25 Best Online Cyber Security Degree Programs [2021 Guide]
As more and more career fields move online, online cyber security degree programs are becoming incredibly popular. The need for new cyber security experts is growing every day.
If you have an interest in keeping people, businesses or the government safe from online threats, this might be the degree for you.
Online Cyber Security Degrees
If you’re interested in pursuing a cyber security undergraduate degree and want to be successful, there are a few characteristics that would be beneficial. First off, you need to be good with computers and technology.
Attention to detail and a laser-like focus are also important. Cyber forensics requires just as much concentration and scrutiny as actual forensics.
Furthermore, this is a career that’s constantly changing, growing, expanding and evolving, so you have to be a continual learner. An analytical mind, strong sense of curiosity, perseverance and the ability to remain calm under pressure are also critical.
A cyber security major puts heavy emphasis on internet security and countering cyber attacks, so most courses focus on this in some manner. It typically includes general computer-science classes, as well. Many of these will be “Introduction to” classes, such as introduction to computers, programming, networking, software development and more.
Most potential jobs are directly in cyber security, such as:
- Cyber Security Consultant
- Cyber Security Auditor
- Chief Cyber Security Officer
- Cyber Security Software Developer
- Cyber Security Assurance Engineer
- Ethical Hacker
- Incident Responder
- Vulnerability Assessor
However, because students in this degree program take so many general computer science classes, there are other non-cyber security jobs for which you could apply after earning this degree. These include:
- Network Architect
- Network/Systems Engineer
- Software Engineer/Developer
As you can see, a cyber security bachelor’s degree can help open a lot of doors for you career-wise. Furthermore, all the jobs available for you to pursue with an associate’s degree should still be available to you with a bachelor’s degree in the field. Most employers will pay you more, though, if you have a bachelor’s degree, and especially if you have a master’s or PhD in cyber security online.
Cyber Security Curriculum & Courses
At the bachelor’s level, students take more advanced courses in some of the same subjects they took at the associate’s level. Ten of the most common courses at this level are:
- Computer Hardware and Peripherals: This class explores the types of computer hardware and other tech used by hackers to commit cyber-crimes, as well as how to build, configure and repair this tech.
- Economic Crime Theory: This class explores online crime related to money, such as fraud, identity theft and the stealing of bank and credit card information.
- Applied Cryptography: This class gives the basics of cryptographic techniques and hands-on experience.
- Mathematics for Cyber Security: In this class, students explore math in the context of cyber security, including algorithms, number systems, cryptography, logic, set theory and more.
- Criminology: Even though it’s online, cyber crime is still crime. This class studies deviant behavior, how it relates to social structure and values and explores theories of treatment, control and corrections.
- Payment Systems and Fraud: This class studies modern means of global payment, fraud and economic investigation.
- Ethical Hacking I, II and III: These courses teaches students hacking skills in order to combat skilled hackers.
- Systems Vulnerability Assessments: This class explores threats to information systems and how to use hands-on methods to discover weaknesses in systems.
- Cyber Law: This class covers the basics of the Internet’s legal system.
- Cyber Security Internship: This is usually in a program’s last semester and places students in real-world situations inside offices to apply the skills they’ve learned.
These are only ten examples of the classes you may take in an online cyber security program.
BS in Cyber Security vs. BS in Computer Science
If you want to work in cyber security, there are two ways to do it. A bachelor’s in cyber security will likely give you the most comprehensive education in the field.
However, a bachelor’s in computer science may also lead to cyber security jobs.
BS in Cyber Security
A degree in cyber security will have a more specific focus on the actual cyber security field. Furthermore, many cyber security programs have CAE-CD designations that certify them as having the most rigorous cyber security classes and standards possible.
Therefore, while there are a few other non-cyber security jobs for which you might be eligible for with this degree, most of your options will likely be in cyber security.
If you’re certain cyber security is what you want to do, this is probably the better choice. Because the field is specialized, having an actual cyber security degree may mean you’re better equipped to deal with the types of things you need to deal with in cyber security.
Therefore, the salary for people with cyber security degrees in cyber security jobs is usually higher than that of people with computer science degrees in cyber security jobs.
BS in Computer Science
However, if you aren’t 100% sure you want to go into cyber security but are considering it, a degree in computer science might be the better option. If you earn your degree in computer science, you’re going to have a less-specific focus on cyber security, but you’ll likely still have enough of what you need to pursue a job in cyber security later if you so choose.
With a computer science degree, though, you’ll likely have a much larger job pool from which to pull. Your potential jobs won’t be limited to only cyber security jobs. Instead, you’ll have a wide variety of jobs, including data analyst, software engineer, IT specialist/tech/manager/director and more from which to choose.
While you won’t likely be paid as much if you take a cyber security job, some of the other jobs for which you’ll be eligible to pursue may pay more than cyber security jobs.
Cyber Security Careers & Salaries
Unsurprisingly, most of the careers for which you’ll likely be eligible after earning your bachelor’s degree in cyber security are related to cyber security fields. There are a few exceptions to this, of course.
For instance, you should take enough general computer science classes to help prepare you for a career as a software developer, data scientist, IT technician, systems engineer or network architect.
However, most of your highest-paying jobs will likely be in the cyber security fields. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, some careers in the cyber security field include:
|Careers||Annual Median Salary|
|Computer and Information Systems Manager||$151,150|
|Computer Network Architect||$116,780|
|Software Developer or Software Quality Assurance Analyst and Tester||$110,140|
|Information Security Analyst||$103,590|
|Computer Systems Analyst||$93,730|
|Network and Computer Systems Administrator||$84,810|
As you can see, once you reach the bachelor’s level, the potential career paths can be lucrative. Even those few jobs you could hold with an associate’s degree generally pay more once you have a bachelor’s degree.
Before you enroll in any college or university, even an online one, the first thing you should do is to check that it’s accredited. The accreditation to look for is regional accreditation. There are six regional accreditation agencies that provide accreditation to schools that grant bachelor’s degrees. These are:
- HLC: Higher Learning Commission
- NECHE: New England Commission of Higher Education
- WSCUC: WASC Senior College and University Commission
- NWCCU: Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities
- SACSCOC: Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges
- MSCHE: Middle States Commission on Higher Education
There is a seventh accreditation agency – the Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges Western Association of Schools and Colleges (ACCJC) – but it only accredits community, junior and technical colleges.
If your school is accredited by one of the above agencies, you can pretty much be sure your degree will be accepted by potential employers all over the U.S. Furthermore, if you decide to continue on to graduate school, your credits should also be accepted at any university.
Cyber Security CAE IA/CD Designation
In addition to ensuring your college has regional accreditation, when it comes to a degree in cyber security, there’s an additional factor to look for in a college – whether or not your college’s cyber security program has a CAE IA/CD, also referred to as a CAE-CD, designation.
The CAE-CD designation was created by the National Security Agency (NSA) and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). The acronym stands for “National Center of Academic Excellence in Cyber Defense.”
If a school’s cyber security program is designated as a CAE-CD program, you can be sure that you’re getting a high-quality, rigorous cyber security education.
There are three different designations. They are:
- CAE-R: For institutions of higher learning who have research programs dedicated to cyber defense.
- CAE-2Y: For colleges offering associate’s degree programs.
- CAE-CDE: For schools with bachelor’s and graduate degree programs.
If you’re working towards your bachelor’s degree, you’ll want to check if your school is designated as a CAE-CDE program. If so, you’re lucky enough to be getting one of the most comprehensive educations on the subject possible.
After completing your degree program and being awarded your B.S. in cyber security, you should have the skills you need to work not only for individuals or corporations, but for the U.S. government.
You could potentially go on to work for a tribal, state or the federal government and should be ready to face the most experienced and dangerous cyber criminals.
While working towards your B.S. in cyber security, here are some licenses to keep in mind:
- Certified Forensic Computer Examiner: The Certified Forensic Computer Examiner (CFCE) license is issued once you’ve undergone and successfully completed a series of technical computer/digital forensics competency exams in the form of a certification phase and peer review phase. Certification must be renewed every three years.
- Certified Information Systems Security Professional: To earn this certification, you must have at least five years experience in the informational security field. This certification shows you can effectively design, implement and manage your own, high-quality cyber security program.
- Licensed Penetration Tester: To become a Licensed Penetration Tester, you must take an incredibly rigorous exam designed to demonstrate a complete mastery of the cyber security skills needed to enact a full penetration test of a network.
Some of these licenses take years to earn. Don’t get discouraged. Keep at it, and you’ll eventually get there.
If you’re eligible, financial aid can be a huge help when it comes to paying for your college education. At the bachelor’s level, two of the most popular forms of financial aid are grants, specifically the federal Pell Grant, and loans, particularly federal loans. You apply for both by filling out the FAFSA.
If you receive a Pell Grant and don’t abuse it, you should never have to pay that money back, so most people prefer the Pell Grant to any other type of financial aid. Loans, whether federal or from a bank or credit union, do eventually have to be repaid, so borrow responsibly.
Cyber Security Scholarships
Scholarships are other great financial aid options. There are even some specifically for cyber security majors.
- Information Systems Security Association Foundation Scholarships: Also known as the ISSA, this scholarship is offered to deserving students who major in computer science and have cyber security as their focus.
- Computing Research Association: This association provides many scholarships a year to students in tech/computer fields.
- Center for Cyber Safety and Education Undergraduate Scholarships: These scholarships are specifically for students majoring in cyber security.
- CyberCorps Scholarship for Service: If you hope to work for the government after earning your degree, this scholarship might be for you.
- CompTIA Rising Star: If you’re a CompTIA member pursuing a degree in technology, you might be eligible for this scholarship.
Other scholarships may be found on your school’s website and on dedicated scholarship websites.
What Major Is Best for Cyber Security?
If you want a career in cyber security, the best major you can pursue may be a cyber security major because it’s so specific and can give you the most information on cyber security possible.
However, if that’s not an option for some reason, you may also major in computer science with a focus on cyber security.
Is a Cyber Security Degree Worth It?
If you’re seriously considering a career in cyber security, then yes, the degree can definitely be worth it.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects 11% job growth in computer and information technology occupations for the next 10 years, way much faster than the average for all occupations. Common careers in this field include network and computer systems administrator, information security analyst, software developer, computer network engineer, and IT director.
This degree can help open up potential career paths in cyber security you wouldn’t qualify for any other way.
What Jobs Can I Get With a Cyber Security Degree?
There are plenty of potential jobs you can pursue with a cyber security bachelor’s degree.
A bachelor’s degree in the field can help open up many higher-level positions to you, and the general computer science classes you’ll be required to take are usually sufficient enough that you can also branch out and get jobs in other, non-cyber security computer fields if you wish.
Some of the most common jobs for people with this degree include cyber security analyst, manager, director, specialist, technician or consultant, as well as penetration tester, incident responder, network security specialist, ethical hacker, cryptographer, data scientist, information security engineer and more.
Is Cyber Security Degree Hard?
The degree path for cyber security is a very rigorous degree path that requires strenuous attention to detail and intense focus. This degree usually takes a lot of work, and it can be incredibly fast-paced.
However, if you have a genuine interest in the field and have any skills with computers at all, then the degree program shouldn’t be so hard that you can’t succeed in it.
In theory, all college bachelor’s programs should be tough and challenging. If they aren’t, you probably aren’t getting everything you need from them. If you take a cyber security program from a school with CAE-CD designation, the program will likely be even more difficult.
However, according to many, it’s also one of the best programs out there for cyber security you can take. So buckle down and work hard. You should succeed despite the challenge.
What Is the Cyber Security Degree Salary?
Just as is the case with any degree field, the salary you earn after completing this program will differ depending on a number of factors, such as the state in which you’re working and, most importantly, what job you’re hired to do after college.
Your salary may be $30,000 different depending on whether you become a penetration tester or a cryptographer.
However, with a bachelor’s in cyber security, you should be able to expect a salary that’s higher than the national average. The average salary for computer and information technology occupations is $91,250 (Bureau of Labor Statistics) depending on the state in which you’re working.
As the job titles get more prestigious, the average salary also climbs upwards. Most people make very good money with this degree.
What Is Cyber Security?
At its core, cyber security is all about protecting individuals, businesses, corporations and government agencies online. It’s the practice of ensuring the protection of computer programs, websites, networks and systems from cyber crime, also known as digital attacks.
Generally, digital attacks are aimed at individuals or larger organizations with the goal of getting to sensitive information on computers, cell phones, tablets and other digital devices, then accessing and changing and/or using that information to hurt others through means of extortion, blackmail or just simply disrupting the way things work.
Cyber security seeks to prevent these attacks from happening, stop them when they do and minimize the damage they cause.
What Is the Best Kind of Cyber Security Degree to Get?
A Bachelor of Science in Cyber Security from a CAE-CD designated school is often considered the best undergraduate cyber security degree you can get. It is supposed to give students the most comprehensive training in the field in the fewest amount of years.
If you hope to pursue your graduate degree in cyber security, that’s going to be more comprehensive, but a B.S. can help you learn much of what you need to know to become an effective deterrent against cyber crime.
Or, you always have the option of earning a traditional, or online cyber security associate degree to kick start your career in this field and help determine if it is the right choice for you.
What Can You Do With an Online Cyber Security Degree?
As long as your online cyber security degree comes from a regionally-accredited university, you should be able to do anything with it that you can with a cyber security degree earned from an on-campus program.
As long as online degrees are accredited, they should be afforded the same respect as any other degree.
How Much Does an Online Cybersecurity Degree Cost?
There are numerous schools out there, both public and private, offering online degrees in cyber security. The tuition rates vary widely between each school. With that in mind, there’s really no way to tell you exactly how much an online cyber security degree will cost. However, we can give you an estimate and a way to figure it out for yourself.
A cyber security bachelor’s degree program usually takes about 120 credit hours to complete. (An associate’s in the same field usually takes about 60.)
When you find a school you’re interested in attending, simply look up the cost per credit hour and multiply that by 120 (or 60 for an associate’s degree program) to get your approximate tuition cost. This will not, of course, include fees, books and other non-tuition expenses.
If you’re attending a public college in your state, the average tuition rate per credit hour for a cyber security program is between $210 and $475. Assuming you’re taking 30 credit hours per year, that’s a range of $6,300 and $14,250 a year.
How Long Does It Take to Complete an Online Cybersecurity Degree?
This is another question for which we can’t provide you with a concrete answer. A normal bachelor’s degree program usually takes about 120 credit hours. However, depending on whether you’re a full-time student or just taking one or two classes a semester, the length of time it takes you to earn those 120 hours could vary greatly.
Furthermore, many colleges now offer accelerated degree programs in cyber security, where instead of taking a traditional 120-credit-hour/eight-semester program, you take several mini “semesters” back-to-back. These “semesters” are actually just eight weeks or less.
You take two classes at a time; finish those in eight weeks, and then immediately start another two classes for another eight weeks.
Taking accelerated courses keeps you learning at a much quicker pace, but it can also allow you to graduate much sooner than the allotted four years.
Universities Offering Online Cyber Security Bachelor’s Degree Program
Methodology: The following school list is in alphabetical order. To be included, a college or university must be regionally accredited and offer degree programs online or in a hybrid format.
Founded in 1966, Bellevue University is nationally known for its commitment to higher education. Offering undergraduate and graduate degrees in a multitude of academic majors, BU blends applied-learning with scholarly academia for a well-rounded curriculum.
- BS in Cybersecurity
Bellevue University is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.
Opening under a different name in 1927, Capitol Technology University is a top-ranking private school for higher learning (U.S. News & World Report). Together with partnerships with NASA and other industry leaders, Capitol Technology University offers an array of STEM, business and other majors to students looking to gain an undergraduate or graduate degree.
- BS in Cybersecurity
Capitol Technology University is accredited by the Commission on Higher Education of the Middles States Association of Colleges and Schools.
Champlain College Serves students across the nation by providing vigorous private instruction that assists students in obtaining an associate, undergraduate, or graduate degree. Opening in 1878, Champlain University has expanded to many nations across the globe through its Campus settings, dynamic distance learning, and study abroad program.
- Bachelor’s in Cyber Security
Champlain College is regionally accredited by the New England Commission of Higher Education.
Helping students earn a higher education through alternative means since 1973, Charter Oak State College is a public liberal arts academic facility.
COSC allows students to complete associate, bachelor’s, or master’s degree through online courses, work-study programs, or military experience. Using academic assessments, COSC monitors and evaluates student learning regularly.
- BS in Cyber Security
Charter Oak State College is accredited by the New England Commission of Higher Education.
Established in 1973 as a private postsecondary school, the City University of Seattle is the perfect place for working adults to study and earn an undergraduate or graduate degree geared toward their individual-focused area. The City University of Seattle partners with industry leaders to provide students with co-op and apprenticeship learning options.
- BS in Cybersecurity and Information Assurance
City University of Seattle is accredited by the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities.
Colorado Technical University has been a leader in STEM learning since 1965. Paving a pathway to an associate, undergraduate, or graduate degree, CTU rates high in private educational institutions. Allowing students to attend online and in face-to-face classes, Colorado Technical University sets the stage for all students to achieve success.
- BS in Computer Science – Cybersecurity Engineering
Colorado Technical University is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.
DeVry University began offering private educational options to students in 1931. Over time, DeVry has expanded its programs to reach across the globe through access to over forty campuses and distance learning opportunities. Enrolled students have many program options that help them to attain an undergraduate or graduate degree.
- Bachelor’s in Cyber Security Programming
DeVry University is accredited by The Higher Learning Commission.
Opening in 1971, Excelsior College works to be a leader in private-based alternative education. Excelsior College has built a top-of-the-line virtual learning platform to allow students a variety of ways to earn one of its many undergraduate and graduate degrees.
Many students choose to utilize self-study options or provide course understanding through competency exams.
- BS in Cybersecurity
Excelsior College is accredited by the Commission on Higher Education of the Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools.
Making its education debut as a private university in 1902, Franklin University has several learning centers throughout Ohio. Students at Franklin University have access to various campus activities but can choose to attend most courses via virtual learning.
With an abundance of undergraduate and graduate degrees, finding a successful path at FU is an easy option.
- BS in Cybersecurity
Franklin University is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.
Among the most significant public schools by enrollment in Virginia, George Mason University enrolls thousands of students each year. Research studies and technology are imperative to curriculums offered at GMU.
All undergraduate, graduate and doctoral degrees offered at GMU teach students to be innovators and help solve real-world problems facing their communities.
- BAS in Cybersecurity
George Mason University is accredited by the Commission on Colleges of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools.
Kennesaw State University opened in 1963 as a public institution for higher learning. With one of the highest enrollment statuses is in the state, Kennesaw University reaches thousands of students around the globe each year. Working toward an undergraduate or graduate degree, students at KU can access their academic programs online or in person.
- BS in Cybersecurity
Kennesaw State University is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.
Students have been able to gain professional and educational advancement at Maryville University since 1872. Maryville University serves students throughout the nation and in more than 40 other countries across the globe.
Helping students earn an undergraduate or graduate degree in more than 90 academic programs, MU is a leader in private education.
- BS in Cyber Security
Maryville University is regionally accredited by The Higher Learning Commission.
Norwich University started providing public education in 1819. This academic facility was first open to military members and now serves all community members through campus-wide classes and distance learning options. Each student enrolled at Norwich University has the opportunity to earn an undergraduate or graduate degree in a variety of majors.
- BS in Cyber Security
Norwich University is accredited by the New England Commission of Higher Education.
Nestled in the heart of Norfolk, Virginia, Old Dominion University opened its doors to public education in 1930. Combining practical learning with a rigorous curriculum, Old Dominion gives students a means of earning an undergraduate or graduate degree.
It has over one-hundred different academic majors and minors for students to find the best program to fit their needs.
- BS in Cybersecurity
Old Dominion University is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.
Pennsylvania State University has marked its place in public education since 1855. With more than 20 campus locations and several learning centers throughout the state, Pennsylvania State University makes a route for students looking to earn an undergraduate or graduate degree in a variety of academic fields.
Research innovations are key components to the academic programs offered at PSU.
- BS in Cybersecurity Analytics and Operations
Pennsylvania State University is regionally accredited by Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools.
Purdue University has been providing public education for adults since 1869. Offering a means to achieve an associate, bachelor’s, or master’s degree, students that attend Purdue University have a vast array of academic majors and minors to choose from.
PU encourages all students to make a positive impact on social and environmental issues plaguing the world.
- BS in Cybersecurity
Purdue University is accredited by The Higher Learning Commission.
Robert Morris University opened in 1921 and serves as one of the nation’s top private colleges (U.S. News & World Report). With more than sixty undergraduate majors and over thirty graduate programs, Robert Morris University allows students to attend online or in-person.
Graduates from RMU have a 94% professional or educational placement rate, and many work in their chosen career areas.
- BS in Cybersecurity and Digital Forensics
Robert Morris University is accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.
Saint Leo University has been on a mission to help students achieve higher education since 1889. Leading students on a path to professional and personal achievement, Saint Leo university’s academic catalog has a vast array of academic majors that can lead to an associate, undergraduate, or graduate degree.
This private educational facility’s values are based on the Catholic tradition.
- BS in Cyber Security
Saint Leo University is accredited by the Commission on Colleges of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools.
As the longest-standing college west of the Mississippi River, Saint Louis University commenced in 1818. This private Catholic secondary school enrolls students from all fifty states and nations around the world. Saint Louis University has almost two-hundred undergraduate and graduate study areas, with twenty-five of them, offered 100% online.
- BS in Computer Information Systems – Cybersecurity
Saint Louis University is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools.
1888 marks the beginning of Salem University’s private educational history. Enrolling almost 1,000 students yearly, SU offers distance learning options and campus-based learning. Each undergraduate and graduate program at SU is founded in a liberal arts foundation that coincides with the vision put forth by the Seventh Day Baptist Church.
- BS in Information Technology – Cybersecurity
Salem is accredited by The Higher Learning Commission.
Established in 1932, students at Southern New Hampshire University have access to high-quality degree programs offered online and in-person. With hundreds of academic programs to choose from, SNHU has degree paths that range from associates to postgraduate and professional programs.
This private University works with students worldwide.
- BS in Cyber Security – Data Analytics
- BS in Cyber Security – Project Management
Southern New Hampshire University is accredited by the New England Commission of Higher Education, Inc.
Strayer University began offering students a private postsecondary school in 1892. Providing a path to many Undergraduate and graduate degrees, Strayer University has online and campus-based programs. Many online courses offered at SU can be completed in an accelerated time, making earning a degree faster and more affordable.
- BS in Information Technology – Cybersecurity
Strayer is accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.
Assisting busy scholars to complete higher education studies has been part of the mission of the University of Maryland-Global since opening in 1947. Providing an effective virtual platform, the University of Maryland-Global added another layer to its campus program that makes getting an undergraduate or graduate degree a flexible option for students.
- BS in Cybersecurity Management and Policy
UMGC is accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.
The University of the Potomac has been offering high-quality education since 1991. With both campus-based and online programs, UP offers top career-oriented academic majors to help students acquire associate, bachelor’s and graduate degrees.
Students attending the University of the Potomac have the opportunity to make global connections through distance learning or study abroad programs.
- BS in Cybersecurity
The University of the Potomac is accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.
With hundreds of degree programs to choose from, Western Governors University has been at the forefront of private education since opening in 1997. Students attending WGU have access to bachelor’s and master’s degrees that are packed with high-quality instruction and hands-on learning activities.
Popular programs offered at WGU include technology, cyber-security, and education.
- BS in Cybersecurity and Information Assurance
Western Governors University is regionally accredited by the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities.
Getting Your Cyber Security Degree Online
If you’re truly interested in working in cyber security after graduation, you should enroll in an online cyber security program ASAP. The job market for people with this degree is growing steadily, and there are more online and accelerated courses than ever before, which means earning this degree has never been this convenient.
If money’s your obstacle, check out the scholarship links we provided above, and don’t forget to apply for federal grants and loans. Enrolling in an online cyber security program could potentially be your first step towards a very lucrative and in-demand new career.