This ranking was originally published in February 2018 and updated in June 2020. The 2020 updates may affect the ranking order, but the list has not been re-ordered.
Welcome to our ranking of the top 5 cheapest online associate’s in cybersecurity degree programs.
Of all the career paths in information technology, cybersecurity is the most intense. In the modern world, networks are constantly under attack from the outside, and the only thing standing between customer, patient, or client information is often just a few cybersecurity professionals. If you can handle that kind of pressure, this is a great area of the profession to work in as it pays very well and is growing incredibly fast. This ranking of the top 5 cheapest online associate’s degrees in cybersecurity is a great place to start for any prospective cybersecurity professional. The schools are ranked from lowest out-of-state tuition to highest. Resident tuition and graduation rates do not affect the ranking and are simply included for informational purposes. You can find some answers to frequently asked questions and our sources immediately below the ranking.
#1. Central Texas College
Associate of Applied Science in Information Security
The associate of applied science online information security degree at Central Texas College is a 60 credit-hour program. Students will take courses like incident response and handling, project management software, security management practices, firewalls and network security, and managing a unified incident command. Students will also take part in a four-credit computer and information systems security internship in the second semester of their final year.
- Resident Tuition: $2,700
- Non-resident Tuition: $7,050
- Graduation Rate: 15%
#2. Mohave Community College
AAS in Cybersecurity and Network Support
The cybersecurity and network support online degree offered by Mohave is aimed at students who want to go directly into the workforce in network support. Coursework focuses on subjects like computer repair, network troubleshooting, information security, and help desk support. Students can also earn certificates of proficiency in computer graphics and web design, professional applications, and programming and game development.
- Resident Tuition: $2,112
- Non-resident Tuition: $6,972
- Graduation Rate: 16%
#3. Cerro Coso Community College
Associate of Science in Cyber Security Technology
Graduates from the Cerro Coso Community College AS degree in cybersecurity technology have worked as information security specialists, cybersecurity technicians, information security technicians, and information assurance technicians. In addition to preparing the student for a career in cybersecurity, students can also transfer the degree to four-year programs if they decide to further develop their skill set. Students will take courses like introduction to information systems security, introduction to cybersecurity: ethical hacking, system and network administration, introduction to systems analysis and design, introduction to programming concepts and methodologies, and finite mathematics.
- Resident Tuition: $1,290
- Non-resident Tuition: $7,702
- Graduation Rate: 25%
#4. Nash Community College
Associate of Information Technology: Systems Security
Graduates from this program work as designers, testers, support technicians, system administrators, developers, and programmers in the cybersecurity field. Students earning this online cybersecurity degree will take courses like routing basics, Linux/Unix single user, security concepts, database concepts, cloud and storage concepts, introduction to wireless technology, information systems business concepts, intrusion detection, and information assurance principles.
- Resident Tuition: $2,632
- Non-resident Tuition: $8,776
- Graduation Rate: 18%
#5. Zane State College
Associate’s in Information Assurance and Security Strategies
This fully online information assurance and security strategies degree covers subjects like networking, operating systems, security, and penetration testing. Students who complete the online cybersecurity degree will be prepared to sit for exams like CCENT, Linux+, Security+, and Network+. Graduates, especially those who earn those additional industry certifications, often find work as network security analysts, IT security engineers, information security analysts, and network and computer systems administrators.
- Resident Tuition: $5,156
- Non-resident Tuition: $10,316
- Graduation Rate: 54%
Should I stick with an associate’s degree or transfer into a bachelor’s program?
It all depends on what you want. One of the benefits of the bachelor’s degree is that it lets you further specialize in a given area of the field, which can be extremely useful. The benefit of the associate’s degree is that it grants you a credential in half the time as a bachelor’s degree. What if you spend four to six years earning your bachelor’s only to specialize in an area of the field you hate? Taking your associate’s degree into the workforce and getting some experience and a feel for the industry can actually help you determine what areas you are most interested in and where you want your career to go. However, if you do have a strong idea of exactly what area of the industry you want to work in, then earning a bachelor’s degree as soon as possible might help you advance more quickly in your chosen niche in the long run.
Cybersecurity Career Statistics
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, cybersecurity professionals often hold bachelor’s level degrees. This is because, in addition to needing to learn and understand how to manage networks, cybersecurity professionals also need to understand how to compromise networks. So many use the extra two years to more closely study methods of attack and defense.
The median salary for information security analysts is $92,600 per year, and such positions typically require less than five years of work experience in related positions. The job growth, according to BLS, is 28% between 2016 and 2026, a total of 28,500 jobs.
Information Technology: Cybersecurity Explained
Cybersecurity is also known as information security or information assurance. Cybersecurity analysts are responsible for evaluating their company’s security needs and then planning and implementing the appropriate security procedures. This is one of the most difficult and highest stress jobs in the information technology industry. Attackers are constantly finding new ways to attack networks and gain information they shouldn’t have. Information security analysts are the only people who stand between our information and criminals. As the old adage goes, security has to win every time, but attackers only have to win once. The need for information security analysts is growing at a rapid rate of 28%.
Another role cybersecurity experts play in information technology is that of a penetration tester. Certified penetration testers are hired by companies to attack the company’s security in order to help harden weak points that have been missed. Penetration testers often use both technological and social means to compromise the networks of their clients.
Paying for your Online Associate’s Degree in Cybersecurity
Associate’s degrees earned from community colleges are the cheapest form of higher education available in the United States. They are especially cheap if you are a resident of the state in which the school is located. Often times federal grants will cover almost all tuition costs. Obviously you should take advantage of any scholarships offered by the community college, your high school, local organizations, or the state. Your next best option if those don’t cover your costs will be federally subsidized student loans. These are magnitudes better than private student loans. For one, the interest is lower and doesn’t fluctuate much (or at all in some cases). Federal loans are also very flexible with repayment plans, so if you end up on difficult financial times for a little while after graduation, the federally subsidized loans give you lots of flexibility in how you repay them. The last option you should look at is private student loans. Taking these out isn’t the worst thing in the world, but because the other options are so much better, you should minimize the amount of privately-held student debt you accrue.
Is online learning right for you?
Online learning can be a godsend because of its flexibility. Most students who earn their degrees online are older than the traditional college age. However, with the ever-growing selection of degrees being offered online and the first generation to grow up with the internet hitting college age, the online option is going mainstream fast. But how do you know if it’s the right fit? That’s not an easy question to answer. In the end, are you the kind of person who can learn by watching videos? Would you be comfortable taking tests online? Can you handle not having any face-to-face interaction with your professors? If these things aren’t ideal for you, and you don’t need to make online learning work for you, then the face-to-face option might be a better choice. However, if you need flexibility and are comfortable with the format and technology, online education offers unprecedented levels of flexibility for anyone seeking to earn a degree.
- Top 10 Information Systems Security Degrees Online (Bachelor’s)
- Top 5 Most Affordable Ph.D. in Cybersecurity Degrees Online
Sources and Resources
National Center for Education Statistics: Tuition and graduate rates.
This concludes our ranking of the 5 cheapest online associate’s in cybersecurity degree programs.