The need for employees with strong computer skills will only grow in the future, which is why online Master's in Information Systems Security are so popular today. Many of these programs accept students who have a degree outside of information technology and computer science, but those students will need to take prerequisites before taking graduate computer classes. These programs feature courses on everything from defense against hackers and computer networks protection to forensic sciences and ethical issues.
Online programs are a good choice for students who already work around computers and in computer science positions that want to take classes around their own schedules. Even programs that require a thesis or a final project allow students do their work online. Students interested in these programs can check out the 10 most affordable online options available today.
Ranking Low-cost Online Information Systems Security Master's
Before ranking the 10 most affordable online Master's in Information Systems Security, we turned to the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) for help. The NCES provides updated and current information about all colleges in the United States. We did a simple search for information systems security master's degree online and found that there are 87 of those programs available today. After looking at the in-state tuition prices charged by each program, we narrowed that list down to just 10. Our list of the top 10 most affordable online Master's in Information Systems Security programs feature the schools with the lowest tuition rates at the bottom.
10. Towson University
Applied Information Technology (M.S.)
Not all programs use the words information systems security online but cover the same topics, which is why this Applied Information Technology program through Towson University made our list. It has a concentration in information security and assurance that covers the design of different security systems and the steps that professionals take to implement those systems. Students can take just five courses that include Systems Development Process, Network Security and Case Studies in Information Security to earn a certificate in addition to a master's degree. The main program allows students to customize their degrees and earn certificates in one or more other fields, including internet application development, information systems management and health information technology.
9. Kaplan University – Maine Campus
Master of Science in Information Systems
Kaplan University is a university known for its online degree programs. One of the top options available through this school is its Master of Science in Information Systems. The program has several concentrations available that include one in information security and assurance, which looks at how potential threats can occur online. Students can also study hacking techniques and the best ways of defending against those attacks. They can also take courses on computer forensics. Kaplan offers classes that start each month and every two months, which gives students the freedom to pick when they will enroll and what classes they will take at the graduate level.
8. Concordia University – St. Paul
Information Systems Security (MASc)
The Master of Applied Science (MASc) is a degree designed for those working in science fields, and Concordia University offers one of these programs in Information Systems Security through its St. Paul campus. It has a co-op option available that online students can use to gain some experience in the field in their own towns as they work on their degrees. Those students will need to get permission from the university to work before beginning the program. This is one of the only online programs with a thesis requirement. The university asks that students present a topic to an adviser, receive permission to work on that topic and then design a project or paper that they present in their final years.
7. Texas Tech University
Master of Science in Data Science
It only takes one year to complete the Master of Science in Data Science through Texas Tech University. The program features just 12 courses, and all students will take the same classes. Data and Text Mining is one of the newer courses added to this program, and it looks at how companies mine and use data found online. It also features a course called Decision Theory and Business Analytics that teaches students how to do their own research and find the information needed to make decisions and how to analyze how those decisions will affect the business. Some of the other required courses that data science students take include Scripting Languages, Advanced Statistical Methods, Prescriptive Analytics and Business Intelligence.
6. Sam Houston State University
Master of Science in Information Assurance and Security
Sam Houston State University looks at all students entering its Master of Science in Information Assurance and Security to find out what classes they took at the undergrad level. This helps the university determine the number of classes that they will need to take in this program, which ranges from 30 to 36 credits. The university only offers this program as an online option. Though students will need to pick six electives from within the graduate department, they will all take some of the same classes. Those classes include Business Continuity Management, Database Security, Operating System Security and Principle and Policy Info Assurance. Students must also do a directed management and development final project.
5. Western Governors University
Master of Science Cybersecurity and Information Assurance
One of the only online programs that allows students to study cybersecurity and earn field certificates at the same time is the Western Governors University Master of Science in Cybersecurity and Information Assurance program. Priced at under $7,000 a year, it also ranks as one of the more affordable options for students. They can earn a certificate as a Computer Hacking Forensic Investigator, which allows them to investigate online and cyber crimes, but they can also earn a certified ethical hacker certificate. Nearly 90% of the students who enroll in this program graduate within a year. Students will take 10 courses and demonstrate their competencies in fields like security policies and standards, forensics and network intrusion, disaster recovery and network design and management. This program has a capstone requirement too.
4. Kennesaw State University
Master of Science in Information Technology
Students can start in the MS in Information Technology program at Kennesaw State University during the fall, spring or summer semester. Those students take 15 credit hours of required classes and 21 credits of electives. The university offers electives that students will not find in other programs, including Clinical Processes and Workflows, Advanced Web Concepts and Applications, Ethical Hacking and Computer Forensics. Those who wish to do a thesis or a final project can do one as an elective. This program has some prerequisites that students may need to complete, but it also has required courses such as Systems Acquisition and Integration, IT Strategy and Policy, IT Design Studio and IT Service Delivery.
3. American Public University System
Information Technology Master of Science
American Public University constantly changes its Information Technology program requirements based on what professionals need in the field. Incoming students may find that they need to take different courses than those who began the program earlier do. All students must do a final project in this program. They can either do a thesis and take a critical approach to a trending topic or do a research project to produce an app or piece of software. The information systems and assurance concentration features courses like Intrusion Detection Incident Handling, Information Assurance: Assessment and Evaluation and Information Assurance: Capability Maturity and Appraisals. Other concentrations include IT project management, digital forensics and enterprise software development.
2. Dakota State University
Master of Science in Information Systems
Dakota State University offers an information systems graduate program that approaches the subject like a Master of Business Administration program would. It gives students the competitive edge that they need to work in the IT industry today. The program requires that students take both business courses and computer science classes. It has different concentrations available in healthcare information systems, application development and data management. The network administration and security concentration is the top choice for those who want to work in systems security. Courses in this DSU program include Information Systems Programming, Project and Change Management, IT Infrastructure, Technology and Network Management, Information Technology Strategy and Policy and Technology for Mobile Devices.
1. University of the Cumberlands
Master of Science in Information Systems Security
The most affordable of these programs is the one that the University of the Cumberlands offers, which costs less than $6,000 a year. It is one of the only programs that the Department of Homeland Security and the National Security Agency named a National Center of Academic Excellence for Cyber Defense. Many of its graduates go to work for one of those departments or another government agency. Students take various courses that include Operations Security, Software Architecture and Design, Application Security and Information Security and Risk Management. The university allows students to trade their experiences for course credit. It looks at a student's resume and application and may allow students to skip some of the required courses because of the past work they did.
More Information for Prospective Students
Is a Computer Science Undergrad Degree a Requirement of Beginning a Program?
Some students worry about applying to online information systems security because they have degrees in another field. While these programs do require some type of bachelor's degree, most do not require that students have a degree in computer science or even a minor in computer science. The programs use prerequisites to ensure that students understand all the material and information presented to them in their classes. Some students can complete their prerequisites in a single semester and in the summer before beginning the full program, but other students will spend up to a full year taking foundations courses before studying advanced areas of information systems security.
Are There Any Special Admissions Requirements?
It's important that students read through the admissions guidelines of each school carefully to make sure that they submit all the information required of incoming students. Colleges today have online applications that students can finish and submit online, but some schools have different applications for online students and those attending classes on their campuses. There may be a small application fee charged too. Students will need to submit a transcript from any school attended and show proof that they have their undergrad degrees finished before beginning a program. Other requirements may include a resume or an application essay. Some schools ask for letters of recommendation to see what former professors and employers thought of the work that students did.
What Jobs are Available with a Master's Degree?
A graduate degree generally qualifies employees to work in more advanced fields and helps them earn more money too. Those jobs include working as an information technology manager, database administrator, systems analyst, network administrator or application developer. Other positions include working as a research scientist, or a teacher. Though colleges and universities do not often hire professors with just a graduate degree, vocational schools and community colleges do. Teachers who have more fieldwork experience can work as adjunct professors after finishing a Master's in Information Systems Security online.
What are Some of the Duties Associated with These Jobs?
The duties and tasks associated with each job varies based on the job title. Research scientists find solutions to computing problems. They conduct experiments to find those solutions, and many publish their findings in major academic journals and other publications. Researchers can work for both public institutions and private corporations and companies.
Analysts do some of the same work that scientists do but also use the research and experiments conducted by those researchers. They essentially look at all the networks that a client uses for any potential threats. Analysts are the ones who helped Target and other major companies recover after hacks that led to millions of people having their private information stolen. An analyst is responsible for creating a report that outlines all those threats and offers possible solutions to each one.
Those who work in management positions are responsible for leading and managing a small or large group of people. Many companies hire IT heads to oversee the work done by others. It's also possible for those with an online information systems master's degree to work in app development. Instead of just creating the apps and software that others use, they look at the potential problems associated with each one. This helps protect the information of those playing games online or using apps on their phones and tablets.
What Does the Future Look Like?
The need for app developers will probably decrease in the future because many companies hire freelance workers instead of full-time help. At the same time though, the need for app managers will increase. This is due to the large number of apps landed in online marketplaces and the growing number of hackers operating in the world today. Managers and security experts will examine those apps to find weak spots and recommend patches and fixes for those issues. Some of those who complete an online Master's in information systems will work on the patches too.
One of the fastest growing fields within this industry is the research scientist field. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) estimates that between 2016 and 2026 that this field will add more than 5,000 jobs in the future, which represents a growth of 19% when compared to the number of professionals working in this field in past years. The need for information security analysts will grow at an even faster rate, which the BLS estimates at 28%. More than 20,000 new analyst jobs will become available in the future.
Does the Government Hire Analysts?
One of the reasons why the number of analyst positions will increase in the future is because of the jobs opening up within the government. Those jobs are available in local departments but also at the state and federal levels. Analysts working for the government are the ones who oversee the entire network used by an organization, department or agency. They must keep an eye out for any possible threats and hacks and take steps to protect that network before a hack occurs. Government analysts can also look for hacks and breaches that occurred in the past.
The Department of Homeland Security is just one of the government agencies that hires graduates of information systems security master's online programs. Some of the top schools today actually offer computer forensics classes that can improve the chances that a graduate might land a government job. Those students learn how to investigate the crimes that happen online. They learn how to gather evidence of the crime and how to create security patches to reduce the risk of that crime happening again in the future. Those with a forensics background can work for private security firms too.
How Much Do Information Systems Security Professionals Make?
Many of the top jobs in the information systems security field pay employees around $100,000 a year. Researchers earn in the range of $110,000 a year, while analysts usually earn around $92,000 a year. Teachers working in vocational schools can expect to earn between $25,000 and $50,000 a year or more. Systems managers and administrators make one of the highest average salaries, which is more than $130,000 a year.
The amount that a student makes after graduating from a cheap online Master's in Information Systems Security will depend on factors like the amount of experience the student has. Many of those making the highest amount of money are those with more experience. The top 10% of those working in each field may have five to seven years of experience or more than a decade of experience. Government jobs may pay less but often come with more benefits. Those positions provide workers with paid time off for mental health days, sick days and when they need to care for their families. They also receive healthcare coverage for themselves, their spouses and their dependents. Health insurance may include dental and vision coverage too.
Average wages also vary based on the average cost of living. It costs more to live in a major city, which is why these employees earn the highest wages. They pay more to rent or buy a home, purchase groceries and other supplies and even get to and from work. Smaller towns and rural areas have a much lower cost of living. Workers in those areas learn less for doing the same jobs as those in big cities do.
How Do Students Pay for These Programs?
The most common way that students pay for online Master's in Information Systems Security programs is with federal aid. All online students can use the FAFSA in the same way that traditional students do. Those applying will need to list enrollment status and school attended on the form. Full-time students have access to federal loans, but part-time students usually need to use alternative and private student loans instead. Private and alternative student loans base on the interest on the loans on the applicant's credit history and credit score. Students can also do a search for online scholarship programs. These programs award students as little as $250 or $500, but some scholarships award students thousands of dollars and allow them to renew that scholarship to finish programs that take more than one year to complete.