Online Cyber Security Courses & Degrees

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Cyber security courses online are an excellent way to break into one of the fastest growing industries.

Cyber security involves protecting computer programs, systems and networks from digital attacks. These attacks are usually meant to access, change or destroy sensitive information, steal money, or interrupt business.  They attacks threaten individuals and businesses alike.

The rapid expansion of e-commerce, global trade and digital communication has resulted in more frequent and innovative attacks. The 2019 Official Annual Cybercrime Report (ACR) predicts businesses will fall victim to a ransomware attack every 14 seconds in 2019, and rise to every 11 seconds by 2021. In 2016, Cybersecurity Ventures estimated that cybercrime would cost the world $6 trillion per year by 2021.

It’s imperative that companies find skilled cyber security specialists who can build complex defenses, retrieve stolen assets and track down the attackers. This demand means that the field is among the fastest growing in the U.S. Cyber security is an excellent choice for those seeking a secure, lucrative and exciting career.

What kind of degree do you need for cyber security?

Most corporations hiring cyber security professionals are looking for candidates who hold a bachelor’s degree in cyber security, computer science, or a related field.

You may notice cyber security programs are available as Bachelor of Science (BS) or Bachelor of Applied Science (BAS) degrees. Either degree program is appropriate, but there are slight differences between the two.

A BS degree will explore the technical and theoretical sides of the discipline, and is an especially good option for those who plan to pursue graduate level education. A BAS, on the other hand, is more focused on the technical aspects of the field and preparing students for immediate entry into the workforce.

If you are interested in seeking a more advanced position such as Chief Information Security Officer or Security Director, and/or you want to lead a security team early in your career, you will likely need a master’s degree in cyber security.

Can you get a cyber security degree online?

Yes! There are many reputable, accredited institutions offering cyber security courses online so that you can earn your degree or certification without putting your life on hold. You can continue to care for your family and/or maintain your employment while taking classes at your convenience.

Online courses may also allow you to graduate faster! While a traditional bachelor’s degree takes around 4 years to complete, if you opt to learn cyber security online you could graduate in as little as two years.

What program is best for cyber security?

The best cyber security school or program is one that offers the area of concentration that interests you, is accredited and fits your schedule and budget.

Some of the top-ranked programs can be found at:

But rest assured, cyber security training courses are fairly standard from school to school. You will cover the foundation and principles of cyber security, investigating sources and communicating about threats, ethical hacking and the current laws. Choosing an area of concentration is what will allow you to tailor your education.

Some popular areas of concentration include:

  • Cloud security
  • Mobile application development
  • Data analytics
  • Healthcare informatics
  • Business intelligence

Look for a program that offers the concentration that will best prepare you for your future career. Your advanced coursework and capstone experience will center around this concentration, and make you especially marketable to future employers.

Can I get a cyber security job without a degree?

It may be possible to secure entry-level employment with some relevant experience or a certificate, but the vast majority of employers are seeking candidates with at least a bachelor’s degree.

A bachelor’s degree program will include foundational courses, as well as opportunities to gain specialized training in an area of particular interest to you. This degree will show employers you have the skills necessary to provide top-notch security for their business.

Do I need to know coding to work in cyber security?

While most jobs in cyber security do not require any knowledge of coding, and cyber security university courses don’t generally include it in the curriculum, some programming know-how would be very beneficial, especially when it comes to advancing in the field.

A basic understanding of programming languages will allow you to develop attack simulations, build intrusion detection systems and scan networks for vulnerability without having to outsource these parts of the job.

What kind of jobs can I get with a degree in cyber security?

A bachelor’s degree (or higher) in cyber security will allow you to pursue a number of in-demand, highly paid careers.

Here are some examples, taken from Payscale.com:

OCCUPATION AVERAGE ANNUAL SALARY
Cyber Security Analyst $71,000
Information Security Analyst $66,000
Cyber Security Engineer $83,000
Security Analyst $70,000
Security Engineer $79,000
Systems Administrator $55,000
Network Engineer $73,000


Depending on your degree and special coursework, you may also be qualified to pursue other IT positions, such as software developer, computer programmer or information systems manager.

Will I make a lot of money with a degree in cyber security?

Yes! Cyber security has a very competitive starting salary.

According to Payscale.com, the average annual salary of a professional with a bachelor’s in cyber security is $69,000. See above for information on specific occupations, or visit the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).

Also note that hard skills and experience are extremely valuable in this field and can help you earn promotions and salary increases over time.

Is cyber security in demand?

Yes, very much so! Cyber security is currently one of the top 10 fastest growing and most in-demand fields.

The 2019 (ISC)² Cybersecurity Workforce Study estimates there is a shortage of half a million cyber security professionals in the U.S. alone. In order to meet the demand of business today, the U.S. cyber security workforce needs to grow by 62%.

With a degree in this field, you should have no problem finding and maintaining employment long-term.

Is cyber security a stressful job?

The level of stress really depends on your role. Individuals on the front lines facing a data breach will likely endure a significant amount of stress, but someone in charge of training or communicating new policies may not face much stress at all.

Of course, stress levels fluctuate. Those who worked tirelessly to resolve a threat will later have periods of minimal stress, and vice versa.

Regardless of the responsibilities and stress level, know that your role will be rewarding. Protecting a company or individual’s data from being compromised is important work and only those with the right skills and training can do it.

Cyber Security Certificates and Certifications

There are a wide variety of certificate and certification opportunities available in the cyber security field.

Cyber security certificate programs are offered at the undergraduate and graduate level, and involve completing a course or series of courses. These programs may last a few weeks or a few years. The credits earned can sometimes be applied toward a future degree, or simply used to boost one’s resume.

On the other hand, there are cyber security certifications that do not involve taking courses. These certifications can be awarded by professional organizations to those who prove they have mastered certain skills.

Some of the most popular and valuable options include:

  • CompTIA Security+
  • CompTIA Network+
  • CompTIA PenTest+
  • CompTIA Cybersecurity Analyst (CySA+)
  • CompTIA Advanced Security Practitioner (CASP+)
  • Certified Ethical Hacker (CEH)
  • Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP)
  • Licensed Penetration Tester (LPT)

Typically certificates and certifications are not earned in lieu of a degree, but as a supplement to a degree or significant work experience. They can show a current or potential employer that you are motivated to learn and have a specific area of interest or expertise that sets you apart from others. This sort of credential can help you land a job, promotion or raise.

Cyber Security Masters Degree

Though a bachelor’s degree in cyber security is enough to qualify for most positions, earning a master’s degree will allow you to compete for more advanced positions and a higher salary.

A master’s in cyber security will take about two years of full-time study, and will focus on advanced topics such as cryptology, ethical hacking and digital forensics. You may also have the opportunity to choose an area of concentration during this graduate work.

Many individuals opt to pursue a cyber security master’s degree online after they have been working in the field for a number of years. They may wish to dig deeper into the concentration they studied during their undergraduate program in order to advance their current career path. Or, they may have a new area of interest they wish to pursue in order to steer their cyber security career in a new direction.

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Elizabeth Abner
WRITTEN BY Elizabeth Abner

Elizabeth is pursuing a Doctor of Philosophy in Foreign Policy and earned her master's degree in business administration. For her undergraduate studies, she earned a Bachelor of Arts in Business Administration with a concentration in international business. Elizabeth's research is focused on universities offering online degree programs.