10 Best PhD in Cyber Security Online [2021 Guide]

Ready to start your journey?

Want to be on the frontier of research, policy formation, strategic innovation, or consulting in the exploding field of information assurance and cyber security? A PhD Cyber Security online program may help you attain this goal.

PhD in Cyber Security Online

If you already have a bachelors or masters in computer science along with computer engineering and other IT-related industry certifications and work experience, you’re likely qualified to apply.

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If you don’t meet these criteria, but love cutting edge technology research, investigation, and policy advocacy, you might want to consider mapping out a plan now in order to qualify for entering a cyber security doctoral program.

PhD in Cyber Security Online Programs

Computer and Information Systems Managers i=meeting for a project

Getting a PhD can be very exciting. It can help put you on the cutting edge of innovation and policy research, allowing you to apply deep theoretical knowledge to emerging industry challenges, as well as ethical and legal policy debates on a national or global scale.

When you’ve completed a PhD in Information Security online, the jobs you’re ready for may not be as highly defined as they were when you got your bachelor’s or master’s degree.

This is because your area of individual specialization combined with your advanced theoretical insights should mean you actually have a unique expert profile. A PhD in Cyber Security can help open doors to exciting career paths, depending on your academic concentration:

  • Teaching opportunities at colleges and universities
  • Policy work
  • Engineering research,
  • Consulting
  • Cyber operations leadership

The best cyber security doctorate program for you will depend in part on the kind of courses offered and the kind of expertise you want to develop.

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In general, those looking into a cybersecurity PhD will want to consider if they’re more interested in technical and engineering research type applications, or prefer a career path that involves teaching, quantitative research, policy work, high-level consulting, or governance work.

Keep in mind that PhD institutions will also vary in sector orientation as well.

Some will be more focused on engineering research, others may specialize in strategic cyber operations (for corporations, government, or national security), and others might be affiliated with law or business administration programs and focusing on legal and ethical aspects of information assurance, on corporate leadership, or on regulatory or policy reform.

Finally, as a PhD candidate you’ll need to consider the kind of concentration that best fits your deepest intellectual interests, professional aptitudes, and career aspirations.

Cyber Security Careers & Salaries

Cyber Security Careers & Salaries

Once you’ve earned a masters and PhD degree in information technology (or related field), you should see an increase in income with work opportunities in many sectors, including higher education, government, private industry, defense, and advanced software engineering research.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics provides a glimpse at the kinds of salaries that you may earn with advanced cyber security skills.

Careers Annual Median Salaries
Chief Information Officer $166,770
IT Director in Manufacturing Companies $150,930
Computer and Information Systems Manager $151,150
Computer and Information Research Scientist $126,830
Network Engineer $116,780
Software Developer $110,140
Information Security Analyst $103,590
Database Administrator $98,860
Computer Systems Analyst $93,730
Network and Computer Systems Administrator $84,810
Web Developer $77,200

Some of the careers listed here may be accessible with a bachelor’s degree in computer science or computer engineering, but the highest paid jobs listed typically require a masters or doctorate degree like a cyber security masters degree online or a cyber security doctorate.

If you move into advanced research, teaching, consulting, or engineering roles after completing your PhD in Cybersecurity, you may, over time, develop various streams of income.

Such income sources might include consulting fees or retainers, intellectual property rights, traditional work salaries, speaking honorariums, salaries, as well as stipends related to teaching or institutional research collaborations.

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Likewise, you may find yourself earning a top salary in a high-level research, consulting, policy, or operational role in industry or government, or you may find your way to a tenured position in higher education.

We expect you feel some excitement seeing what you can earn with advanced degrees in this field—keep in mind that you might also one day be shaping leading policies and innovations in cyber security for years to come!

Choosing an Online PhD in Cyber Security

PhD in Cyber Security student studying in his office

We recommend doing enough research to feel confident that the school and program you select are fully accredited, have professors with solid academic and industry credentials, and, most importantly perhaps, that the courses offered are aligned with the areas of concentration that most interest you.

As you compare programs it’s also a good idea to ask yourself what kind of real-world industry experiences and expertise characterize the leading faculty at the school. Remember, PhD programs are unique in the way that students and professors collaborate closely, almost like academic colleagues!

Whether it’s a department colloquium, a research panel event, a call out to visiting scholars, or getting advice from faculty members on your dissertation prospectus…in a doctoral program, the intellectual topics, debates, and conversations you’re engaged in will be informed in large measure by the industry orientation and experiences of the department faculty.

Web Developer working in his office

Engineers, military operations personnel, lawyers and social policy wonks, those in business administration circles…these kinds of people can all be part of the larger cyber security universe but quite distinct in the research and applications they focus on and care about.

Finally, when looking at online options, you’ll see that some programs offer a PhD in Cybersecurity, others offer a PhD in Information Security, or even a Doctorate of Information Assurance (DIA).

You may also see online cybersecurity programs leading to a Doctor of Science (DSc) instead of a PhD, or programs offering an online Doctor of Information Technology (DIT).

Since these degree titles are somewhat interchangeable, we suggest you always look behind the degree title at course offerings, course concentrations, industry or sector affiliations, and career orientations in the programs you’re most interested in.

PhD in Cyber Security Curriculum & Courses

Database Administrator working in data center

Your professors will be teaching some important course content no doubt, but in your online PhD cyber security program, they’ll also serve the critical role of research mentors to you and your fellow PhD candidates.

Likewise, taking courses is only one part of your academic commitment alongside engaging in original research and dissertation writing. Course offerings will differ based on programs, but here’s a broad sample of what kinds of courses you can expect:

  • Technology Policy and Strategy Administration: Students get a deep dive into theoretical and practical frameworks for decision making in the area of IT policy and strategic management of IT assets.
  • Advanced Reverse Engineering Methods: Students learn and apply advanced research engineering methods in real-life scenarios and demonstrate mastery of reverse engineering skills for cyber security applications.
  • Cryptography and Information Assurance Protocols: Learn about the science of coding and decoding and the kinds of keys, controls, and protocols used in conjunction with cryptography and information assurance methods.
  • Advanced Methods in Risk Assessment and Control: Learn about theoretical frameworks defining best practices in industry-specific cyber security risk management.
  • Cyber Operations Strategy & Advanced Forensics: Learn about research methods and practical skills for operating in adversarial cyber operations or cyber threat scenarios.
  • Topics in Contemporary IT Policy, Law, and Ethics: Learn about the most compelling topics, controversies, and theoretical underpinnings defining legal and ethical data privacy and protection frameworks.
  • Information Assurance Consulting: Students research and study frameworks for providing senior-level consulting services in information security.
  • Advanced Cybersecurity Engineering and Research: Students develop knowledge of contemporary trends at the intersection of cybersecurity software architecture development and related software engineering research.
  • Databases and Information Safeguards: This course gives students insights into the methods and theories guiding contemporary practices and innovations in database uses and architectures with a focus on information security and data management ethics.
  • Qualitative and Quantitative Research Methods: Students learn professional research standards and data presentation and modeling skills to apply to their dissertation research methodology.

As you can see, getting a PhD in Information Security online means building on your existing knowledge in computer science in order to engage in the highest levels of investigation, development, teaching, research, and consulting.

Admissions Requirements

Admissions to a Cybersecurity PhD program will in most if not all cases require you to have a bachelor’s or master’s degree in computer science or computer engineering or a related field. Some programs will require GRE or GMAT scores, but in some cases, waivers are available, or the university will make this requirement optional.

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Most programs will expect applicants to have not only prior college degrees, but also significant work experience and, in some cases, industry certifications in prerequisite technology skills.

Accreditation

PhD in Cyber Security Online Accreditation

Getting a doctorate degree is a big deal. You probably want to ensure your faculty have compelling academic and industry credentials. This includes making sure you select a fully accredited program and school as well.

The Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA) is a good resource for learning more about accreditation standards and identifying accredited schools.

Due to the growing national interest in expanding the cyber security workforce, you may also find new consortiums seeking to help you navigate online cyber security degree programs, such as the government-sponsored National Centers of Academic Excellence (NCAE).

Financial Aid and Scholarships

Financial aid for PhD in Cyber Security Online students

If you have the kind of interest and motivation that makes getting a PhD sound exciting, we encourage you not to let tuition costs stop you, especially in fields like cyber security that have strong projected job growth.

Usually, financial aid options will be available to you if you’re a qualified PhD program candidate but need financial help.

And, you never know what kinds of financial assistance programs you may be eligible to tap into when you start applying for an online cyber security doctorate, especially since government, industry, and higher education leaders are presently building training pipelines to fill growing job demand in this critical field.

If you’re interested in financial aid, we suggest you stick with fully accredited programs and check with admissions counselors about school or government-sponsored scholarship.

Your employer may also offer some form of tuition assistance. If you do plan to apply for school loans or scholarships, it’s always a good idea to complete the federal financial aid application (FAFSA) ahead of time.

What Can You Do With a PhD in Cyber Security?

Software Developer working in his office

With a PhD in cyber security you should find that you’re in a great position to compete for well-paid jobs in the cyber security field.

An online cyber security doctorate degree can help you obtain the theoretical knowledge and sophisticated research skills needed to work in higher education teaching positions, prestigious consulting careers, or senior engineering research roles.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, high-level information security research jobs are forecast to grow 15% on average in the coming decade, while the larger cyber security job market is forecast for a whopping 31% rate of growth.

How Much Does a PhD in Cyber Security Program Cost?

Software Developers working on a project together

You should expect to find tuition costs ranging from as low as $500 per credit hour up to $1,200 and above, with most programs requiring between 30 and 40 credit hours of coursework.

Keep in mind time costs too, as it’s hard to predict exactly how many years you’ll need to complete your dissertation, anywhere between 15 months and 2 or 3 years, or more. As you compare programs and costs, keep in mind what’s being offered too.

Consider how important direct faculty support for your dissertation work is to you and what kind of research resources a school offers. When your goal is a doctorate degree, it’s even more important to consider these factors alongside cost.

How Long Does it Take to Get a PhD in Cyber Security Online?

PhD in Cyber Security student studying online at home

Getting a PhD in Cyber Security online will usually take 3 to 5 years, depending on the program and pace at which you complete your dissertation research and writing.

Assume you’ll need 2 to 3 years to complete the course work and another year or two, at least, to finish your dissertation. Keep in mind that dissertation work may extend beyond two years, depending on your own work habits and research interests.

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How long it takes to get a PhD depends largely on your schedule and program. A number of online programs have options for students who want an accelerated study timeline. Keep this in mind as you compare online cyber security PhD options.

Are There Any Affordable Online PhD in Cyber Security Programs?

Yes, there are affordable programs. With the fast-growing attention on cyber security threats and the need for qualified information security professionals across industries and roles, you’ll find a wide range of schools and programs to choose from, with a wide range of tuition costs.

You should find the more affordable programs offering per credit tuition rates between $450 and $600.

Is a PhD in Cyber Security Program Worth it?

Cyber Security Analyst working in a government facility

Yes, a doctorate in cyber security online is worth it for many students. The Bureau of Labor Statistics is projecting 11% job growth in computer and information technology occupations over the next 10 years. Common careers in this field include computer and information research specialist or network engineer working in cyber security, computer engineering, and information assurance jobs.

With your cybersecurity doctorate, you may also qualify to work as a college teacher or as a high-level consultant, or policy advocate. What’s really key to remember is that whatever your individual path, you’ll be among a first wave of experts giving direction to a still very young and fast-growing profession!

Universities Offering Online PhD in Cyber Security Degree Programs

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.

Capella University

Capella University campus

Capella University, which is an NSA / DHS designated National Center of Academic Excellence in Information Assurance / Cyber Defense, offers an information assurance and cybersecurity concentration for students in its Ph.D. in Information Technology program. The degree requires 90 total quarter credits, and there are multiple ways to save on tuition.

  • PhD in Information Technology – Information Assurance and Cybersecurity

Capella University is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

Capitol Technology University

Capitol Technology University campus

The Doctor of Science in Cybersecurity program from Capitol Technology University is designed to teach students how to conduct research in matters of cyber defense, to create innovative and creative solutions to cybersecurity problems, and to be qualified enough to make final decisions about solutions. Students can choose electives to better streamline their paths.

  • Doctorate in Cybersecurity

Capitol Technology University is accredited by the Commission on Higher Education of the Middles States Association of Colleges and Schools.

Colorado Technical University

Colorado Technical University campus

Students at Colorado Technical University can earn their Doctor of Computer Science in Cybersecurity and Information Assurance at an NSA / DHS designated CAE-IA/CD. The program can be completed in three years, and students work with advisors to build schedules that work best for them.

  • Doctor of Computer Science – Cybersecurity and Information Assurance

Colorado Technical University is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

Dakota State University

Dakota State University campus

At Dakota State University, students can earn their Ph.D. in Cyber Operations while growing their professional connections with various businesses and government agencies. The program features multiple computer science courses with a heavy emphasis on cybersecurity. In addition to rigorous online coursework, students will also undertake three, on-site research seminars.

  • PhD in Cyber Operations

Dakota State University is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

Marymount University

Marymount University campus

Marymount University’s Doctor of Science in Cybersecurity program places a premium on such topics as technology, data science, policy, leadership, management, ethics, and teaching. Students are placed in real-time, real-world situations and must assess and combat threats to digital networks. Extensive research will also be conducted in the cybersecurity field.

  • Doctor of Science – Cybersecurity

Marymount University is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

New Jersey City University

New Jersey City University campus

Students enrolled in New Jersey City University’s Doctor Of Science in Civil Security Leadership, Management & Policy program explore three distinct areas of digital security: national security, corporate security, and information assurance and cybersecurity. The program accepts between 15 to 20 doctoral candidates each year and usually takes about three years to complete.

  • Doctor of Science in Civil Security, Leadership, Management and Policy

New Jersey City University is accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.

Northcentral University

Northcentral University campus

Northcentral University offers a Ph.D. in Technology and Innovation Management with a cybersecurity specialization that that is designed to prepare students to become leaders in the field of cybersecurity. Graduates should be prepared for careers with both private and government organizations. There are 20 courses in the program, which takes about 50 months to complete.

  • PhD in Technology and Innovation Management – Cybersecurity

Northcentral University is accredited by the WASC Senior College and University Commission.

Nova Southeastern University

Nova Southeastern University campus

Nova Southeastern University’s Ph.D. in Cybersecurity Management requires a total of 67 credit hours. It’s designed for working professionals who need flexible college schedules. It’s a research-based degree that aims to prepare graduates for leadership jobs in cybersecurity or university teaching positions. Equal emphasis is placed on cybersecurity skills and management training.

  • PhD in Cybersecurity Management

NSU is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

University of the Cumberlands

University of the Cumberlands campus

University of the Cumberlands offers students a Ph.D. in Information Technology program entirely online. Students are expected to tackle topics such as technology for the global economy, information governance, data science, emerging threats to IT, and enterprise risk management. These courses are designed to teach students how to improve connectivity, identify cyber threats, and more.

The University of the Cumberlands is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

University of Rhode Island

University of Rhode Island campus

Students interested in cybersecurity at the University of Rhode Island can enroll in the Ph.D. in Computer Science program. Much of the degree can be completed online, but there will be occasions when visiting the campus will be required. Students can choose to focus their electives in the cybersecurity field.

  • PhD in Computer Science

The University of Rhode Island is accredited by the New England Commission of Higher Education.

Getting Your PhD in Cyber Security Degree Online

PhD in Cyber Security student researching online

It’s true that getting an online PhD in Information Security takes time and money. But, remember, if this is the right path for you, you’ll likely be excited about pursuing an advanced degree and see it as the chance of a lifetime, not an expense.

Indeed, if your dream is to build a career in cyber security leadership applying big-picture theoretical and analytical thinking in advocacy, research, teaching, consulting, or computer engineering roles, we think it’s likely you’ll agree an investment like this is hard to quantify!

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Keith Nickolaus
WRITTEN BY
Keith Nickolaus
Keith has a Ph.D. and a M.A. in Comparative Literature from the University of California - Berkeley and a B.A. in Literature from the University of California - Santa Cruz. A retired educator, Keith lives in Berkeley and researches and writes about trends in education leadership, innovation, and policy.