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Online PhD Programs in Cybersecurity

Very few fields of knowledge and practice have grown as exponentially in the last few decades as computer science. Computing is now integral to nearly everything, from commerce to work to leisure. Whether browsing the internet for new clothes or items for your home or sitting in front of a computer doing work, you are engaging with the world of computing.

With the increased use of computer technology in everyday life, there is a heightened need for greater security in these spaces. “Cyberspace,” the environment in which computers interact with each other, is increasingly close to real life. We share sensitive information about our medical histories, personal messages with friends, and all kinds of payments via the internet and other connections, and these must be secured. “Cybersecurity” is the overarching term used for the practices ensuring that our most valuable information remains secure.

The day-to-day life of a cybersecurity expert can span a myriad of activities and depends entirely on what this individual works on. Cybersecurity experts may be responsible for creating and maintaining systems for secure communication, or for countering attacks from hackers and other malicious elements. They are employed wherever an individual or organization requires heightened security in the online or cyberspace environment. Hospitals, businesses, and pop stars may all require the services of a cybersecurity expert at some point, making this an incredibly varied career field with many options for its practitioners.

While a bachelor’s degree in computer science is the most commonly trodden educational path on the way to becoming a cybersecurity professional, a PhD in cybersecurity can be seen as the pinnacle of educational achievement for individuals in this field.

As is fitting for a field that relies heavily on remote work, some universities now offer the possibility of achieving a doctorate in cybersecurity through online programs. A remote learning environment may be ideal for doctoral students already working in the field, or those obligated through family obligations. Additionally, many students have found that they simply prefer an online learning environment to one that relies on in-classroom instruction.

With an astounding 35 percent projected national growth in the category “Information Security Analysts” projected by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (2021 to 2031) and a median pay of $102,600, cybersecurity experts with a completed doctoral degree should have no shortage of well-paying jobs available to them upon graduation.

This guide is intended to help orient future PhD students in their search for an online cybersecurity program.

Admissions Requirements for Online PhD Programs in Cybersecurity

On the grand scale of things, PhD programs are more selective and require more preconditions for applicants than nearly all other academic titles. While exceptions may be made in sporadic cases, an applicant to a PhD program must either have completed graduate school or be in the last semester or two of their graduate education. Since a completed bachelor’s degree is a prerequisite for a master’s, transcripts for that are usually part of the application process as well.

Additionally, most PhD programs will require applicants to have a certain academic standing to apply. As with other academic programs, most universities will require applicants to pay an application fee or a tuition deposit once they enroll. A typical list of admissions requirements for an online PhD program in cybersecurity may look something like this:

  • Application fee
  • Bachelor’s transcripts
  • Graduate school transcripts
  • Letters of recommendation
  • Proof of academic standing

The Curriculum of an Online PhD Program in Cybersecurity

What the curriculum of a particular program looks like will depend on the particular institution and the academic vision espoused by the program itself. As broad of a field as cybersecurity is, as varied the specific offerings within the particular fields may be. While some programs focus on network security and real-world applications for enterprise clients, others lean more heavily on theory and ethics. As an example of what the curriculum of an online PhD program may look like at the moment, here is an excerpt from Colorado Technical University’s website:

  • Information assurance
  • Futuring and innovation
  • Foundations of digital systems security
  • Enterprise security architecture
  • Enterprise tools, concepts, and processes
  • Governance, quality, compliance, and ethics
  • Security management
  • Principles of research methods and design
  • Qualitative research methods
  • Quantitative research methods

Featured Online PhD Programs in Cybersecurity

While online education is expanding rapidly, it is slower to develop at the highest levels of education. Online Bachelor’s programs may now be the norm at many universities nationwide, while PhD programs are a bit slower to become available. However, computer science is at the forefront of the movement to make even the highest levels of education available in fully online or hybrid learning environments. Below are a few examples of online PhD programs in cybersecurity that are available now.

Capella University

Capella University offers interested students a doctorate in information technology. Capella University offers students the transfer of credits where applicable and requires a GPA of at least 3.0 from the associated master’s program. A tuition discount is available to military veterans.

  • Location: Minneapolis, Minnesota
  • Accreditation: Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC)

George Washington University

George Washington University is located in the same city of the same name, and is over 200 years old. With its online doctor of engineering in cybersecurity analytics program, the university now offers interested students the opportunity to study at the storied school while also benefiting from the flexibility of online education. The learning objectives of the program George Washington are the following:

  • Learn cybersecurity analytics and how to apply them to an organization
  • Create workable and practical means of countering cybersecurity threats
  • Drive the strategic mission of an organization by creating and maintaining an excellent cybersecurity infrastructure

GWU’s PhD program requires the completion of a praxis paper to graduate, as well as 24 research and classroom credits each.

  • Location: Washington, D.C.
  • Accreditation: Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE)
  • Expected Time to Completion: 4 years
  • Estimated Tuition: $1625 per credit hour

National University

National University is a private institution with multiple campuses in southern California and a robust presence in the online learning space. National University offers a PhD in cybersecurity, geared both towards theoretical knowledge and practice applications in the field.

  • Location: San Diego, California
  • Accreditation: WASC Senior College and University Commission (WSCUC)
  • Expected Time to Completion: Four years
  • Estimated Tuition: $68,365 total

Colorado Technical University

Colorado Technical University has been a longtime player in the distance learning space, and offers two distinct PhD programs related to cybersecurity. Students can choose between two different tracks when completing their doctorate of computer science: cybersecurity and information assurance, or alternatively, cybersecurity engineering. Colorado Technical University emphasizes its recognition by the Department of Defense, and the national security aspects of cybersecurity.

  • Location: Colorado Springs, CO
  • Accreditation: The Higher Learning Commission
  • Expected Time to Completion: Fou years
  • Estimated Tuition: $59,800 total

New York University

New York University, better known as NYU, is another well-known and long-established university that is establishing itself in the online learning space. NYU hosts its own Center for Cybersecurity, through which it offers a host of master’s and PhD programs. Students who enroll at either the graduate or doctoral level at NYU’s Center for Cybersecurity can complete most or all of their coursework online.

  • Location: New York, NY
  • Accreditation: Middle States Commission on Higher Education
  • Expected Time to Completion: Four years
  • Estimated Tuition: $18,909 per term

Johannes Stitz

Johannes Stitz is a freelance writer and researcher based in the Southwest. He’s written about various topics in engineering careers. Before turning to freelance writing, he spent nearly a decade in the arts as a booker and event manager.