990 or $533 per credit
9. Purdue University Global
- Program: Master of Science in Cybersecurity Management
- Tuition cost: $25,200 or $420 per credit
10. Utica College
- Program: MS in Cybersecurity
- Tuition cost: $26,850 or $895 per credit
How to choose the right cyber security Master’s degree
Given that cyber security is a fast-growing industry, creating high demand for associated skills, it’s no surprise that so many Master’s degree programs exist for graduates. The above list should give you a sense of where to start in terms of looking for your ideal degree, but you’ll still need to consider your priorities if you want to pick the best options from this list.
Here are some key points to consider when choosing a university and degree for your continuing studies:
One important factor is whether you want to study in-person or online. Of course, there are benefits to pursuing an in-person degree, such as being able to easily discuss topics with other students and professors, study with peers, and access a library of helpful materials.
However, an online Master’s degree has many advantages that make this option much more appealing to prospective students. First, an online degree reduces the need to travel. This will be especially useful if you have a busy home life or are already traveling frequently.
Another advantage of online degrees is that they can often be extended, making it easier to accommodate a job or other areas of your life.
Online degrees often have a level of flexibility that you can’t find with in-person degrees. For example, the ideal degree for you may be one that can be completed on a part-time basis or in evening and weekend classes.
2. School ranking
Another crucial factor to keep in mind when choosing a degree is the credibility of the institution providing the education. To get a sense of a school’s reputation, you can check its ranking. Ranking criteria can vary but status is usually determined based on factors such as:
- Graduation rates
- Retention rates
- Social mobility
- Faculty resources
- Financial resources per student
- Student satisfaction
- Teaching quality
- Research quality
- Staff to student ratio
- Average total debt upon graduation
Choosing a highly reputable institution – one that scores well in these factors – will ensure that you receive a quality education. You want to enjoy your studies, feel supported during them, and leave school in a good position to land a suitable job.
As you will notice from the degrees listed above, the cost of a Master’s cyber security degree can vary quite widely. Price can be a significant determining factor in your choice of degree. It’s important to be aware of your expenses and financing options, so you choose a degree that makes financial sense for you.
To get an accurate idea of the true costs of the degree, think not only about the tuition costs, but also extra costs such as learning materials and administration fees. Keep in mind, though, that many schools have scholarship and grant opportunities. If you can access one of these opportunities, the cost of your degree could be greatly reduced.
It’s also best to think of the cost of a degree as an investment. When researching programs, look up the career outcomes of graduates. Many with Master’s degrees in cyber security can enter specialized fields with an attractive pay package. You can then use a resource like PayScale to find out the average salary of those who hold a Master’s degree in cyber security, as well as see the average salaries of different careers in the field of cyber security.
4. Course structure and content
Not all online cyber security Master’s have the same structure and content. When considering a degree, you want to make sure that what you will be studying will align with your career goals. For example, the content in your Bachelor’s degree might have been quite broad, whether it was a degree in cyber security or a related field.
For your Master’s degree, however, you may want to study one or more specialty areas. Also, consider whether a highly-specialized Master’s degree is right for you. Pursuing one will make sense if you are set on a specific area of cyber security, but if you want more options, a broader degree could be preferable.
Another aspect to keep in mind is how you will be assessed. Would you be happy with a predominantly exam-based system? Or would you prefer more weight to be placed on projects completed throughout the year? In addition, do you work better on individual assignments or team-based projects? These are all elements that can vary between programs. Ideally, you want to match your degree with your personal preferences, comfort levels, and personality type.
5. Course requirements
Before choosing a degree, it’s important to check that you meet any prerequisites. These could include holding a Bachelor’s degree in a relevant field or having attained a minimum result for your Bachelor’s degree. That said, even if you don’t meet all of the requirements some schools can offer some leeway, so it’s always worth contacting the admissions office to see if you might still be accepted into the program.
Benefits of an online Master’s cyber security degree
There are many benefits to pursuing an online Master’s degree in cyber security, including:
Improved job opportunities
One of the main benefits of a Master’s degree, compared to a Bachelor’s degree alone, is improved job prospects. When studying for a Master’s degree, you can supplement and enhance your cyber security knowledge, experience, and skills. This can give you a major advantage when describing your suitability for a role in job applications and interviews.
In addition, a Master’s degree is a chance to specialize in a particular area of cyber security that interests you. This will help better prepare you for a job that aligns with your degree and consequently boost your employability.
In the US, cyber security is one of the fastest-growing career areas. According to the US Bureau of Labour Statistics (BLS), information security analyst jobs are predicted to grow 31 percent through 2029. This is more than seven times faster than the national average job growth of four percent.
The benefit of this trend, undoubtedly, is that you will find it comparatively easy to land a job in this profession. By pursuing further education with a Master’s degree, you could end up in a very well-paid position.
Graduates with Bachelor’s degrees can earn decent salaries in entry-level positions. But with a Master’s degree under your belt, you’ll be in a good position to either earn a higher initial salary in an entry-level position or start in a higher-level (and higher-paid) position. Check out the salary section below to get an idea of what you could be earning with a Master’s degree, as well as how your salary will progress over time.
A cyber security Master’s will provide you with a wide range of technical skills and knowledge that you can apply to many other fields. For example, a background in cyber security can help prepare you for senior roles in software or web development. Transferable skills include:
- Computer forensic skills
- Technical know-how
- Attention to detail
What jobs can you get with a Master’s degree in cyber security?
Cyber security is a field that includes a wide variety of jobs. For many entry-level positions, you may find that only a Bachelor’s degree is necessary. But if you want to aim for the top cyber security roles, you ideally want a Master’s degree, as employers will be using more advanced qualifications as a way to pick ideal candidates for the position. As Michelle Moore, Ph.D. points out, for these high-level jobs, a Master’s degree is either required or preferred. Some examples include:
- Chief information security officer
- Cyber security analyst
- Security auditor
- Cyber security specialist
- Security architect
- Cyber security consultant
- Network administrator
- Penetration tester
It’s crucial to keep in mind that even with a Master’s degree, some employers may prefer additional cyber security qualifications relevant to the job in question. In some cases, employers will fund the training for these qualifications, so check whether that’s a possibility before paying for them yourself.
Cyber security Master’s degree salary
So what kind of salary can you earn once you have obtained your Master’s degree? Looking at a few of the positions above, information from PayScale tells us you can expect the following 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)|
|Chief information security officer||$165,450||$106,000||$123,000||$128,000||$167,000||$178,000|
|Cyber security analyst||$76,469||$63,000||$71,000||$88,000||$101,000||$112,000|
It is worth underscoring that these salaries can vary based on location, company, level of experience, and other criteria.
Other types of degrees to consider
If you’re not sure about studying for a Master’s degree in cyber security, there are other related degree options. Since many of the degrees listed above are computer science degrees with a cyber security specialization, you may want to stick with a computer science degree instead. Other options include computer forensics and cyber security law. The choice should depend on your individual interests, values, and passions, as well as your career goals.
It is possible to pursue a Ph.D. without gaining a Master’s degree (although the latter certainly helps). If you’re particularly interested in a highly specialized career area, carrying out research, or holding a teaching position in academia, you might want to consider a Ph.D. instead. For this option, however, you should be prepared for several years of study, focusing on a very specific area of cyber security.
Cyber Security Master’s FAQs
How much does a Master’s cyber security degree cost?
The cost of a Master’s cyber security degree will vary depending on factors such as the school you choose, whether it’s completed online or in-person, and the length of the program. Tuition fees for a Master’s degree will typically be lower than those of a Bachelor’s degree since the time spent studying full-time is shorter (usually one to two years instead of three or four). You can expect to pay between $5,000 to $50,000 per year.
There are other costs you should factor in, too, such as learning materials and administration and application fees.
Is a Master’s degree in cyber security worth it?
A Master’s degree in cyber security will give you a better chance of obtaining a well-paid and secure job, making the degree well worth the investment in time and money. Having said that, a Master’s degree will involve a higher level of difficulty compared to a Bachelor’s degree, so you should be prepared to deal with more complex problems and concepts. You should also be ready for the daily structure required when studying for a degree and be able to accommodate it among other aspects of your life.
Is cyber security a good career?
You can expect to see the cyber security industry grow rapidly over the next 10 years and beyond. We’re seeing relatively high starting salaries and plenty of cybersecurity career opportunities. A job in cyber security can be stressful for some, as it involves dealing with situations that can impact the lives of many. On the flip side, a job in cyber security can give you the opportunity to protect the privacy and interests of hundreds, thousands, or even millions of users. These factors combined make a career in cyber security an attractive prospect.
See also: 300+ Terrifying cybercrime statistics