An online information security degree explores one of the most interesting and pressing aspects of the field, making the degree an ideal way to begin or advance a career in information technology. This page provides an idea of what to expect from such a program, helping prospective students determine whether an online information security degree would serve them. It includes sample courses these students might take, an overview of the skills they can develop, and some possible career paths they might follow.
Overview of Information Systems Security Degrees
Information systems security focuses on protecting data by setting up security systems to guard computers and networks again intrusion and investigating breaches to determine what happened. As computers and networks evolve, hackers develop new ways to steal data from them, indicating the necessity and longevity of information systems security professionals.
This degree suits students with a general interest in information technology who demonstrate strong analysis and problem-solving skills. Professionals in this field must spot problems in networks, design security systems that account for both current and older threats, and prepare for potential future problems.
Applicants for information security degrees online must provide transcripts from high school and previously attended colleges. You can request these from your prior schools, usually for a nominal fee, and they should send directly to your prospective colleges. Most universities require an essay or personal statement, and some might call for a resume.
Some schools require letters of recommendation from prior educators or employers, though this is more common among accelerated and distance learning programs than traditional bachelor's degrees. Most schools charge a mandatory application fee of around $50. Application details and requirements vary by school, so research them carefully.
What Will I Learn?
Every online information security degree offers a unique experience, with the details varying by program. Still, most cover the same basic subjects. A bachelor's degree generally comprises 120 credits: half from general education courses, and half from required major courses and electives. Electives give students the opportunity to specialize within their programs or branch into a minor field.
The example courses below represent common classes for most bachelor's in information security programs. Course names, details, and the order in which you take them vary widely, so read up on your prospective programs' required and elective courses before applying. This is especially important for transfer students who want to avoid duplicating courses they have already taken.
Introduction to IT
Foundational courses like this are a staple of bachelor's degrees, introducing students to the broad study of information technology. They give students a baseline of knowledge on which to build in later courses.
Fundamentals of Information Security
This course also provides foundational knowledge of a narrower subject to further develop students' skills and help them decide how to specialize their studies.
Business of IT
IT applies in most fields, but businesses particularly rely on it, so students would benefit from knowing how IT functions in the business world. Coursework may cover designing solutions for businesses.
Networks and Security
Networks are complex and harder to secure than individual computers, and this course covers how to approach network security to prevent breaches, and how to respond to breaches that do occur.
As cloud networks and computing become increasingly prominent in IT, they face increasing threats. Cloud security courses approach how to protect the cloud against increasingly savvy attackers, and how the cloud creates unique challenges to designing secure systems.
Most programs require students to complete a capstone project, or a final piece of unique research or design showcasing what they have learned and how to apply it. Details vary by program, professor, and student.
What Can I Do with an Online Bachelor's Degree in Information Systems Security?
This section goes over the core skills you can develop with an information security online degree, and which careers you might pursue with those skills. However, students may obtain skills beyond those listed here, or follow other career paths.
Earning an information assurance degree online prepares students to protect computer systems and the data they store, and in doing so prepares you for the workforce. Information systems security requires you to know what kinds of threats exist, how to prepare for them, and how to respond to breaches. Valuable employees possess these abilities, and should demonstrate a strong understanding of information technology.
Many IT professionals end up filling a variety of roles during their careers, so you may find yourself starting in a position that does not directly relate to your specialization. You might also handle multiple roles at once, especially if you work for a smaller company that does not employ multiple specialists in their IT department. An online information security degree equips graduates with a combination of skills to prepare them for these possibilities.
Potential Careers and Salaries
An online information security degree can lead to a variety of career options. Degree candidates must understand how computers and networks work in order to know how to secure them, and possess the flexibility to adapt to new threats. This gives information security graduates a leg up against the competition. A degree does not guarantee a job, but it can help you qualify for one or move up the ladder to more advanced positions.
Computer and Information Systems Manager
Annual Median Salary: $139,220
These professionals are tasked with planning and coordinating the computer-related aspects of a business, including data storage and retrieval, networking, and security systems. They may handle these issues themselves or delegate tasks to other employees or contractors.
Computer Network Architect
Annual Median Salary: $104,650
These professionals design and build computer networks, which can include local area networks (LANs), cloud systems, and a variety of other models. They must take security into consideration in their jobs, though they may consult with other professionals on security matters.
Information Security Analyst
Annual Median Salary: $95,510
These professionals review existing networks to determine potential security risks or how a breach occurred. They work to improve the quality of a given network, and may contribute to the larger pool of information security knowledge.
Network and Computer Systems Administrator
Annual Median Salary: $81,100
These professionals take care of the day-to-day operation of computers and networks within a given company. They handle problems with those systems as they arise, including investigating breaches and implementing new security software or systems.
Annual Median Salary: $52,810
These professionals assist computer and network users. They might work in-house to deal with information security issues, or they might work for an outside consulting firm, assisting customers with a variety of problems.
Will I Need a Graduate Degree for a Career in Information Systems Security?
A bachelor's degree suffices for many careers in information security, but a few situations might call for a graduate degree. Having an advanced degree can help you advance your career through additional specialization and training. Mid-career professionals often consider graduate school to increase their earning potential after it plateaus.
Higher degrees also equip professionals to teach or conduct research to further the field of information technology. Bachelor's degrees may prepare graduates for some research and teaching positions, but graduate programs provide networking opportunities and qualify students to conduct more impressive research. Certain teaching positions may require advanced degrees, as well, depending on where you live and what level of students you plan to teach.
Accreditation for Information Systems Security Bachelor's Programs
Take accreditation into account while searching for the best online information security degree for you. To obtain accreditation, colleges and universities must demonstrate that they qualify to teach students and grant degrees. Generally, regional accreditation boards address public colleges, while national accreditation boards focus on private and technical schools. Only regionally accredited institutions are eligible for financial aid.
Information Systems Security Professional Organizations
Professional organizations provide members with access to resources like job boards, help to build professional contracts, and assist in earning valuable certifications. Many also offer financial aid programs and other student benefits, so consider joining one or more professional associations while earning your degree. The three organizations listed below represent a small sample of the professional groups out there.
Information Systems Security Association International
ISSA provides networking and professional development benefits to its members. One of the largest and most respected organizations of its kind, ISSA brings together information security professionals from around the world to help them advance the field.
International Information Systems Security Certification Consortium
Founded in 1988, (ISC)2 is now one of the largest organizations of its kind. Focused on professional development, members enjoy special access to a variety of publications, conferences, and certification opportunities.
Forum of Incident Response and Security Teams
FIRST, a global organization, focuses on responding to breaches and other security incidents. It also promotes the knowledge to prevent such incidents from occurring. The organization works to share and develop professional standards through global conferences, publications, and professional networking opportunities.