Ph.D. in Information Systems Online

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Become Team
July 8, 2019

Students considering an online information assurance and security should be prepared to complete rigorous academic coursework, learning about foundational research methods and engaging in intensive dissertation study. With cyberattacks affecting many industries, including financial, retail, and healthcare organizations, corporations want employees who can provide innovative solutions to these increasingly dangerous problems.

Because information security analysts with a Ph.D. in information systems can advance to high-level computer and information management positions, opportunities for these degree holders are on the rise. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the demand for information security analysts and computer and information systems managers is projected to grow faster than average in the coming years.

Should I Earn an Online Ph.D. in Information Systems?

An online Ph.D. program in information systems is ideal for students who wish to become leaders in the field of information assurance and security. Whether working for a private organization or conducting research at a university, Ph.D. graduates can help guide the future of information security.

In addition to a desire to lead, students might pursue a Ph.D. in information systems in order to expand their professional options. While lower-level degrees open doors to opportunities across many industries, a Ph.D. can lead to faster professional advancement. Graduates often obtain advanced positions and higher salaries with a Ph.D. in information systems.

Some opportunities — likes professorships in information systems — are open only to those who hold a Ph.D. Unlike working in an office environment, full-time schedules tend to be flexible for professors; this is a draw for many prospective employees. Students who enjoy research, writing, and teaching may be interested in pursuing a professorship, but they will need a Ph.D. before employers will consider their applications.

The variety of available work environments may also entice students to pursue a Ph.D. Those who prefer working alone can become information security analysts or computer and information research scientists, while those who like leading teams can pursue jobs as high-level computer and information systems managers.

What Can I Do With an Online Ph.D. in Information Systems?

Graduates of online Ph.D. programs in information security qualify for a variety of careers, including professorships, research positions, and executive computer and information systems management positions. Jobs are available across many industries, including finance, information, medicine, and the federal government.

With a Ph.D. in information systems, graduates can pursue research-heavy university professorships, where employers expect workers to make contributions to the field through study and scholarly publications. Computer and information research scientists may also work for universities, though they are more likely to work for the government or private industry, usually conducting research and development. They often collaborate with electrical and hardware engineers to come up with solutions to research questions. Online Ph.D. in information systems students may direct their dissertation studies toward specific areas of interest.

Computer and information systems managers who hold a Ph.D. in information systems may pursue top-level leadership positions, guiding companies in technology-related matters. Chief information officers, chief technology officers, vice presidents of information technology, and directors of information technology work in industries like computer systems design, information, finance, insurance, and manufacturing. With a Ph.D. in information systems, graduates can confidently step into technology leadership positions.

Many industrial sectors also employ information assurance and cybersecurity experts. Graduates of online Ph.D. programs in information security can work for consulting firms, corporations, nonprofits, higher education institutions, or the military in the following positions.

Information Security Analyst

Information security analysts are responsible for protecting computer systems from security risks. While a bachelor's degree is the minimum qualification for this role, a Ph.D. leads to higher salaries and leadership positions at large corporations. As malware and cyberattacks become increasingly common, employers continue to seek experts to prevent cybersecurity disasters before they occur.

Chief Information Officer

Chief information officers work with executives to determine an organization's technology needs. They may collaborate with and oversee other IT workers when implementing decisions. Depending on the size of an organization, these professionals may need a Ph.D. to qualify for employment.

Chief Technology Officer

Chief technology officers work with chief information officers to implement strategies for technological improvements within their companies. In smaller organizations, a chief technology officer may act in both capacities. These workers are responsible for suggesting improvements to company systems and practices. As with chief information officers, employees who hold a Ph.D. are more likely to acquire these positions.

Professor of Information Systems

Professors of information systems work for universities where they perform research by conducting experiments, collecting data, and coming up with advances in the field of information systems. They also teach college and graduate students. These professionals may work part time or full time as adjuncts or tenure track professors.

Computer and Information Research Scientist

Computer and information research scientists study problems related to technology across a variety of industries, including health, education, and business. They develop and implement solutions to problems and often publish their findings in academic journals.

Information Systems Ph.D. Program Overview

Online Ph.D. programs in information assurance and security prepare students to work as leaders, researchers, and educators in the field. Students can expect to encounter rigorous, research-focused curricula designed to sharpen their technical and soft skills. The following sections detail common application requirements, courses, and accreditation standards for Ph.D. in information security online programs.

Application Requirements and Admission Criteria

While some online Ph.D. programs in information security will consider applicants with only a bachelor's degree, most require students to hold an accredited master's degree in computer science, information systems, or another related field. Programs may also expect students to have several years of related work experience. Applicants should be familiar with basic programming languages, systems design, database structure, and statistics. Additional prerequisites may include courses in calculus and computer programming.

Prospective students should familiarize themselves with faculty research and prepare a statement detailing their own intended area of study. Applicants may also need to submit academic or professional recommendation letters from sources familiar with their abilities and dedication to learning.

GRE or GMAT scores may also be required, as well as a minimum cumulative GPA (usually 3.0 or higher). Students must also be able to demonstrate English language proficiency.


Research underpins the curricular structure of most online Ph.D. programs in information security. While details vary, core courses in research methods prepare students for dissertation work. Additional core requirements provide foundational theory, practice, and leadership skills with the ultimate aim of preparing students to enter the field as competent researchers. Students may also take specialized courses that cover topics like advanced knowledge of information systems, risk management, and cybersecurity.

Since many graduates of online Ph.D. programs in information security go on to pursue research and teaching positions in higher education, some programs offer courses in teaching practice. While credit requirements for Ph.D. programs vary, they tend to be in the range of 60-75 credits.

Most online Ph.D. programs in information assurance and security require participants to pass qualifying exams, which take place between the completion of coursework and the start of dissertation study. Typical dissertation requirements include data collection, research synthesis, and dissertation defense. Students in online Ph.D. programs in information security can expect to encounter some of the following courses during the first portion of their program.

  1. Research Methods/Foundations: A staple of many Ph.D. programs, research methods courses prepare students to design and conduct research, apply theoretical knowledge to collected data, and effectively communicate conclusions.

  2. Information Security Risk Management: These courses teach students to research cybersecurity issues, study best practices for managing security risks, and develop tools to prevent breaches as technology evolves.

  3. Network Security: Advanced courses in network security explore forward-thinking strategies for network protection. Students actively evaluate security measures and study their implementation.

  4. Database Systems: Courses in database systems prepare students to manage and protect information storage and processing systems by teaching a solid understanding of theory, design, research, and troubleshooting techniques.

  5. Teaching Practice: Since many Ph.D. students in information systems pursue professorial positions, some programs require courses in teaching practice that cover topics like syllabus development and instruction techniques.

Pr ogram Outcomes

Students who graduate with a Ph.D. in information systems usually pursue leadership positions, like cybersecurity directors for large corporations, professors, or research scientists, designing new innovations in cybersecurity. Employers for these positions seek candidates who can develop and manage security measures, apply academic research to practical situations, and maintain ethical practices in cybersecurity and information systems.

An online Ph.D. in information systems develops research and communication skills and instructs students about practical applications. Through this synthesis of research and practice, Ph.D. students pursue individual career goals while honing the skills they developed in their undergraduate and master's-level studies and fieldwork.

Accreditation for Online Information Systems Ph.D. Programs

As with any degree program, individuals should ensure that prospective online Ph.D. programs in information security hold appropriate accreditation. Regional accreditors, such as the Higher Learning Commission and the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities, evaluate liberal arts colleges and universities and hold them to high academic standards. National accrediting bodies are typically reserved for trade schools and do not generally provide adequate accreditation for Ph.D. programs.

When considering an online Ph.D. in information assurance and security, students should also look for programmatic accreditation from the National Security Agency, which partners with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security to certify programs in cyberdefense and cyberoperations through the National Centers of Academic Excellence in Cyber Defense program.

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