By CSDH Staff
Welcome to our ranking of the top 10 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. 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. And this ranking of the top 10 cheapest online associate’s degrees in cybersecurity is an ideal place to start for any prospective cybersecurity professional.
We began by examining nearly 30 cybersecurity-related online associate’s degrees offered by two- and four-year colleges and universities. To narrow down our list to the top 10, we used out-of-state program cost as our determining factor. The schools below are ranked from lowest out-of-state program cost to highest. In-state program cost does not affect the ranking, and is simply included for informational purposes.
You can find some answers to frequently asked questions and our sources immediately below the ranking.
1. Palo Alto College
Online Associate of Applied Science in Information Assurance and Cybersecurity
Estimated Program Cost (TX Residents): $5,940
Estimated Program Cost (Out-of-State): $12,900
Texas-based Palo Alto College tops our list of the most affordable online cybersecurity associate’s degrees. Palo Alto’s A.A.S. in Information Assurance and Cybersecurity consists of 60 credits, and takes approximately five semesters to complete. During that time, students complete coursework in:
- digital forensics
- routing, among other things
By the end of the degree program, students will be eligible for jobs in a variety of roles related to cybersecurity.
2. Georgia Military College
Online Associate of Science in Cyber Security
Estimated Program Cost: $13,965
Students who obtain an online A.S. in Cyber Security from Georgia Military College will be eligible to either begin work in the field of cybersecurity, or go on to earn a bachelor’s degree. The 90-quarter hour program guides students through four core areas:
- cyber information security
- data structures
- desktop programming
Students who attend Georgia Military College do not need to have any association with the military.
3. Bismarck State College
Online Associate in Applied Science in Cybersecurity and Computer Networks
Estimated Program Cost (ND and MN Residents): $9,872 – $10,788
Estimated Program Cost (Out-of-State): $14,448
Bismarck State College is North Dakota’s third-largest college, but thanks to its online program, students from anywhere in the country can take advantage of the school’s affordable degree programs. This includes the online A.A.S. in Cybersecurity and Computer Networks. Over the course of the degree program, students complete coursework in:
- computer hardware
- programming and scripting
- networks, and more.
4. Central Texas College
Online Associate of Applied Science in Cyberdefense: Information Assurance
Estimated Program Cost (In-District TX Residents): $5,700
Estimated Program Cost (Other TX Residents): $7,140
Estimated Program Cost (Out-of-State): $14,880
The cybersecurity Associate of Applied Science degree offered by Central Texas College focuses on cyberdefense and information assurance. It 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
- 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.
5. University of the Potomac
Online Associate of Science in Network Security Management
Estimated Program Cost: $16,650
University of the Potomac offers an A.S. in Network Security Management. This fully online degree program prepares students for careers in cybersecurity. The 60-credit hour program includes coursework in:
- computer forensics
- operating systems
- data communication
- networking, to name but a few
All courses are taught by faculty members with extensive industry experience. New sessions begin every few weeks.
6. Mohave Community College
Online Associate of Applied Science in Cybersecurity and Network Support
Estimated Program Cost (AZ Residents): $4,860
Estimated Program Cost (Out-of-State): $17,010
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.
7. Nash Community College
Online Associate’s in Information Technology: Cybersecurity
Estimated Program Cost (NC Residents): $5,264
Estimated Program Cost (Out-of-State): $17,552
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 concept
- introduction to wireless technology
- intrusion detection
- information assurance principles.
8. Guilford Technical Community College
Online Associate of Applied Science in Information Technology: Security and Data
Estimated Program Cost (NC Residents): $5,016
Estimated Program Cost (Out-of-State): $17,688
Future cyber security analysts can complete their associate’s degree entirely online through Guilford Technical Community College. The program seeks to train its students in the technical skills necessary to succeed in the field of information technology. Students cover a wide variety of topics in their classes, including intrusion detection, data communication, and information policy, to name but three.
9. California Institute of Arts and Technology
Online Associate of Applied Science in Computer Information Systems Security
Estimated Program Cost: $18,750
Ninth on our list of the cheapest associate’s degrees in cybersecurity is California Institute of Arts and Technology. The institute offers an A.A.S. in Computer Information Systems Security which can be completed entirely online and at a student’s own pace. Experienced faculty members teach every course. Coursework includes:
- advanced network security
- Cisco IOS network security
- installation of Linux, to name but three.
10. Community College of Allegheny County
Online Associate of Science in Cybersecurity
Estimated Program Cost (Allegheny County Residents): $7,080
Estimated Program Cost (Pennsylvania Residents): $14,160
Estimated Program Cost (Out-of-State): $21,240
The Associate of Science in Cybersecurity is one of 30 degree programs that Community College of Allegheny County offers wholly online. Over the course of the 60-credit program, students will learn to:
- identify cyber threats
- defend against system intrusions
- maintain security measures to decrease the likelihood of a cyber threat
Each online course features audio and video, plus live chat sessions and some teleconferencing.
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. 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 much 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.