Unlike 10 years ago, or even 4, most of the industrialized world absolutely lives online. Education, healthcare, banking, hobbies, interactions between friends, video feeds of your home, and trade secrets are all online. Be they in an app, a proprietary knowledge management system, cloud storage, or on your own personal device, the mass of information we put online every day is extremely valuable. Of course, “good guys” want this information to aid your productivity, enhance solutions, or advance knowledge. But there are also a lot of “bad guys” out there. It seems that hardly a week passes without news of a major cybersecurity breach, often with millions of affected parties. And it’s into this contentious, and rapidly evolving world that future master’s in cyber security degree holders will step.
Two decades ago, there were hardly any jobs with cybersecurity cited specifically in job specs. Today, more than 1 million job openings, and a dearth of qualified candidates affects nearly every industry in the world. This unique blend of IT, policy, law, management, criminal justice, psychology, and investigative skills is also highly valued. The average cyber security analyst makes over $100,000 a year. For chief information security officers in top markets, this number can reach over $500,000 a year. So what are you waiting for? Check out ten of the most flexible, high-quality, and affordable master’s in cyber security degree programs online today, below.
- Academic Quality (1/3): a range of metrics including admissions quality, size of classes, academic support measures, and whether the program is offered by an NSA/DHS Center of Academic Excellence in Cyber Security.
- Flexibility-Enhancing Features (1/3): the range and quality of program features that make it easier to obtain your degree if you are a non-traditional student, working, or juggling other commitments.
- Affordability (1/3): the percentage of students at the university who receive financial aid, their average financial aid award, and the per-credit-hour tuition rate (for out-of-state students where applicable).
The University of the Cumberlands is a religiously affiliated, private university with the main campus located in Williamsburgh, Kentucky. The University has a student body of over 7,600 students, with a fairly even mix of students pursuing undergraduate and graduate courses of study. The University of the Cumberlands is affiliated with the Southern Baptist Convention, a Christian religious denomination. In the prior few years, the University has greatly expanded their range of degree offerings. New online degree programs have expanded. These offerings include Master’s in Education, Master’s in Counseling, Church Leadership, a Doctorate in Education program, as well as a Master’s in Information Systems Security.
The fully online Master’s in Information Systems Security program offered by the University of the Cumberlands places first in our ranking due to its affordability and academic prestige. As a medium-sized nationally ranked university, the University of the Cumberlands has a range of academic support offerings and the resources to promote quality student outcomes. Retention and graduation rates at the university are of high quality. And though the student-to-faculty ratio is slightly higher than peer institutions (17 to 1), many graduate-level courses are smaller. Further enhancing the cyber security-specific academic prestige of the school is the school’s designation as a National Center of Academic Excellence in Cyber Defense by the DHS and NSA. This designation is given to schools that are in line with the most up-to-date instruction standards of large employers in cybersecurity. Furthermore, the University of the Cumberlands offers one of the most affordable programs surveyed for our ranking. Out-of-state tuition per credit hour for the program is $315. This means the program is the second most affordable of all surveyed programs.
Kentucky State University is a small public university that has a main campus in Frankfort, Kentucky. The second oldest university in Kentucky, Kentucky State University was originally titled the State Normal School for Colored Persons and is a historically black university. Today, the university is home to around 1,700 students mostly at the undergraduate level of study. As one might expect of a university of this size, student-to-faculty ratios are high quality, with an average student-to-faculty ratio of 11 to 1. Other measures of academic support are also high quality, including first-year retention rate and percentage of students receiving financial aid. Further bolstering Kentucky State University’s academic reputation is their U.S. News rank. Currently, KSU is ranked as the 33rd best school in the region (among regional universities).
The fully online Master of Science in Computer Science with a cybersecurity concentration offered by Kentucky State University places highly in our ranking due to program flexibility, affordability, and academic prestige. Two options within the cybersecurity track cater to students whether or not they have an educational background in computer science or not. Track A is for students with an undergraduate degree in computer science or a related discipline. This track allows students to proceed directly to the core graduate level courses of the program, making the program 30 credit hours. For students without a formal academic background in computer science, Track B offers 9 hours of foundational courses in computer science that prepare students for graduate level work in the field. Furthermore, students may choose between a thesis or non-thesis track. Those electing to pursue the non-thesis route must take 6 hours of an individual project course or 2 additional electives.
Florida Institute of Technology is a non-profit, private doctoral and research university with the main campus located in Melbourne, Florida. Located in the heart of Florida’s “space coast” FIT has many ties to government research labs, aerospace, and engineering employers. FIT is a long known educator (and distance educator) in particular in fields related to engineering and business. Close to 6,500 students attend FIT, with a relatively even mixture of undergraduate and graduate students. A wide range of degree programs is offered by the university online. Additionally, campuses centered around aerospace centers around the nation focus on specialized graduate degree programs. Student support and outcome measures at the university are strong and include low student-to-faculty ratios, high first-year retention rates, and high graduation rates.
FIT offers two fully online masters-level degrees in cybersecurity: an MBA in Cyber Security, and a MS in Information Assurance and Cyber Security. Florida Institute of Technology’s master’s in cybersecurity degrees place third in our ranking due to the academic prestige of the university in relation to cyber security, as well as flexibility-enhancing components of the program. The academic prestige of the university can be seen through the university’s nationally ranked programs in information technology and business, as well as its designation as a National Center of Academic Excellence in Information Assurance Research by the DHS and NSA. Flexibility-enhancing program components include the choice between two related programs for master’s level cyber security programming, the generous transfer policy of the university, and it focuses on adult and non-traditional learners.
Nova Southeastern University a non-profit, private university that holds a main campus in Davie, Florida. The university has a student body of over 21,000 students, with a majority of students at the university pursuing degrees at the graduate levels. Eighteen colleges present over 150 courses of study that students may pursue. As one might expect with the spread of student across degree levels, the university is classified as a doctoral research university. Distinctions that belong to the university include being a nationally ranked university by a number of prominent rankings, being one of the 10 best colleges for diversity. Furthermore, the university is one of the top 10 producers of minority doctoral recipients of any university. Times Higher Education has noted that the university is up-and-coming as well, calling it one of 20 global universities that could challenge the most elite universities by 2030.
Two cybersecurity masters-level degrees are offered by Nova Southeastern University fully online: a Master’s in Science in Cybersecurity Management, and an M.S. in Information Assurance & Cybersecurity. Nova’s programs place highly in our cybersecurity ranking due to the academic quality of the institution as well as the flexibility-enhancing components in the program. As a nationally ranked research university, Nova is a great place to further your education in cybersecurity. Furthermore, the NSA and DHS have noted the quality of the Network Security Engineering and Security Policy Development and Compliance specializations at the university. These are sub-designations that schools may achieve when they are designated as National Center of Academic Excellence in Information Assurance Education. Nova has held these designations since 2005, among the first universities in Florida to achieve the designation.
Liberty University is a private research university with the main campus located in Lynchburg, Virginia. Liberty is one of the largest Christian universities in the world and is affiliated with the Southern Baptist Convention. Known for their wide range of degree programs at the undergraduate and graduate levels, LU currently has a student body of 110,000. A large majority of these students study primarily online (100,000) and it is potentially Liberty University’s online programming for which they are best known. Accolades and distinctions of the university include being named the best online college in America, being named “the most conservative” college in America, and being named one of the 50 best colleges in the nation for veterans.
The fully online Master’s in Cyber Security offered by Liberty University places highly in our ranking due to flexibility-enhancing components, academic prestige, and affordability. Flexibility-enhancing components in the program include the generous transfer policy which allows credits for prior life, work, or military experience and allows students to transfer in up to half of the program credit hours required. Additionally, courses are accelerated and offered in 8-week sessions. The average time-until-degree through one of the degree’s many start dates is 1.5 years. Affordability of the program is bolstered by a high percentage of students receiving financial aid as well as a moderate tuition per credit hour rate (which is low compared to other private universities).
Fordham University is a private research university with the main campus located in New York City, New York. The university has a long, prestigious lineage as the third oldest college in the state of New York. The University is religiously affiliated, and the only Jesuit university in the city of New York. Close to 16,000 students call the university home at the graduate and undergraduate levels. For a large university, class sizes are generally small with a student-to-faculty ratio of 15 to 1. Through its history, Fordham has gained a number of accolades including top 100 ranked programs in business, education, English, sociology, and others. The university was also featured on Time Magazine’s ranking of “the 100 schools producing the most millionaires.”
The fully online Master of Science in Cyber Security offered by Fordham University places in our ranking due to its flexibility and academic prestige. The academic quality of the program is attested to in the recent designation offered by the NHS and DAE, designating Fordham a National Center of Academic Excellence in Cyber Defense Education. Additionally, the name recognition and location of the university offer a great “in” for many looking to jump into lucrative cybersecurity careers in NY. Rolling admissions and the ability to complete the program in as little as a year boost the flexibility score of Fordham’s program. Tuition per credit hour is currently set at $1,215, though many students receive financial aid.
The University of Massachusetts at Lowell is a public research university of some acclaim with the main campus located in Lowell, Massachusetts. UMass – Lowell currently has a student body of over 18,000 students at the graduate and undergraduate degree levels. Offerings are available at the bachelor’s through doctoral levels with a great many programs additionally available online. Close to 2,000 students at the university are entirely online students, with an equal amount of certificate and non-traditional students. Lowell is currently ranked among the top 150 top-tier universities and is one of only six universities to advance in the rankings every year since 2010.
The fully online Master of Science in Security Studies: Cyber Security Concentration offered by UMass – Lowell is a unique offering in our ranking through the primary security studies focus of the degree. This means the degree is taught through the faculties of Criminology and Justice Studies at Lowell but also includes a great deal of cyber security-specific information. This program places highly in our ranking due to its affordability and academic prestige. Presently tuition per credit hour for the program is $575, making it the 15th most affordable program surveyed. Lowell holds the coveted designation of being a center of academic excellence per the DHS and NSA, making it a top-tier cybersecurity program.
Kennesaw State University is a public research university with main campuses located in Marietta, and Kennesaw, Georgia. With a student body of 37,000+ students, KSU is one of the larger universities in the state of Georgia and a member of the University Georgia System. Historical accolades of the university include being a top-ranked school in the southeast region, a university nationally ranked for being good for veterans, as well as being an “up-and-coming” school per U.S. News. More recently, KSU has gained the R3 designation, meaning it is a very high research activity university. With this transition, KSU is now often ranked as a top-tier national university (rather than regional). Despite its large size, students receive ample individual attention from professors, and quality of instruction measures such as retention rate, graduation rate, and the student-to-faculty ratio is strong.
The fully online Master of Science in Information Technology with a focus on IT Security places in our ranking due to its affordability and academic quality. This degree program is for those seeking to move into senior IT management roles, and may be customized to fit student interests and goals. One specialization with particular synchronicity with the IT Security focus is healthcare IT management. Academic programming is comprehensive, with 27-30 credit hours of core required courses followed by around 15 credit hours and a capstone in the specialization field. Graduate certificates in a number of disciplines are also available, requiring slightly fewer credit hours than a specialization within the masters. The per credit hour tuition for the program is currently $383, making the program the 5th most affordable of all surveyed.
Brandeis University is private research university with a main campus in Waltham, Massachusetts, directly outside of Boston. Currently, home to close to 7,000 students, the university was founded as a non-sectarian university supported by the Jewish community. Degree offerings are wide and varied, with a large number of students pursuing research or graduate degrees. Even with its medium-sized student body, students receive plenty of individualized attention with the university’s outstanding 10 to 1 student-to-faculty ratio. Accolades of the university include being a top 50 ranked school nationally, being ranked a top 30 “value school” in the nation, being named the 9th most diverse college in America, and being home to many of the most prominent thinkers in their fields over the years.
The fully online Master’s in Information Security Leadership offered by Brandeis is a unique offering in our ranking, and places highly due to flexibility and academic prestige of the program. Students may elect to accelerate or slow down their degree, with degree paths ranging from 15 to 30 months until completion. Courses are small, with no class holding over 12 students and small seminar-style courses for most offerings. Six required courses and four chosen electives comprise the program. A network of alumni working for many of the most prominent cybersecurity employers (worldwide) helps to build career prospects and prestige of the program for graduates.
The University of Central Florida is a large public research university with the main campus in Orlando, Florida. Home to over 66,000 students, the university is the largest by enrollment in the state of Florida and the second largest in the United States. As one might expect, academic offerings are wide and varied, ranging from the bachelor’s through doctoral levels in many disciplines. 10 regional campuses as well as extensive online offerings extend the university’s reach throughout Florida and worldwide. Despite the very large size of the university, students report feeling supported and receiving individualized attention by faculty and mentors. This is seen through the very high-quality retention and graduation rates at the university, currently 90% and 70%, respectively.
The fully online Master of Science in Digital Forensics offered the University of Central Florida presents a unique offering in our ranking, and places highly due to affordability and academic prestige. This multidisciplinary degree draws from a number of departments at the university including legal studies, criminal justice, the chemistry of forensics, computer science, and electrical engineering. Additionally, UCF is home to the National Center for Forensic Science (NCFS), which plays a role in degree programming. The criminal justice and forensics components of the program make it a particularly unique offering, particularly fully online. While not all electives are available online, students pursuing their degree entirely online may complete the degree and achieve a reduction of student fees. The current per credit hour tuition rate for the program is $694 for out of state students.
The University of Rhode Island is a public, flagship research university of the State of Rhode Island. With a student body of close to 20,000 students, academic offerings are wide and varied. Many graduate and research opportunities exist at the university, which holds designations as a sea-grant and land-grant university. Accolades of the university include being rated as a national university by U.S. News, and a tier-one research university by all major ranking outlets. Despite the relatively large size of the university, student support measures are strong. Outcomes from these measures include high-quality retention and graduation rates. These rates are 85% and 66%, respectively.
The fully online professional science master’s degree in cybersecurity offered by the University of Rhode Island places highly in our ranking due to the academic quality of the program as well as the program’s affordability. As a professional science master’s degree, students do not have to pursue a capstone or thesis. Instead, students will work on graduate-level research projects in many of their courses. The final course is an internship, which many students are able to include under their current employment, saving time and effort. Four required courses and five chosen electives comprise the course of study in this program. In and out-of-state tuition are capped at the same rate for the online program: $755 per credit hour.
12.) Lewis University
Lewis University is a private, Roman Catholic-affiliated university with the main campus in Romeoville, Illinois. Close to 7,000 students attend the university at the undergraduate through graduate levels. Accelerated online offerings are also available at the graduate level for working adults. For a medium-sized university, classes are small and students receive plenty of one-on-one attention. This is exemplified through the current student-to-faculty ratio at the University of 13 to 1. Quality of academic support measures is also strong at the university, including first-year retention and graduation. These rates are 80% and 67%, respectively.
The fully online Master of Science in Information Security offered by Lewis University was selected for our ranking based on academic prestige and flexibility. Students in the program may choose between two tracks tailored to current roles in cybersecurity: the management track, and the technical track. Additional flexibility-enhancing elements of the program include rolling admissions and accelerated eight-week courses built for currently working adults. Both courses of study require the same 35-41 credit hours in total coursework. Additional options include the ability to pursue a 3+1 program in which students graduate from an undergraduate and masters-level program in four years, as well as the dual MBA/MSIS program. Lewis University’s program is crafting to be in line with national cybersecurity standards and is recognized as a DHA/NSA center of academic excellence.
Georgetown University is a renowned private research university located primarily in Washington, D.C. With a student body of close to 18,000 students, Georgetown is a highly diverse school bringing in students from more than 130 nations. The school has particularly strong connections to both diplomatic institutions in Washington as well as financial institutions on Wall Street. More than 1,100 alumni have gone on to serve in diplomatic capacities for the United States government, more than any other university. Perhaps most importantly for our ranking, Georgetown is located at the center of the American cybersecurity world. Washington D.C. and northern Virginia have by far the highest concentration of cybersecurity workers in the country, and a degree from Georgetown is recognizable in nearly every employment setting.
The fully online Master of Professional Studies in Technology Management with a concentration in information security offered by Georgetown places in our ranking due to flexibility as well as academic quality. While there is a designated information security track to the program, a comprehensive track allows students to create their own program to a further degree, augmenting or altering the infosec courses taken. Students may elect to pursue their degree on a part-time or full-time basis, with some students electing to take up to 5 years to complete their degree. Students may choose to take all courses or some online. Tuition per credit hour rates is one of the most expensive of programs surveyed, though Georgetown is one of the most connected and highly regarded universities in the world.
The University of Detroit Mercy is a coeducational, Roman Catholic, and private university located in Detroit, Michigan. Specifically, the university is sponsored by the Jesuits and the Sisters of Mercy (both Roman Catholic organizations). Close to 5,000 students attend Detroit Mercy, with close to a third of those at the graduate levels. Particularly for a mid-sized university, Detroit Mercy offers top-notch student support and outcomes. The student-to-faculty ratio at the university is 10 to 1, ensuring mostly small class sizes and one-on-one attention. Retention and graduation rates are both strong as well, and are recorded at at 87% and 62%, respectively. University Detroit Mercy is a top ranked regional university according to U.S. News.
The fully online graduate program in information assurance and cybersecurity offered by the University of Detroit Mercy places highly in our ranking due to strong showings in flexibility, affordability, and academic prestige. On the flexibility front, the program is designed for working individuals, and may be completed in as little as a year. In addition, students may elect to pursue certifications in hacking, including the coveted certified ethical hacker certification. The University of Detroit Mercy is a designated center of academic excellence according to the NSA and DHS, meaning that coursework is in line with contemporary and in-demand cyber security skills. The current tuition per credit hour for the program is $826, making the program more on the affordable end when compared to other private universities surveyed.
The University of South Florida is a public research university and a member of the State University System of Florida with the main campus in Tampa, Florida. The student body is comprised of over 50,000 students, making it the fourth largest university in the state of Florida. Degree programs are wide and varied, ranging from the bachelor’s through doctoral and professional levels. Regional satellite campuses, as well as diverse online offerings, further extend the reach of the university. Accolades of the university include being ranked among the 60 best public universities in America, as well as having particularly strong programs in criminology, public health, education, and library and information studies. For our rankings, the outstanding programs in criminology and information studies are particularly germane.
The fully online Master’s cyber security offered by the University of South Florida presents a particularly unique program that places in our ranking due to academic quality and flexibility. Flexibility-enhancing components include the offering of a wide range of specializations that students may elect to pursue. These include digital forensics, cyber intelligence, information assurance, and computer security fundamentals. This range of offerings is wider than basically all other programs surveyed for our ranking. With the digital forensics, cyber intelligence, and information assurance routes offered entirely online. This interdisciplinary program requires 30-33 credit hours for all tracks.
16.) Brown University
Brown University is a private research university located in Providence, Rhode Island. An Ivy League Institution, Brown University is one of the seven oldest schools in America, founded before the American War of Independence. Close to 10,000 students attend this highly selective institution at the bachelor’s through doctoral levels. One of the few institutions anywhere to offer an undergraduate degree in Egyptology, Brown offers an extensive number of degree choices many of which have faculty at the top of their fields. Particularly well regarded programs include their programs in English, history, and medicine. Recently offerings have been expanded through the Brown School of Professional Studies which offers blended and online learning in Healthcare Leadership, Cyber Security, and Science and Technology Leadership.
The executive master’s in cybersecurity offered by Brown University places in our ranking due to the academic prestige of the program and flexibility. Though technically a blended program, coursework is primarily taught online. Students then convene at Brown roughly every 1/4th of the program. The entirety of the program is accelerated and is completed in 18 months. A critical challenge project is completed throughout all courses in the degree. A required in-person Experiential Session in Washington, D.C. caps off the program with additional hands-on experience. This interdisciplinary degree is for those who already have some experience in the field (or related fields) and are looking for a multidisciplinary approach looking at technology, human factors, and policy and law.
Sam Houston State University is a public doctoral research university with a main campus located in Huntsville, Texas (about 70 miles north of Houston). The third oldest institution of higher learning in the state, it is also the oldest university in the University of Texas System, and the first school west of the Mississippi established for teacher training. Today the university is home to over 20,000 students studying a wide variety of disciplines. Particularly well-regarded courses of study include education, criminal justice, banking, the performing arts, and mathematics. Student outcome and support measures at the school are strong for a large state institution, with a student-faculty-ratio of 21 to 1, a retention rate of 77% and a graduation rate of 51%.
The fully online Master of Science in Information Assurance and Security offered by Sam Houston State University is placed in our ranking for affordability and academic prestige. This degree program requires 36 credit hours and presents an opportunity to learn among students that already hold degrees in computer science, management information systems, or other quantitative disciplines. The affordability of Sam Houston State University’s program is also a major draw. Tuition per credit hour is currently set at $579 for out-of-state students, making it the 16th most affordable program surveyed just on the sticker price. With that said, 92% of Sam Houston State University students receive financial aid packets of some kind.
18.) DePaul University
DePaul University is the largest Catholic university in the United States, with the main campus located in Chicago, Illinois. This private research university is home to over 22,000 students at the undergraduate through doctoral levels. DePaul has a number of social justice objectives, including the recruitement of first-generation college students and underpriviliged students. Student support and outcome measures are of high quality at DePaul and include a 16 to student-to-faculty ratio, a 84% retention rate and a 71% graduation rate.
The fully online Master’s in Computer Information and Network Security offered by DePaul University places in our ranking due to academic quality and flexibility. Students may complete any of the three program specializations entirely online, including network infrastructure, computer security, and compliance. This mixture of computer science, information systems, information technology, and less tech-heavy cyber security policy measures is unique in one program. Furthermore — for students taking at least some courses in person, a vibrant cyber security community on campus helps to push learning. This community includes the active Security Daemons club as well as 100’s of Cisco lab settings to practice skills on. Furthermore, DePaul University holds the designation as a center of academic excellence according to the DHS and NSA, the highest designation specific to cybersecurity academics.
19.) University of Idaho
The University of Idaho is a land-grant, space-grant and the primary research university of the state of Idaho. Located in Moscow, Idaho, the university has a student body of over 11,000 students at the undergraduate through doctoral levels. A series of satellite campuses, as well as online offerings, extend the campus’ offerings even further. Accolades include being named one of the top 100 public universities in the United States by U.S. News, as well as a top 30 school for social mobility and value. The University also offers access to amazing nature. Additionally, the university is regularly heralded for its efforts in service learning and community engagement.
While technically fully online Masters in computer science and computer engineering, students in University of Idaho’s engineering college have access to one of the longest standing centers of academic excellence in cybersecurity according to the NSA and DHS. Initially recognized in 1999, the University of Idaho’s Center for Secure and Dependable Systems was one of the first in the nation to offer scholarships and support for information assurance students. Today students may choose from a number of online master’s degrees offered by UI’s Engineering Outreach and gain from the support and association (as well as the ability to join in on research and events) at the Center for Security and Dependable Systems. Currently the out-of-state tuition rate for UI’s master’s programs in engineering are set at $1,297.
20.) Maryville University
Maryville University is a private, coeducation university that’s main campus is located in Town and County, Missouri (directly outside of St. Louis). Close to 6,500 students attend Maryville, with over 100 degree programs offered at the bachelor’s through doctoral levels of study. Founded in 1872, the university was originally affiliated with the Roman Catholic Church (no longer). The university is known for its picturesque setting and architecture. Today the university offers degree programs in a broad range of disciplines and is known as a comprehensive university. Maryville University is currently the 177th ranked national university according to U.S. News.
The fully online master’s in cybersecurity offered by Maryville University places in our ranking due to flexibility and academic prestige. The program may be completed in as little as 18 months. The virtual lab provided by Maryville University offers a practice space for technical skills in cybersecurity for fully online students. Additionally, most instructors in cybersecurity are still active in the field, or once held high profile cybersecurity positions at Fortune 500 companies and the FBI. The curriculum emphasizes three components: technical skills, real-world exposure, and a holistic curriculum encompassing a number of disciplines. Current tuition per-credit-hour rates are set at $816.