An online Master's in Network Security degree is a great way for professionals already in the field to advance their career. More importantly, it provides this growing field with more specialists who understand not only how networks operate, but how to keep them safe. In a world where separate networks are used to take care of everything from health care records to bank information, these professionals are in high demand.
What's surprising is how difficult it can be to find an affordable online graduate program in this field, especially since so many students are working professionals. That's why this ranking was created, ensuring that professionals find a program that fits all of their needs. With information such as term length, course format, and even samples of course listings, anyone can use this ranking as a way to figure out which online program is best for them.
This ranking took form by researching online degrees in network security on the National Center for Education Statistics website. From an initial pool of 20, 10 schools were chosen based on their in-state graduate tuition rate. The most affordable schools are listed below in descending order.
Ranking Low-cost Network Security Master's
10. Missouri University of Science and Technology
Online Master of Science in Information Science and Technology
The Master's in Network Security online degree available from Missouri University of Science and Technology is built to provide students with not only a foundation in advanced concepts that inform the field but also the flexibility to design most of their own curriculum. This 100 percent online degree delivers synchronous courses to students; courses are delivered in four-week, eight-week, and 16-week term schedules. There are also a variety of specializations, including Computer Networks, Communication Systems, and Enterprise Resource Planning; the latter also enables students to receive an SAP certificate upon completion of the coursework. Students will be expected to complete 30 credit hours of coursework, a research project, a capstone project, and a comprehensive exam. Sample courses include Web and Digital Media Development, Foundations of Internet Computing, and Technological Innovation Management and Leadership.
9. Colorado State University
Fort Collins, Colorado
Online Master of Computer Information Systems
Colorado State University confers an online Master's in Network Security that adds computer information systems as a way to balance a student's understanding of the field. This degree is open to both working and pre-service professionals, enabling students to transition into an IT career while still maintaining their current career. Courses are delivered asynchronously via the school's virtual portal and students can choose to finish the degree in three, four, or six semesters. The core curriculum focuses on the different aspects of networks and computer information systems, with electives providing students with the chance learn more about network security. This degree requires 33 credit hours of coursework as well as a comprehensive exam. Sample courses include Advanced Networking and Security, Applied Data Mining and Analytics in Business, and Enterprise Computing and Systems Integration.
8. Iowa State University
Online Master of Engineering in Information Assurance
Students interested in taking a career path to network security through engineering will want to check out Iowa State University's Master of Engineering in Information Assurance. This is a program that is delivered 100 percent online through asynchronous courses in an eight-week format. Students will find that there is no program of study that is recommended so they may take their courses in whatever sequence they choose. Please note that at this time, only students with a degree in computer science, engineering, or a technology-related field are eligible to apply for this program. Students will be expected to complete 30 credit hours of coursework, a capstone course, and a comprehensive written exam. Sample courses include Advanced Computer Networking, Computer Security, and Ethical and Legal Issues in Computer Security.
7. University of South Florida
Online Master of Science in Information Technology (MSIT)
The University of South Florida confers a network security master's online degree that was created for professionals who are interested in learning more about how information technology informs the field. This is a hybrid non-thesis program; students will be required to take several residencies at the campus for certain courses. The program also offers students the option to take on an internship or a research project to fulfill the needs of the degree. The curriculum was designed to give students maximum flexibility in terms of the courses they wish to take. The degree requires 30 credit hours of coursework and a comprehensive written exam. Sample courses include Advances in Object-Oriented Programming for Information Technology, Practical Cybersecurity, and IT and Systems for E-Business.
6. North Carolina State University at Raleigh
Raleigh, North Carolina
Online Master of Science in Computer Networking
An online Master's in Networking Security can be found at North Carolina State University at Raleigh. It is a 100 percent online, non-thesis program that is available to students from all backgrounds; it is best suited for students who wish to enter the field of industrial research. There are also several different tracks available within the degree, including Network Design, Network Hardware, and Networking Services. Courses are delivered asynchronously in eight-week and 16-week terms. This degree is also available as a hybrid degree. Students will find that the curriculum is structured to give all students a short core curriculum and then move them into more advanced courses on a certain aspect of networks. This degree requires 30 credit hours of coursework and a comprehensive written exam. Sample courses include Introduction to Wireless Networking, Operating Systems Principles, and Architecture of Parallel Computers.
5. Liberty University
Online Master of Science in Information Systems
An online network security master's degree can be found at Liberty University. The Master of Science in Information Systems will provide both working and pre-service professionals with a firm understanding of how networks work and how to keep them safe and secure. This accredited program is delivered 100 percent online and does not require a thesis for graduation. There are also two specializations, Information Assurance and Technology Management. Students will find that courses are taught asynchronously in the eight-week format and that there are eight different start dates for this program of study. This degree requires 36 credit hours and can be completed in less than two years with full-time study; a comprehensive exam is also required. Sample courses include Telecommunications and Network Security, Secure Enterprise Design and Development, and Information Operations and Security.
4. Georgia Southern University
Online Master of Science in Computer Science
Georgia Southern University confers an online Master of Science in Computer Science that can be completed either 100 percent online or as a hybrid program. It was specifically designed for people who already work in the information technology field; students without an educational background in information technology, computer science, or a related field are unable to apply. The curriculum focuses on distributed database systems, software engineering, and artificial intelligence. The program has two specializations: Data Mining and Data Warehousing, both of which are only available in ten master's programs around the world. Courses are delivered asynchronously in an eight-week format, making it possible to complete this degree in 18 months. This degree requires 30 credit hours of coursework and a comprehensive exam. Sample courses include Advanced Data Mining and Distribution, Introduction to Network Security, and Ethical and Legal Issues in Computer Science.
3. Sam Houston State University
Online Master of Science in Information Assurance and Security
Students interested in a cheap network security master's degree will want to check out Sam Houston State University. The school's 100 percent online program is open to students from educational backgrounds in computer science, management information science, or a related field; those without the appropriate degrees may be considered for conditional acceptance, which may require a sequence of nine credit hours of prerequisite coursework prior to entering the program. This is a non-thesis degree; students will not be required to complete any capstone projects or thesis in order to graduate. The program focuses heavily on information assurance and provides half of the curriculum plan course choice to students so they may tailor a specialization. Students can expect to complete 36 credit hours of coursework and a comprehensive written exam. Sample courses include Operating System Security, Business Continuity Management, and Directed Management and Development Projects.
2. Kennesaw State University
Online Master of Science in Information Technology
Kennesaw State University provides students with the chance to earn an online Master's in Network Security under the Information Technology major. It was designed specifically for professionals already working in the field who wish to advance to senior-level positions within the field; courses are delivered asynchronously and are delivered in an eight-week format. There are several specializations, including IT Security, Health Information Technology, and Databases and Networking. It is also possible to earn certificates in a variety of areas, including Health Information Technology, Data Management and Analytics, and Information Technology Security. More than half of the credit hours required have a focus on electives, enabling a student to engineer a specialization in network security. The degree requires 36 credit hours of coursework and a comprehensive written exam. Sample courses include Database Security and Auditing, Managing Operating and Network Systems, and Health Information Security and Privacy.
1. University of West Georgia
Online Master of Science in Applied Computer Science
The University of West Georgia confers an online Master of Science in Applied Computer science that is highly rated as one of the best graduate programs for network security professionals. This is a 100 percent online cohort program that is designed to be completed in two years with part-time study. Students will also note that courses are delivered through both asynchronous and synchronous formats and team projects are also synchronous. The curriculum is designed to provide students with a firm understanding of computer software, databases, and program construction. Students will be required to complete 36 credit hours of coursework, two applied projects, and a comprehensive written and oral exam. Sample courses include Program Construction, System and Network Administration, and Web Technologies.
Frequently Asked Questions
What are the Career Options for an Online Master's in Network Security Degree?
An online Master's in Network Security can often provide professionals with a variety of different career options that they did not consider prior to joining the field. Some of these include:
- Network Security Analyst
- Industrial Researcher
- Information Assurance Officer
- Software Developer
- IT Director at a Security Firm
- Freelance Consultant
- Computer Systems Engineer
- Project Manager
- Network Systems and Security Engineer
The types of career options available depend on whether a professional has earned a Master's in Engineering or Science. Both degrees are professional degrees, but engineering provides the opportunity to build the networks from the ground up and science provides leadership and administration skills. Both are highly desired in the field and professionals may find themselves with job offers coming from different sectors for different positions.
It's also important to note that whatever career position a professional chooses, they can work in any industry and in every sector. Because networks are crucial for businesses, governments, nonprofit organizations, and other entities, there is never a shortage of demand for a network security analyst.
How Much Can You Earn in this Field?
Network security professionals make large salaries, with the current range seeming to be between $80,000 and $150,000 a year. This range accounts for different industries, positions, and regions in America. It does not account for bonuses and other forms of compensation, such as stocks, should a company offer it as part of a professional's contract.
Because network security professionals can work in a variety of different industries, it's fair to say that some pay more than others. For those that work in the financial, healthcare, and insurance sectors, their average salary is around $90,000. For those who work in the business sector, with security firms, and with governments, the average salary is $100,000. The technology industry pays the most, with some professionals earning upwards of $150,000.
What are the Various Disciplines of Network Security?
Network security is a sub-discipline of computer science. It is generally considered to be a discipline that focuses on computer science, software engineering, business, database administration, coding, science, technology, engineering, law, and security. It is a multi-faceted field that requires a basic understanding of all of these disciplines.
There are some other disciplines that play a role in network security. For example, professionals who focus on security will learn about cybersecurity and law. Those who focus on the design of a network will learn about programming, coding, architecture, and information systems.
There are various other disciplines at play in this field, but the ones discussed above are the most useful in the field. Again, as a professional begins to specialize, more and more disciplines will become apparent in their work.
What are the Requirements for Earning an Online Graduate Degree in this Field?
No two schools are exactly the same; this being said, there are some general admission guidelines for degrees in this field. Bear in mind that these requirements may or not be strict; some schools do allow for students to be accepted on a conditional basis even if they do not meet all of the requirements for applying for the degree.
Most schools require an accredited bachelor's degree in the realm of information assurance, information technology, computer engineering, computer science, or a related field. This is because this is an advanced professional degree, so students without a basic understanding of how network security operates may find themselves unable to keep up with the curriculum. Some schools do allow students to take foundational courses, also known as prerequisite courses, that are non-credit and must be taken prior to the start of the program.
Another requirement is that of work experience. Many programs, including the ones listed above, require a student to have at least one year's worth of work experience in the field. This is to ensure that students have a working understanding of the field, which is necessary to understand the advanced concepts and theories that make up the curriculum of most master's programs.
There are other requirements. Schools do require a GRE or GMAT score, although it is thought that this is more of a formality rather than an actual factor of consideration. Letters of recommendation are also par for the course, and many schools also require an essay that is meant to gauge a student's understanding of the field.
There are exceptions to these requirements; many schools understand that some students want to change careers later in life. These schools do conditional acceptance of students who have volunteer or personal hobby experience in the field. These students are required to complete non-credit prerequisite courses prior to entering the program.
Is Work Experience Necessary to Complete This Degree?
No, work experience in the form of practicums and internships are not necessary to complete this degree. This is for two reasons, which will be listed below. It is important to note here that some schools do require work experience, but for online students, that is completed in their own community.
One of the reasons that work experience is not necessary to complete an online master's in network security is that most students already actively work in the field. Because certifications and licensure are not necessary in order for students to be employed in network security, it is generally not considered necessary for them to do practicums. Also, since online programs cater to working professionals, an emphasis on practicums is unattractive; most professionals work full-time and are looking for a flexible degree that does not require them to cut their work hours in order to complete graduation requirements.
Another reason that work experience is not necessary is that most schools require applied projects, which may take the form of a research or capstone project. Because network security is generally handled online and with computers, students can do these projects at home. It is not necessary to make them go out into the field to complete something that is better accomplished on a student's own free time.
In short, work experience is par for the course for most professionals who apply for this degree. In some cases, schools do provide an option for pre-service professionals to take on the degree. In this case, internships and work placements are highly encouraged but still considered optional. If a student has no previous experience in the field, it is recommended they participate in at least one practicum prior to graduation. For all other professionals, their career is their work experience.
Network security is an important part of keeping proprietary information intact and away from criminals. It's no wonder that so many businesses and companies are seeking out specialists in this area, especially as networks become larger and hold more sensitive information. Network security is a reward job and professionals will find themselves at the highest levels of their career with the help of an online Master's in Network Security.