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Doctorate-level degrees in cybersecurity provide advanced knowledge and valuable research opportunities to professionals that are looking at some of the highest positions in their industry. This type of education is also extremely valuable to professors and researchers that are looking to continue their studies even after the completion of this program. These further studies will lead to academic research papers and innovation in the field of cybersecurity.
Why consider a doctorate level cyber degree?
Obtaining a Doctor of Philosophy, or PhD, gives working professionals the skills needed to research and develop new security measures and the expertise to maintain the information technology sector of an organization.
Having the ability to do this online is convenient for those that are looking to gain an education while continuing their career path, but there are many programs that require on-campus residencies to prepare students or to present their final dissertations. Various degrees will emphasize either practical solutions to cybersecurity issues or finding new innovations through theory and historical development of protecting vital information.
What Can You Do With a PhD in Cyber Security?
Receiving the high-level graduate degree within cybersecurity opens up the entire information technology industry. There is a significant need for experts that can fend off data breaches and internet attacks to a company's network and retrieve sensitive information, such as personal client medical records or consumer transactions with exposed payment methods.
Ensuring that communication is secure has only become more important as people continue to rely on the transfer of information on various devices and apps constantly every day.
There are variations of the doctorate that students can study to receive specific education, and it revolves around the solution to industry problems within the cybersecurity. Those receiving the discipline directly will typically apply practical solutions directly to the company they represent. A Doctor of Philosophy, or PhD, may explore specific topics in network security or computer science, and education revolves around theory and how to find solutions to issues like cyber attacks through research and development.
After completion of a doctoral program, graduates should be able to solve complex issues within the company or organization they represent. They have gained the advanced and expertise knowledge in a particular sector and should be able to deal with any cybersecurity issues that arise. Ultimately, their goal is to improve cybersecurity systems and to help them protect organizations more efficiently on a national and/or global scale.
Online PhD in Cyber Security Degree Availability
Many online-based institutions that offer programs within computer science and cybersecurity also feature accredited doctorate degrees. Students can expect to find disciplines directly in cybersecurity or in a similar field, such as information assurance or security in information technology. Even though the curriculum may be fully available online, each institution has their own unique requirements when it comes to presenting final dissertations or holding on-campus residencies.
When reviewing online programs, it is important to consider institutions that have been designated as a National Center of Academic Excellence by the Department of Homeland Security and the National Security Agency. This shows that the program has been reviewed alongside a rigid criteria to ensure that students are fully prepared to enter into the field of cybersecurity. Programs hold accreditation in specific categories, such as cyber defense education, cyber defense research, and cyber operations.
Consider a sponsored online program currently accepting applicants.
What to look for in a Doctorate program
There are very few programs available online where students can fully complete a PhD within cybersecurity. Many programs require the student to complete on-campus residencies that will give them the opportunity to meet faculty members and students. During these times, they may also work on their dissertation, and they must complete a defense of their dissertation in front of faculty members to show their expertise on the particular topic.
Choose a research discipline
While there are a limited amount of programs that specifically have a discipline in data science, this can often be found as a specialization within disciplines such as Computer Science or Computer Engineering. Other similar concentrations include Information Assurance, Information Systems Security, and Digital Forensics. Information Assurance focuses on the validation and authenticity of data within an organization, and Digital Forensics focuses on the investigative process to solve digital-based crimes in a court of law.
Be prepared for some online courses but on-campus requirements
Students should prepare for online coursework that blends with on-campus requirements if they are considering a doctorate degree with an online format. An alternative to this process is finding an online Master's degree in a similar discipline that can be used to count toward the PhD. There is plenty of overlap in these programs, and this flexibility may allow for students to switch over from a Master's degree to a PhD with high academic merit.
Online Requirements and Expectations
Most PhD programs will require the student to meet on-campus at certain times of the program, such as once per year, but these are not lengthy requirements to satisfy. Residencies will typically last from a weekend to a full week and mostly consist of the student working on their dissertation. Any lab sessions or courses that require application of what is learned can generally be accomplished in a virtual setting or at the professional's place of work if applicable.
In order to complete online courses, students will need to verify that they have the proper setup to run the learning management system used by the university. This typically requires a Windows or Mac operating system that runs on a desktop or laptop computer. For some course materials, this can be accessed by a mobile device, such as a smartphone or tablet, but not all work can be completed in this format.
Additional technical requirements include having access to high-speed internet in order to download or stream on-demand lectures. A webcam and microphone may be required for courses that require students to attend lectures on a live basis. Other applications, such as Microsoft Office, web browsers such as Google Chrome or Mozilla Firefox, anti-virus software, and Adobe Acrobat Reader may be needed depending on the university.
What Are the Steps to Getting This Degree?
Doctorate degrees for cybersecurity generally require anywhere from 60 to 80 credit hours to complete, which can span from three to five years. Most of the program is dedicated to core courses and a concentration in cybersecurity if available. There may be some credit hours needed for electives that may either be part of the discipline being pursued or free electives to customize the program to fit an industry or particular career needs.
Around a third of most PhD programs will feature dissertation requirements. A dissertation is a research project with a specific focus on a topic in cybersecurity, such as a problem that is plaguing a certain industry. Once a topic is suggested and approved by a program faculty member, students are able to pursue the writing project and they will have to defend their dissertation at the end of the program.
In addition to the dissertation, multiple exams may also be needed to further expand on all the skills and concepts learned in the program. A qualifying exam will ensure that students are able to continue on with the PhD and begin their process with the dissertation. The comprehensive exam tests all the skills and concepts that the student has learned, which is usually completed at a separate time than the dissertation defense.
It is not a requirement to have a Master's degree for many computer science-based doctorate programs. Students can typically transfer over their credit from a Master's program if they choose to pursue a doctorate degree at a later date. This can cut the doctorate program nearly in half for students, decreasing the time commitment required and academic costs.
To gain the PhD degree at the end of the program, students will need to pass all examinations and successfully defend their dissertation. Many programs require that the student also maintains at least a 3.0 GPA during their studies. With many courses providing advanced topics, students must maintain a high level of academic achievement in order to successfully complete the program.
Getting into a doctorate program requires the completion of a Bachelor's degree from an accredited institution with high academic marks. Typical requirements for a Master's degree are holding a 3.0 cumulative GPA in their undergraduate studies, or this was achieved in the final 60 credit hours of their studies. For a PhD, this can jump to a GPA requirement of 3.3 or 3.5 overall.
Prospective students are not limited to this GPA requirement, but they may only receive conditional admittance into the program. This means they will need to achieve high marks in the first portion of the program in order to continue pursuing the degree. A slightly lower GPA than the requirement can be offset by higher Graduate Record Exam (GRE) scores or additional professional experience in cybersecurity.
Typical Document Requirements for Submission
Depending on the university, applicants will need to send their unofficial or official transcripts that showcase their accomplishments in higher education. If unofficial transcripts are only needed with the application, sending official transcripts are usually required once the student has been admitted into the program. This includes all academic work at various levels, including any certifications that have been earned.
Applicants should send their most updated resume to the university that showcases all of their prior work history and internship experience gained in other programs. Some programs may require a certain amount of work hours to get into the program, or students may need to complete this prior to graduating from the doctorate program. Resumes should include any accomplishments or
Multiple letters of recommendation are typically needed to verify that the student has high levels of accomplishment in this field. They may require some of the letters to be from an academic professor, but another source can be prior supervisors or managers in a professional work place. Applicants should review what specific requirements are needed with the letters of recommendation as they vary based on institution.
Personal essays are a common requirement in the application process, with potential candidates listing out why they have chosen a particular institution for their studies and what career goals they have in the cybersecurity field. These essays may also go into detail about any accomplishments within an industry that the individual has achieved.
Full-Time Versus Part-Time Enrollment for a PhD Degree
Doctorate degrees are often at least twice the length of a Master's degree program, meaning that students typically need between three to five years to complete their studies on a full-time basis. It is recommended by many schools that students pursue these graduate studies on a full-time basis due to the complexity of course content and the amount of time it takes to complete the dissertation and various assignments.
Many PhD degrees are geared for full-time study and may have some complications for those that are looking to pursue the program on a part-time basis. It may be difficult to focus on research projects without full concentration and may impact the quality of the research accomplished. Even on a part-time basis, there may be too much to balance when accomplishing high-level studies and continuing as a working professional.
Instead of completing the PhD along with a part-time job, students may consider looking at graduate assistantships or other positions within the university. This allows individuals to pursue their degree while completing various tasks for professors for a certain amount of hours per week. By accomplishing this, students will receive part or all of their tuition expenses cut and a stipend to pay for other needs.
Part-time study may be accepted at the institution, but students will have to consider the length of time it will take to complete their studies. This will increase the overall costs of the program with additional fees given out for extra years pursuing their degree. There is also a time limit at most universities, requiring students to complete the doctorate program in seven or eight years on average.
Other problems can emerge with completing the program on a part-time basis. In addition to the difficult coursework that requires plenty of focus, it may be a problem to balance struggles that exist in current employment and trying to complete advanced coursework at the same time. There are also limitations in communicating with other faculty members and students for additional help or working on group projects.
Consider a sponsored online program currently accepting applicants.
Examples of Doctorate Degrees
It is also important to determine that the program has been verified as an accredited institution and the university has been designated as a National Center of Academic Excellence (CAE) from the National Security Agency (NSA) and Department of Homeland Security (DHS). This means that the curriculum has met rigorous requirements under different security topics, such as cyber defense and cyber operations.
Regional accreditation is based on where the university is located and remains a standard when institutions are looking at students for their graduate programs. The six states based in the New England region are accredited by the New England Association of Schools and Colleges. The Southern Association of Colleges and Schools reviews a number of places in the Southeast and along the East Coast, including the states of Florida, North Carolina, Texas, and Virginia.
Online PhD Degrees for Cyber Security
This online college based in San Diego, California, has a number of doctorate programs available in technology, including the Doctor of Philosophy in Technology and Innovation Management. Within the doctorate program, there are six specializations to consider, including Cybersecurity. Students should expect to complete the program in the span of 50 months.
A total of 60 credit hours are needed to fulfill degree requirements, and with most courses being worth three credit hours, 20 courses will be taken in the program. 48 credit hours must be completed at the university, which allows for 12 total credit hours to be transferred into the program. Students must complete all courses while maintaining a 3.0 cumulative GPA.
Courses that students can explore in the main program include Computer Networks and Mobile Computing, Statistics with Technology Applications, and Technology Policy and Strategy. The latter course focuses on legal analysis in network security and gives students case study to review and policies that organizations must follow based on federal guidelines. 18 total credit hours are needed for the Cybersecurity specialization, with courses such as Cyber Forensics and Advanced Risk Management.
One of the unique student services the university offers is the Dissertation Completion Pathway, which gives those that were not able to complete their dissertation elsewhere to do so at their institution. This is a shorter program that requires at least 23 credit hours.
Capitol Technology University
Gaining a Doctorate degree in Cybersecurity through the technology institution prepares students for executive roles within the private sector and any government level. There are various electives that can customize the program and give specialty skills and knowledge within the security of health care, information assurance, cybersecurity software development, and strategic management for intrusion detection and eliminating vulnerabilities.
Up to 66 credit hours are needed to complete the curriculum at Capitol Tech, which is based in the Greater Washington DC area and is also available online. Along with dissertation preparation, some courses include Information Assurance Consulting, Advanced Mixed Methods Research, and Special Topics in Human Resource Management. There is a 16-week course that prepares students for the doctoral degree with specialized research for the career path they are pursuing.
Prospective students can apply for the doctorate degree in cybersecurity for the fall and spring semesters. An essay of at least 1,000 words that covers what the student plans to do within the cybersecurity field. Applicants must submit the essay with the application form and a fee, official transcripts, updated resume, and multiple letters of recommendation. More information may be necessary based on the college’s review.
Nova Southeastern University
The College of Computing and Engineering provide a PhD in Cybersecurity Management, which requires 67 credits to complete and is offered in a hybrid format. This means students will be mostly completing coursework and generally interacting with students and faculty members online, but they will have physical meetings once per term at the Fort Lauderdale campus. These are required meetings for students.
Examples of core courses that students will complete include Information Security Risk Management, Secure Systems Analysis and Design, and Human-Computer Interaction. 24 credits are reserved for dissertation studies, and students will also need to complete two doctoral research studies within information assurance. Some of the goals the university has for their graduates are to gain advanced knowledge within cybersecurity and to be prepared to lead and manage cybersecurity teams with strong communication skills and being fully competent of the ethics required.
Students looking for a fellowship opportunity to satisfy financial needs and gain additional experience may be eligible for one of six positions offered by the school. Applicants must submit a reference letter, hold at least a 3.0 cumulative GPA, and are going into a career that involves teaching or research. Recipients are not able to hold a job so they can commit their time to education and research, but the award provides tuition assistance for the duration of the program.
Dakota State University
The Beacom College of Computer and Cyber Sciences offers the Doctor of Philosophy in Cyber Operations, which focuses on advanced topics in cybersecurity. Graduates from the program have gone on to work at organizations such as the Central Intelligence Agency, US Army Intelligence and Security Command (INSCOM), and Carnegie Mellon’s Software Engineering Institute.
Along with the core curriculum and research-driven courses that account for 24 total credit hours, students will need to complete three credit hours of on-campus research seminars. Meeting faculty members, determining a dissertation topic, and finishing dissertation defense is accomplished in this requirement. 25 credit hours are geared toward the dissertation itself, and the remaining nine credit hours are for customizable electives.
Some courses are only available at certain times of the year. For example, dissertation work is available all year long, but Dissertation Preparation is only available in the spring on an annual basis. All students must maintain a 3.0 cumulative GPA, and no more than two C grades are allowed in the entire curriculum or the student will be put on academic probation and eventual dismissal if the grades do not improve.
In order to get into the program, students must hold a Master’s degree from an accredited institution with a 3.0 cumulative GPA or higher. GRE scores are required in the admission process, but these are waived if the student has accomplished a 3.25 cumulative GPA in their Bachelor’s degree. Entry is only available for the fall semester into this program, so applications must be received by May 1st each year.
Colorado Technical University
Students can pursue the Doctorate of Computer Science with an emphasis in Big Data Analytics or Cybersecurity and Information Assurance. This is a program with an expected time of at least three years to complete. There are multiple start times throughout the year providing flexibility for students to enter into the program.
While the curriculum is fully available, there are in-person residencies that are required – two residencies are needed for this program and they are held quarterly in the Denver area. This gives students an ability to meet with other peers in their classes and faculty members one-on-one and there are various events that will aid in dissertations required for the student to complete. Students can maintain their schedule and join discussions with the CTU Symposium mobile app.
The 100-credit hour curriculum consists of the residencies, many levels of Doctoral and Dissertation Research, and various advanced topics within cybersecurity, such as Foundations of Digital Systems Security, Enterprise Security Architecture, and Principles of Research Methods and Design. At the conclusion of the program, students will be presenting their final dissertation and must be approved by a faculty supervisor.
An online Doctor of Information Technology (DIT) with emphasis in Information Assurance and Cybersecurity can be obtained through the Minnesota-based institution. Students can also elect to take courses at the Minneapolis campus or pursue a combination of both. The curriculum is divided up into eight core courses and four specialization courses, along with various dissertations and three residency requirements, all requiring four days of attendance.
Two different IT degrees
Capella offers two versions of information technology degrees at this education level – the DIT and the Doctor of Philosophy in Information Technology. The DIT prepares students to solve business problems and to apply what they have learned directly into their career. Having a philosophical approach in the other program explores new theories that can be used to solve these issues instead. While both programs have a difference in solution, there is overlap in the specialization of assurance and cybersecurity.
DIT specialized on cybersecurity
The Doctor of Philosophy in Information Technology features a specialization in Information Assurance and Cybersecurity, giving students the capability to learn advanced knowledge in the field. In addition to five specialization courses, students complete a comprehensive exam that reviews all of the material they have learned, a dissertation spanning a large portion of their studies, and three on-campus residencies.
Typical courses you may take
Courses in the specialization include Enterprise Security Risk Management, Network Security Advances, and System and Application Security Advances. These topics cover the advancement of security and how this has impacted their implementation into company networks. Students do not have the availability to transfer in these courses for the specialization and must be taken through the school. Some specialization courses must be completed through this campus, including System and Application Security Advances and Enterprise Security Risk Management. The latter course has students review academic research and professional reports on risk modeling that impacts managerial decisions. Security advancement courses focuses on improvements in the field and the advantages of improving these processes with new available technology.
What each program is like at Capella
All three on-campus residencies focus on dissertation research, which first begins through an overview in an online course and the student builds upon their research when they meet faculty members and other students. The goal of the dissertation is to build critical thinking skills and the ability to communicate with others to help improve the dissertation, which requires significant research after determining a topic.
GuidedPath is a unique resource available to students that helps them get through the doctorate degree in a more focused process online. They will take between one to three courses during each of the four quarter terms available, which requires 10 weeks to complete. Based on availability and schedule, students will take the courses they have time for and only pay for what they are pursuing.
University of Rhode Island
The College of Arts and Sciences offers a Doctor of Philosophy in Computer Science, which can utilize the graduate certifications available in Cyber Security and Digital Forensics. All courses are available online, with lectures streamed on demand for students to learn at any time of the day, and all lab sessions are completed through the cloud-based infrastructure.
Examples of courses that can be completed and applied to the doctorate degree include Advanced Topics in Network and Systems Security, Advanced Incident Response, and Penetration Testing. Many courses will only be available at certain times of the year, and courses must be followed along a certain path in order to meet prerequisites for the more advanced courses.
Coursework is typically distributed each Friday, meaning students will have a week to complete their assignments and submit them by each Friday, and new coursework will be available on that day. Students have the capability of studying on their own time as long as they continue to meet deadlines.
Applications are accepted for these programs throughout the first half of the year to get admission for the fall, which is required for graduate certification in Cyber Security. Students must have a Bachelor’s degree with an undergraduate cumulative GPA of 3.0 or higher. There is no requirement to submit GRE scores, but other additional needs include two letters of recommendation and a statement of purpose.
On-Campus PhD Degrees for Cyber Security
University of Tennessee
The Tickle College of Engineering offers a few options for cybersecurity studies at the Knoxville campus location. One of the advanced programs is a Doctor of Philosophy in Computer Engineering, with a concentration in Cybersecurity. The amount of credit hours needed depends on if the student has taken a Master’s degree or hold prior academic work in the same discipline or related, such as computer science.
At least 72 credit hours are needed for students that only have a Bachelor’s degree or simultaneously completing a Master’s degree in a similar field through the university. This truncates to 48 total credit hours if they already have a Master’s degree. At least 24 credit hours are earned through taking dissertation courses and completing the research and writing requirements.
The comprehensive exam features both a written and oral segment, which connects with the dissertation, but may have additional writing requirements. Students must have a strong understanding of the topic they have studied and can thoroughly explain many aspects of it while demonstrating competency in communication and critical thinking. At least six months need to separate the comprehensive exam and defense of the dissertation.
Admission requires outstanding work in a Bachelor’s degree for students to be able to jump from the undergraduate program to the PhD program. GRE scores are needed for the admission process and should have been obtained in the last three years. For students that have a Master’s degree, up to six credit hours from courses that match the 400-level and above can be transferred into the program.
Arizona State University
Through the School of Computing, Informatics, and Decision Systems Engineering, students can complete the Doctor of Philosophy in Computer Science with a concentration in Cybersecurity. Students will complete five core courses that explore different aspects of computer science, and there is no ability to transfer credit for those courses unless they have already taken the courses at Arizona State University. Students do not have the capability to duplicate credit between the concentration focus and the core curriculum.
Nine total credit hours will count toward the Cybersecurity specialization. There is an overview of Information Assurance, then students will pick two of the following three courses: Advanced Computer Network Security, Applied Cryptography, or Software Security. 24 total credit hours will go toward both the research and dissertation portion of the curriculum.
Admission requirements include submitting a personal statement that details professional goals and why they are choosing this particular program. It should also feature any research experience that the individual has accomplished personally. In addition, there should be three letters of recommendation validating these accomplishments, from prior professors or professionals in the industry the individual has worked in.
Other needs to get into the program include holding a minimum cumulative 3.5 GPA or higher in the last 60 credit hours of work from the Bachelor’s degree, and this should be similar to the Master’s degree overall if they hold one. Up to 30 credit hours within a different graduate program, such as a Master’s degree, can be used to account for some credit if approved by the program.
Sam Houston State University
A Doctor of Philosophy in Digital and Cyber Forensic Science is available exclusively on campus for students that are looking at cybersecurity careers at the executive level or academic research at an institution. Topics include understanding network and mobile device forensics, ethical and legal issues in cybersecurity, and the basic principles of this field. 85 total credit hours are needed to complete the program for students that only hold a Bachelor’s degree.
Breaking the curriculum down, 52 credit hours are part of the core academic curriculum, 15 credit hours are gained through the dissertation, and the remaining 18 credit hours are for the internship and customizable electives. Examples of elective opportunities include Cloud Computing Forensics, Cryptography and Steganography, and Social Network Forensics.
Counting for six total credit hours, the internship will require 10 weeks of full-time commitment. This is another process to apply what the student has learned to real-time situations, giving them an additional opportunity and potential to network with an organization for improving job potential.
In order to gain admittance into the program, applicants must hold at least a Bachelor’s degree in a similar field from an accredited university, and they must have obtained a 3.5 cumulative GPA or higher. Three letters of recommendation are needed for verification, with at least two of them from faculty members. Other needs include a personal statement with a maximum of 1,000 words, updated resume, GRE scores, and a potential interview may be conducted.
University of Colorado-Colorado Springs
The College of Engineering and Applied Science offers the Doctor of Philosophy in Security, which has been verified by the NSA and DHS as a CAE in Information Assurance Education. In graduating the program, individuals will become an expert in the topic they decide to develop a dissertation on, and they have been able to improve upon their communication skills when presenting findings or working with others collaboratively.
60 total credit hours are needed to complete this program, and half of that credit must be completed with courses that are at the 5000 level or higher. There is an opportunity to transfer in 24 credit hours if the student has completed the Master’s degree previously. Half of the curriculum is dedicated to dissertation development and presentation.
Applicants should have at least a Bachelor’s degree from an accredited institution with at least a 3.3 GPA, and those entering the program with the completion of the Homeland Defense graduate certificate must also have the same GPA requirement. Additional admission materials include having three letters of recommendation, latest resume, and will need GRE scores if they did not complete their education at an accredited university.
Courses that students can choose in this program include Applied Cryptography, Advanced System Security Design, and System Administration and Security. At least three months of cyber operations must be completed in the form of training, internship, or already established professional work. This can be substituted with the completion of a Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP) certification.
Typical Coursework for a PhD Degree
Principles of Cyber Security
Explores the basics of cybersecurity features at the executive and management level of an organization, including the latest innovations in the field and various security measures that can be added into information systems. In some cases, students that have already completed a Master’s degree in the cybersecurity field may be able to skip this course as it is also frequent at that education level.
Advanced Risk Management
Analysis of theory when defending information systems in a more complex environment, and what practices are used when implementing these solutions in an organization. Students may learn how to audit these security measures to determine their accuracy and what needs to be improved upon to avoid certain attacks. This can help in preparing recommendations and consider different strategies in established cybersecurity practices.
Security Software Development
Having security measures in place on network servers and database management systems are key to preventing intrusions, but software can also be manipulated and compromised without security. This course looks into the different ways of implementing this type of protection in the software development process. Students may also learn how to identify rogue activities within software to identify potential threats.
A national government-focused course that emphasizes security measures that are taken to protect the United States’ critical infrastructure. This includes the important industries of public health, transportation, telecommunication, agriculture, electricity, and more. Topics may include the strengths and weaknesses of prior security implementation and how future innovations will change these procedures.
Quantitative and Qualitative Research
Common research methods when analyzing reports and writing the dissertation includes using quantitative and qualitative information. Students will understand the differences between these analysis methods and where to best apply them in their reports. Quantitative data focuses on specific numbers and measurements, while qualitative data focuses on more subjective information that explains these figures.
Professionals must be able to react quickly when an attack occurs on an organization’s network, mitigating disaster and sensitive information that could be compromised. Popular topics in these courses include the various tools that are used in scoping out problems and eliminating them, how to detect vulnerabilities earlier to prevent these situations, and disaster recovery processes once the damage occurs.
One of the most popular and impactful ways to determine if a strong security system has been implemented is to mimic similar attacks in a controlled environment. Penetration testing, which can be a position on its own within a cybersecurity team, oversees this event and determines the effectiveness of security that is protecting valuable information.
Institutions designated as a CAE and holding an emphasis in cyber operations will often have courses that provide a general overview of the measures taken by security-driven organizations. Topics in these courses can range from the evolution of these processes, such as how to eliminate security threats on mobile devices and cloud-based computing, and the legal and ethical policies that can be implemented.
Many doctorate degrees will have courses that prepare students for dissertations, focusing on various studying methods, sources to consider, and helping them pick topics for a proposal that they will be able to defend when presented. These courses may go into creating an outline or framework for the dissertation and look at other example proposals to gain different perspectives or to criticize. Frequently, preparation courses will serve as the platform for students to submit their proposal.
Many PhD programs will emphasize the dissertation, allocating around one-third or a quarter of the curriculum to the dedication of preparing students for their dissertation writing. These courses may include how to find a topic that works for the researching project and an official process to send this idea in to faculty members, They may also be able to work with professionals in the industry that can help them further their analysis in the topic selected.
Immediately prior to graduation, students may have the requirement to meet in front of select faculty members to present or defend their dissertation. This process tests the vulnerabilities of the writing where the student should successfully defend what they have gathered. Any preparation classes for the presentation may focus on improving presentation material and studying further information to prepare for questions.
This is the specific term used when managing and securing sensitive data within the organization’s network and system. Assurance of the information means that it remains confidential and can only be accessed by authorized parties. Many degrees will have this term within the discipline, and these courses can serve as an overview of information security and to become exposed to real-world situations.
Doctorate studies will focus on the development and stability of cybersecurity software, with uses of identifying potential threat and analyzing risk. Students typically assess the performance of security software, measuring their stability and how well they protect systems from attacks, and various ways that it can be implemented into networks.
Applied Research Methods
Explores various research methods and how to perform them to help students with research for their dissertation and other studies. Topics may consist of how to read complicated information, creating visualizations from raw data or cleaning it for easier organization, surveying and interviewing subjects to gain perspective, and how to use software tools for researching. Coursework typically consists of researching and report writing to demonstrate proficiency in these skills.
Courses covering network security at the doctorate level will have an in-depth look into history and various theories involving the revolutionary technology. Topics include the advancement of network security in the industry and how this impacts various organizational networks, the benefits and disadvantages of sending sensitive information online, and encryption methods to ensure that data is kept secure when being transferred from one place to the other.
Careers and Associations
Having a doctorate in cybersecurity means that a professional has explored theories and case studies within cybersecurity, giving them expert knowledge in the field that they customized their degree toward. This makes them beneficial as information security consultants in the organization they work for. They help review the network for any vulnerabilities and they will provide information on the latest technological innovations and how to implement them for a seamless transition.
In general, IT consultants help the organization gain perspective on the strengths and limitations of the department and aids in the improvement of management and supervising team members. They may recommend technological needs based on employee and client feedback, or creating reports based off performance data and expected outcomes should the organization improve these areas.
Higher education can also give graduates with professional experience an edge in becoming a director of information technology. One of the frequent requirements when managing the entire technology infrastructure of a company is to ensure that the network security is free from vulnerabilities and that there is a protocol in place in case intrusions take place. Directors will often make the final decisions in hardware and software additions and the coordination of teams and managers.
IT directors fall under the position of computer and information systems management through the US Bureau of Labor Statistics. Average salary for this position is is approximately $142,530, with those working within finance and computer systems design receiving above the average. The top 10 percent receives over the $200,000 mark while the lowest 10 percent sees $85,380 when salaries are reviewed across the nation.
Tuition Costs for a PhD Degree in Cyber Security
Tuition rates will range widely based on the institution that a student selects to study their cybersecurity education, and if they are a resident in the state of the university. Smaller institutions or online-based colleges will generally be cheaper than more established institutions. When adding up full tuition for a full academic year, along with various student fees, full costs can be between $20,000 up to $50,000 per year.
For example, at Capella University, tuition for the PhD in Information Technology is $965 per credit, or $5,000 total in each quarter. The comprehensive exam and dissertation sessions are $2,895 per quarter. Unlike some programs, there is no capability to transfer credits into this program, so students will have to pay for the full tuition, which is 90 quarter credit hours.
Adding up the number of years it can take to complete a PhD program, it can be very costly to pursue this type of education. Luckily, there are many ways to bring these costs down in what essentially is an investment into a job opportunity that pays more than typical positions while just holding a Bachelor’s degree.
Ways to Lower PhD Costs for Students
If pursuing the program on a full-time basis, students can consider federal student loan options if they qualify and have any remaining funds from their prior education. Part-time education is generally not acceptable for federal student loans as this requires full-time enrollment and pursuing a certain number of credit hours in a given term. Personal loans provide another option to receive funding for school, but this may have considerably higher interest rates.
In some cases, an employer may pay for the employee to receive their PhD degree in cybersecurity. This requires a commitment from the individual to stick with the company for an extended period of time, and they will likely see an upgraded role in the organization if they successfully complete the program. If the individual leaves shortly after receiving the degree, they may be responsible for paying some of this tuition.
Assistantships are frequently the best opportunity for students to receive tuition aid for their education. These are competitive positions that can pay for some or all of a student’s tuition expenses, and provide additional stipends on a monthly basis, or in each term. Assistantships will require a certain amount of hours for students to complete tasks for faculty members in addition to their studies.
Scholarship Options for a PhD Degree
For students that have excelled in their prior academics, there may be an option to apply for a scholarship to cut down on costs. While there are few scholarships that pay for full tuition, this can provide some relief for students in multiple years of their education. In addition to rewarding those with solid academics, scholarships are also available for those in difficult financial situations or are part of an underrepresented demographic.
Some graduate college-based scholarships provide automatic entry for students that are administered into the program. Select students will receive an award simply based on being admitted into a high-level program. These are typically smaller awards that lower tuition rates and there are no restrictions for these opportunities.
For the majority of scholarships that are distributed by the school or an association that is promoting cybersecurity, students will need to submit a writeup that details why they are the best candidate for the scholarship and/or list the achievements that they have accomplished so far in their career. They must also submit proof of the criteria needed to receive the scholarship award.
Examples of Cyber Security Scholarships
The National Science Foundation has a Graduate Research Fellowship Program that is geared toward students that are going after graduate-level programs within the sectors of science, technology, engineering, and management – also known as the STEM field. A total of $46,000 is awarded to an individual, which provides a $34,000 three-year stipend and $12,000 deduction in tuition that is given to the institution.
The National Defense Science and Engineering Graduate Fellowship Program also provides aid for students that are pursuing a STEM field. Students can receive up to three years of educational aid, and it covers the tuition and provides a stipend. One requirement that students must uphold is working at a laboratory session with the Department of Defense, and they need to be able to accept the full awards.
Both of these scholarships not only require students to be in the STEM field, but they must be United States citizens or nationals to be eligible. They must show proof of citizenship when applying for these awards, and they must hold strong academic standing. Eligibility for the latter program opens up in the final year of undergraduate studies.
What Can You Do With a PhD Degree in Cyber Security?
When considering the pursuit of a doctorate degree, students must determine if it is worth the time and money for their cybersecurity career opportunity. Entry-level positions only require the completion of an undergraduate degree in this discipline, or a similar discipline such as computer science or information assurance. Advanced and senior positions can be obtained with a PhD, along with more research-focused positions in academia.
PhD degrees are geared for individuals that are looking at managerial and executive positions at industries that are looking to implement or improve their cybersecurity practices. They must understand advanced processes and be able to determine what they should do for their existing systems, or what is compatible with their information systems if they are moving to cloud-based solutions in the future.
Director positions review the analysis of network and computer security practices and make significant decisions on how the company should continue forward. They must follow the latest innovations in security measures that are being improved upon in order to keep their systems secure. It is important to keep the information technology sector updated with the latest security measures and to stay ahead of the latest hacking attacks.
Academic positions will offer more researching opportunities beyond completing the dissertation at the end of the PhD degree program. Further reports can help improve the entire field of cybersecurity when published in academic journals, or these can provide a specific focus within an industry, such as health care or the finance sector. They can also use this knowledge as a professor in a technology or engineering course within cybersecurity.
Looking at specific jobs in cybersecurity while holding a PhD degree, being a security engineer is a popular position to consider with the advanced knowledge needed in developing the architecture of an information system and making sure it is secure. These are more for advanced or senior positions that require numerous years of professional experience or hold advanced certification, like the CISSP, which is geared more toward individuals looking at management positions.
Another popular position is chief information security officer, which the job title can be slightly alternative based on the organization they are working at. Bigger enterprises will have specific designations for a CISO, but some smaller companies may only have a chief technology officer that deals with the security measures that are implemented into the organization.
When disaster strikes at an organization, the CISO is usually responsible for working with federal government or legal workers in order to determine what the next steps are needed after a data breach occurs. They are also responsible for moving forward with disaster recovery measures and working with any clients or employees that are affected. In addition, they are usually responsible for making final decisions on new implementations in the information system security processes.
According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, information security analyst make a mean annual wage of $104,210 across the United States. This is slightly higher for those working directly in computer systems design, which is geared for those with more experience in computer engineering and architecture.
At the higher spectrum of estimated wages in this position, workers are making an average of $158,860 among the top 10 percent. Some of the top states to consider when looking at the highest wages are New York, Virginia, and California. The highest state overall is New York with over 7,000 workers represented and over $121,750 being made on an annual basis.
In addition to the state of Virginia having the most employment opportunity in any state with over 15,000 employed, the annual estimated wage across the state is at $114,760. For the District of Columbia alone, there are 2,000 workers represented and estimated $119,160 made annually. This also makes the largest metropolitan area in terms of employment when adding in the cities of Arlington and Alexandria with Washington DC.