Online Cyber Security Degrees Program Overviews

Dec 03, 2019

Find out about online cyber security courses and in which degree levels they're most commonly offered. Get course descriptions, program information and online requirements to make an informed decision.

Essential Information

There are many online degree programs in cyber security at the bachelor's and master's degree levels. Most can be completed totally through distance learning, but some call for a few visits to campus. In an online degree program, students access course lectures, reading assignments and other class materials through a website, and communicate with classmates and instructors through the Internet. Most programs allow students to view lessons as their schedules permit, within a set timeframe. Database and programming software may be required.

The study of cyber security is usually part of a degree program in computer science. Bachelor's and master's degree programs include courses in protecting data. Students at the bachelor's degree level get general information on programming and computer systems. They also must complete general education courses in English, math and science.

At the master's degree level, students generally have some experience in computer science. These programs are technically oriented and may include courses in data encryption and preventing cyber attacks. Master's degree students typically are required to complete a thesis or a final research project.

Bachelor's Degree in Cyber Security

Online bachelor's degree programs in network and Internet security are usually offered by computer science departments and might be called Internet systems security or information technology (IT). They focus mainly on techniques for securing and protecting data and networks, but also cover general programming and systems administration. Like all bachelor's degree programs, they also include a general education component, where students complete coursework in the sciences, arts and humanities. A bachelor's degree program may be useful for professionals who have some experience in the IT field and wish to expand their knowledge, or for students seeking entry-level positions in network maintenance.

Program Information and Requirements

An online bachelor's degree program in cyber security can usually be completed on a part-time basis, with the length of time required to complete a program depending on each student's schedule. Students with professional experience or previous college coursework may be able to complete requirements more quickly. Most online programs in this field can be completed entirely over the Internet, with no in-person meetings required. Some programs require that students complete a final thesis or project before awarding a degree.

Online cyber security programs are usually administered through a Content Management System (CMS) that brings together lectures, texts and assignments. Some programs offer discussion boards for students to send messages to each other and their instructors, while others rely on e-mail and phone contact for communication. Students may need specialized software for writing programming code or maintaining databases.

Course Topics

In addition to general education courses and core computer science courses, cyber security students take classes in hardware, software and networking techniques for protecting data and systems from attack. Most classes are technical in nature, though mathematics and business skills are also relevant.

Introduction to Information Security

An introductory course in information security lays out common risks to computers and networks and discusses methods for protecting against them. Techniques covered usually include access control, encryption and systems vulnerabilities.

System Security

A system security course lays out industry-standard practices for safely maintaining networked systems. The class discusses methods for identifying vulnerabilities, documenting and enforcing safe computing procedures, and ensuring access to data by employees without allowing access by unauthorized parties.

Database Security

A course in database security looks at the particular concerns for protecting information stored in databases by means of user authentication, auditing and other techniques. Various stages of practice, from database design through updating and maintenance, are discussed.

Master's Degree in Cyber Security Overview

An online master's degree program in cyber security is more narrowly focused than a bachelor's program. It is generally appropriate for students who already have a bachelor's degree in a related field and relevant professional experience. Most coursework is technical in nature, assuming familiarity with mathematics and computer science terminology and procedures. Students learn techniques for protecting operating systems, networks and databases against attack and maintaining the security of sensitive data.

Program Information and Requirements

Online master's programs vary in scheduling and flexibility. Most take 2-3 years to complete, but some allow students to set their own schedules while others require that classes be taken in a particular sequence. Many programs require that students complete a thesis or research project to graduate.

In most programs, all course materials are made available online. Students may need access to specialized software for programming or maintaining databases.

Course Topics

Courses in cyber security generally focus on a particular aspect of network systems and techniques for securing it. Some programs include courses on legal or management aspects of systems security.

Operating Systems

A class on operating systems introduces the structure and features of various major computer operating systems. Vulnerabilities and means of protecting against attack are discussed extensively.


Courses on cryptography cover methods of encrypting data to prevent it from being intercepted or tampered with by unauthorized users. Various techniques for maintaining information integrity, such as public key encryption and digital signatures, are covered.

Network Security

A network security course focuses on techniques for protecting data as it moves through large networks. The design and implementation of various networking architecture models is discussed.

Career Information

Information technology is a fast-growing field. Graduates of a cyber security bachelor's program might seek jobs as network administrators, where opportunities are expected to increase by 5% from 2018 to 2028, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. The median annual wage for network administrators in 2018 was $82,050.

Graduates of cyber security master's programs might work as network or systems administrators, discussed above, or as managers in IT or information systems departments. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the information technology management field is growing rapidly, with opportunities expected to increase by 11% between 2018 and 2028. The median wage of computer and information systems managers in 2018 was $142,530.

Online cyber security programs typically have courses that cover topics such as network security, cryptography, and operating systems. Graduates of a bachelor's degree program may become network administrators, while graduates of a master's degree program may work as computer and information systems managers.

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