The 20 Best Online Masters in Information Assurance and Security Degree Programs

Between personal identity theft, email hacks, and large-scale operations to illegally obtain highly sensitive government documents, it seems that there's an information security in the news almost daily. As the world has become increasingly connected and documents have become increasingly digital and cloud-based, the opportunities for hacking and theft have increased dramatically. That's one reason why information assurance and information security programs are becoming more common at universities, and why demand for enrollment in these programs is at an all-time high. Employment prospect for graduates with a master's degree in either field is also excellent, with the Bureau of Labor Statistics estimating 18 percent growth through the end of the decade. That's much faster than the average growth rate for all occupations.

One of the key ways to stand out in this field is to obtain a master's degree that comes with "brand name" recognition from a major university, is highly ranked for its quality and academic rigor, and is affordable enough to avoid placing a significant student loan burden on the graduate. To that end, this ranking of the 20 best information assurance and security programs in the United States focuses on graduate degrees that come with name recognition, prestige, and an affordable price tag. It also focuses only on the most reputable, nonprofit universities in the country, leaving out for-profit colleges that often lack prestige and an ethical commitment to students.

Previously known as Capitol College, CTU is one of the leading tech-focused universities in Maryland. The school is consistently ranked among the best for undergraduate programs in engineering, with information security and computer science programs that produce a large number of successful graduates each year as well. The school is listed a top regional choice in the Mid-Atlantic region of the country by U.S. News and World Report and, despite being a private institution, offers highly affordable tuition.

Capitol Technology University offers a 36-credit M.S. in information assurance that teaches students how to secure networks, the program with security in mind and analyzes security risks to a great public and private organizations. Hands-on experience is emphasized throughout each course, including a final capstone project course prior that must be completed before graduation. The program is CAE/IAE certified.

Dakota State University is one of the nation's most affordable public institutions of higher education, with tuition rates that allow many students to graduate without a significant student loan burden. In addition to ranking among the 35 best public universities in the nation, this relatively small institution ranks as one of the best regional universities anywhere in the Midwest. Its programs in technology and business are considered some of the best in the region, in particular.

The 30-hour M.S. program in information assurance and computer security requires that students choose a specialization. Two operations are available: cyber security or banking and financial security. These specializations constitute 9 of the 30 total credits required. Other courses focus on secure network design, information security analysis, cryptography, and computer forensics. The program has earned CAE/IAE certification.

One of the nation's largest universities for online and nontraditional learners, Nova Southeastern University has earned a reputation as a center of academic excellence for both graduate and undergraduate students. The school ranks as the 218th best national university in the country, with online degree programs that rank in the top 100 nationally, according to U.S. News and World Report. Nova Southeastern is also highly affordable.

The university's M.S. in information security is a 36-credit program that requires students to choose a concentration in either web management, information security management, enterprise systems, or human-computer interaction. Core courses focus on secure programming, secure network design, information security analysis, and disaster recovery. The program has achieved CAE/IAE certification.

Based in San Diego, National University is one of the largest private institutions anywhere in the United States. The school is considered one of the best universities in the western region of the country and ranks 161st for its online graduate programs in various fields. National University's affordable tuition also helps students afford the cost of a master's degree without taking on significant student loan debt.

The M.S. program in information security at National University requires 54 credits, which is far and away the most of any program on this list. The highly comprehensive curriculum includes everything from computer forensics and ethical hacking to secure programming and disaster recovery. Students choose from one of four specializations upon enrollment and can expect to complete the full program in a little over two years.

Davenport University is one of the most familiar names in higher education in the state of Michigan, where the institution has 11 campuses. The online campus itself ranks as one of the best choices for both undergraduate and graduate degree programs, and the school's highly affordable tuition makes it possible to graduate without significant student loan debt. Year-round enrollment windows also make this school among the most flexible in this ranking.

The M.S. in information assurance at Davenport requires 37 total credit hours, including a final capstone course that will see students work on an information security simulation in small groups. Coursework is focused on information security planning, disaster response, and both the legal and ethical approaches to information security in today's world.

Founded by several western governors to provide quality higher education to nontraditional students, the aptly named Western Governors University is one of the best schools for affordable, online education at both the graduate and undergraduate level. The school is ranked as one of the best regional institutions in the West, according to U.S. New and World Report, and ranks in the top 200 schools for its online degree offerings. At less than $3,000 per six months of coursework, no matter how many courses are completed in that time, it's also one of the most affordable schools in the country.

WGU offers an M.S. in both information security and information assurance, with 30 "competency units" that must be completed in order to graduate. On a traditional schedule, most students can complete the program in two years. Some may complete the degree in as little as one year, however. The 30 competency units focus on topics like emerging technology, cryptography, network security, network intrusion and forensics, and disaster recovery. The program is not CAE/IAE accredited.

Liberty University has become a leader in online education programs in recent years. The school, which is ranked alongside other national universities, ha the 166th best online graduate degree programs in the nation, according to U.S. News and World Report. The school is also renowned for its generous scholarship and need-based aid programs, both of which help to dramatically reduce the cost of attendance for students with demonstrated financial need.

Liberty University's information assurance degree is offered as an individual concentration within its broader M.S. in information systems. Due to this unique design, the program prepares students to be leaders in the broad field of IT as well as experts in information security, network security, and secure programming. A final capstone course also gives students hands-on experience in tackling an information security breach.

Robert Morris University, based in Pittsburgh, is one of the top private universities in the Keystone State. In fact, the school ranks as one of the top 200 national universities in 2016 U.S. News and World Report rankings. The school's online and graduate programs are also among the best in the nation. Robert Morris University, which is traditionally known for prestigious programs in business, engineering, and communications, is home to one of the best online graduate programs in the country in information security.

Offered by Robert Morris University's top-ranked School of Communications and Information Systems, requires 30 credit hours for completion. This program is one of the shortest among the top 20 online programs, with the ability to complete the degree in as little as one year on a full-time basis. Topics covered by the M.S. curriculum include secure programming, computer hardware and operating system management, information security analysis, and database management systems. An optional concentration in enterprise systems can also be selected by interested students.

Originally founded as a university for non-traditional, working adults, today Wilmington University enjoys a reputation as the fastest-growing research university in the nation. The school is also famous for its ability to keep both its own costs and its tuition prices lower than virtually every other public and private university in the Mid-Atlantic region of the country. The school's online programs are highly rated by both U.S. News and World Report and the Princeton Review, mainly due to their "practitioner faculty" design and 7-week format.

The online program in information security at Wilmington University recently achieved CAE/IAE from the National Centers of Academic Excellence in Cyber Defense, solidifying the program's place in the top tier nationwide. Through 36 credit hours, students learn about information security through the lens of white collar crime, malicious hacking, national security, and terrorism. Concepts like business intelligence, information assurance, web and data security, and homeland security are also discussed.

When it comes to great online programs in the Mid-Atlantic, UMUC is Wilmington University's chief competitor. University College is considered a University of Maryland branch campus, primarily focused on delivering high-quality, University of Maryland academic programs to military members, veterans, and adults who need maximum flexibility. As part of the University of Maryland System, UMUC enjoys top rankings as a regional university as well as for the quality and academic rigor of its online programs. The University of Maryland is a strong credential in the Washington-Baltimore metropolitan area as well, where most students are based and where a large number of information assurance jobs are located.

The M.S. in information technology at UMUC features an information assurance concentration and requires 36 credit hours for completion. The program's graduate core focuses on broad IT concepts, including network, hardware, and software management, as well as technology buying and decision-making in the large organization. Within the information assurance concentration, students will learn about forensics, cryptography, and the laws and regulations that apply to information security. The program is CAE/IAE designated and is a leading source of recruitment among federal agencies.

Ranked 12th among national universities in the United States, Northwestern University is easily one of the most prestigious schools in America. Despite its stellar reputation, however, the school remains a "best value" in the latest U.S. News and World Report rankings. This is due to the affordable tuition, excellent academic programs, and high ROI for students who graduate and land a full-time, degree-related position. Northwester’s tech-related degree programs also rank in the top 100 globally.

Offered by the School of Professional Studies, which oversees many of Northwester’s online programs, the 33-credit M.S. in information assurance requires six core courses, three courses in a student’s chosen concentration, a course in information security leadership, and a final course that will see students complete either an academic thesis or a capstone project. Three terms are offered each year, allowing completion in one or two years after enrollment. The program's primary focus is on creating a highly secure network within large organizations, which makes it a great fit for business leaders.

The University of Denver is one of the most prestigious private institutions in the western half of the United States. Ranked in the top 100 national universities by U.S. News and World Report, Denver also has the 25th best online programs in information technology, including its program in information security. For students who will be starting a career in the western portion of the country using their M.S. in information security, there is perhaps no better, more local online option than the University of Denver.

Within the M.S. program, which is offered as a concentration in the university's information technology degree, students complete 36 credit hours entirely online. Along with courses in telecommunications security, IT law, and secure programming, students will choose several electives and take part in a capstone simulation at the end of their coursework.

Brandeis University has been a leader in higher education for many decades, with a top-35 ranking among national universities as evidence of this reputation. The school is also considered a "best value" by U.S. News and World Report and has earned high marks from both high school counselors and corporate recruiters. Its online programs, which are relatively new, have already earned recognition from U.S. News and the Princeton Review over the past several years.

The university's Division of Graduate Professional Studies offers a 30-credit M.S. in information security that equips students to work on complex programs within large organizations. To that end, coursework is centered on information security management, corporate decision-making, ethics, cryptography, and access control. A final capstone project brings these concepts together in a final presentation to a major corporation.

More than 24,000 students call DePaul University home, making it one of the largest private, Catholic-affiliated universities in the United States. Ranked 124th among national universities, DePaul also ranks highly for veterans due to its high degree of flexibility and affordability. The school has some of the most generous merit-based and need-based financial aid programs in the country, an approach that is rooted in its Catholic tradition.

At DePaul, students enroll in a broad M.S. program that focuses on information security, information systems, and computer ethics. Offered by the College of Computing and Digital Media, the program requires 52 credits and is among the most intensive in this ranking. Graduates are prepared to meet the challenges faced by large organizations today, including everything from information assurance to network deployment and general technology proficiency.

One of the nation's largest universities, Boston University is home to 18 separate schools and colleges, has an alumni network of more than 250,000 individuals, and is home to more than 20,000 active students at all levels. The school also ranks as one of the best national universities in the most recent edition of U.S. News and World Report, with its online programs ranking in the top 50 nationally.

Students at Boston University must enroll in the school's M.S. program in computer information systems. A concentration in information assurance provides up to 12 courses in this area, while the remaining 28 credits focus on broad concepts related to corporate networks, information systems, ethics, and some programing.

Ranked among the 200 best national universities by U.S. News and World Report, Florida Institute of Technology has notably established the Harris Institute for Assured Information. The Institute is dedicated to ongoing research into information security problems and information assurance techniques and gives students access to cutting-edge information and resources that help them master these topics as they pursue a Master of Science degree in the field.

FIT offers a 33-credit M.S. in information assurance and cybersecurity that can be completed in as little as 22 months, depending on how many courses are taken during each of the university's three yearly terms. Computer, information, and enterprise security are the three biggest topics discussed throughout the core and elective courses offered by the university.

UAB is one of the largest and most affordable public universities in the south, with a prestigious reputation that allows it to rank among the 200 best national universities in the United States. Students at UAB also enjoy the school's status as a "best value," largely due to its first career office, high job placement rate, and cutting-edge curriculum in a variety of fiends.

The M.S. in information systems at UAB is offered through the top-ranked Collat School of Business. A concentration in information security is available in this program, making it a good fit for the student with an interest in the field. Coursework focuses on broad IT topics like network design, enterprise systems, and corporate decision making; information assurance electives cover topics like information security analysis, cryptography, and IT governance.

Iowa State University is the flagship public university of Iowa and the flagship university in the broader Iowa public university system. The school is ranked as one of the best national universities, the best value for students, and a top choice for veterans, due to its affordable tuition rates and flexible enrollment policies. The university also has one of the most affordable tuition rates among major, Midwestern research universities.

A fully online Master of Science in information assurance is offered at Iowa State University, which requires 30 credit hours for completion. The program includes courses in wireless network security, watermarking, and cryptography, and allows students to choose between a 6-credit thesis capstone course or a 3-credit capstone project course during the final semester of enrollment.

Penn State is one of the nation's oldest and most prestigious public universities. Originally founded as an agricultural school for students in the central part of the state, today's Penn State is a tech-focused behemoth with a reputation that's known globally. The World Campus itself is the oldest all-online branch of a public university in the United States and has the rankings to match this storied legacy. World Campus consistently ranks in the top 10 online graduate schools in the nation, while Penn State itself is a top-ranked national, public, and research university.

The university offers a fully online M.P.S. in information security through the University Park College of Information Sciences and Technology. The asynchronous program requires 33 credits that must be completed in a cohort format, including several group experiments and projects that will teach students both information security analysis and information assurance consulting. Students will also learn advanced network security, corporate decision-making patterns for information assurance, and information security management. The program is CAE/IAE certified by the National Centers of Academic Excellence in Cyber Defense.

Once a commuter school for students in Boston, Northeastern University has transformed itself into one of the nation's leading research universities. This private university consistently ranks as one of the top national universities in the United States in U.S. News and World Report's annual rankings. The publication also ranks Northeastern as one of the top 250 universities in the world, with excellent programs in both engineering and science. That bodes particularly well for information assurance students.

The M.S. in information assurance at Northeastern requires the completion of 32 credits, most of which are core components that focus on information security analysis, corporate information security and government information security. Elective coursework discusses topics as wide-ranging as cryptography, the implications of national and international terrorism on information security, and the nature of software vulnerabilities that allow access to sensitive information.

On a full-time basis, students can complete the program in four semesters. With three terms offered each year, full-time students can expect to complete the fully online program in about 16 months; part-time students can complete the program in about two years.