Like those held on campus, online programs in information assurance are designed to teach students how to protect computer systems, networks and individual computers from viruses, worms, hackers or illicit activities. These programs can be found at traditional four-year institutions as well as private distance education schools and usually can be completed totally online. Students typically earn a four-year Bachelor of Science or two-year Master of Science degree.
Admissions requirements vary by program and school, but generally all undergraduate programs require students to have a high school diploma or GED. Some online programs in information assurance are designed specifically for working adults who are at least 21 years old. Online master's programs often target IT professionals looking to advance in their careers or gain new skills; a bachelor's degree in an area like information technology or computer science could be required for admission.
Learning & Coursework
Distance learners studying information assurance do not usually have to attend campus, but some programs do require them to attend class virtually at scheduled times. This may be accomplished by using video or phone conferencing. Other class work can usually be completed at a time that best suits students, as long as they meet due dates. Virtual classrooms host lectures, assignments, communication tools and supplemental materials that can typically be accessed any time of day.
Bachelor's students learn both the theory and practical skills of the field. In addition to completing general education classes, they explore the fundamentals of computer hardware, software, computer operating systems and networking technologies.
Some common courses in an online bachelor's program in this field include:
- Hardware systems support
- Network systems
- Object-oriented programming
- Database systems
- Operating systems
- Principles of information systems
- IT project management
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Online programs at the master's level allow students to take their skills in computer network security to the next level. Common topics addressed in an online master's program include wireless security, computer forensics, enterprise security and computer risk management. Graduate students may be required to complete a thesis, capstone project or an oral exam as their culminating experience.
Typical coursework in an online master's degree program includes:
- Technical communications
- Enterprise application architecture
- Managing people and technology
- System development theory and practice
- Security risk management
- Secure system development and cryptography
Because of the explosion in the use of information technology and computer networking systems, the skills learned in an information assurance program are needed in industries from manufacturing to education. Employment prospects for people holding a degree in information assurance are good. According to data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment of information security analysts are projected to increase by 18% from 2014-2024.
Both at the bachelor's and master's levels, there are fully online degrees available in information assurance. While undergraduate students will establish a strong foundation in computer systems and technology, graduate students will increase their knowledge by completing more advanced courses in system development theory and risk management.