A PhD in Information Security can help you develop expertise on protecting data from increasingly sophisticated cybercrimes.
Information security is now a top priority for all organizations, to the point that it’s now often considered in high-level decision-making by both businesses and local and international governments.
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With a PhD in Information Security, you’d receive advanced training in research, helping you become a knowledge leader who can solve pressing challenges in a highly crucial field.
Online PhD in Information Security Programs
As more information is stored digitally and computer systems become a greater part of daily life, cyberattacks are a constant threat. Because of this, there’s a growing need for information security specialists who can develop effective policies, practices, and tools for protecting confidential information.
Many professionals with a PhD in Information Security become leaders and innovators who can make original contributions and act as subject matter specialists. With this type of PhD, common specializations include:
- Risk management
- Data privacy policies
- Identity and access management
- 5G network security
- Computer system forensics
- International cyber defense
- Machine learning techniques
- Human-centered computing
One focus of this interdisciplinary program is the technology behind information security, but you’ll also delve into ethics, social sciences, and organizational management.
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To start off, you can explore advanced topics in cybersecurity. This can include assessing vulnerabilities in different systems, analyzing the top cybercrime threats, and learning about industry tools for cybercrime prevention. You can then practice putting these together to create comprehensive security plans for entire teams and even organizations.
In addition, you’ll examine major issues and trends in information security and look at case studies of current laws and policies. This can allow you to start looking at information security from a big picture perspective and to begin integrating it into strategic decision-making.
The majority of your PhD program will likely consist of preparing you for your dissertation. Leading up to this, you’ll study research design and methods for information security, and you’ll be assigned a faculty advisor with similar research interests.
Many PhD in Information Security programs require you to pass a series of qualifying exams as well. Because of the scope of this training, graduates are often equipped for key positions in research, government, and business.
Information and Cyber Security Careers & Salaries
A PhD in Information Security deals with advanced research methods as well as information security management, so it can lead to a variety of opportunities.
Many PhD graduates opt to pursue academia. They might become professors and researchers who publish their own papers and work on cutting-edge projects in information security. Aside from academia, research roles are needed in government and corporate companies as well.
On the other hand, you could pursue work for organizations directly as an information security analyst. In this role, professionals help build secure software, networks, and digital systems, and they can design measures for handling possible cyberattacks. It’s also possible for experienced professionals to work as consultants for multiple companies.
In general, a PhD in Cyber Security or Information Security may enable you to pursue many high-level roles related to technology. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, here are some careers related to information and cyber security.
|Careers||Annual Median Salaries|
|Computer and Information Systems Managers||$159,010|
|Computer and Information Research Scientists||$131,490|
|Computer Network Architects||$120,520|
|Information Security Analysts||$102,600|
|Computer Systems Analysts||$99,270|
|Postsecondary Computer Science Teachers||$77,910|
Some information security graduates venture into software, network, and product engineering. Software architects can design software and lead a team of developers and engineers while incorporating security practices.
Management is another potential track for PhD holders. Leadership roles can include chief information security officer or computer and information system manager. They can lead an entire department or be responsible for an organization’s information security needs—with responsibilities like creating company-wide policies and training staff.
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Many of these jobs are in very high demand, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Information security analyst roles are expected to grow by 33% over the next several years. Meanwhile, software developers and computer and information system managers have estimated growth rates of 22% and 11%, respectively.
Information Security PhD Curriculum & Courses
A PhD in Information Assurance or Information Security will feature core courses while allowing you to choose electives based on your research interests. Here are some classes that you may find in this type of PhD program:
- Information Security and Assurance: This course gives an overview of the tools and practices that organizations use to protect their data, including firewalls and access control.
- Digital Forensics: You’ll learn how to collect, preserve, and analyze digital evidence and how to present evidence in legal investigations if needed.
- Incident Response: This course will train you in how to handle different kinds of security incidents, from responding immediately to developing organizational policies.
- Network and System Security: You’ll study the main vulnerabilities that computer networks have along with the mechanisms behind network security tools.
- Information System Intrusions: To dig deeper into detecting intrusions and breaches in networks, you’ll explore major protocols and work with traffic analysis tools.
- Special Topics in Information Security: You’ll study major issues in information security, like cybersecurity standards and physical security, while reading major research papers.
- Information Security Law and Ethics: This course uses case studies to present local and international information security policies as well as legal cybercrime offenses.
- Research Methods and Design: You’ll examine quantitative and qualitative techniques for research while learning how to develop research proposals from scratch.
- Applied Research in Information Security: This course explores the current state of research in information security and introduces you to the main stages of research.
- Dissertation Research and Writing: You’ll likely have to take several courses covering the whole process of writing a doctoral dissertation.
Aside from these core classes, a key part of your PhD will likely be dedicated to independent study, where you’ll be working on your dissertation.
Most universities offering PhD in Information Security require the following criteria for admissions:
- Official transcripts. You’ll submit transcripts for all undergraduate and graduate classes you’ve taken.
- Resume. Schools will often check your resume for professional and academic experiences that show your research ability and interest in information security.
- Reference letters. It’s preferable for at least one letter to come from an academic reference, such as a former professor.
- Statement of intent. You’ll explain your research interests and career goals, and some schools even ask for research writing samples.
Many schools consider your GRE scores as well, though a growing number of schools require no GRE.
Doctoral Programs in Information Security Accreditation
The most reputable PhD programs in information security come from schools with regional accreditation. A PhD is the highest educational credential in information security, so it’s essential to choose a credible institution. Attending a regionally accredited school ensures that you’ll receive quality education and that your degree will be widely recognized.
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If you’re planning to enter academia, many universities and research centers will only credit PhDs from accredited schools. Another benefit of accreditation is that you’ll be eligible to apply for federal financial aid. To learn more about regional accreditation, you can visit the Council for Higher Education Accreditation’s (CHEA’s) website.
Financial Aid and Scholarships
A PhD usually takes several years to complete, and most students apply for financial aid. Conveniently, many PhD programs provide funding to students. Depending on your program, you might receive tuition assistance and stipends, along with access to fellowships.
Fellowships may cover all of your basic expenses for a PhD while requiring you to conduct a specific kind of research or help out with teaching classes. You can also check if your school offers assistantships. With assistantships, you can work for your university for a certain number of hours every week, which will reduce your tuition fees. Scholarships may be possible for your PhD studies too.
Another option is employer tuition assistance. If you’re already working in a technology-related role, you might see if your work offers tuition benefits. To apply for government loans and grants, you can fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA).
What Can You Do with a Doctorate in Information Security?
A PhD in Information Security can often lead to a career in academia, technology, or management. PhDs tend to be research focused. As a result, professionals with an information security PhD might pursue work as cybersecurity researchers, college professors, or policy consultants for organizations.
You may also qualify for leadership roles in companies. Advanced positions in the field include senior information security analyst, head of information security, or chief security architect. Some PhD graduates apply their skills to other computer science fields, working in roles such as database administrators, software engineers, and systems architects.
How Long Does It Take to Get a PhD in Information Security Online?
An online PhD in Information Systems Security typically consists of around 50 to 70 credit hours. Depending on the amount of required credits, you can usually finish in 3 to 5 years with full-time study.
A significant factor here would be writing your dissertation, which requires independent study and can extend your overall time to completion. If you only have comprehensive exams with no dissertation requirement, then you might be able to complete your coursework in 3 years.
For part-time students, a PhD in Information Security can often be extended for up to 8 years, depending on the school and your circumstances.
Is a Doctorate in Information Security Worth It?
Yes, a doctorate in information security is worth it for many students. A doctorate is the most advanced educational credential that you can get in information security, so it can help set you apart as an expert. It can often help you increase your earning potential as well.
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A PhD can be especially useful if you’re wanting to work in research or academia. Aside from technology being a lucrative sector, demand for information security professionals in particular is growing extremely fast. The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects 33% job growth for information security specialists over the next ten years.
Universities Offering PhD in Information Security
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’s Doctor of Information Technology program requires the completion of 13 online core courses for a total of 70 credits, two virtual residencies, and a capstone project. The program emphasizes real-world knowledge and was created with input from industry leaders. Required courses include Projects as Complex Adaptive Systems, System and Application Security Advances, and more.
Capella University is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.
Capitol Technology University offers a low-residency program for a Doctorate in Cybersecurity. It requires the completion of 54 to 66 credits. Coursework includes Information Assurance Research Literature, Professional Research Theory and Practice, Situation Awareness Analysis and Action Plan Processes, and more. To graduate, students also complete a dissertation.
Capitol Technology University is accredited by the Commission on Higher Education of the Middle States Association of Universities and Schools.
Colorado Technical University offers a Doctor of Computer Science – Cybersecurity and Information Assurance. The program is primarily online but does include a residency component and in-person symposiums. There are multiple start dates every year, and most students can finish within 3 years. To graduate, students must complete 100 credits and a dissertation.
Colorado Technical University is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.
Dakota State University offers a Doctor of Philosophy in Information Systems. The program is highly flexible and includes options for studying on campus, online, full-time, or part-time. To graduate, students must complete 60 credit hours of coursework and a dissertation and pass a comprehensive exam.
Dakota State University is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.
Liberty University offers a Doctor of Business Administration with a specialization in Information Systems. The program consists of courses that are 8 weeks long and 100% online. On average, students take 3 years to graduate. Liberty’s curriculum emphasizes biblical principles and how to apply them to make business decisions.
Liberty University is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.
A DSc in Cybersecurity can be earned from Marymount University. The program is primarily intended for those who have prior backgrounds in cybersecurity, but students without experience may begin after completing certain prerequisites. Coursework includes Beginning Applied Research in Cybersecurity, Managing Cybersecurity Risk, Malware Analysis, and more.
Marymount University is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.
New Jersey City University offers a Doctor of Science in Civil Security – Leadership, Management, and Policy. The program can be completed mostly online but does include some summer and weekend residencies. Applicants should have a master’s degree and at least four years of relevant work experience.
New Jersey City University is accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.
Nova Southeastern University’s PhD in Cybersecurity Management program features BS-to-PhD and MS-to-PhD pathways. Both pathways are hybrid programs that blend online and on-campus instruction and activities. Coursework includes Information Systems Project Management, Ethics in Computing, Database Systems, Telecommunication and Computer Networking, and more.
Nova Southeastern University is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.
Purdue University offers a Doctor of Technology that can be earned 100% online. Courses are asynchronous to facilitate work-life balance but still include opportunities to interact with teachers and classmates. The program’s 90 required credit hours can usually be completed in 3 to 7 years.
Purdue University is accredited by The Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools.
The University of the Cumberlands offers an online program for a PhD in Information Technology. It is designed to be flexible so that students can attend without having to leave their current jobs. To graduate, students must complete 60 credit hours, including coursework and a dissertation. Specialties are available in Blockchain, Digital Forensics, Information Technology, and Information Systems Security.
The University of the Cumberlands is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.
Getting Your PhD in Information Security Online
As the digital world becomes more complex, there are growing challenges in computer and information security. Organizations of all types need experts who can take the lead in protecting data and come up with innovative ways to handle cyber threats.
A PhD in Information Security can help you deepen your expertise and also give you significant research experience. Plus, with more online degree options than ever, whether it’s an online associates in cyber security, an online cyber security bachelor’s degree or an online masters in information security, you can pursue your educational goals with more flexibility and advance your qualifications in this competitive field.
Why not start exploring accredited universities today?