Fully online and hybrid programs in information security are available at both the bachelor's and master's degree levels. At the undergraduate level, students learn the basics of computer security, while master's-level students take on security issues from a management perspective. Entry into the master's degree level program requires an appropriate bachelor's degree.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), a bachelor's degree is typically the minimum educational level required to be an information security analyst. The BLS noted that some employers prefer candidates who hold a master's degree. After earning a bachelor's degree related to information security, one might consider a Master of Business Administration as an alternative to a master's degree in information security.
Bachelor's Degrees in Information Security
Whether delivered online or in a traditional classroom, a bachelor's degree in information security teaches students the skills they need for careers as computer support specialists and computer security consultants. These programs explore topics like detection and response to Internet-based threats, secure transmission of information and creation of computer systems to facilitate safe information transmission. Schools may require that students complete prerequisite courses, like discrete mathematics, prior to enrollment in the major program. These programs often require at least 60 hours of computer security and information technology-related courses and usually require completion of 120 total credit hours.
Program Information and Requirements
These programs are offered on campus, online, or in a combination of the two options. Some schools devote the first two years of study to general education; others combine information security or technology courses with general education. Students may be required to choose a specific concentration, like information security, software development, network technology and administration or IT management, in order to complete their studies.
Students must have access to a working computer with Internet access, because these programs are conducted online and use content management systems like Blackboard to deliver content. Some schools require that students sign up for a school-sponsored e-mail account, which can be used for communication with professors, and is sometimes required for students.
Information technology and security courses vary from college to college, but include courses that teach students to identify security threats, secure databases and recover databases. Students in information technology and security programs learn about computer programming, data types and security-related issues.
Network Management and Security
This course introduces network and software security risks. Students learn about the tools and methods that hackers use to target networks and software security components, SSL, password protection and encryption, which are intended to protect computers from vulnerabilities.
Students may be required to complete multiple courses in C++ and Java programming. In these classes, students learn not only the languages of these programming options but also how to use them to create programs and web applications. Students will write computer software and Internet programs during these courses.
In this course, students learn about propositional logic, mathematical systems and functions. Students learn to apply their study of theory and algebra to computer science. Study includes methods of proof and recursion and generating functions.
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Master of Science in Information Security
Many schools offer master's degrees in information security in the traditional format, but fewer schools offer these programs online. Students in these programs focus their coursework in policy, network, information systems or computer security. These programs require about 30-55 credits to complete and are usually offered by schools of computing or technology, within a college or university.
Program Information and Requirements
Some information security programs require students to complete research and writing courses as part of their educational program. A student must have a bachelor's degree to gain admittance to a master's program in information security. Students may be required to complete a capstone or thesis project prior to graduation.
To successfully complete their online courses, students may need a video player program with sound card on their computers. Schools use online content management systems to share information, and suggest that students use a Web browsing program like Internet Explorer 7.0, or Safari for reliable transmission of course work.
Courses in the Master of Science in Information Security program often focus on security of software and computer networks, cryptography and technology or policy, including regulation and compliance. The choice to specialize in policy-related courses leads to study of policy development, risk management and exploration of preparation for information security in emergency situations.
Legal Issues and Security Management
Students learn about the various legal concepts that can come into play in information security, from copyright and trade secrets, data privacy and the law, individuals' constitutional rights and ethics. The Computer Fraud and Abuse Act is examined, as are federal statutes relating to information security.
When disaster strikes, a company needs to have a plan to protect their documents and information. Some programs offer courses on planning for emergencies that cause major disruptions, like floods, earthquakes or a variety of hazards. These courses focus on planning for and reacting to emergencies, risk analysis, creation and documentation of recovery plans.
Students learn the basics of security management for businesses and other organizations. Topics in these courses include protection of personnel and information, risk assessment, and the various protections for computer networks, including firewalls, intrusion detection systems. Students use case studies as part of this program.
Graduates of information security and information technology programs can find employment in the public and private sectors and military in information security or specialists positions. Students may find jobs as computer support specialists and move into more advanced careers as their experience grows. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), computer user support specialists earned a median salary of $48,620 annually as of May 2015. Network and computer systems administrators earned a median of $77,810, according to the same May 2015 survey by the BLS.
Graduates of master's-level study in information security may find employment as computer and information system managers in governmental agencies, public and private organizations and businesses. According to the BLS, approximately 341,250 individuals were employed as computer and information system managers in 2015. The BLS also states that the need for information security specialists will grow as more and more of our social, economic and political infrastructure relies on computer technology.
Continuing Education Information
Students may move toward a graduate-level degree in computer information systems, commonly offered as a Master of Science with a concentration in information systems or information security. These programs are most often available in traditional classroom settings, although some schools offer these 2-year programs online.
Some schools offer a doctoral degree in computer and information science. Students are required to complete and defend a dissertation on a topic related to computer and information science. The program often requires completion of at least 60 credit hours. A student may be limited in the amount of time they can take to complete their doctoral degree.
Bachelor's and master's programs in information security are available fully online and in hybrid formats. These programs emphasize topics such as network management and security, programming, legal issues and emergency management.