Updated: August 1, 2017
From high-stakes government offices to small business start-ups, everyone is using and storing sensitive information in digital spaces. And as more organizations, corporations, and agencies rely fully on computer technology for data communication and storage, the need for professional cyber security officers becomes ever more in demand.
The demand for information security personnel, which is expected to rise another 18 percent in the next few years, is reflected in the average annual of those analysts: with a median pay of over 92k annually, going into cyber security is a lucrative option. And a stable one too. Every industry is in need of one who can design and implement secure networks, prevent digital break-ins, and do damage control at the event of a cyber intrusion. Government, healthcare, corporations big and small, education, non-profits—wherever you see yourself protecting networks, systems, and peoples, the programs below will help you get there.
While some of the programs on this ranking are degree completion programs (meaning, it’s expected you have earned at least fifty college credits already), many are full programs; so you can start with your intro courses and general education cores and move through the degree online and at your own pace. And now is a great time to enroll in online education. It is a flexible, convenient way to advance your professional career at an affordable rate: most online degrees are cheaper than those earned on-campus and many online schools don’t care about residence. In addition to affordability and flexibility, online learning has shed its earlier stigma and is now considered an equally great way to earn an education.
What are the Best Online Bachelor’s in Cyber Security Degrees?
Some of the ten programs below emphasize cyber forensics and others network security; so, whether you’re interested in preventing cyber intrusion or in persecuting hackers and cyber terrorists, the programs below are, hands down, the ten best in the nation that can be earned fully online. To collate such a definitive ranking we first investigated the academic reputation of each online school offering undergraduate programs in cyber security. We then preened from there, looking at student retention (a signifier of student satisfaction), affordability, and the early salaries of graduates. What we found after extensive and exhaustive research are programs that not only deliver the best cyber security education in the nation but those that are also affordable and offer a great return on investment. Our figures and information come from the university and colleges’ websites, PayScale, and nationally recognized U.S. News & World Report and The National Center for Education Statistics.
Pennsylvania State University World Campus
College Choice Score: 100
Credit Hour Cost: $584
Pennsylvania State University (Penn State) is a huge, elite, research school with multiple campuses, including its World Campus that offers over sixty degrees, and over 100k enrolled undergraduate and graduate students. Penn State is one of the largest universities on our list as well as one of the most renowned (see a sampling of its rankings below).
By earning an online BS in Security and Risk Analysis degree with specialization in Information and Cyber Security through Penn State’s World Campus, you will be fully equipped to protect trade and industry secrets, economic information, sensitive customer data, and corporate reputations. This program teaches students not only how to secure systems but how to design secure systems too. Furthermore, you’ll learn how to evaluate and measure complex risk situations, how to ensure privacy, and how to maintain confidentiality of systems and peoples. This online degree readies you for work as a:
- Applications Security Specialist
- Computer Forensics Specialist
- Business Process Analyst
- Counterintelligence and Counterterrorism Threat Analysis
- Policy Analyst
- And more
Penn State is ranked fiftieth by U.S. News & World Report among all national universities and colleges. Among the top public schools, it is ranked fourteenth; and according to global rankings produced by QS World University Rankings, the Academic Ranking of World Report, and Times Higher Education World University Rankings, Penn State is consistently ranked among the top 100 universities in the world.
Arizona State University
College Choice Score: 99.75
Credit Hour Cost: $643
Arizona State University (ASU) is also a large, elite, research school with multiple campuses throughout downtown Phoenix and across the state. ASU is home to several prominent research facilities and is affiliated with major medical schools and hospitals. Its global campus is considered one of the best distance education programs in the country.
Through ASU’s Ira A. Fulton School of Engineering, one can earn a BS in Information Technology degree that is specifically focused on issues of cyber security. The curriculum introduces students to the ins-and-outs of cybersecure environments, including infrastructure, administering complex software and database systems, analyzing network stability through utilization of cybersecure tools and techniques, and more. This is a full, 120-credit program that can be completed entirely online. In addition to your cyber security course work, you’ll also encounter the following classes you may not see in other programs:
- Introduction to Human Systems Engineering
- Java Technologies
- Information Modeling, Storage, and Retrieval
- Managing Configurations and Active Directory
- Shell and Script Programming
- Enterprise Planning and Implementation
- And more
Classified as a top research school and consistently included in public, national, and global rankings by U.S News, Washington Monthly, and ARWU, Arizona State University is considered one of the best, most innovative schools in the country.
College Choice Score: 99.25
Credit Hour Cost: $572
Drexel University is a private, research university located in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania that offers nearly 100 academic areas of study. Likewise, Drexel offers another 100 degrees that can be earned completely online. Though these degrees cover all disciplines and subjects, Drexel was founded as a science and industry university and still maintains a pronounced emphasis on tech, economics, and engineering.
Drexel’s online BS in Computing and Security Technology degree specializes in broad training of computer system administrators and security officials. Graduates find work in corporate, government, and non-profit industries alike, as students learn how to design and implement computer-based programs, analyze the national and global influence of cyber security on individuals as well as organizations, and identify and fix security weaknesses. Other incentives for earning a degree through Drexel include:
- IT certifications (such as A+, Oracle, Windows, and more) are eligible to be used as credit toward the degree
- This is a highly flexible program in which students choose their pace
- Because the program is organized into four ten-week quarters, you can take more classes in a shorter amount of time
- You can transfer up to 113 credits from any accredited institution
Drexel is well-ranked by Businessweek, U.S. News & World Report, Forbes, and Times Higher Education, and it is known for having one of the largest and most-respected co-op programs in the nation. Drexel was also one of the first universities to provide online and distance degree programs, over two decades ago.
College Choice Score: 96.5
Credit Hour Cost: $555
Pace University is located in Manhattan and has a few other campuses throughout New York State. Pace is a private school with around 10k undergraduates and 5k graduate students, and dozens of degree programs in the areas of health, business, education, arts and sciences, and technology.
The first thing to note about Pace’s BS in Professional Technology Studies degree is it is a completion program. It’s expected that you’ll either have an associate’s degree already in hand, or enough credits you can transfer to cover the general education core requirements. Once that’s settled, this online information technology degree can be earned alongside a concentration in computer forensics. This specialization gives students a foundation in information technology while also equipping them with a working understanding of the criminal justice system, cybercrime, technical forensic computing, and how to implement digital investigations. Courses include:
- Forensic Investigation, Acquisition, and Analysis of Digital Evidence
- Crime and Public Policy
- Database Management
- Computer Forensics, Cyberlaw, and Evidence Admissibility
- Global Networking Technology
- Mobile Device Forensics
- And more
Pace University is included among the top 200 best universities in the nation, and several of its individual departments, colleges, and programs are also well-ranked. Pace’s location in Lower Manhattan near the Financial District puts it in direct proximity to some of the best economic, technological, and security networks in the world.
College Choice Score: 94.25
Credit Hour Cost: $600
A private, Roman Catholic school located in Romeoville, Illinois, Lewis University is a mid-sized school of around 7k students and 100 degree programs. And it is organized into of five discrete colleges and schools: the College of Arts and Sciences, the College of Business, the College of Education, the College of Nursing and Health Professions, and the School for Professional and Continuing Education.
Lewis University’s online BS in Information Security and Risk Management degree is perfect for those who want both a hands-on learning experience and a curriculum marked by theory and analytics. Students gain a fundamental understanding of information security, risk management, and ethical hacking while cultivating skills in security management, IT operations, data communications, and computer forensics. Classes include Business Continuity and Disaster Recovery, IT Law, Security Incident and Event Management, Data Discovery, and more. And graduates from Lewis’ program are fully prepared to acquire prominent industry certifications, including:
- Certified Ethical Hacker (CEH)
- Certified Information Systems Auditor (CISA)
- Certified Systems Security Professional (CISSP)
- Certified Information Security Manager (CISM)
- AccessData Certified Forensics Examiner (ACE)
Lewis University is considered one of the best schools in its region, as ranked by The Princeton Review and U.S. News & World Report. Similarly, it is included among a select list of the best colleges and universities in the state.
University of Illinois–Springfield
College Choice Score: 93.5
Credit Hour Cost: $359
The Springfield (UIS) campus in the notable University of Illinois System is also a member of the American Association of Colleges and Universities and the Council of Public Liberal Arts Colleges. UIS offers a few dozen undergraduate academic programs to 5k students, thus a relatively small school. However, UIS also works closely with other University of Illinois schools to proffer degrees and classes through the global campus.
Through the Department of Computer Science, UIS offers an online BS in Information Systems Security degree. Not only does this program give students a sturdy foundation in the fundamentals of computer science, it trains students to master any security issue they may face in their careers. Students learn design and implementation of secure systems, security assessment, computer security ethics, research methodology, and lab best practices. This is a full undergraduate program consisting of 120 credit hours, ten of which much fulfill UIS’ unique Engaged Citizenship Common Experience requirement. This program is a combination of coursework covering ethics and international perspectives as well as required participation in lectures and speaker series. Specific requirements include:
- U.S. Communities course
- Global Awareness course
- Engagement Experience (varies)
- Speakers Series (one hour minimum)
UIS prides itself on its strong liberal art curriculum and broad professional development program. They have offered online education for nearly twenty years, making them an expert in distance learning, and UIS’ online programs are consistently well-ranked in the areas of affordability and academia.
Dakota State University
College Choice Score: 90.75
Credit Hour Cost: $335
Dakota State University (DSU) is a public university known for its technological focus. They offer degrees in business, education, computer and information sciences, and the natural sciences, (on top of liberal arts degrees too). Approximately 5k students are enrolled in one of the many undergraduate, masters, or doctoral programs.
The online BS in Cyber Operations degree through Dakota State University is a blend of classes covering programming, math, networking, and the technical areas of cyber security. Students gain invaluable insight into reverse engineering, malware, and software exploitation to better understand the perspectives and techniques of the hacker. DSU sets itself apart from the crowd in that it offers a Cyber Corps Scholar Program, a full-ride that provides another 20k stipend for eligible students. Also distinctive to DSU is the 4+1 model of the program, which allows students to combine their bachelor’s with a Master’s in Applied Computer Science degree in as few as five years. Even if you only want your bachelor’s, DSU is a solid place to earn it, with courses such as:
- Information Security Fundamentals
- Offensive Network Security
- Web Software Security
- Cellular and Mobile Communications
- Malware Analysis
- Hardware, Virtualization, and Data Communications
- And more
DSU is recognized by the NSA as a National Center of Academic Excellence, for both research and cyber operations. The university’s extended campus also emphasizes the intersections of technology and academy, and has thus earned national recognition.
Robert Morris University
College Choice Score: 90.25
Credit Hour Cost: $725
A private university located in a suburb of Pittsburgh, Robert Morris University (RMU) is home to about 4k undergraduates. RMU is organized into five academic schools—the nursing, business, education,, information systems, and STEM schools—through which it offers 100 academic areas of study across all degree levels, including its online degrees.
Robert Morris’ online Information Systems and Technology degree can be paired with a specialization in Cyber Forensics that readies students for an evolving digital world marked by security threats from hackers and cyber terrorists. The curriculum at RMU brings together technology, business, law, and organizational behavior to give students a broad academic experience, one in which they learn how to prevent, investigate, and respond to network intrusions. Unique to this program is the option students have to attend a two-week intensive on national security in Washington, D.C., which provides invaluable hands-on experience and networking opportunities. A sampling of RMU’s online course load includes:
- Forty credits of general education classes (in literature, communications, math, history, and science
- A variety of programming courses (Java, Cobol, C++, Visual C#, and more)
- Management classes (in database, project, and network technology management
- Forensic courses covering cyberlaw, digital evidence analysis, mobile forensics, IT security, control, and assurance, and more
The university is named after the Robert Morris who signed the Declaration of Independence and financially promoted the American Revolution.
College Choice Score: 89.25
Credit Hour Cost: $600
DePaul University is located in Chicago, Illinois and is a private university affiliated with the Catholic Church. It has a student population of around 22k combined undergraduates and graduates, and is comprised of several colleges and schools. DePaul’s business, computing and digital media, new learning, and continuing and professional education schools receive consistent praise.
Though technically not a cyber security degree proper, for those who want a foundational education in information technology that includes an array of security electives, DePaul may be a great option. They have an online BS in Information Technology degree that emphasizes security prevention and analysis as well as user management and protection. This is a degree completion program that requires you have at least forty-five transferable credit hours already. Once those transfer over you will take classes such as:
- Content Management Systems
- Fundamentals of Information Assurance
- Applied Networks and Security
- Systems Analysis and Design
- Data Analysis
- A course cover your Capstone Project
- And more
Often included among “College of the Year” listings from Time Magazine and Princeton Review, DePaul is ranked 123rd among national universities by U.S. News & World Report.
College Choice Score: 87.75
Credit Hour Cost: $530
Regent University provides education for those desiring a faith-based approach to education and pedagogy, as classes at Regent (both traditional and online) are steeped in Christian theology. Regent is a private research university based in Virginia Beach that offers over 150 degrees across all academic levels, from associate to doctoral degrees, to its nearly 10k students.
By getting your online BS in Cybersecurity degree through Regent University you will learn how to collate evidence needed to prosecute cybercrimes. You’ll learn how to develop prevention plans as well as recovery plans, and you’ll cultivate a professional demeanor that is at once ethical, innovative, and practical. Regent courses take you through your general education cores (which include pre-requisites on biblical studies, theology, and Christian leadership) and then introduce an array of cybersecurity topics through courses such as Digital Forensics, Systems Security, Internet/Intranet Security, Network Defense and Security, and much more. Regent graduates have acquired jobs in:
- Digital security project management
- Digital forensics engineering
- Network or systems administration
- Information technology and assurance
- Cyber risk and strategy analysis
- Computer programming
- Among others
Regent has one of the top online undergraduate programs in the country, as ranked by U.S. News & World Report. Specifically, its business and technology online programs are considered among the best of any distance education program, nationally and globally.