Ph.D. in Information Systems Security

The degree is ideal for students with excellent critical-thinking and problem-solving skills and those interested in both information technology and leadership opportunities.

Updated February 8, 2023 · 5 Min Read is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.

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Degree Options & Potential Careers

Earning a doctoral degree in information systems security allows students to develop their skills and knowledge to the most advanced level possible, preparing them for prestigious and specialized roles in the field. The degree is ideal for students with excellent critical-thinking and problem-solving skills and those interested in both information technology and leadership opportunities.

Before choosing a program, students can review this guide to learn about the doctoral degrees available, career and salary opportunities, curriculum and coursework associated with the degree, and information about accreditation.

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

Students choose to earn a Ph.D. in information systems security to take advantage of a variety of benefits. One of the main benefits to earning a Ph.D. in information systems security is the potential for higher salary opportunities. Many employers place professionals who hold their doctoral degree in a higher pay bracket than other employees, as Ph.D. graduates hold the highest level of education possible for their profession. Many doctoral students enroll in their chosen programs to advance within their current company or position, and earning a more advanced degree can allow professionals the chance to pursue promotion possibilities. Professionals looking to switch careers often pursue doctoral degrees, as the advanced degree helps them stand out among other candidates and aides them in their job search.

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

Earning a Ph.D. in information systems security can open up many career opportunities. Graduates can explore opportunities working as directors or vice presidents of information security, cybersecurity, or information technology companies. The field includes other high-level occupations, including chief information security officers, chief information officers, and chief technology officers.

Across occupations, doctoral graduates can find employment in settings like military, corporations, government, nonprofit organizations, community colleges, online colleges and universities, and consulting firms. Virtually every industry requires professionals who can manage information security efforts and protect the company's information systems from potential threats. Many students in doctoral programs aim to pursue careers in teaching and academia. Colleges and universities frequently require or prefer professors who hold the highest degree in their discipline.

Depending on their specific career goals and personal interests, students can prepare themselves for different career opportunities during their degree program. While doctoral programs do highlight structure, students often enjoy the opportunity to select their own elective courses or specialization opportunities to tailor their degree to their goals. Students can also focus their dissertation on their particular area of interest.

Chief Information Officer
Chief information officers coordinate, establish, and evaluate information technology concepts about key services and products. These professionals provide knowledge and technical expertise to support marketing and sales efforts and monitor information technology operations within an organization. They also manage IT development teams and personnel.
Director of Information Technology
Directors of information technology maintain, prepare, and update information technology procedures and produce documentation for platforms operations and processes. These professionals work with IT department employees, hiring, supervising, and training them. They also research and review new technologies used to upgrade networks and servers.
Chief Information Security Officer
In charge of monitoring the information systems and company security for an organization, chief information security officers report, evaluate, and suggest new ideas revolving around security threats. They also provide training and information about security systems and information technology and develop effective plans to combat security breaches.
Postsecondary Teachers
Postsecondary teachers in information systems security teach students the skills and knowledge they need to succeed professionally in the field after graduation. These professors conduct research to expand their knowledge as they analyze data and stay up-to-date on developments in their field.
Information Security Manager
Information security managers maintain security protocols for companies and derive strategies for internet and network security. These managers derive and execute audit and policy plans, pinpointing security risks and operation needs. They also lead training for information security team members and communicate policies.

Information Systems Security Ph.D. Program Overview

In the following section, students can review what types of doctoral degrees they can pursue depending on their specific career goals. They can also learn about what application and admissions requirements they might need to meet, what courses they can enroll in, and what skills and knowledge they can develop throughout their curriculum.

Types of Doctoral Degrees in Information Systems Security

Students interested in earning a doctoral degree in information systems security can choose between a doctor of philosophy (Ph.D.) or a doctorate in information systems security (DM). Ph.D. programs are most often considered theoretical research degrees, allowing students to pursue new research efforts or build upon their already existing frameworks of research. Professionals with a Ph.D. often pursue careers as university professors who focus heavily on research efforts.

DM programs allow students to act and think strategically as they increase their ability to positively contribute to their area of interest. They develop research and problem-solving techniques and skills. Students in these programs research ideas and concepts from theoretical viewpoints.

Both DM and Ph.D. options offer students rigorous curriculum components and a strong emphasis on research. Students in either program need strong comprehension and writing skills, and both programs require students to complete a dissertation. Some programs might require students to complete a comprehensive exam as well.

Application Requirements and Admission Criteria

Applicants to online Ph.D. programs in information systems security must hold a master's degree from an accredited institution. Admissions criteria and application requirements vary depending on the college or university, but students can expect to see some similarities across programs. For example, applicants must complete an admissions application and pay the associated fee, usually around $50.

Along with their master's degree, applicants must submit their official transcripts and demonstrate a specific minimum GPA, most often between 3.0-3.5. Applicants are often required to submit supplemental admissions materials that can include letters of recommendation, resumes, and admissions essays. International applicants must meet all of the same admissions requirements as traditional applicants, plus provide acceptable test scores for English speaking proficiency.


Students pursuing online Ph.D. programs in information systems security experience different course offerings depending on which college or university they enroll in. Even though course topics vary, students can expect to see similarities across program offerings. Courses require students to participate in discussions, readings, and other activities and assignments.

Typically, course requirements in information systems security doctoral programs are divided into sections. In the beginning of their program, students focus on core courses that cover research design and methodology, research and practice in information technology, and research foundations. Once they complete their core coursework, students can move into specialization courses focusing on topics like network security advances, system and application security advances, and enterprise security risk management.

The dissertation is one of the key components of doctoral programs and a requirement students must satisfy before they can graduate. Dissertations require students to conduct in-depth research about a specific topic before they complete a final written essay. Dissertations rely on the skills and knowledge students develop throughout the duration of their degree, allowing them to demonstrate their competencies in their final product. Some example courses common across information systems security programs are listed below.

Students work with IT governance models focused on global perspectives.
This course allows students to look at the management processes and organizational controls used in data protection.
Students review information assurance and the ways they can work with decision-makers to estimate and examine the effects of using network security protection resources.
This course explores the tools and skills needed to ensure system security, including identifying harmful computer codes. Students learn how larger companies protect data systems and explore the current advances and research in system security.
Focused on reviewing research efforts in information security risk management, this course focuses on the legal and technological outcomes impacting risk management.
Exploring practical solutions to information technology problems, this course allows students to develop their scientific research and critical-thinking skills.
Students learn sampling techniques and frames along with population boundaries as they review theoretical frameworks and evidence-based research.
Students in this course review the day-to-day operations of the field as they consider global, cultural, and ethical issues.

Program Outcomes

Students in online Ph.D. programs in information systems security learn all of the specialized skills and knowledge they need to find success in the field after graduation. Throughout their rigorous curriculum, students explore topics in enterprise risk management, big data, information governance, data science, emerging threats to IT systems and infrastructures, and technology for a global economy.

Graduates leave their program well-prepared to use predictive analytics, empower smart cities, manage data-driven decisions, point out cyber threats, and employ big data analytics. Doctoral students generally start their programs with an understanding of the information systems security field while continuing to focus their education largely on research efforts. This results in students graduating with a comprehensive understanding and expertise within the field, resulting in higher prospects for upper-level positions and competitive salaries.

Accreditation for Online Information Systems Security Ph.D. Programs

Students considering online Ph.D. programs in information systems security should review accreditation before they settle on a college or university. There are two main types of accreditation: regional and national. Nationally accredited institutions focus primarily on career and technical education, whereas regionally accredited institutions focus on liberal arts topics.

Nationally accredited institutions tend to have lower tuition rates but often get excluded from tuition reimbursement plans. Regionally accredited institutions more widely accept outside credits and accommodate credit transfers, while credits earned from a nationally accredited institution are often turned away in transfer situations and licensing programs.

Popular Resources

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