Earning a Master's in Cybersecurity Online

What You’ll Learn & What You Can Do After Graduation

Should I Pursue a Master's in Cybersecurity Online?

Perhaps the most imminent development to emerge from the digital age, cybersecurity continues to evolve in the United States. The field appeals to a variety of students, combining unique skills in technology, computer science, and critical analysis. Earning a cybersecurity master's degree online prepares students for advanced positions in IT, government, and academia, typically saving students time and money over a traditional degree.

Cybersecurity programs serve students aspiring to protect computerized data and prevent cyber attacks for a company or client. Coursework in an online master's in cybersecurity emphasizes a strong foundation in risk assessment, network systems management, and ethical hacking. While most entry-level jobs require only a bachelor's degree, many employers prefer candidates with advanced qualifications. Top cybersecurity employers often favor candidates with a master's degree and field experience. Additionally, graduates who pursue optional professional certification may hold an advantage over competitors in the workforce.

Employment Outlook for Master's in Cybersecurity Graduates

Master's in Cybersecurity Salary

As in any occupation, the salary potential for cybersecurity workers depends largely on location and experience. Among the most common jobs for students equipped with a master's degree in cybersecurity, information security analysts draw high demand and a high salary across the country, and some areas offer exceptional perks to employees in this sector.

As shown below, District of Columbia houses one of the smallest numbers of information security analysts and pays the highest wage among comparable metro areas. California, by contrast, employs a large population of workers in this specialty but pays a lower wage. Overall, workers with less than five years of experience earn the lowest salary with the potential to increase their annual salary by more than $30,000 after 20 years in the field.

Top Paying States for Police and Detectives

State Employment Annual Mean Wage
District of Columbia 850 $123,850
New York 5,170 $115,690
New Jersey 2,180 $113,990
California 7,990 $108,780
New Mexico 670 $107,900
United States 96,870 $96,040

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistic

Pay by Experience Level for Cybersecurity Analysts

  • Entry-Level (0-5 Years):
    $67,000
  • Mid-Career (5-10 Years):
    $82,000
  • Experienced (10-20 Years):
    $98,000
  • Late-Career (20+ Years):
    $100,000

Source: PayScale

Master's in Cybersecurity Careers

Graduates of a master's in cybersecurity can choose from a variety of career paths and fields. Core coursework in a cybersecurity program lends itself to the IT sector, preparing students for careers as information security analysts and officers or computer and information systems managers, specializing in cybersecurity. Other aspiring cybersecurity experts seek positions within academia or science as professors or researchers. The following list includes a few of the most common occupations for master's degree in cybersecurity graduates.

Information Security Analyst

Annual Median Salary: $95,510

Projected Growth Rate: 28%

A broad field encompassing several cybersecurity occupations, information security analysts can pursue jobs ranging from entry-level to management. While many information security analyst employers require only a bachelor's degree for entry-level jobs, candidates with a master's degree in cybersecurity qualify for advanced careers as chief information security officers and cybersecurity analysts.

Computer and Information Systems Manager

Annual Median Salary: $139,220

Projected Growth Rate: 12%

Computer and information systems managers, also known as IT managers or IT project managers, oversee all of a client's computer-related networks and projects. While entry-level positions only require a bachelor's degree, many managers in this field hold a master's degree, such as an MBA with a concentration in cybersecurity.

Postsecondary Teacher

Annual Median Salary: $76,000

Projected Growth Rate: 15%

Postsecondary teachers typically need an advanced degree in the subject they wish to teach. While most four-year universities prefer to hire postsecondary teachers with doctoral degrees, some community colleges and specialty programs may accept candidates with a master's degree in cybersecurity.

Sources: Bureau of Labor Statstics / PayScale

What Can I Expect From an Online Master's in Cybersecurity Program?

While details vary depending on the chosen school and program, an online master's in cybersecurity provides students with a set of core skills needed for a career in the field. A typical master's degree in cybersecurity emphasizes advanced knowledge in the principles and practices of ethical hacking, data protection, and network security. The following courses represents common sample curriculum.

Curriculum for an Online Master's Degree in Cybersecurity

Cybersecurity Principles

This course gives a comprehensive overview of the basic tenets of cybersecurity, including issues of privacy, risk, legal ramifications, and compliance. Students learn to understand and evaluate the impact of cybersecurity in the world today, considering confidentiality concerns and technological innovations. Graduates can develop and implement their own basic cybersecurity plan in both technical and managerial positions.

Advanced Ethical Hacking

A required skill among top cybersecurity experts, this course teaches students to assess, test, and secure computer networks and systems using hacking methods in an ethical manner. Students learn to assess and mitigate security risks as they prepare to become certified ethical hackers.

Advanced Network Security

Students in this course learn to monitor the security of computer networks and identify potential risks and vulnerabilities. Topics explore ways of detecting malicious code, verifying authentication, and preventing intrusion through penetration testing, preparing graduates for their choice of management-level positions.

Information Risk Management

Necessary to any cybersecurity occupation, this course explores the various types of potential risks to information systems and computer networks and methods of risk prevention. Coursework emphasizes the role of modern science and recent technologies in assessing, mitigating, and preventing data intrusions.

Applied Cryptography and Data Protection

Crucial to both technical and managerial cybersecurity jobs, this course trains students to manage encrypted data by evaluating code and coding algorithms. Graduates can develop their own protocols for maintaining the security of encrypted data and apply the same expertise to decoding data encrypted by others when necessary.

Certifications and Licenses a Master's in Cybersecurity Prepares For

  • Certified Ethical Hacker: Administered by EC-Council, the CEH credential trains candidates to "think like a hacker" in order to outsmart one. The only designation of its kind in cybersecurity, CEH certification especially benefits professional auditors and IT security officers looking to hold an edge over competitors. Applicants must pass an exam to earn practical or advanced CEH certification. The latter requires at least two years of professional experience.
  • Certified Information Systems Security Professional: Renowned as the world's most popular optional credential for cybersecurity professionals, CISSP certification enables chief information security officers, security analysts, and directors of security to demonstrate their advanced skills in all cybersecurity disciplines. CISSP candidates typically need at least five years of cumulative, paid work experience to qualify for the CISSP exam.