A Bachelor of Science in Information Assurance program should prepare students to design, implement, manage and analyze the security and integrity features of information technology (IT) systems. The master's degree in information assurance builds on undergraduate knowledge and further teaches students how to apply theoretical skills to practical situations. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, some employers prefer to hire information security analysts who have a graduate degree. A doctoral degree in information assurance can prepare graduates for careers in research, development and academia.
Bachelor of Science in Information Assurance
Students learn the auditing and detection techniques imperative to investigating IT system attacks and become proficient in specific programming languages. Courses focus on concepts in legal regulation, IT policy and regulatory compliance. Some programs offer a concentration in areas such as applied information assurance, management or encryption. Bachelor's degree programs typically require that students have a high school diploma.
Students learn to collect and analyze digital evidence, recognize compliance laws and identify the significance of business continuity and disaster plans. Students may also practice hands-on techniques to implement secure networks and practice cryptography to protect sensitive data. Programs may offer the following courses:
- Risk and intelligence analysis
- Technology and privacy
- Cyber law and compliance
- IT policy development
- Mathematical modeling
Master's Degree in Information Assurance
Programs may offer an area of concentration, such as networks or systems. Students learn about current issues in information security and how to use technology to resolve workplace concerns. Courses cover concepts in risk management, forensics and ethics. Admission into these programs requires students to have a bachelor's degree and verification of introductory classes.
Information assurance master's degree programs offer courses that may require laboratory work, which may involve ethical hacking or forensic work. Students can also tailor their programs by choosing electives, and a capstone project offers a collaborative environment to solve a relevant problem. Programs may include the following courses:
- Applied cryptography
- Critical infrastructure decision making
- Software development management
- Wireless networks
- Foundations of algorithms
- Object-oriented analysis and design
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Doctor of Philosophy in Information Assurance
The Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) in Information Assurance program can allow students to develop advanced abilities in engineering and science, as they relate to information assurance. Doctorate degrees usually require a master's degree for admission, but some accept students with a bachelor's degree. Students learn about concepts in artificial intelligence, software engineering and network architecture. Programs may require students to earn a passing score on a set of qualifying examinations. Students may also have to create and defend a dissertation.
Students learn a range of advanced concepts in security, design and analysis. Some programs will require the completion of coursework designed to prepare students for the qualifying examinations. Programs may include the following courses:
- Security policy
- Intrusion detection
- Secure electronic commerce
- Operating system security
- Security experimentation
Employment Outlook and Salary Information
The information assurance field offers positive job growth and the potential to earn a solid salary. Faster than average job growth of 18% from 2014 through 2024 is estimated to occur for information security analysts while web developers will grow 27% during the same period and computer network architect careers will grow 9%, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (www.bls.gov). The BLS reports that information security analysts earned a median annual wage of $90,120 as of 2015, while web developers earned $64,970, and computer network architects earned $100,240.
Popular Career Options
Graduates of information assurance programs can obtain entry-level positions in government agencies, universities or computer design companies. Professionals use their knowledge of threat detection, system restoration and risk management to keep data safe and secure. Some popular entry-level career options include the following:
- Information technology specialist
- Computer security specialist
- Computer systems technician
Continuing Education and Certification Information
Graduates of bachelor's degree programs may wish to receive industry-standard certification in a specific area, such as data recovery, forensics or reverse engineering. The Information Assurance Certification Review Board (IACRB) offers several certification options that reflect job responsibilities. The IACRB's certification process requires a 70% score on a multiple-choice examination and the successful completion of practical testing.
Students who earn a Bachelor of Science in Information Assurance have the knowledge and skills needed to secure IT and prevent IT attacks, however some employers require a graduate degree in the field. A master's degree in information assurance builds on risk management skills while covering forensics and ethics, whereas a Ph.D. prepares students for research and academic careers.