As technology becomes an ever-increasing part of our lives, the demand for information systems security experts grows, and with it, the need for online Ph.D. information security programs. In this ranking, we explore the best value online doctorate information security programs available today.
Rating and Ranking Methodology
- Under $20,000—3 points
- Under $15,000—4 points
- Under $10,000—5 points
- Under $5,000—6 points
- Content Customizations (e.g. Minors, Concentrations, Specializations, etc.)—1 Point Per Customization Option
- Format Customizations (e.g. Hybrid/Online, Full-time/Part-Time, etc.)—1 Point Per Customization Option
- 1 point awarded for each unique feature or program that “wowed” us
#1 –Dakota State University
Online Doctorate of Science in Information Systems: Information Assurance and Computer Security
Dakota State University’s online Ph.D. in Information Security program is a Doctor of Science in Information Systems with a specialty in Information Assurance and Computer Security. Courses can be taken on a part-time or full-time basis. Students who study full-time should complete the program within three years, but part-time students may take up to seven years if necessary. Enrolled online doctorate in information security students will take core information systems classes like Web Application Development and Information Technology Strategy & Policy as well as specialization courses such as Managing Security Risks, Principles of Information Assurance, and Information Assurance/Computer Security Research.
Graduate Tuition: $10,368
#2 –Capella University
Online Doctor of Information Technology (DIT): Information Assurance and Cybersecurity
Capella University’s online Ph.D. in Information Security option is a Doctor of Technology (DIT) program with a specialty in Information Assurance and Cybersecurity. Offered through Capella’s School of Business and Technology, the program is designed to be completed in less than three years and covers topics such as system and application security, network and enterprise security risk management, assurance controls and compliance, and security governance and maintenance. To accelerate degree completion, Capella allows its online doctorate degree in information security students to work on their dissertation at the same time as they’re taking their major courses. Specific course titles include Assurance Controls and Compliance Management, System and Application Security Advances, and Enterprise Security Risk Management.
Graduate Tuition: $14,526
#3 –Colorado Technical University
Online Doctor of Computer Science: Cybersecurity and Information Assurance
The online doctorate information security option from Colorado Technical University is a Doctor of Computer Science program with a Cybersecurity and Information Assurance specialty. The comprehensive, 96-credit hour program includes course titles such as Foundations of Digital Systems Security, Enterprise Security Architecture, Security Management, and Current Topics in Computer Science and Information Systems. A doctoral dissertation is also required. Graduates of this online doctorate in information security program are qualified for top-level information security positions in both the public and private sectors.
Graduate Tuition: $12,139
#4 –Nova Southeastern University
Online PhD in Information Systems: Information Security
The online doctorate in information security program from Nova Southeastern University is a Ph.D. in Information Systems (DISS) with an optional concentration in Information Security. This concentration is recognized by both the U.S. National Security Agency (NSA) and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). To complete the program requirements, online Ph.D. information security students must earn a minimum of 64 credits while taking eight major courses, two research classes, and a doctoral dissertation. Specific course titles include Human-Computer Interaction, Knowledge Management, and Database Systems.
Graduate Tuition: $18,373
#5 –Northcentral University
Online PhD in Technology and Innovation Management: Information Systems
Northcentral University’s online Ph.D. in information systems program is a unique Ph.D. in Technology and Innovation Management with a specialty in Information Systems. This 60-credit hour program is comprised of 20 courses and is designed to be completed within 50 months of study. Specific course titles for the information systems specialization include Data Warehousing & Decision Support, IT Project Management, Cybersecurity Management, and Cloud Computing. No entrance exam is required for admission to this online doctorate information security offering.
Graduate Tuition: $16,821
As you can see, you may find it difficult to find many programs explicitly labeled as information security programs. Instead, many schools offer a more general computer science degree with a specialization in information systems security. Furthermore, the field is also referred to as cybersecurity or information systems assurance.
Accreditations and Other Important Recognitions for Online Doctorate Degree in Information Security Programs
As with any university program, proper accreditation is Ph.D. for online Ph.D. information security programs. In this field, institutional accreditation is more common than programmatic accreditation. However, there are other indicators of an online doctorate information security program’s quality and relevance that prospective students can look for.
The main recognition for this field comes from the National Security Agency and the Department of Homeland Security. Programs that meet strict criteria and design their curriculum to cover vital security principles are recognized as National Centers of Academic Excellence in Cyber Defense. If the school you’re looking into has received this designation, you can expect its degree programs and research to be both relevant and of high-quality.
Online Doctorate Information Security Programs: Partnerships with Industry Leaders
Another sign of a good online doctorate information security program is evidence of strong partnerships with leading organizations and companies. A school that works with these industry leaders will likely be more in touch with the current state of the field and in a better position to help connect students with potential employers. It is also common for universities to bring in experienced workers from these organizations to teach courses. The most common partnerships are with government organizations such as those mentioned above. That said, many schools also have strong working relationships with other universities and private sector entities such as banks, cybersecurity firms, and healthcare providers.
Prerequisites for Online Doctorate Information Security Programs
Prerequisites for entry into an online doctorate information security program vary depending on the program. Most doctoral programs require satisfactory GRE or GMAT scores for admission, but there are some exceptions to this rule. Some schools allow this requirement to be waived if other criteria are met, and a few programs do not require it at all. Likewise, many require a master’s degree, but some allow students with only a bachelor’s degree to enter the program and earn their master’s along the way.
Because the prerequisites vary so much by program, you should be sure to check the program-specific requirements for each school you’re interested in.
Specialization Options for Online PhD Information Systems Degrees
The specializations available to online Ph.D. information security students depend on the program. Unfortunately, there are typically no separate specialization tracks offered in information systems security. Generally speaking, information systems security is itself a specialization in a broader IT degree.
Some schools may differentiate between cybersecurity and information assurance. Information assurance tends to be more interdisciplinary and focus on the application of security measures to a variety of systems. Cybersecurity, or information security, on the other hand, focuses more on the computer science aspect of the field and is also more theoretical. This is the most common type of information systems program.
Even though there are rarely separate tracks available in this field, you still may be able to find opportunities for further specialization. Focusing your doctoral research on an aspect of information systems security that you are most interested in, for example, is one way to customize your education to fit your career goals. As with most doctoral programs, it is a great idea to choose a program whose faculty is researching your preferred subfield.
Certification Options in Information Systems Security
By the time you graduate from your online Ph.D. information systems program, you will likely be equipped to pursue intermediate and expert level certifications. These are not necessarily required for most jobs, but they are still a good supplement to your advanced degree that can make you more competitive in the job market. They are also a good way to specialize further if your degree program does not offer any specialization options.
Several independent accrediting organizations offer certifications and each offer certifications on a wide range of topics. This can make it hard to decide which certifications are best for you. Your online Ph.D. information security school may help narrow down this decision by having certification tracks that prepare you for a certain certification exam, and it may even help foot the bill. The same is also true of some employers. However, it is not unlikely that you will have to pursue certification without the support of a university or employer.
If you have not obtained entry-level certifications yet, the best place to start is with a popular and highly reputable certification such as CompTIA Security + or GIAC Security Essentials Certification. After completing an entry-level program, most organizations will have more advanced programs that you can take advantage of. If you already have basic certifications, you may want to find an advanced certification that is more specialized.
Online PhD Information Systems & Security: Residencies
Most online doctorate in information security degree programs will require students to travel to campus at least once for a residency. These residencies often include intensive research, as well as symposiums and other similar events. These in-person gatherings are a great way for students to work closely with peers and faculty in a way that is not possible in an entirely online format. They also provide much-needed networking opportunities. While this can be a difficult requirement for students who live far away from campus or have unusual schedules, many students find that the benefits of this component outweigh the inconveniences. Much of a student’s dissertation work may be done over the course of their residency.
Career Opportunities for Online Doctorate Information Security Graduates
Many jobs in information systems assurance do not require an online doctorate in information systems. However, this degree is a must-have for anyone interested in a more research-based career path. It may also be useful for individuals who want to move up in their current workplace and become a high-level manager or executive.
The information systems security industry works closely with many other industries, so students can find themselves working in a wide range of environments. This includes government agencies, healthcare providers, banks and other financial institutions, and large technology firms. Some people in this field work primarily with one company as a member of the IT department, but others do consult work for many different companies and organizations as part of a cybersecurity firm.
Typical job titles for individuals with an online doctorate in information systems include university faculty, information security consultant, corporate researcher, and information security manager.
Salary Information and Job Outlook for Online Ph.D. Information Systems Graduates
Job titles for careers in information systems assurance vary greatly because it is such a broad, interdisciplinary field. However, most common occupations in this field fall under the category of information security analysis.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual pay for information security analysts as of May 2016 is $92,600. However, some upper-level employees can make as much as $147,000 a year. It is likely that with an advanced degree such as an online doctorate in information security that you will earn more than the median wage, as an advanced degree is not necessary for most information systems jobs.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics also shows that employment in this field is projected to grow 28 percent from 2016 to 2026. This is roughly four times as fast as the average for all occupations in the US, and a little over twice as fast as the average for all computer occupations in the country. This is no surprise, as major industries responsible for sensitive information become increasingly reliant on technology.
Duties and Responsibilities in Information Systems Assurance & Security
The primary responsibilities of individuals in this field are preventing and responding to security breaches in their organization. They are expected to be familiar with software such as data encryption programs and firewalls and assist other staff in installing and using this software. They must keep up with the latest trends in information systems security, as methods of breaching security are constantly evolving. Some employees may also be required to be on call outside of normal work hours in case of a breach. Though complete prevention of a security breach is the main goal, in the event of a breach, employees will be expected to investigate and document damage.
Frequently Asked Questions for Students Interested in Online Doctorate Information Security Programs
As with any advanced degree program, it is common for prospective students to have many questions about starting their degree. Doctoral programs require a major commitment of time and money to complete, so it’s best to have as much information as possible before diving in. Below, you’ll find answers to many commonly asked questions about online Ph.D. information security programs.
Can I complete my online Ph.D. information systems without making a trip to campus?
There are always exceptions to the rule, but it is highly unlikely that you will be able to complete your online Ph.D. information systems entirely online. As mentioned earlier, the vast majority of programs require a residency before students can graduate. However, all of the online phd information systems programs in this ranking are still primarily online and require far fewer in-person classes and activities than a traditional format degree program.
What payment options are available for my online doctorate in information systems?
You should have the same payment options for your online doctorate in information systems as you had for your previous degrees. The best options are scholarships and grants, as you are not required to pay these back. Most schools have scholarships available, but you should also check for scholarships being offered by other independent organizations. It is still important for you to fill out your FAFSA if you want to take advantage of government grants and loans. Try to avoid private loans when funding your online doctorate information security programs, because they are often more costly in the long run.
Will my online doctorate in information security program require that I log on at specific times for classes?
This depends heavily on your specific program. Many online programs are entirely asynchronous, meaning that students can access course materials at any time and do not have to log on for live lectures and discussions at certain times. Other programs are synchronous, meaning that the majority of course activities happen at specific times. Most programs include a blend of synchronous and asynchronous formats to keep students engaged while still allowing them the flexibility they need in an online program. Synchronous components are often scheduled during the evenings to accommodate working students.
How long will it take for me to complete my online Ph.D. information security?
In most programs, it is possible to earn your online Ph.D. in information security in only three to five years. However, this depends on your individual pace. The most significant factor when it comes to degree completion time is whether you study full-time or part-time. Students who study part-time will require much more time than students who study full-time.
How many online Ph.D. information systems programs should I apply to?
It’s hard to say exactly how many online Ph.D. information systems programs you should apply to. Online doctoral programs are often just as competitive as their traditional counterparts, so it is a good idea to apply to multiple schools to make up for low acceptance rates. If your preferred programs have fairly high acceptance rates, you won’t need to apply to as many backup schools, though. Remember too that applying to too many schools can negatively affect the overall quality of your applications, so be careful not to spread yourself too thin trying to fill out as many applications as possible.
Is an online doctorate information security the same quality as a traditional doctorate information security?
Generally speaking, yes. Most schools use the same faculty and curriculum for their online programs as they do for their on-campus programs, and transcripts do not indicate whether or not a degree was earned online or traditionally. Some students may struggle with the less structured format and lack of personal interaction, but online doctorate in information security degree programs are still a high-quality option for self-motivated learners who require more flexibility than a traditional program can offer.
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By BVS Staff