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Best online master's in network security

Help organizations fight against a growing number of cyberthreats with one of the best online network security master's programs.

Computer networks allow organizations to connect with employees, clients, customers, and suppliers. The more organizations rely on these advancing and expanding technologies, the more problematic network threats and challenges become. A network security master's degree positions graduates to provide valuable support to organizations in this ongoing battle. 

The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects 33% growth for information security analysts between 2020 and 2030, making it one of the fastest-growing occupations in the country. Master's graduates in this field qualify for these in-demand positions, along with many other computer occupations. 

Here, we explore the online network security master's and rank the best programs in the field. 

Top 5 online schools for master's in network security

College

Program stats

How much?

University of Arizona

Tucson, AZ

  • Master's in cybersecurity
  • Acceptance rate: 85%
  • Graduation rate: 63%
  • Designated National Center of Academic Excellence in Cyber Defense

Avg. annual net price: $15,016

Application fee: $90

University of San Diego

San Diego, CA

  • MS in Cybersecurity Operations and Leadership
  • Acceptance rate: 49%
  • Graduation rate: 80%
  • Affiliated with the Catholic Church

Avg. annual net price: $32,460

Application fee: Not publicly available

Eastern Illinois University

Charleston, IL

  • MS in Cybersecurity
  • Acceptance rate: 53%
  • Graduation rate: 62%
  • Designed for working professionals

Avg. annual net price: $14,607

Application fee: $30

Robert Morris University

Moon, PA

  • MS in Cybersecurity
  • Acceptance rate: 84%
  • Graduation rate: 59%
  • Designated CyberPatriot Center of Excellence

Avg. annual net price: $26,839

Application fee: $35

University of Charleston

Charleston, WV

  • MS in Cybersecurity
  • Acceptance rate: 50%
  • Graduation rate: 43%
  • Concentrations in cybersecurity strategy, cyber intelligence, and information assurance

Avg. annual net price: $22,284

Application fee: $25

The best online network security master's degrees

To create the list below, we rely on carefully curated information and expert insight from industry and educational professionals. ZDNet's ranking methodology involves weighing information from publicly available national datasets and from the specific schools and programs. 

Unless otherwise indicated, data is drawn from the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System and College Scorecard.

1. University of Arizona

Tucson, Arizona

About the program: UofA's 33-credit online cybersecurity master's program provides training in cyberthreat intelligence, information security risk management, and cyberwarfare. UofA is designated as a National Center of Academic Excellence in Cyber Defense.

  • Acceptance rate: 85%
  • Graduation rate: 63%
  • Avg. annual net price: $15,016
  • Time to completion: One to two years
  • GMAT/GRE: Not publicly available
  • Minimum GPA: 3.0
  • Enrollment periods per year: Rolling
  • Course delivery method: Asynchronous and synchronous

2. University of San Diego

San Diego, California

About the program: A Catholic institution, USD runs a 31-credit online cybersecurity operations and leadership master's program. Students complete courses in applied cryptography, secure systems architecture, and network vulnerability detection.

  • Acceptance rate: 49%
  • Graduation rate: 80%
  • Avg. annual net price: $32,460
  • Time to completion: 20+ months 
  • GMAT/GRE: Not publicly available
  • Minimum GPA: 2.75
  • Enrollment periods per year: Three
  • Course delivery method: Asynchronous

3. Eastern Illinois University

Charleston, Illinois

About the program: EIU's 32-semester hour online cybersecurity master's program includes training in database security and reliability, facility security, and biometric security. 

  • Acceptance rate: 53%
  • Graduation rate: 62%
  • Avg. annual net price: $14,607
  • Time to completion: One to two years
  • GMAT/GRE: Not required
  • Minimum GPA: 3.0
  • Enrollment periods per year: Rolling
  • Course delivery method: Asynchronous and synchronous 

4. Robert Morris University

Moon, Pennsylvania

About the program: RMU's online cybersecurity master's program combines information security and management training. Students complete courses in enterprise operating systems, computer network security, and secure programming. RMU is designated as a National Center of Academic Excellence in Cyber Defense Education.

  • Acceptance rate: 84%
  • Graduation rate: 59%
  • Avg. annual net price: $26,839
  • Time to completion: One to two years
  • GMAT/GRE: Not publicly available
  • Minimum GPA: 2.75
  • Enrollment periods per year: Rolling
  • Course delivery method: Asynchronous

5. University of Charleston

Charleston, West Virginia

About the program: UC's 30-credit online cybersecurity master's program features courses in cyberoperations management, cyberpsychology, and legal issues in cybersecurity. Students can concentrate in cybersecurity strategy, information assurance, and cyberintelligence. 

  • Acceptance rate: 50%
  • Graduation rate: 43%
  • Avg. annual net price: $22,284
  • Time to completion: One to three years
  • GMAT/GRE: Not required
  • Minimum GPA: 2.0
  • Enrollment periods per year: Rolling
  • Course delivery method: Asynchronous and synchronous

6. Mississippi College

Clinton, Mississippi

About the program: A Baptist college, MC offers an online cybersecurity and information assurance master's program with training in cryptography and network security, computer and network forensics, and ethics and law in information security. 

  • Acceptance rate: 42%
  • Graduation rate: 55%
  • Avg. annual net price: $17,186
  • Time to completion: One to three years
  • GMAT/GRE: Not publicly available
  • Minimum GPA: 2.5
  • Enrollment periods per year: Two
  • Course delivery method: Asynchronous 

7. DeSales University

Center Valley, Pennsylvania

About the program: DeSales' faith-based 36-credit online cybersecurity master's program includes core training in IT security, wireless technology management, and vulnerability assessment. DeSales is home to the Center for Homeland Security.

  • Acceptance rate: 79%
  • Graduation rate: 61%
  • Avg. annual net price: $28,309
  • Time to completion: One to two years
  • GMAT/GRE: Not publicly available
  • Minimum GPA: 3.0
  • Enrollment periods per year: Rolling
  • Course delivery method: Asynchronous and synchronous 

8. Saint Leo University

Saint Leo, Florida

About the program: A Catholic institution, Saint Leo offers a 30-credit online cybersecurity master's program with courses in cybersecurity compliance, secure software design, and cybersecurity risk management. 

  • Acceptance rate: 72%
  • Graduation rate: 43%
  • Avg. annual net price: $18,869
  • Time to completion: One to two years
  • GMAT/GRE: 1000 GRE
  • Minimum GPA: 3.0 for test waiver
  • Enrollment periods per year: Rolling
  • Course delivery method: Asynchronous and synchronous

9. Champlain College

Burlington, Vermont

About the program: Champlain's online digital forensic science master's program features between 30-36 credits in courses like the practice of digital investigations, mobile device analysis, and digital investigations for civil litigation. Champlain is designated as a National Center of Academic Excellence in Cyber Defense Education.

  • Acceptance rate: 85%
  • Graduation rate: 61%
  • Avg. annual net price: $33,561
  • Time to completion: One to two years
  • GMAT/GRE: Not required
  • Minimum GPA: 2.5
  • Enrollment periods per year: Two
  • Course delivery method: Asynchronous

10. Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University

Daytona Beach, Florida

About the program: Embry-Riddle's 33-credit online information security and assurance master's program features core training in risk management and business continuity, quality management for information assurance, and incident management and information forensics. The program also offers concentrations, such as information systems security and protecting business intelligence. 

  • Acceptance rate: 62%
  • Graduation rate: 35%
  • Avg. annual net price: $20,333
  • Time to completion: One to two years
  • GMAT/GRE: Not publicly available
  • Minimum GPA: 3.0
  • Enrollment periods per year: Rolling
  • Course delivery method: Asynchronous

11. Maryville University of St. Louis

St. Louis, Missouri

About the program: Maryville's online cybersecurity master's program provides training in ethical hacking, cybersecurity incident response, and legal aspects of privacy and compliance. Students can choose from leadership, technical, and general focuses. 

  • Acceptance rate: 83%
  • Graduation rate: 59%
  • Avg. annual net price: $29,064
  • Time to completion: 12+ months
  • GMAT/GRE: Not required
  • Minimum GPA: 3.0
  • Enrollment periods per year: Over three
  • Course delivery method: Asynchronous and synchronous 

12. Webster University

Webster Groves, Missouri

About the program: Webster's 36-credit online cybersecurity master's program provides core training in cybersecurity communications, infrastructures, and strategic operations.  

  • Acceptance rate: 57%
  • Graduation rate: 64%
  • Avg. annual net price: $22,768
  • Time to completion: One to two years
  • GMAT/GRE: Not publicly available
  • Minimum GPA: 2.5
  • Enrollment periods per year: Rolling
  • Course delivery method: Asynchronous

13. University of Maryland Global Campus

Largo, Maryland

About the program: UMGC's 36-credit online cybersecurity technology master's program includes courses in prevention of cyberattack methodologies and digital forensics technology. UMGC is designated as a National Center of Academic Excellence in Cyber Defense Education.

  • Acceptance rate: Not publicly available
  • Graduation rate: 28%
  • Avg. annual net price: $14,288
  • Time to completion: One to two years
  • GMAT/GRE: Not required
  • Minimum GPA: 3.0
  • Enrollment periods per year: Rolling
  • Course delivery method: Asynchronous

14. Excelsior College

Albany, New York

About the program: Excelsior's 30-credit online cybersecurity master's program offers courses in ethical leadership, network and communication security, and strategic talent management. Excelsior is designated as a National Center of Academic Excellence in Cyber Defense Education.

  • Acceptance rate: Not publicly available
  • Graduation rate: 41%
  • Avg. annual net price: Not publicly available
  • Time to completion: One to two years
  • GMAT/GRE: Not required
  • Minimum GPA: Not publicly available
  • Enrollment periods per year: Six
  • Course delivery method: Asynchronous

15. Stevenson University

Owings Mills, Maryland

About the program: Stevenson's online cybersecurity and digital forensics master's program covers topics in network penetration testing, mock intrusion and response, and file systems forensic analysis. 

  • Acceptance rate: 81%
  • Graduation rate: 59%
  • Avg. annual net price: $27,142
  • Time to completion: One to two years
  • GMAT/GRE: Not publicly available
  • Minimum GPA: 3.0
  • Enrollment periods per year: Rolling
  • Course delivery method: Asynchronous and synchronous

What to expect in an online network security master's degree program

Network security master's programs can take various approaches in their curriculums. Typically, they focus on preventative security strategies for networks, software, and information systems. Students learn to monitor and identify threats before they take place. 

Some programs may emphasize the legal side of cybersecurity, including ethics, privacy laws, and digital forensics. In general, master's students build on undergraduate information technology foundations. They learn to solve more advanced and complex technological problems through theoretical explorations, research, and extensive practical exercises.

While online and on-campus programs feature similar material, online learners usually have more schedule flexibility. Therefore, they may need to demonstrate more independence and ambition to complete their studies. Some cybersecurity programs receive designation as a National Center of Academic Excellence in Cyber Defense Education from the National Security Agency and the Department of Homeland Security.

Network security master's courses

The type of courses in a network security master's differ by program. Students may encounter courses focusing on network, database, software, and general systems security. In most cases, cybersecurity-related programs aim to equip learners with a diverse skill set to thwart equally diverse cyberattacks.

Students may also study more broad information technology concepts, such as design, architecture, and management. The following list of courses examines some of the most popular core topics studied at this level. 

Secure systems architecture

This course teaches students how to design and build secure computer systems. Learners gain a familiarity of the security needs of various systems, along with the proper frameworks and processes.

Vulnerability assessment 

In this course, students learn to conduct system and network vulnerability assessments. Learners examine effective checklists and penetration testing methods, along with the methods for addressing exposed threats. 

Applied cryptography

Students in this course learn the most practical applications and aspects of cryptography. They explore various authentication protocols, random number generation, and public key encryptions. They also look at the issues with these applications. 

Cybersecurity incident response

This course examines the protocols and strategies for cybersecurity professionals in the event of an attack. They learn how to identify and respond to attacks, investigate and report them, collect evidence, and recover from the damage.

Network security degree levels

At all levels, cybersecurity programs provide students with applicable and practical training. With each subsequent degree, the complexities of the training and the professional opportunities available after graduation grow. Here, we look at the different levels and what they can provide learners. 

Associate in network security

  • Length: One to two years
  • Cost: $11,389/year in 2018-19
  • Post-grad careers: Computer support specialists, customer service representative, and web developer

Network security programs at the associate level usually emphasize the basic principles of cybersecurity. Students learn the primary methods for protecting systems and networks, along with the main types of attacks and their motivations. 

These programs also provide degree-seekers with foundational information technology training. Graduates can pursue entry-level positions in the field or continue their training with a bachelor's degree.

Bachelor's in network security

  • Length: Three to four years
  • Cost: $28,123/year in 2018-19
  • Post-grad careers: Network administrator, network architect, and information systems analyst

Network security bachelor's programs provide students with information technology fundamentals, along with specialized cybersecurity training. Students learn to identify threats and protect against them using various methods and technologies. Degree-seekers can often specialize in the field of their choice, exploring network, database, or systems security. 

Bachelor's training blends theoretical and practical training, and many programs feature internships in the later years. A cybersecurity degree at this level qualifies graduates for many computer occupations, including entry-level cybersecurity positions. 

Master's in network security

  • Length: One to two years
  • Cost: $19,792/year in 2019-20
  • Post-grad careers: Network architect, information systems analyst, and computer and research information scientist

A network security master's program delves into more specialized cybersecurity practices and technologies. Students learn to protect a large number of systems in very effective ways. They also acquire more advanced risk prevention, testing, and response strategies, while gaining a solid understanding of cybersecurity laws.

Master's students perform extensive research and engage in many practical experiences throughout their studies. After graduation, they can pursue most computer occupations, often in managerial or analyst roles. 

Doctorate in network security

  • Length: Three to six years
  • Cost: $19,792/year in 2019-20
  • Post-grad careers: Postsecondary teacher, computer and information research scientist, and information systems manager

Doctoral programs in network security are the most advanced available. Students at this level conduct very specialized research in an area of their choice. In addition to mastering existing cybersecurity practices and technologies, they seek out new and improved methods and innovations. 

These programs usually involve incredibly in-depth research and practical experiments. Graduates typically pursue positions in academia and research and development, but management and consulting roles are also available. 

In conclusion

Network security master's graduates have access to many computer occupations, particularly those dealing with network administration, architecture, and security. The top-ranked programs listed above represent some of the best training available in this field. Prospective students looking for more information should contact the schools and program departments directly. 

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