By CSDH Staff
Some areas of the information technology sector are growing faster than others. None is growing as fast as information assurance. The rapid growth rate of positions like information security analyst means many companies will be looking to add information security professionals to their management rosters in order to manage those new analysts. Thus if you’re already in the information technology sector, now is a great time to go ahead and earn that master’s to further specialize in information assurance. An online master’s degree in information assurance is a fantastic option for those looking to advance to the highest levels of the industry. Experienced security specialists are sorely needed in almost every industry as at this point, even refrigerators and washing machines are connecting to the internet. So we’ve provided you with a ranking of the top ten cheapest online master’s degrees in information assurance. Cheap, in this case, does not mean inferior. All of these programs are offered by regionally accredited universities. And in many cases the low price tag is because it has become fairly common for universities to offer online students a reduced rate. Indeed many state universities even offer all online students the same rate as in-state residents regardless of where they live.
1. University of the Cumberlands
Online Master of Science in Information Systems Security
University of the Cumberlands is designated a National Center of Academic Excellence in Cyber Defense by the National Security Agency and Department of Homeland Security. This designation is shared by fewer than 250 universities in the United States. The program includes courses that deal with advanced concepts in access control, cryptography, application security, telecommunications and network security, operations security, security architecture and design, and physical security.
- Tuition: $5,670
2. Western Governors University
Master of Science in Information Assurance and Cybersecurity Online
Western Governors University’s online cybersecurity master’s degree prepares students for the EC-Council Certified Ethical Hacker and EC-Council Computer Hacking Forensic Investigator certifications. The cost of those certification exams is covered by your tuition. 89% of graduates from this program finish within one year. Graduates from this degree have secured positions like computer security specialist, computer and information systems manager, database administrator, computer systems analyst, computer network architect, and information security analyst.
- Tuition: $6,500
3. Minnesota State University-Mankato
Online Master of Science in Information Security and Risk Management
The information security and risk management degree at Minnesota State Mankato boasts an industrial advisory board that includes industry professionals from FICO, CISO, the FBI, and U.S. Bank. Students in the program will take courses like researching and analyzing information security risks, information security risk management, information warfare, reporting information security risks, and data communication and networking.
- Tuition: $7,120
4. Missouri State University-Springfield
Master of Science in Cybersecurity Online
The online master’s in cybersecurity at Missouri State Springfield is a 30 hour program that uses hands-on labs and exercises to give students realistic practice solving common problems in the industry. Students will take courses like management of information security, management information systems, IT legal issues in cybersecurity, hacker techniques and incident response, cloud computing, and web application security. Students in the program must maintain a 3.0 GPA on all graduate work in the degree program.
- Tuition: $9,702
5. Saint Leo University
Online Master of Science in Cybersecurity
At Saint Leo University, the online cybersecurity master’s degree can be used in two primary ways: either to extend your education in cyberscurity, or to further specialize a more general IT education. Saint Leo also offers an MBA in cybersecurity which is more focused on the management and business issues in the field. Students will study operating systems security, distributed secure system architectures, database security, software applications security, cryptography, and security protocols.
- Tuition: $9,990
6. Bellevue University
Master of Science in Cybersecurity Online
Bellevue University is another of the fewer than 250 universities designated as a National Center of Academic Excellence in Information Assurance/Cybersecurity by the NSA and DHS. Students can choose three courses from 17 possible electives, giving them some control over their area of focus within the field. Some of the electives available are information warfare, white collar crime, control system security, advanced computer forensics, advanced cybersecurity testing, managing project risks, IT strategy and policy, advanced database management, and cyberwar and cyber deterrence.
- Tuition: $10,170
7. Friends University
Online MS in Cybersecurity
Friends University is independent from but maintains a close relationship with the Society of Friends. The online cybersecurity master’s degree offered by Friends is delivered in a synchronous format through live-streamed classes. This means you will have to attend regular class times even if taking the program online. Students will take courses like human factors in cybersecurity, cybersecurity-guided research, information assurance, compliance and cyber law, network security engineering, and information systems security engineering.
- Tuition: $10,637
8. Capitol Technology University
Online Master of Science in Information Security
The online cybersecurity master’s degree at CTU is mapped to the NSA’s cybersecurity defense knowledge units. This means the course content changes as the NSA’s best practices develop, so you don’t end up learning outdated material. Graduates from this program have become computer information systems security officers, security managers, chief security officers, chief scientists, risk assessors, and information security analysts. Active duty military receive a significant reduction in tuition, and members of the Maryland national guard get a full 50% off their tuition.
- Tuition: $10,800
9. Dakota State University
Master of Science in Information Assurance Online
Dakota State University is another school in this ranking designated by the NSA and DHS as a National Center of Excellence in Information Assurance Education. Students in this online master’s in information assurance will take courses like managing security risks, data privacy, incident response, ethics and information technology, compliance and audit, and network security/intrusion detection.
- Resident Tuition: $5,665
- Non-resident Tuition: $10,575
10. University of Maryland University College
Online Master of Science in Cybersecurity Management and Policy
University of Maryland University College offers two online cybersecurity graduate degrees: one in cybersecurity technology and one in cybersecurity management. They also offer a program in digital forensics and cyber investigation. The cybersecurity management degree offers courses like cybersecurity governance, cyber security program development, communicating, problem solving, and leading in cybersecurity, and each student takes part in a cybersecurity capstone.
- Tuition: $11,862
What can I expect from earning a master’s in information assurance?
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, information security analysts earn a median salary of $92,600 per year. Computer and information systems managers earn a median salary of $135,000 per year. Computer network architects aren’t far behind with a median pay of $101,000 per year. These are two of the highest level jobs in the industry, the kind you can only be qualified for with advanced education and years of experience. So if you’ve put in the time in the industry and earn your master’s, you will very likely end up in a position at the very top of the industry. All of these jobs and more will be available to somebody highly specialized in information security and assurance.
Who should (or shouldn’t) pursue a master’s in information assurance?
People who should consider a master’s in information assurance are those who already work in the field and want to develop an even more sophisticated understanding of the problems facing the industry and their solutions. As well, anybody who has a more general degree in information technology can use a master’s in information assurance to specialize. Master’s level degrees aren’t necessary for any job in the industry, but they can be tremendously helpful under the right circumstances. So ideally you would have at least five years of experience in information technology, and occupy a position just under the management/systems administration level.
Earning your master’s before that point in your career, you run the risk of lacking experience to move into a higher position, and your master’s becoming outdated before you have a chance to advance. If you just graduated from your bachelor’s program, you definitely shouldn’t go straight into a master’s program. No matter what degree you hold, you need a certain amount of experience to progress in information technology, especially information security. A master’s in IT is something that can help you advance in your mid-to-late career when you’re looking for jobs at the top levels of the industry.
How do I pay for my online master’s in information assurance?
The best source of financial assistance is certainly FAFSA. This is where the bulk of everybody’s financial aid should be coming from. Federal education grants are essentially free money, and federally subsidized student loans have incredibly low interest and tons of great programs for paying them back, including some options that even offer loan forgiveness. After that, private grants and scholarships should be where you look. Finally, if all else fails and it’s your only option, you can apply for private student loans. Private loans tend to be the worst deal, and the most expensive form of funding. So make sure you exhaust other sources first.
Aside from federal and state student loans and grants, many employers offer professional development compensation to their employees. So you may be able to earn your master’s degree on your company’s dime! If your company pays for your degree, there is a pretty good chance they see it as worthwhile to invest in your advancement in the company, which means the new degree could also serve to pave the way for a promotion.
Is online learning right for you?
Online learning is beyond convenient for full-time workers. Most students who earn their master’s in IT degrees online are well into their career and have both work and family concerns that require a higher level of flexibility from their degree. Online delivery is quickly becoming the most commonly chosen option for people looking to earn that master’s. However, despite the convenience of an online master’s in information technology, you should still ask yourself some questions before deciding to move forward. 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 and fellow students? Are you highly self-motivated and disciplined? While online education is a powerful option, it’s not ideal for all students. However, if you need the flexibility and are comfortable with the format and technology, online education offers unprecedented levels of flexibility.
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