Last Updated: February 1, 2017
From politics to the financial news to your own email inbox, it’s hard to ignore the effect that computer network security has on everyone’s life. Corporations of all sizes, educational institutions, and government agencies depend on IT professionals who know how to keep their networks secure and their customer’s personal information safe and private. If you’re interested in an IT career that is destined to always be in demand, a bachelor’s degree in cyber security may be the right choice for you.
Government agencies including the Department of Homeland Security and the National Security Agency have been active in promoting cyber security careers to students. As the DHS says,
Cybersecurity is a national priority and critical to the well-being of all organizations. As technology becomes increasingly more sophisticated, demand for an experienced and qualified workforce has never been higher. Large and small organizations from both the public and private sectors are creating new cyber jobs and hiring thousands of cyber professionals to protect networks and information systems.
And, with a degree in cyber security, you will be qualified for a number of exciting jobs including:
- Information Security Analyst
- Lead Software Security Engineer
- Chief Information Security Officer
- Security Architect
- Penetration Tester
- Information Security Crime Investigator/Forensics Expert
What’s more, a cyber security degree can be a path to a well-paid career. According to Payscale.com, a bachelor’s degree in cyber security can lead to salaries of $56,000 and up. An online bachelor’s program in this field allows you to prepare for the future without uprooting your current life – or that of your family. We’ve rated the top 10 most affordable programs on the basis of cost per credit hour, as listed on their individual websites. Since programs vary on the basis of how many transfer credits count towards the degree, that will factor into your total cost as well. Since individual circumstances will differ, be sure to contact each program directly to find out how their requirements mesh with your previous experience and training in the field.
University of Maine at Augusta
Cost per credit hour: $271
Our most affordable online program in cyber security is also highly acclaimed for its collaboration with government agencies concerned with our nation’s information infrastructure. In this program, you’ll study a range of topics including threat reduction, vulnerability reduction, deterrence, international engagement, incident response, resiliency, and recovery policies and activities. You’ll learn to master the complex matters of computer network operations, information assurance, law enforcement, diplomacy, military, and intelligence missions as they relate to the security and stability of the global information and communications infrastructure.
This curriculum has been designed to meet the stringent academic standards of the joint National Security Agency/Department of Homeland Security Center of Academic Excellence in Information Assurance/Cyber Defense (CAEIA/CD) program. The B.S. in Cybersecurity at the University of Maine is the first ever system collaborated degree program to be recognized by the CAEIA/CD. This NSA/DHS recognition program serves as the de facto accreditation standard for Cybersecurity. On graduation, you’ll be prepared for career opportunities or advanced education in the cybersecurity field including positions in security analysis, information assurance, digital forensics, intelligence, and cyber defense to name a few. The University of Maine at Augusta is regionally accredited by the New England Association of Schools and Colleges.
Southern New Hampshire University
Cost per credit hour: $320
Among Southern New Hampshire University’s many online programs for students at all levels is their bachelor of science in information technologies degree with a major in cyber security. This program focuses on the human factors involved in protecting sensitive data, UNIX/LINUX operating systems, network security, and the fundamental principles underlying cyber security. As you progress in this specialized cyber security degree online program, you’ll delve into the ethics, practices, policies and procedures of cyber security and tackle network security defense techniques and countermeasures.
As malicious attacks on vital information networks become more and more sophisticated, both the need for and the responsibilities of computer security specialists have increased – and they will continue to do so. After graduation from this 120 credit-hour program, you’ll be prepared for a variety of careers, including cyber security software engineer, information security analyst, information systems security administrator and security policy analyst. Southern New Hampshire University is regionally accredited by the New England Association of Colleges and Schools.
Western Governors' University
Cost per credit hour: $350
While Western Governors’ University has only been in existence for twenty years, it has already built an extensive portfolio of online degree programs. This nonprofit institution was founded in 1995 by state governors looking to change the way education could better the lives of their citizens. WGU is an all-online, competency-based university, which means their degrees are granted for what students learn rather than how much time they spend in school.
The bachelor of science in information technology security program at Western Governors’ University will not only help you develop the latest security management skills, it also includes seven recognized industry certifications including Cisco’s CCNA Certification that gives students a tremendous professional advantage. Coursework for the degree includes key subject areas like these:
- Information Technology Fundamentals
- Network and Security
- Scripting and Programming
- Data Management
- Operating Systems
- Interconnecting Network Devices
- Leadership and Management
- Web Development
- Business of IT
- Technical Writing
In total, the degree requires a total of 123 competency units (CUs), the equivalent to the traditional credit hour. If you’ve taken courses or received a degree from another college or university, you may be able to clear some of these requirements through transfer credit. Western Governors’ University is regionally accredited by the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities.
Cost per credit hour: $354
The Computer and Network Security (CNS) Bachelor of Science degree at Wilmington University provides its graduates with a solid foundation in digital information security, information assurance, and computer forensics. Students trained in CNS will be fully equipped to work within today’s rapidly expanding job market, both in the federal government and the private sector. Wilmington University has been designated as a National Center of Academic Excellence through academic year 2021 by the National Security Agency and the Department of Homeland Security.
Students in the Computer and Network Security Program (B.S.) will learn the knowledge and skills needed in order to:
- Apply the ethical principles required of computer professionals
- Demonstrate technical knowledge in Information Assurance necessary to prepare for an entry level position in the Computer and Network Security field
- Analyze requirements for Information Security projects using best practices and current methodologies
- Employ the process used to analyze, design, implement, test and deliver Information Assurance projects
- Demonstrate knowledge of best practices used to manage Computer and Network Security projects
You’ll also learn how to handle the legal issues involved in cyber security, as well as improving your professional communication skills. Along the way, you can also pick up the following certifications:
- CISA – Certified Information System Auditor
- CISSP – Certified Information Systems Security Professional
- Security+ Certification
- CompTIA Network+
Wilmington University is regionally accredited by the Middle States Commission of Higher Education.
Dakota State University
Cost per credit hour: $369
Dakota State University’s bachelor of science in cyber operations program is located at another NSA-designated National Center of Academic Excellence in the field. As a cyber operations major, you will be part of a comprehensive program studying the mentality, motivations, and techniques of the hackers that attack information networks. The 120 credit hour degree begins with core classes in programming, math, and networking, and then teaches you how to apply that knowledge to the complex challenges of cyber security. You’ll learn how reverse engineering works, how to analyze malware and exploit software, and how to discover vulnerabilities in networked computer systems.
The skills and knowledge taught at Dakota State are in high demand, and according to the department’s website its graduates enjoy a nearly 100% placement rate in government and private industry positions. Graduates have gone on to work for the NSA, the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Lab (APL), Navy SPAWAR (Space and Naval Warfare System Command), Sandia National Laboratory, Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, banks, hospitals and private security firms nationwide. Dakota State University is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools.
Cost per credit hour: $375
For working adults in the information technology field, Norwich University offers an online degree completion program leading to a bachelor of science in cyber security. Within this bachelor’s program, you can opt for either a concentration in computer forensics and vulnerability management or in information warfare and security management. And with its longstanding connections to the military, Norwich was one of the first Centers of Academic Excellence in Information Assurance Education recognized by the National Security Agency and the Department of Homeland Security.
The curriculum includes general education as well as 36 credit hours of core cyber security courses, many of which can be fulfilled through transfer credits, along with 24 credit hours of elective and project-based courses. In these advanced classes, including a final capstone project, you’ll gain in-depth knowledge of national security policy, offensive and defensive information warfare, penetration testing, and malware forensics. Throughout the program, you’ll develop your skills in critical thinking, research and analysis, ethical decision-making, and oral and written communications. Norwich University is regionally accredited by the New England Association of Schools and Colleges.
Cost per credit hour: $410
Nebraska’s Bellevue University is the location of another program recognized as a National Security Agency/Department of Homeland Security Center of Excellence in Information Assurance and Cybersecurity. The bachelor of science degree at Bellevue is a 127 credit-hour course, including 36 general education credits, 46 elective credits, 36 credits in the major, and 9 credits in the college’s Kirkpatrick Signature Series on citizenship, ethics, and political science. You’ll gain the knowledge and skills needed for the protection of networks and the detection of threats. And you’ll learn to apply them in cyber security environments to identify threats, vulnerabilities, exploits, and controls.
The online cyber security degree teaches students to identify, analyze, mitigate, and communicate risks to cyber systems using various tools and techniques. You’ll learn how to:
- Evaluate fundamental cybersecurity concepts, theories, and strategies as they apply to real world case studies.
- Explain technical and non-technical security solutions on different types of cyber systems.
- Apply cyber incident response project plans.
- Assess risks, vulnerabilities, and threats to sample cyber systems.
- Identify attributes associated with cybersecurity professionals
Integrating theory with hands-on learning, Bellevue’s cyber security program aspires to be both flexible for distance learners and personally transformative for its students. Bellevue University is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools.
University of Maryland University College
Cost per credit hour: $418
From its location near Washington DC’s network of military and government facilities, the University of Maryland University College has established multiple degree programs in cyber security that cater to the particular skills and interests of many students. In fact, as a bachelor’s student, you can choose from three distinct majors in the field:
- Computer networks and cyber security
- Cyber security management and policy
- Software development and security
Each major requires 120 credit hours for graduation, of which up to 90 may be transferred from other institutions. Regardless of your choice, you’ll be part of a program that is well-respected as well as affordable. UMUC has been named as both a National Center of Academic Excellence in Information Assurance and Cyber Defense Education by the NSA/DHS and as a National Center of Digital Forensics Academic Excellence by the Defense Cyber Crime Center.
The networks and security major focuses on the operational procedures and technologies needed to design, implement, administer, secure, and troubleshoot corporate networks, preparing you for a career as a network manager, systems administrator, or network security analyst. Management and policy students study an interdisciplinary curriculum that includes management, law, science, business, technology, and psychology, graduating as professionals who can investigate cyber crimes and formulate data protection strategies for corporate and government employers. Finally, the software development major prepares students for application development careers like software development and security analyst, software development and security manager, application and software architect, information security officer, intrusion analyst, penetration tester, programmer, software engineer, security and code auditor, or system architect. All students can take advantage of the extensive support networks and professional development opportunities afforded by UMUC’s local connections, both in school and after graduation. The University of Maryland University College is regionally accredited by the Middle States Commission of Higher Education.
Cost per credit hour: $450
If you already hold an associate’s degree or have 57 credit hours of college work, you’re qualified to apply to Utica College’s online degree completion program for a bachelor of science in cyber security. While Utica’s program is slightly more expensive than some of the others on our list, it has been recognized as a National Center of Academic Excellence in Cyber Defense Education by the NSA/DHS, a National Center of Digital Forensics Academic Excellence by the Defense Cyber Crime Center, and an Academic Center of Excellence (ACE) by the EC-Council, one of the premier certifying bodies in the field of cybersecurity. The curriculum was developed was developed in collaboration with the college’s Center for Identity Management and Information Protection, a research center focused on data security, identify management, and information sharing.
As you might expect from a highly-regarded program, Utica offers a number of specializations within the degree that allow students to gain specialized skills that are in high demand from employers. The four concentrations within the bachelor’s degree are:
- Network Forensics and Intrusion Investigation: This concentration combines computer science with computer forensics and vulnerability assessment, teaching students to investigate security incidents in a computer network environment.
- Information Assurance: Students learn how to address the wide range of vulnerabilities and threats that affect corporate and government computer networks, and how to protect critical information in cyberspace.
- Cybercrime and Fraud Investigation: This combination of computer science and forensics teaches students how to accumulate data and evidence for prosecuting cybercrimes, including hacking, credit card fraud, intellectual property theft, pedophilia, and terrorism.
- Cyber Operations: Learn the defensive and offensive tactics, techniques, and procedures involved in information warfare. Additional coursework focuses on computer programming, operating systems, vulnerability assessment, and penetration testing.
Utica College is regionally accredited by the Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools.
Cost per credit hour: $530
Regent University, located in Virginia Beach, VA, is an evangelical Christian university that offers an online bachelor’s degree in cyber security. For students who see their work as part of their Christian vocation, Regent’s program may be especially appropriate. The online bachelor of science in cybersecurity program prepares students for technology and network security careers in government agencies, military infrastructures, manufacturing, service, education and other private, public, and nonprofit sectors. you will learn to create and execute a digital security strategy that supports and defends the integrity of data resources managed by your employer.
Over the course of 120 credit hours, you’ll learn how to work as a professional part of the cyber security team in government, schools, and corporations as you:
- Gather data and evidence employed in prosecuting cybercrimes, and to develop security safeguards and disaster recovery plans
- Analyze information system theories, practices and real-world problems in order to plan, coordinate and implement network security measures
- Develop ethical, innovative and practical intelligence and networking solutions from a global perspective, based on strategic technology applications and data-driven assessments
- Defend computer networks against attacks by worms, viruses and other intrusive technologies
Upon graduation, you’ll be prepared for a wide range of jobs in the information security field including network administration, digital forensics engineering, digital security project management, information assurance, cyber risk and strategy analysis, and cyber intelligence. Regent University is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools.