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A master’s in information systems degree prepares students for IT security or cybersecurity careers. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects the job outlook for information security analysts will grow 35% (much faster than average) from 2021 to 2031, with a median annual salary of about $103,000 in 2021 (the most recent year available). The BLS projects job growth for computer and information systems managers at 16%, with a median annual salary of about $159,000 in 2021.

Most online master’s in information systems security degrees take about 30 to 48 credits to complete over one to two years. The cost varies by program and school, with some schools charging a cost per credit of about $600 to $1,250, depending on whether you’re an in-state or out-of-state student. Other schools, such as Western Governors University, charge a fee per semester or by term, which costs about $3,900 per six months.

How to Choose an Online Master’s in Information Systems Security Program

Choose your area of study

The first step in choosing an online master’s in information systems security program is deciding on career goals. Colleges offer several master’s degrees in this area, some a master’s of science and others a master’s of engineering. The titles of the degrees also vary, from information systems security to cybersecurity to information assurance to cybersecurity compliance and policy.

While all these degrees focus on protecting digital and non-digital data, these programs vary in their level of study regarding data analysis and computer forensics. A robust cybersecurity program tends to center on security measures for digital information, including cloud security and mobile security and might delve into cyberterrorism.

In addition, a school might offer concentrations for those wanting to work at software companies, healthcare organizations, government agencies, or financial entities.

Research schools and programs

Accreditation ensures that the program meets specific quality educational standards. It also impacts whether the school receives any federal financial aid. Students pursuing an online master’s in information systems security can check whether the school or the program is accredited through the Higher Learning Commission or the U.S. Department of Education. The Accreditation Board of Engineering and Technology also accredits some programs.

Look at the support services the school offers for online students, such as online mentorships or career coaching, and check whether there are any networking opportunities, such as an alum association. The school’s website, social media profiles, and marketing materials often have this information. Students can also speak with program representatives.

Prepare for tests and applications

Each program varies in its application requirements and process. Most master’s degree programs in information systems security require:

  • A bachelor’s degree and official college transcripts
  • A professional resume and records of any training or employment
  • A personal statement or essay about personal goals
  • Letter(s) of recommendation from professional and personal references

In addition, some programs may ask students to submit standardized test scores, such as those from the GRE. If you need to take the GRE, prepare and sit for the exam while researching schools.

Select your program

Some students apply to a single program that suits their interests and needs, while others submit multiple applications to heighten their chances. Whatever you choose, most schools charge an application fee, which can add up if you apply to several schools. If you need financial assistance with these fees, talk with the school about a fee waiver.

Determine how you’ll pay for your degree

Every school with an online master’s in information systems security program specifies the financial support students can receive, including scholarships, fellowships, grants, work-study, and assistantships. Complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), which determines federal student loans and need-based institutional aid eligibility.

Employers may cover some costs through employer tuition assistance benefits, especially if a master’s in information systems security degree relates to the student’s current job. Talk with the school’s Financial Aid office for detailed answers about how to pay for your degree.

The Top 50 Online Master’s in Information Systems Security Programs

Best Online Master's in Information Systems Security Programs Badge

University of Southern California

Brandeis University

NYU Tandon School of Engineering

Iowa State University

George Washington University

University of Denver

University of Dallas

Northeastern University

DePaul University

Penn State World Campus

UAB Collat School of Business

Western Governors University

Florida Institute of Technology

University of Delaware

Boston University

Northwestern School of Professional Studies

Auburn University Harbert College of Business

Liberty University

University of Maryland Global Campus

Arizona State University

University of California at Berkeley

Wilmington University

Purdue University

Sam Houston State University

Robert Morris University

Bellevue University

University of Colorado Denver

Drexel University

Embry - Riddle Aeronautical University

James Madison University

Davenport University

Florida State University

George Mason University

National University

Southern Utah University

Missouri University of Science and Technology

NSU Florida College of Computing and Engineering

West Texas A&M University

Southern Arkansas University

Dakota State University

Tarleton State University

University of the Cumberlands

University of Detroit Mercy

Capitol Technology University

Jacksonville State University

Champlain College

California State University at Fullerton

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How We Rank Schools

Our list examines master’s programs in information systems, cybersecurity, and IT. The required credits range from 30 to 60, and all degrees are available online.

Any school you choose must be accredited. Established in 1895, the Higher Learning Commission (HLC) accredits postsecondary schools in 19 states, ensuring that each institution is dedicated to student learning and continuous improvement. In addition to HLC-accredited universities, our list also includes regionally accredited colleges and universities.

What Can You Expect from an Online Master’s in Information Systems Security Program?

Online master’s in information systems security programs vary based on the school, but students can expect a core curriculum focused on two areas. The first covers cybersecurity, or keeping information technology safe for institutions, companies, and government organizations. This facet goes beyond just computer skills, although it likely covers threats such as hacking, phishing, and malware. It also delves into psychology, law, business, and criminology.

The second key component of a master’s in information systems security involves ensuring that data is accessible, safe, uncompromised, and recoverable. Server malfunctions, power outages, computer glitches, and natural disasters can put a company or organization’s data at risk, so students must learn how to take precautions, such as creating off-site data backups.

Depending on the school, students also might have to demonstrate their practical, technical skills during a capstone project involving an IT security issue. Talk with each school for more details if you’re concerned about whether this will interfere with your current employment schedule.

Potential courses you’ll take in an online master’s in information systems security degree program

  • Principles of Information Security. Students explore various computer security regulations and techniques for detecting and analyzing security issues. A course of this type tends to cover encryption, physical security controls, network security, and cloud security.
  • Identity and Access Management. Part of information systems security is creating and implementing procedures that access control of data on networked systems. A course of this type teaches how to secure the systems’ different layers and authentication methods.
  • Network Security. Securing computer networks is another vital part of information systems security. Students learn about the vulnerabilities in firewalls, wireless security, and more, such as password weaknesses, biometrics, viruses, and Trojan horses.
  • Applied Cryptography. This type of course provides a deeper understanding of cryptographic algorithms. Students explore digital certificates and signatures, among other authentication methods, and how to apply these measures to a computer network or different security architecture.

What Can You Do With an Online Master’s in Information Systems Security?

Career outlook

In the ever-evolving landscape of technology, the need for skilled professionals in information systems security has never been more critical. As cyber threats continue to grow in complexity and frequency, organizations across industries are prioritizing the safeguarding of their digital assets. Pursuing an online master’s degree in information systems security not only equips individuals with advanced knowledge in the field but also opens up myriad opportunities for a rewarding and impactful career.

Jobs in this field are expected to grow at a much faster rate than the economy as a whole. For example, the need for information security analysts is expected to increase by 32 percent over the coming decade. Professionals in this position earn a median salary of $112,000 per year.

Career paths

One of the key advantages of pursuing an online master’s in information systems security is the opportunity to specialize in specific areas of interest. Cybersecurity is a multifaceted field, and organizations require experts who can address their unique challenges.

Here are a few of the job options open to individuals with this academic credential:

  • Chief information security officer (CISO) — provides leadership and strategic oversight for an organization’s information security program.
  • Penetration tester (ethical hacker) — conducts controlled simulated cyber-attacks on systems to identify vulnerabilities and weaknesses.
  • Incident responder — coordinates and executes plans to detect, contain, and eradicate security incidents.
  • Forensic computer analyst — investigates and analyzes digital evidence in the case of cybercrime.
  • Risk management specialist — identifies and assesses security risks and develops strategies to mitigate potential threats.

Cybersecurity Analyst

Earning Potential: $64,171-$91,717 annually
Education Required: Master’s degree in information systems security or related field

A cybersecurity analyst plays a pivotal role in safeguarding an organization’s digital assets from cyber threats. Tasked with monitoring and analyzing security measures, they assess vulnerabilities, identify potential risks, and develop strategies to mitigate them. These professionals implement and manage security solutions, conduct penetration testing, and respond to incidents promptly. They collaborate with IT teams to ensure compliance with security policies, conduct risk assessments, and implement measures to fortify networks and systems. They may also educate employees on best practices and draft incident reports. In a rapidly evolving digital landscape, cybersecurity analysts are essential guardians of sensitive information, ensuring an organization’s resilience against cyberattacks.

Cyber Security Consultant

Earning Potential: $95,838-$183,497 annually
Education Required: Master’s degree in information systems security or related field

A cybersecurity consultant is hired to evaluate and enhance an organization’s digital defenses. They assess existing security protocols, conduct risk assessments, and develop comprehensive strategies to protect against cyber threats. By staying informed about the latest cybersecurity trends and technologies, consultants provide tailored recommendations to address vulnerabilities. They often collaborate with internal teams, offering guidance on implementing robust security measures and ensuring compliance with industry regulations. Additionally, cybersecurity consultants play a vital role in incident response, helping organizations recover from breaches and fortifying defenses for future resilience.

Network Security Engineer

Earning Potential: $83,609-$101,837 annually
Education Required: Master’s degree in information systems security or related field

A network security engineer is responsible for designing, implementing, and maintaining an organization’s secure computer networks. They employ a multi-faceted approach to safeguarding data and systems, utilizing firewalls, intrusion detection/prevention systems, and virtual private networks. Network security engineers conduct regular assessments, identifying vulnerabilities and developing strategies to mitigate risks. They stay vigilant against evolving cyber threats, ensuring the network infrastructure remains resilient. Collaboration with IT teams is integral as they configure and monitor security protocols, respond to incidents promptly, and enforce compliance with security policies. In essence, network security engineers are frontline defenders, ensuring the confidentiality, integrity, and availability of sensitive information across interconnected systems.

Online Master’s in Information Systems Security Degree Programs Frequently Asked Questions

How do I apply to an online master’s in information systems security degree program?

Check the application process for each school. Some schools have an online application portal through their website, while others still might use traditional mail. Streamlined admissions application systems, such as the Common Application or Common App, enable students to apply to multiple schools easily.

Regardless, if you’re applying online, have electronic versions (such as PDFs) of all the required information, such as test scores, work experience, personal statementss, and letters of recommendation. Before you apply, verify you have everything the school needs by speaking with a school admissions counselor.

How much does an online master’s in information systems security degree program cost?

The National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) reported that graduate tuition cost around $19,750 for the 2020-2021 school year (the most recent statistics available), compared to about $25,900 a year for an undergraduate degree, including tuition, fees, room, and board.

The average tuition for a public institution was about $12,400 a year compared to $26,600 for a private institution.

All school costs vary depending on the number of credits per course, the charge per credit, fees, and other expenses such as books and course-related software.

How long does it take to earn an online master’s in information systems security degree?

While this depends on the school and the curriculum, most schools estimate their online master’s programs in information systems security take about one to two years to complete. The total number of credits affects the program’s length, as does attending part-time or full-time. That said, some schools might offer accelerated learning options. Others have asynchronous learning, where students can study at their own pace while meeting assignment deadlines, which could be helpful for those juggling various responsibilities.

Is an online master's in information systems security worth it?

Is an online master’s in information systems security worth it?

In the rapidly evolving field of cybersecurity, an online master’s in information systems security can open the door to lucrative salaries and challenging but satisfying positions. A penetration tester, for example, can earn a median salary of $77,659 to $99,005, according to data from

An accredited online program at the master’s level provides in-depth knowledge and expertise in information systems security, making you a specialist in the field. Many positions in cybersecurity, especially leadership positions, require advanced degrees. Many master’s programs offer opportunities for research and collaboration that also enhance your learning experience.

Earning your degree online provides a higher level of flexibility than on-campus programs, making them particularly well-suited to adult learners who have other personal and professional commitments. Online programs offer numerous networking opportunities, both with peers and faculty members as well as with professionals in the field from across the globe.

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