Computer security is becoming ever more important, as increasingly sophisticated cyberattacks threaten individuals, organizations, companies and even governments throughout the world. With such a significant need for qualified information protection, it's important for aspiring information systems security professionals to know what they're doing. For this reason, engaging in a quality education in the subject is a critical step towards earning a position in the field. An online information security systems degree program can help up-and-coming professionals and industry veterans alike make advances towards this goal.
Information systems security is a subject offered online at multiple accredited schools across the country. This is wonderful, but it can also be overwhelming: since you could pursue an online program at any college anywhere, which college is the best choice for you to attend?
To assist with this debate, we have created this list of the 10 best online colleges for information systems security using data from the National Center for Education Statistics' Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS). We analyzed IPEDS data points such as tuition costs and number of relevant programs being offered online to craft a ranking that focuses on the needs of the online, nontraditional student; for more details on our methodology, see the bottom of this page.
Cyber theft is the fastest-growing crime in the U.S., and hackers find new ways to violate computer systems every day. Companies in nearly every industry are relying on information systems security professionals who have up-to-date training and advanced technological skills to meet this challenge. This section explains coursework students may encounter in online programs for information systems security, and the skills that coursework may develop.
Usually, online education for information systems security leads to a bachelor's degree, the standard educational requirement for information security analyst and network and computer systems administrator positions. Online bachelor's degree programs in information systems security usually provide instruction in both theoretical concepts — helping students to understand the fundamentals of information technology — as well as industry-recognized technical skills.
Online bachelor's degree programs in information systems security typically cover subjects such as probability and statistics, algebra, critical thinking/logic and even communications and technical writing. Students may also study aspects of other fields such as cyber law and privacy, digital forensics, disaster planning and recovery and management. Common courses in this major may include:
Additionally, students earning online information systems security degrees may be eligible to receive certain IT certifications — such as Cisco, Linux, Windows or CompTIA certifications — as part of their programs.
Master's degree programs in information systems security and related subjects are usually designed for those already working in the field who want to move into leadership positions. Some employers prefer analysts to earn Master of Business Administration (MBA) degrees in information security, which are designed to prepare students for leading organizations in planning for, preventing and recovering from security threats.
Online education for information systems security has a lot of useful technical information to impart to its students. However, students can also learn important skills from these programs that will serve them well in the workplace. These include:
With corporations and governments being threatened by hackers constantly nowadays, the importance of system security cannot be overstated. Demand for these professionals and their skills is rising, making this a career with a lot of opportunities.
Information security analysts perform one of the most important tasks in any modern business: they protect their company's data, networks and systems from cyberattacks and data breaches. With the number of attacks on the rise every year, these workers must stay informed and diligent at all times. They must act both preemptively — putting up firewalls, encrypting data, testing their own systems for any vulnerability that could be exploited — and reactively — investigating breaches of security, reporting the circumstances and, most crucially, stopping the attack as quickly as possible.
Job duties include monitoring network systems for inconsistencies or suspicious activity, installing software that protects networks and data, researching new security trends and troubleshooting whenever an attack takes place. When a data breach occurs, information security analysts are also charged with creating in-depth reports to describe what went wrong.
Enormous collections of information that is of utmost importance to businesses — customer information, shipping details, financial records — are stored in a company's databases, and a database administrator is the person who protects and grows those databases to the benefit of the entire enterprise. From planning the first seeds of a new database, to incorporating and organizing all of the database's relevant information, to merging old and unnecessary databases with fresh new projects, a database administrator owns their database from beginning to end.
Because the data they work with often contains sensitive material, database administrators must be constantly on guard to make sure their records are secure against unauthorized access. They verify the data they gather, back up their databases in case of a power outage and may work with management or information security analysts to obtain protective measures for their projects.
Network and computer systems administrators are responsible for the day-to-day operation of their company's computer networks. Job duties include organizing, installing and supporting computer systems while maintaining LANs, WANs and various other data communication systems.
While specifics will vary between employers, the primary role of these professionals is always making sure their company's computer network is operating efficiently and safely. To that end, they install and update various security provisions and software programs, oversee system security and solve network problems as they arise.
As the U.S. Department of Labor notes, most network and computer systems administrator careers require a bachelor's degree in a computer-related field. However, some employers only require a postsecondary certificate.