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In today's world, nearly everything is connected by computers. Information is stored everywhere — a convenience that is also ripe with security risks. As cyberattacks become more complex and information breaches more common, information systems security professionals must continue learning new ways to fend off these dangers. That is why information systems security, also known as InfoSec, is more important than ever. The need for cybersecurity professionals is increasing at a mind-boggling rate: a study from IBM states that there is likely to be an employment gap of as many as 1.8 million unfilled cybersecurity positions by 2022.
An online information systems security degree can help you gain the necessary knowledge needed to succeed in the field. Potential students should have an interest in computers, information technology and cybersecurity. Additionally, since the degree program deals with computers and systems security, online learning can be a great fit.
High school graduates, professionals already working in the tech industry, or those looking to change their career to one that can offer better job prospects might want to consider earning an online degree in information security systems. The online option can allow you to maintain your job and other commitments while simultaneously earning a degree at your own pace.
What do information security analysts do?
InfoSec professionals are charged with keeping information safe from cyberthieves, and ensuring that the integrity of the data and information remains protected. This information must be stored in a way that it can be easily and safely accessed by those who need to use it. Typically, the duties of a information security analyst include:
- Monitoring networks for security breaches and investigating them when they occur
- Using encryption software and firewalls to protected their networks
- Simulating attacks to uncover weak spots in their security systems and repairing them
- Recommending improved security measures to the management of the company
- Helping other members of their organization understand the security measures in place and procedures they need to follow
Talking about cybersecurity skills in a 2017 executive report for IBM, Dr. Sujeet Shenoi, F.P. Walter Professor of Computer Science and Professor of Chemical Engineering at the University of Tulsa says, "It is like being a surgeon: you constantly have to practice, hone your skills, and learn and test new techniques."
Occupations and Career Outlook
The field of information security management is expected to grow due to the increasing frequency of cyberattacks. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) estimates that information security analysts with work experience in a related field are likely to have better job prospects than those without.
Listed below are some potential occupation choices for graduates of information systems security degree programs.
Projected Job Growth
(2016 - 26)
|Information Security Analysts||108,060||$102,470||28.4%|
|Computer and Information Research Scientists||30,070||$123,850||19.2%|
|Computer and Information Systems Managers||391,430||$152,860||11.9%|
Choose a degree that can help you meet your career goals
Online degrees in information systems security are available from associate-level to doctoral programs. Because an information systems security degree can lead to a number of different career paths, the level of education needed is highly dependent upon one's career aspirations.
Most entry-level positions in the field require at least a bachelor's degree; some positions may require more or less education. The sections below discuss these options in greater detail.
Take a look at the education level most information security analysts have:
Online Certificate Programs in Information Systems Security
What can I expect to learn in an online certificate program?
Online certificate programs in cybersecurity are typically designed to give students a solid foundation in the principles of information security management including emerging trends and strategies.
Typical duration: Up to one year
General prerequisites: High school diploma or equivalent
Typical coursework: Topics cover the latest technologies in cybersecurity along with the laws and ethics behind its management. Courses you may find included in your curricula are:
- Introduction to cybersecurity and digital crime
- Digital forensic investigation techniques
- IT security: planning and policy
- Ethical hacking and penetration testing
- Defensive security
What can I do after earning a certificate?
A certificate in information security management may help individuals with no previous experience obtain entry-level jobs in the cybersecurity industry. It may also help individuals with related experience progress in their careers. Some potential job titles are:
- Computer network support specialists
- Computer support specialist
Online Associate Degrees in Information Systems Security
What can I expect to learn in an online associate degree program?
Online associate degree programs in information security management are usually designed to encourage students to develop their analytical and problem-solving skills. You may find some degree programs at this level can prepare you for professional certification examinations.
Typical duration: Up to two years of full-time study
General prerequisites: High school diploma or equivalent
Typical coursework: Students of online cybersecurity associate degree programs usually study a variety of IT-related disciplines like operating systems, risk assessment and recovery along with topics related to cybercrime and security management. While specific curriculum varies, common courses may include:
- Introduction to cloud solutions
- Introduction to networking
- Introduction to computer forensics and cybercrime
- Fundamentals of cybersecurity and cryptography
- Network protocols and services
You may have to complete an internship along with your online coursework.
What can I do after earning an associate degree?
Associate degree holders may be able to gain entry-level roles in a variety of information technology-related fields. Potential occupations are:
- Computer systems analyst
- Network or computer systems administrator
- Computer support specialist
- Network administrator
Online Bachelor's Degrees in Information Systems Security
What can I expect to learn in an online bachelor's degree program?
Students enrolled in a bachelor's degree program in information systems security can look forward to learning how to combat cyberthreats, assess risk and to protect information and data. Your coursework may also prepare you to take professional certification examinations.
Typical duration: Two to four years of full-time study
General prerequisites: High school diploma or GED
Typical coursework: Students can expect to take courses in computer programming, information sciences and technology, security and risk analysis, network security and telecommunications along with general education courses that can help them learn to communicate complex technological problems to non-tech-minded people. Examples of courses are:
- Introduction to programming logic
- Security risk management
- System and communication security
- Cyberdefense and countermeasures
- Legal and human factors of cybersecurity
You may also have to complete a capstone project as a part of the program.
What can I do after earning a bachelor's degree?
Occupations you may be eligible for with a bachelor's degree can include:
- Computer network architect
- Software development engineer
- Information technology security analyst
- Information systems security administrator
Online Master's Degrees in Information Systems Security
What can I expect to learn in an online master's degree program?
Online master's degree programs in information systems security build on the skills learned in a bachelor's degree program to include more of the business and policy aspects of information security management. Students who complete a program at this level are generally prepared to take on managerial positions in the industry. Master's degrees in this field are typically of two types:
- Master of Science in Information Assurance and Security which focuses on data management and analytics
- Master of Science in Computer Systems Security which focuses on wireless security and computer forensics
There can be a considerable overlap within the coursework for the two degrees.
Typical duration: Up to two years of full-time study
General prerequisites: Bachelor's degree
Typical coursework: Subjects usually cover more advanced elements of information security management. Examples of courses you may find are:
- Innovations in information technology
- Telecommunications and networking
- Forensics and network intrusion
- Cybersecurity in legal, political, and economic context
- Information security auditing
Students may also have to complete a capstone or applied research project demonstrating the skills they have learned. They can usually select a subject based on their personal and professional interests.
What can I do after earning a master's degree?
An online master's degree in cybersecurity can open up careers in leadership positions within a wide variety of industries requiring information security management. You may be eligible for jobs like:
- Senior cybersecurity engineer
- Information security consultant
- Lead software security engineer
- Global information security director
- IT security consultant
Online Doctoral Degrees in Information Systems Security
What can I expect to learn in an online doctoral degree program?
Students in online doctoral degree programs can delve into cutting-edge technological innovations, research, and policy and ethics-based topics in cybersecurity. Students typically have to take some core classes before settling on a research topic.
Typical duration: Four to seven years of full-time study
General prerequisites: Master's degree
Typical coursework: Subjects can include research-oriented topics designed to aid students in their dissertations along with postgraduate level topics in information systems security. Courses may include:
- Information security systems and organizational awareness
- Advancing research in information technology management
- Strategic and technological trends in information security
- Qualitative and quantitative research methods
- Leading information technology strategic planning in complex and global environments
Students also need to write and defend a doctoral thesis in order to obtain their Ph.D. in information security systems. Some online doctoral degree programs may also require students to complete an on-campus residency during the course of their study.
What can I do after earning a doctoral degree?
Doctoral degree programs can be a good fit for individuals who want to pursue high-level careers within the field of information security systems or research and academia-based careers. Potential job occupations may include:
- Chief technology officer
- Information security executive
- Computer or information research scientist
- University professor
InfoSec professionals are needed in nearly every industry. During the course of your study or career, you may choose to specialize in a particular aspect of information security management such as:
- Information security analysis
- Information systems management
- Computer systems analysis
- Ethical hacking and pen testing
- Information assurance and security policy
Different specializations can require diverse skillsets and it may be wise to assess your interests and abilities before choosing one. As technology is continually evolving, cybersecurity professionals need to stay up-to-date through continuous learning, even in their specialized fields.
The Accrediting Board for Engineering and Technology (ABET) is the main accrediting body for IT and technology degree programs, including online information systems security degree programs, in the United States. Accreditation is important as it means you are receiving an education which holds up to the standards required of professionals in the industry. Additionally, attending an accredited program is often a prerequisite for receiving federal financial aid and scholarships.
Apart from ABET accreditation, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the National Security Agency (NSA) jointly endorse the National Centers of Academic Excellence (CAE) program through which schools are designated as CAEs in Cyber Defense or Cyber Operations after rigorous assessments. There are currently over 200 colleges and universities with the CAE designation.
Professional certifications can serve to show competency and knowledge of the best practices in the field of cybersecurity and information security systems. According to the BLS, many employers prefer to hire individuals with a professional certificate in this field. The requirements for obtaining professional certifications vary and may require professional experience, continuing education classes and passing an examination. Some certifications within the field of cybersecurity are:
- Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP)
- GIAC Certified Incident Handler (GCIH)
- Certified Information Systems Auditor (CISA)
- Certified Ethical Hacker(C/EH)