An associates in cyber security can help you start building a career in one of the fastest-growing fields in technology today.
Data is already a key part of how most businesses work, and data protection is a top priority across various industries—including e-commerce, manufacturing, energy, finance, and healthcare.
From troubleshooting data breaches to developing policies for an organization’s computer systems, a career in cybersecurity can be fascinating, with many opportunities for professional growth.
Online Associates in Cyber Security Degrees
An online associate’s degree in cybersecurity will prepare you in the fundamentals of defending digital systems from threats, attacks, and other forms of cybercrime.
Cybersecurity is crucial for most organizations today, and the need for it will continue growing in the future. Most organizations—including banks, government agencies, and hospitals—already store their data digitally. Much of this information is very sensitive, from email passwords to bank account numbers. This is where cybersecurity professionals come in. They’re in charge of keeping data safe.
Cybercrime is on the rise, to the point that the majority of companies have already experienced some form of hacking. As a result, cybersecurity professionals are sought after in various fields. There are many ways to become a cybersecurity professional, but an associate degree can give you a formal entry point into the field.
You can learn about core concepts, skills, and professional practices that are necessary to get started with cybersecurity. As a cybersecurity student, you’ll explore how to:
- Analyze all components of a system for possible weaknesses
- Develop a detailed plan for handling possible breaches
- Come up with effective controls—such as software monitoring devices and firewalls
- Communicate security concerns to a wide range of audiences
- Perform forensic investigations and extract data about cybercrime
- Handle disaster planning and recovery and respond to detected threats
All in all, a 2 year cyber security degree will often start with classes that explore the workings of operating systems, networks, and software. Beyond these, you can learn about taking defensive steps, from creating your own Python scripts for testing to conducting regular audits.
A cybersecurity associate program typically features plenty of hands-on laboratory work. Most accredited programs also aim to cover topics that appear in major certification exams, like the CompTIA Security+ and the Cisco Certified Network Associate (CCNA).
With an associate cybersecurity degree, you can be better prepared for entry-level roles in the information technology field. Graduates often go on to become information security analysts, network support specialists, and network administrators.
Cybersecurity Careers & Salaries
A cybersecurity degree can be a good foundation for many different career paths. Many cybersecurity graduates become information security analysts. They’re responsible for designing and implementing strategies that prevent data from getting attacked.
A related job would be penetration testing, which focuses on trying to attack a system to find any weaknesses. While an associate can help qualify you for a number of entry-level roles, a bachelors is a common requirement for many cybersecurity roles. The educational requirement can vary, though, depending on the employer. Sometimes experience is accepted in place of a higher degree.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, here are some common jobs related to cybersecurity.
|Careers||Annual Median Salaries|
|Computer and Information Systems Managers||$159,010|
|Computer Network Architects||$120,520|
|Information Security Analysts||$102,600|
|Software Quality Assurance Analysts and Testers||$98,220|
|Network and Computer Systems Administrators||$80,600|
|Computer Network Support Specialists||$62,760|
|Computer User Support Specialists||$49,770|
Some cybersecurity professionals become more involved with software. Those with more education or experience may pursue careers as security architects, security engineers, or software developers. These positions play an active role in building protective mechanisms into software, and they may also participate in testing tools and systems to make sure they’re robust.
Forensics is another possible cybersecurity career track. This field studies cybercrime and involves a lot of data retrieval, trying to gather digital evidence, trace incidents, or recover lost data. After building up experience in the field, you might eventually qualify for management roles. Some seasoned professionals go on to become security consultants for different companies.
Cyber Security Associate’s Curriculum & Courses
Since accredited associate programs in cybersecurity design many of their classes around certification topics, they tend to cover similar coursework, such as:
- Principles of Information Security: This course introduces you to common threats and vulnerabilities in information systems and explores strategies for minimizing risks and responding to attacks.
- Introduction to Networking: Since computer networks are the usual entry point for attacks, you’ll study the structure and components of networks, along with several types of protocols.
- Programming Fundamentals: You’ll learn how to design, build, test, and document programs using a major programming language, and you’ll explore the entire software lifecycle.
- Operating Systems: This course teaches you how to work with major operating systems such as Windows and Linux, from installing and maintaining them to troubleshooting.
- Python Scripting: Python is one of the most useful languages in cybersecurity, so you’ll practice writing scripts to automate processes, such as penetration testing, and build your own security tools.
- Database Design: This course gives an overview of the major types of databases and teaches how to create databases based on business needs and then launch and administer them.
- Disaster Recovery: You’ll study how to handle disasters following the disaster management cycle, from coming up with data backups to doing business continuity planning.
- Network Security: This course examines how to make effective security policies and setups for operating systems and networks while familiarizing you with hacker techniques.
- Vulnerability Analysis: To prepare for cyberattacks, you’ll learn how to map out an organization’s vulnerabilities and assess risks across its databases, networks, and applications.
- Ethical Hacking: This course will help you take on the mindset of a hacker so that you’ll become proficient in the usual tools, methodologies, and types of attacks.
Most cybersecurity programs feature a capstone project, where you’ll make a cybersecurity strategy for businesses from scratch.
How to Choose an Online Associate’s Degree in Cyber Security Program
Here are some key factors to consider when you’re looking for an associate’s program in cybersecurity:
- Program credentials. It’s beneficial for the online cybersecurity associate degree you choose to come from an accredited school. Accreditation is a sign that a school is reputable. It’s also a plus if the program’s professors have a good track record in cybersecurity.
- Coursework. Some cybersecurity programs have major differences in their coursework, such as extra classes on career development. You may want to verify whether a prospective program at least prepares you for any cybersecurity certification exams.
- Format. Non-traditional associate degree programs are usually either hybrid or completely online. Some online cyber security degree programs have self-paced classes, while others might have stricter schedules where you have to attend class online at certain times.
- Graduate outcomes. This is a helpful metric for determining how effective a cybersecurity program is. How many of their graduates ended up working in cybersecurity, and which positions and companies did they enter into?
- Resources. Top online programs have plenty of resources for students, especially when it comes to internship and career assistance. You may want to verify that your school offers access to tech support as well.
- Costs. Online degrees are often less expensive than traditional degrees, but there can still be miscellaneous costs. Most schools offer a breakdown of their costs on their websites, along with financial aid options.
There are many online cybersecurity associate programs available all over the country, so it’s beneficial to compare your options and take your time in choosing which ones to apply to.
Cybersecurity Associate’s Degree Admissions Requirements
Associate degree programs usually have fewer requirements than bachelor degree programs. Here are some common criteria:
- High school diploma. This confirms that you’re eligible to pursue an undergraduate degree. A GED credential is also acceptable.
- Minimum GPA. Most schools will have a particular minimum GPA that they’re looking for, and others will check your grades in math and science classes too.
- ACT or SAT scores. These are a less common requirement, but some associate degree programs will still ask for these.
Admission requirements can vary from school to school, so it’s helpful to check out the specific criteria of your prospective schools.
It’s essential to apply to cybersecurity schools that are regionally accredited. Accreditation means that a school offers quality education with strong learning outcomes. The US Department of Education has an online database of accredited schools.
Aside from regional accreditation, you can also look into programmatic accreditation for cybersecurity. For example, the National Centers of Academic Excellence in Cybersecurity (NCAE-C) awards accreditation to high-quality cybersecurity programs.
By studying at an accredited school, you’re more likely to get your classes credited toward a bachelor’s degree down the road. You’ll be able to apply for federal financial aid, too.
Cyber Security Licensure and Certifications
It’s helpful to pursue cybersecurity certifications because they can distinguish you as a specialist. These three credentials are among the most well-known:
- CompTIA Security+: This credential proves that you have the knowledge and skills needed to handle fundamental security issues.
- Certified Ethical Hacker: This certification prepares you for penetration testing roles and shows that you’re adept at finding weaknesses in digital systems.
- Certified Information Systems Security Professional: This is a prominent certification that requires you to have expertise in at least two cybersecurity areas.
Most cybersecurity certifications require you to pass exams and have a certain amount of experience.
Financial Aid and Scholarships
There are many sources of financial aid available for undergraduate students who qualify. To start off, you can apply for federal financial aid by filling out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). Federal aid often comes in the form of loans, grants, and work-study programs.
Another option is state financial aid. Some states require you to submit your FAFSA form before you can apply for aid. You can also look into scholarships. Most of these are merit-based, but they can also be need-based. Some scholarships are intended specifically for technology students.
What Can You Do with a Cyber Security Associate’s Degree?
There are many possible roles that you can pursue with an associates degree in cyber security. Many graduates analyze and reduce security risks for companies as information security analysts. Being proficient in cybersecurity can also make you eligible for other IT jobs, including network and database administrator and computer and support specialist.
An associate can also help prepare you for further studies. Cybersecurity professionals with a bachelors often qualify for a wider range of roles, including security architect or engineer, incident response analyst, or software developer. You could also choose to specialize in forensics to track down cybercrime or pursue certification as an ethical hacker.
How Long Does It Take to Get an Online Cyber Security Associate’s Degree?
A cyber security online associates degree generally consists of 60 to 70 credits, so a full-time student can typically finish it in 2 years.
Many working students who pursue associate degrees follow a part-time schedule. This will often extend the length of a program. On the other hand, many online programs also offer accelerated tracks. If you study all year round with 8 week semesters, you might be able to finish your degree in less time.
What Cyber Security Jobs Can You Get with an Associate’s Degree?
An associate’s degree in cyber security could lead to entry-level roles in this growing field. Entry-level positions include cybersecurity specialist, cybersecurity technician, and cybersecurity analyst. Network and computer systems administrators, network support specialists, and security auditors can also hold associate degrees.
Many cybersecurity graduates pursue careers as information security analysts, detecting risks and protecting organizations’ technical systems. Even though a bachelors is a common requirement for information security analysts, it is possible to enter this profession through relevant training and industry certification.
Cybersecurity professionals with experience or further education could go on to pursue roles like computer systems analyst, incident responder, or software developer. Many cybersecurity graduates work in healthcare, finance, law enforcement, and government.
Is an Associates in Cyber Security Worth It?
Yes, an associates in cybersecurity is worth it for many professionals. Organizations are storing a massive amount of data on computer systems, and the number and intensity of cyberattacks have been rising.
Cybersecurity professionals are in very high demand, with the Bureau of Labor Statistics projecting 33% job growth for information security analysts over the next ten years. Not only can an associate degree in cyber security teach you essential technical skills for the field, but it could also help you prepare for professional certification.
Universities Offering Online Associates in Cyber Security Degree Program
Methodology: The following school list is in alphabetical order. To be included, a college or university must be regionally accredited and offer degree programs online or in a hybrid format.
Bismarck State College offers an Associate in Cybersecurity and Computer Networks that is available both on campus and online. Depending on how many classes they want to take at a time, students can follow either a 2 year or a 3 year plan for completing the degree.
Bismarck State College is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.
Davenport University offers an Associate of Applied Science in Cyber Defense. Courses are available both online and on campus, and online courses are available both with and without set meeting times. All students have opportunities to participate in labs and hands-on projects.
Davenport University is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.
Franklin University offers an AS in Cybersecurity. Courses are 100% online and 6 or 12 weeks long. The program’s instructors are professionals with real-world experience. Courses include Principles of Programming, Communication and Network Security, Linux Fundamentals, Database Management Systems, and more.
Franklin University is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.
Georgia Military College offers an Associate of Science in Cyber Security. The program can typically be finished in just 2 years and includes a mix of both online and on-campus classes. The curriculum includes studies in networking, data structures, cyber information security, desktop programming, and related skills.
Georgia Military College is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.
Ivy Tech Community College offers an Associate of Applied Science in Cyber Security and Information Assurance. Ivy Tech is an NSA-certified Center for Cyber Security. It also has transfer partnerships in place to make it easier for graduates of the program to continue to bachelor’s degree programs.
Ivy Tech Community College is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.
Kent State University offers an Associate of Applied Business in Cybersecurity. Coursework includes Introduction to Operating Systems and Networking Technology, Computer Assembly and Configuration, Cyber Ethics in Information Technology, and more.
Kent State University is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.
Lackawanna College offers an Associate in Cyber Security. The program is fully online and can typically be completed in 2 years. Students are given opportunities to gain hands-on experience through labs and internships. The curriculum aims to help students develop a strong foundation of general technological knowledge in areas such as software development and network architecture.
Lackawanna College is accredited by the Commission on Higher Education of the Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools.
Lake Superior College offers an Associate of Applied Science in Network Administration and Cybersecurity. The degree is available both on campus and online. Students in the program are given opportunities to become CompTIA and Microsoft MCP certified. Class sizes are small, and classes feature training labs to help sharpen students’ problem-solving skills.
LSC is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.
Miami Dade College offers an Associate in Science in Cybersecurity. Classes are available both online and on campus, and they provide preparation for CompTIA certification exams. The program requires the completion of 60 credits and includes courses such as Introduction to Secure Scripting, Networking Technologies, Digital Forensics, and more.
Miami Dade College is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.
Northcentral Technical College offers an Associate in IT – Cybersecurity Specialist. Courses can be taken online and at multiple campus locations and include Security Policy, Incident Response, Intrusion Detection Systems, Cryptography, and more. Students also have the option to complete an internship.
NTC is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.
Northwest Vista College offers an Associate of Applied Science in Information Assurance and Cyber Security that can be earned on campus or online. The program provides opportunities to earn a variety of professional certifications, such as Cisco Certified Network Associate or Cisco Certified Network Professional. Applicants do not need any prior education or work experience in the field.
Northwest Vista College is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.
Saint Leo University offers an online program for an Associate in Cyber Security. Coursework includes Ethical Hacking and Countermeasures, System Administration, Business Law, Programming in C and C++, Programming Logic and Design, and more. Saint Leo’s online classes provide flexible scheduling while still having an emphasis on real-world problem-solving.
Saint Leo University is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.
Southeast Community College offers an AAS in Computer Information Technology. Students can take daytime, evening, or online classes to accommodate their schedules. Classes include hands-on projects and opportunities to practice solving problems both independently and in groups. Four focus areas are available: Applications Development, Cybersecurity, Network Management, and Computer Support.
Southeast Community College is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.
St. Petersburg College is a Center of Academic Excellence in Cyber Defense. St. Petersburg’s 2 year Associate of Science in Cyber Security is available online. Coursework includes Ethical Hacking, Network Defense and Countermeasures, Network Security Foundations, Incident Response and Disaster Recovery, and more.
SPC is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.
Trident University International offers an Associate of Science in Cybersecurity that can be earned fully online. Students can usually complete the 60 required credit hours in two years. The curriculum aims to prepare students for Network+ and CompTIA A+ professional certification exams. Courses include Operating Systems and Security, Network Defense, Object Oriented Programming, and more.
Trident University International is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.
Umpqua Community College offers an Associate of Applied Science in Cybersecurity. The program provides opportunities to gain experience solving problems with both hardware and software and earn professional certifications from Microsoft, Cisco, and CompTIA. Courses are available online, and accepted students can start in the fall, winter, spring, or summer. The degree can typically be earned in 2 years.
Umpqua Community College is accredited by the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities.
The University of Charleston—West Virginia offers an Associate of Science in Cybersecurity. This 2 year program is available online and requires the completion of 60 credit hours. Course options include Security and Data Privacy, Introduction to Programming, Security Vulnerability Analysis, Introduction to Databases, and more.
The University of Charleston is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.
The University of St. Thomas offers an Associate of Applied Science in Cybersecurity that is available 100% online and can typically be completed in 5 semesters. Courses include Basics of Networking, Foundations of Programming, Configuring Email and Web Services, and more. UST is a Catholic university with a student-to-faculty ratio of just 11-to-1.
The University of St. Thomas is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.
Wake Technical Community College offers an Associate in Applied Science in Cybersecurity. The program requires the completion of 69 credits, and courses are available both online and at multiple campuses. Students can choose from daytime and evening scheduling options. The curriculum aims to prepare graduates for professional certification exams.
Wake Technical Community College is accredited by the Commission on Colleges of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools.
Western Nebraska Community College offers an Associate of Arts in Cyber Security. WNCC provides small class sizes and hands-on learning experiences. The degree can be earned on campus or online. The curriculum aims to prepare students for professional certification exams from CompTIA and Microsoft.
Western Nebraska Community College is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.
Getting Your Cyber Security Associate Degree Online
Since cybersecurity is a highly specialized field, formal training is required to enter it. A cyber security associate degree online program gives you formal education and helps you develop necessary skill sets for this in-demand IT sector.
From doing cyber investigation reports to testing wireless networks for vulnerabilities, you can also learn skills that are applicable to the wider information technology field in general.
There are many associate programs in cybersecurity that are available online from all over the country. You can start exploring accredited schools today to find the program option that best aligns with your interests and goals.