If you want to head back to school and study the hottest sector of the information technology arena, then you can probably get started on an online cyber security degree in a matter of weeks. Government agencies such as the Department of Defense, the National Security Agency and the Department of Homeland Security are vying for professionals who can serve their country and protect its digital assets. Corporations too, need cyber security specialists to safeguard databases full of financial data and other records.


Cyber criminals worldwide see the digital assets of the United States as fair game and they would love to have access to thousands of social security numbers, bank accounts held by a national bank, or credit card data held by an e-tailer. These bad guys operate online from remote locations around the world. They even try to mask their locations through intricate arrays of proxy servers and encrypted servers, and unfortunately these types of cyber attacks are becoming more alarmingly frequent.


One thing to consider when considering an online cyber security degree program is how well it will fit into your lifestyle. Many opt for online education because they need to continue working and take care of families while learning. They need the freedom to complete assignments according to their own schedule. However, some courses and programs require that you be virtually present at specific times for online chats or streaming lectures. Check into this possibility before enrolling. It may be that your employer is so excited to have a cyber security whiz on his team that he will allow you to use company time for these educational events. You might also be able to use your ordinary break or lunch time for school too.

If you know that you cannot be tied to scheduled events during the workday, look for programs that are asynchronous. This means that you will be able to retrieve class materials, including lectures, at any time of the day or night, and that you can submit you assignments at your leisure as well. Keep in mind that you will be held accountable to deadlines, and that those deadlines may be synchronized to a different time zone than where you are.


It is also important to make sure that you are enrolling in the best online program available. One of the prominent terms used to assess the very best cyber security programs is interdisciplinary. The best programs integrate computer science, management, and engineering to create well-rounded professionals who know how to design or implement the technologies necessary to protect databases and networks from outside hackers. Make sure your school and program is accredited as well so you are eligible for federal financial aid.


Investigate the faculty of the schools you are most interested in and discover how much real-world knowledge they have and how that weighs against their experience as online educators. Look into their academic backgrounds as well, and see how involved they have been as professors and researchers. One mark of academic excellence is how frequently they publish. Do they have articles in reputable industry  publications that have been reviewed by their peers? If so, they are likely considered experts in the field. However, if they have not published very much but have been teaching for a while, it could be that they are more interested in their students' progress than personal accolades. Some professors, such as those who teach programming languages, don't necessarily need to publish or work outside the university.


When you enroll in a program, you will be immersing yourself in a world of highly intensive learning. Computer security courses are analytical and mathematical, so be prepared for this challenge. If you have high math scores on your SAT or ACT, you should be fine. If math and numbers are difficult for you, one possible alternative to helping you prepare is formal logic courses. The course will be very mathematical but will not require you to work with numbers, but philosophies regarding numbers. These classes are similar to the programming languages that define their own variables and have their own syntax.

Some of the courses you may find in your program's course catalog include:

  • Computer Forensics
  • Computer Investigations
  • Object-Oriented Programming
  • Intro to Cryptography
  • Intro to Artificial Intelligence
  • Security Software Use and Assessment
  • IT Audits
  • Network Engineering
  • Software Engineering
  • Network Management
  • Privacy and Ethics


Pursuing your cyber security degree online is a wise choice. You can receive the very best education possible and still have excellent access to professors and your fellow students. In fact, the best online students make a habit of reaching out to get to know their instructors and classmates. You never know how valuable these connections may become once you're out in the real world.