The Best Online Cybersecurity Degree Programs for 2021

The best online cybersecurity degree programs offer training aligned with updated digital security needs from a wide variety of companies and organizations.


The majority of the world, like it or not, exists in the digital realm. Earning one of the many available cybersecurity degrees from a high quality college or university in 2021 helps secure your career and income for decades to come.

What are some of the best cybersecurity degree programs in modern times? What type of person is best suited for a career in cybersecurity? What is the admission process to get a cybersecurity degree and what information do you need to get started? The field of cybersecurity is growing immensely even in the challenging economic times caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. Read on for information about the best online cybersecurity degree programs for 2021 and how to begin the admissions process today.

                             

Explaining the Increased Need for Cybersecurity

Explaining the increased need for cybersecurity begins with understanding the recent and rapidly changing dynamics of active online threats. Be they international or domestic, cyber attacks are both real and on the rise. The list of applicable attacks throughout 2020 in the U.S. alone gives ample evidence of why graduates holding a valid cybersecurity degree are needed at all levels of related employment. 2020 cyber attacks were varied in nature, style and intensity as well. 

For example, the cellular service provider T-Mobile suffered four cyber attack-related data breaches in a three-year period ranging from August of 2018 through December 29, 2020. While the most recent attack did not successfully steal financial-related information, approximately 200,000 T-Mobile customers still had their call-related information, or customer proprietary network information (CPNI), hacked. 

Effective cybersecurity is poignantly important on a personal level because it protects personal data such as passwords, cell phone and debit card PINs, medical records, creative intellectual property and more. In both the business and political worlds, effective cybersecurity protects military-based operational information, government intelligence, private client information, bank account numbers, launch/vault codes and more. The best cybersecurity degree programs include the study of new risk prevention tactics as opposed to outdated threat management protocols. The process also goes beyond what was previously a job for only IT (information technology) consultants. It further goes beyond implementing layered stacks of now outdated technology. 2021 cybersecurity protocols and degree programs require a specific type of person willing to take on a new and ever-evolving type of criminal. Who should consider a career in cybersecurity?

Who Should Consider a Career in Cybersecurity?

Qualified candidates for cybersecurity employment positions are comfortable with the concept of intense personal and professional responsibility. This is true for all cybersecurity positions regardless of pay grade and levels of experience. A security guard at an amusement park overnight and a security guard at a bank during business hours are both expected to do their jobs with professional level focus and efficacy. The implementation of cybersecurity operations is no longer a job for an IT team or team member alone. Modern cyber attacks are carried out by a new breed of ever-evolving criminals and hackers. A qualified candidate for a career in cybersecurity thrives on being challenged on a daily basis. Cybersecurity employees also possess a natural sense of duty and personal/professional integrity. Other qualities and personality traits of someone who should consider a career in cybersecurity include:

  • Solution oriented

  • Ability to focus on small details for long periods of time

  • Thrives on variety/change

  • Desire to constantly grow/learn

  • Acceptance of a zero-trust policy & network security model

  • High aptitude for computer technology

  • Willingness to work long hours

  • Extensive skillset including an innately enhanced level of perception

Cybersecurity Online Degree Program Admissions Process

The admissions process for an online cybersecurity degree program has both similarities and unique differences to the admissions process for an on-campus program. There are also similarities and differences to the admissions process for degree programs in other fields of study. Further, the type of degree being pursued also creates variants in the admissions process. For example, admissions requirements for a Master’s degree in cybersecurity are different than those of an associate degree. Admissions procedures and requirements also change to some degree with each college/university. What is involved in the different cybersecurity degree program admissions processes? What are some of the requirements? Following is information on the cybersecurity admissions processes for:

  • General admissions process/requirements

  • Certificate programs

  • Associate degree programs

  • Bachelor’s degree programs

  • Master’s degree programs

  • Ph.D. (Doctorate) programs

General Admissions Process/Requirements

Most colleges and universities look to add students to their rosters who are aligned with the core principles of the school. They also look to add students who are most likely to be successful with their programs. Online degree programs are not easier to get into than on-campus programs. The only exception is with programs specifically designed for working adults. In those cases Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT) scores are not counted with the same amount of significance, if at all.

The admissions process involves selecting your online school of choice. Have several backup options in case your primary choice rejects your application. It is crucial to fill out your application accurately and within all applicable deadlines. Mistakes such as typos, inaccurate phone numbers for references and incorrect dates are potential grounds for rejection, especially for a degree program as detail and accuracy-oriented as cybersecurity. Also include all required supportive documentation such as your high school transcript, recommendations from teachers and any relevant official test scores. 

After being submitted, your application is reviewed by appropriate admissions office staff. Decisions are only partially made based on your application strength. Each school has its own enrollment objectives. This means not only does the strength of your application have to qualify you, but you also have to fit the picture of the type of student your school wants on its roster. You are also compared to a group of other prospective students. An on-record (recorded) admissions officers committee handles this part of the process as a means of ensuring fairness. Decisions deadlines are posted online for each semester. Once accepted, enrollment begins.

Certificate Programs

A certificate is not the same as a degree. Its primary value is its ability to bolster your career/education and make you a more valuable candidate for employment. The admissions process for a cybersecurity certificate program is different for each facilitating college/university. For example, Norwich University Online requires a bachelor's degree from a regionally accredited institution or an equivalent degree from a foreign institution to enter its certificate program. The University of Arizona Online requires you fill out an online background information profile, which assesses your experience and technical skills prior to you being permitted to apply.

Associate Degree Programs

Most associate degree programs take two years to complete. Admissions requirements include submission of your high school diploma and transcripts. Other college transcripts are required when applicable as is the potential transfer of applicable prior credits. A college essay/personal statement along with SAT scores, proof of identity, citizenship, residence and more are also required. There are often application fees associated with the admissions process as well as online interviews/meetings and telephone calls with admissions/enrollment officers.

Bachelor’s Degree Programs

Some online schools require you obtain an associate degree prior to applying for a bachelor’s degree program. This is not true for all online schools, however. The same admissions requirements for an associate degree program apply to a bachelor’s degree program unless otherwise specified by your school of choice. Students already possessing an associate degree in cybersecurity have the ability to transfer all accepted associate degree credits toward a bachelor’s degree program in most instances. Contact your school’s admissions office for specific details.

Master’s Degree Programs

A Master’s in Cybersecurity degree requires a previously earned bachelor’s degree from an accredited college/university. It also requires a minimum undergraduate grade point average (GPA), which varies per school. Other requirements might include a specific amount of years of technical work experience, possession of one or more relevant cybersecurity-related certificates and an undergraduate degree in a variety of qualified related fields.

Ph.D. (Doctorate) Degree Programs

A Ph.D. (Doctorate) degree program focuses primarily on research. A Ph.D. program also educates students on how to conduct said research. A master’s degree is not required in order to obtain a Ph.D. by all schools. In some fields of study a Ph.D. is obtainable even without possessing a master’s. Most cybersecurity Ph.D. admissions requirements include a minimum 3.0 GPA and qualified Graduate Record Examination (GRE) scores. Additional cybersecurity admissions requirements include recommendation letters, samples of your relevant writing, your resume and your college transcripts. It is also possible to be required to partake in an online admission interview prior to being accepted.