Associate’s Degrees in Cyber Security
Cyber security, the process of protecting computers, networks and data from outside access, has become extremely important in both our personal and business lives. Cyber security is a growing field that you can become part of by earning an associate degree. Learn more about this career and what an associate degree in cybersecurity all entails.
Earning an associate degree in cybersecurity typically takes two years of studies and completion of at least 60 credits. Students complete not only courses related to the major but also general education courses like math, English, communication, composition and psychology. Major-related courses might include network security, computer operating systems and maintenance, database fundamentals and networking essentials.
Associates Degrees in Cyber Security
Introductory-level education includes the basics of computer system security, network security protocols, and understanding what cybersecurity specialists do within information technology. These skills can be earned with an associate degree in various disciplines, including information technology itself, information systems, computer science, or directly in cybersecurity.
An associate degree requires just two years of studies, providing enough academics to prepare individuals for certification in network security. Even after obtaining an associate degree, professionals can transition into a Bachelor's degree to gain further opportunity or specialization in a particular aspect of cybersecurity. There are multiple different options for cybersecurity degrees at the Associate level:
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Are There Online Programs for This Degree?
A number of associate degrees in cybersecurity are available online across the United States. This gives students the capability of studying on their own time without on-campus requirements, unless specified. Due to the introductory subjects in cybersecurity, in addition with general education topics explored, there are not many on-campus requirements for those pursuing an associate degree.
Prior to submitting an application to a cybersecurity program, students should review accreditation standards. The best higher education that can be found in this field has been designated as a National Center for Academic Excellence (CAE) by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the National Security Agency (NSA).
What is CAE Designation?
When looking at associate degrees, it is important to see if the college has been recognized as a National Center of Academic Excellence (CAE) by the National Security Agency (NSA) and Department of Homeland Security (DHS). This ensures that the cybersecurity programs offered by these institutions has been reviewed by established organizations. The designation of a CAE in Cyber Defense Education (CDE) can be given to two-year community colleges and four-year colleges that offer undergraduate programs. There is a specific category for CAE-2Y designations, which are reserved for many community colleges and smaller colleges across the country.
Having this designation means the curriculum has gone through a rigorous review process and maintains high standards in information security. This separates the program from other online programs that may have outdated information or does not explore specific topics that are deemed essential from the DHS and NSA. For associate programs, these can be found under the "CAE-2Y" designation with community colleges and smaller institutions.
Associate's degrees in cybersecurity for entry level positions
Overview of Online Programs for Associates Degrees
Over 100 two-year colleges have been recognized as a CAE for cybersecurity higher education. There are some programs that offer flexibility in their studies with part-time enrollment or pursuit of the degree in an online format. This gives students an opportunity to study for cybersecurity while maintaining employment or fulfilling other life obligations without staying at an institution.
While some programs may not be fully available online, there are frequent opportunities to take some courses online. Many general education courses will be available online, which are needed to fulfill certain curriculum criteria. In some cases, courses will have limited meetings on campus with the majority of coursework being completed online.
Students that only have fully remote availability may consider taking certification within cybersecurity to gain the education necessary for a career in this field. Certification will generally require the student to already have the knowledge of basic concepts in computer science and network security. Prospective students should review the prerequisites needed prior to applying to the program.
Technical Requirements for Online Programs
Students should consider what type of technology they have for pursuing an online program. Most colleges will recommend that a modern desktop or laptop computer with a Windows or Mac operating system and high-speed internet access is used. In some cases, mobile devices such as a phone or tablet could be used to access course materials, but may not be compatible with all features in the learning management system.
Required applications will depend on course needs, but nearly all online programs will require a compatible web browser, such as Google Chrome or Mozilla Firefox, to access the learning management platform. Hardware requirements may include a webcam and microphone to satisfy mandatory attendance requirements in a virtual setting. This also allows for an additional way to keep in touch with students and faculty members in addition to live chat and discussion boards.
What Are the Steps to Getting This Degree?
- Credit hours and curriculum: An associate degree typically has 60 credit hours worth of courses in its curriculum. There will be sections of general education and the major or concentration that the student is focusing on. The amount of credits needed for each section will vary by the institution, but general education frequently accounts for a quarter to a half of the curriculum.
- General education topics: General education consists of various liberal arts topics, such as humanities, social sciences, the arts, speech and communication, and composition. College-level mathematics and science courses are common for an associate program to prepare students for advanced programming and cybersecurity topics.
- Cyber security focused: Many programs will require students to pass all computer and cybersecurity-focused courses with a C grade or higher. Overall, a 2.0 cumulative GPA should be maintained in order to graduate from the program. Students that fall under this threshold may enter a warning or probation period where they must improve their grades in order to continue pursuing the degree.
- Different types of associates degrees: There are differences in types of associate degrees to consider, such as an Associate of Science (AS) and Associate of Applied Science (AAS). The AS degrees are geared toward students that are looking at pursuing further education with a Bachelor's degree. An AAS degree is more terminal, preparing students to sit for various vendor certifications and to gain an entry-level position within cybersecurity.
Typical Admission Requirements for Associates Programs
The associates degree offers an entry way into a full undergraduate program, giving students the ability to study at a small university or community college, and then transfer over to a bigger institution. For the most part, the curriculum of an associate degree will offer general education in typical liberal arts courses, such as humanities and the arts, communication and writing, and some science courses.
With coursework featuring general education and foundational topics within cybersecurity, pursuing an associate degree requires a high school diploma or equivalent with a C grade average or higher. If there is any volunteer or professional work that has been completed in relation to computer science or cybersecurity, this should be listed in the application.
Another potential requirement are the ACT or SAT standardized testing scores. These show the level of competence in a variety of topics so students will be prepared for the general education topics, in addition to the discipline they are pursuing. Standardized testing is being phased out at some universities, but it may be beneficial to submit high scores for the admission process.
Students pursuing an associate degree typically will not transfer from one institution to the other as it is only a two-year program. However, for students that need to switch to a different school, there are some limitations to consider. Many institutions will require at least a quarter of the curriculum to be completed through the school itself.
Courses that have been completed must be reviewed by an academic advisor, and they will determine if the course is equivalent to what is offered at the chosen university. If ineligible, these courses may have to be retaken and completed prior to entering any advanced courses that have prerequisites. Should students have completed less than a semester of schooling, high school transcripts are often required for the application process.
Full-Time Versus Part-Time Enrollment for an Associate Degree
Students have the capability of completing an associate degree within a two-year time frame when enrolled full time at an institution. This requires at least four or five semesters, and it can be completed quicker in an accelerated format or taking courses during a summer term. With this flexibility, there is an opportunity to enroll on a part-time basis if it is available at the college.
Individuals that are looking at the associate program to be the only higher education they receive prior to employment, then part-time enrollment is a convenient opportunity. There are many institutions that provide day or night courses, or the capability of completing them entirely online. This allows the student to continue working professionally or tend to other life obligations.
Students can reasonably take two or three courses in each semester for part-time education, and this includes adding a summer semester to the personal schedule. There may also be a capability to load more courses in one semester compared to another as long as prerequisites are met. Since there is less course load during these semesters, the entire associate program will likely take three to four years to complete.
Part-time study in combination with online learning requires plenty of responsibility from the student to complete their education. Many programs will still have deadlines that students have to meet regardless if it is synchronous or asynchronous, or require some form of participation by attending live lectures or participating in class discussions.
For those that are looking at completing a Bachelor’s degree by transitioning into the undergraduate program after gaining the associate degree, a full-time enrollment option is the better choice for students. Pursuing a Bachelor’s degree requires four years of full-time study at a university. In comparison to the associate degree, this completes around half of a Bachelor’s degree curriculum.
Even though it requires more time to view lectures and complete assignments, there are many benefits to full-time study. Students that acquire foundational knowledge of their major or concentration will have that information fresh for when they take more advanced courses instead of multiple semesters down the road. They are also likely eligible for federal student aid, which generally requires full-time enrollment.
When studying online, students have additional benefit of not needing to travel to the campus location or take the time to reach their lectures. Other formats for primarily online learning may require to meet on weekends once or twice per month. This gives students the possibility of taking more courses in a term with little to no travel requirements.
Online Associates Degrees for Cyber Security
Community College of Rhode Island
Students can pursue the Associate in Science in Computer Studies and Information Processing with a concentration in Cybersecurity. This degree is available at all campuses in the community college network at various times of the date, along with online opportunities for additional flexibility. Courses in this program have met the standards set by the NSA and CAE, and the curriculum is officially accredited.
Looking at the overall curriculum, 21 credit hours are needed in general education, and 40 credit hours are dedicated to the Computer Studies major. In all, 61 total credit hours are needed to complete the degree. Examples of courses within the Cyber Security pathway include Introduction to Computer Ethics, Networking Technology, and Network Security Hardware.
The curriculum is divided up into five courses per semester, and the entire program can be completed in two years. An additional credit hour is needed in the Network Security Hardware course in the final semester. All students will need to complete an internship, which is also typically completed in the last semester.
Students will gain the general education required by the college and the foundational concepts of network architecture, computer science, and cybersecurity. These courses will pave the way for students to complete their Bachelor’s degree in a similar discipline. At least a C is needed in all computer-related courses and a 2.0 cumulative GPA or higher is needed to receive the degree.
Forsyth Tech Community College
An associate degree can be earned through the Applied Science in Information Technology discipline, and there is a concentration available in Cyber Security. Students will gain the technical and administrative skills to work in computer software and information systems in an industry of their choosing, such as health care or general business.
What courses you might take
Typical course layout will be throughout five semesters beginning in the fall. There are more general credit hours taken in the first two semesters with the addition of general education. Examples of courses potentially taken in the summer and final two semesters include Technology Crimes and Law, Trends in cyber Crime, and Mathematical Measurement and Literacy.
68 total credit hours are needed to complete the degree and graduate within two years. The curriculum is completed over the course of five semesters with some work during a summer term. Under the emphasis in Cyber Security, there are further courses that focus on network security and criminal behavior that takes place on a company network and the latest innovations in these attacks.
The early portion of the course focuses on the foundation of computers, networks, and cybersecurity, with courses such as Data Recovery Techniques, Network Vulnerabilities, and Ethics and High Technology. It is important for students to explore where potential attacks could occur on a network and how to protect and reload information into the system when needed.
For the second half of the program, there are advanced topics in vulnerability, specific criminal activity, and remaining general and concentration electives that need to be complete. General education requirements, like college-level writing and mathematics, can be completed in the summer term.
What do classes look like within this program?
Courses are available during the day, in the evening, or conveniently online. Forsyth Tech will recognize high school diplomas from regionally accredited schools, private institutions, and home-based education that has been registered with the state. Students will need to reapply for their program if they have not taken any courses within a year of being approved or last taking courses.
Pueblo Community College
The Associate of Applied Science in Cyber Security is available in Colorado through the Pueblo Community College. Courses are available in the daytime or evening hours at the main Pueblo campus, and at the Fremont and Southwest campus locations. The college provides enrollment on a part-time or full-time basis, and there are certifications available for an alternative program option.
After completing the Cyber Security program, graduates will have comprehensive understanding of operating systems, computer hardware, and different networks and servers they will work on at their organization. There is also an ability to prepare for vendor certifications through CompTIA, such as A+, Network+, and Security+. These verify the individual’s competence level in configuration and troubleshooting on these platforms.
60 total credit hours are needed to complete the degree, which takes approximately five semesters, and all courses are available online or through Cisco WebEx video conferencing. These are taken in the fall and spring semesters, with the first year having more credit hours with foundational computer topics and general education courses. These include English Composition, Intro to Programming, and Technical Mathematics.
All courses must be completed with a C grade or higher in the program. There is flexibility to complete courses in a summer term if necessary by completing a form demonstrating intent to pursue summer courses by the end of the spring semester. In addition, any scholarships that could be applied to tuition must also be completed by this time for the following academic year.
Separate smaller certifications are also available, with specific topics in Forensic Computing, Information Assurance, and Security. For example, the Security mini certification requires 15 credit hours that include foundational topics in security, firewalls, and understanding internet protocols. This can prepare individuals for the CompTIA Security+ certification exam.
Dakota State University
The Beacom College of Computer and Cyber Sciences offers an online Associate of Science in Network and Security Administration. The program curriculum consists with fundamental theories and concepts in computer science, communication, and networking. Students can complete the associate program and later enroll into the Bachelor’s degree of a similar discipline to get a full four-year undergraduate degree.
Three different categories of courses that make up the 60 total credit hours include university-wide general education, core curriculum, and elective options. Over half of the credit hours are geared toward the main content (32 credit hours), general education requires 24 credit hours, and the remaining four credit hours are used for the elective opportunities.
Core courses are fairly straightforward with multiple levels of general computer science and networking topics, and introductory topics in cyber operations and information security management. This education will prepare eventual graduates to take positions as systems administrators, penetration testers, and data communications analysts.
In addition to the NSA and CAE designations, DSU is recognized as a National Cryptologic School that prepares students for a career in cryptography with the NSA. Students will have the resources available to sharpen their skills in security testing and other hands-on experiences should they choose to enroll on campus or visit and utilize the resources when they are an online student.
Florida State College at Jacksonville
An Associate in Science in IT Security is an accelerated program offered by FSC that can be completed online within 20 months. 60 total credit hours are needed, which is divided up into 15 credit hours of general education courses and 45 credit hours directed to the discipline at hand. The curriculum includes an internship requirement
General education will be earned in the categories of mathematics, humanities, communication, and social and behavioral sciences. Here is a listing of courses that students can take in the core curriculum, which require passing all courses with at least a C grade or higher.
- Hardware or Software Configuration
- Operating Systems Foundations
- Routing and Switching Fundamentals (Cisco-related)
- Data Forensics and Advanced Data Forensics
- Techniques of Computer Hacking and Incident Handling
In order to get into the program, applicants must have a high school diploma and send in any college transcripts if necessary. At least a quarter of the credit hours must be earned through the university to qualify for graduation. Those administered that already hold vendor certification through Cisco, CompTIA, or Microsoft, may receive some credit and test out of the related courses.
Ivy Tech Community College has an Online Associate of Applied Science in Cyber Security
Based in Indianapolis in Indiana, Ivy Tech offers an online Associate of Applied Science in Cyber Security and Information Assurance. The goals for this program are to prepare students for situations that require neutralizing attacks on security networks and having the skills to work on a variety of organizational infrastructure. This program looks to fill the growing need for cybersecurity professionals.
What do classes look like within this program?
Students will gain the skillset recommended by the DHS and NSA as the program has been accredited. This associate program will provide the needed education for expertise in a particular specialization. They can also pursue a four-year undergraduate program, such as a Bachelor’s degree, in a related discipline, including computer science or engineering.
60 total credit hours are needed for the online program and the version offered on campus in Indianapolis. 16 credit hours are required for general education, 39 credit hours toward the specific discipline, and the remainder are for elective opportunities. There is a unique option to pursue free introductory courses, the Introduction to Cyber Security and Security Essentials, before committing to the full program.
Graduates have gone on to hold positions as a security auditor and digital forensics analyst after completing the associate program. Some students may be eligible for a free certification if they are connected with the Next Level Jobs program in Indiana.
University of Maine-Fort Kent
Students can pursue the Associate of Science in Information Security at the Fort Kent campus in Maine or conveniently online. This program focuses on both theory and application of security practices in an information technology environment. Graduates will have a strong understanding of information security that can prepare them in a variety of industries, or further studies in a full undergraduate program.
60 total credit hours are needed, with roughly half of the degree dedicated to general education courses that meet university requirements and the other half focusing on information security and computer science. Specific courses that students can take in the program include various introduction topics, Operating Systems Security, Computer Forensics and Investigations, and Cryptography.
This curriculum will take approximately two years if studying on full-time enrollment. During the first year of the program, students will complete many of their general education courses and introductory topics in computer science and networking. The rest of the program will focus on more advanced topics in security and electives that fulfill the rest of the curriculum requirements.
For admission into the program, prospective students should send official high school transcripts or verification of a completed GED. Any college transcripts can also be submitted if the student has taken some coursework at this level, and candidates transferring must submit high school transcripts if less than 60 credit hours of college work has been completed. There should also be a letter of recommendation from a school counselor or teacher.
Central Texas College
Under the subjects of business and business technology, students can pursue an Associate of Applied Science in Cyberdefense with a concentration in Information Assurance. This program can be completed at the Central Campus in Killeen, Texas, during the day or more convenient hours of evening and weekends for working daytime professionals. There is also a program format that is available completely online.
The college provides plenty of flexibility for students in order to get their coursework completed. In addition to offering these various formats, students can alternate between them during their studies. For example, they can take some courses during the day, over the weekend, or completely online if desired and the specific course they are taking is available.
Students will typically complete the program over a span of two years with full-time enrollment, but this can be extended for those considering part-time studying. A total of 60 credit hours are needed to fulfill degree requirements, which equates to roughly four or five courses in each semester.
Examples of courses that students may take in the program include Linux Installation and Configuration, Firewalls and Network Security, and Network Defense and Countermeasures. The program culminates with students taking a capstone project in security assessment and auditing or an internship session. Students can also prepare for the CyberOps Associate certification exam through Cisco by taking this program.
On-Campus Associates Degrees for Cyber Security
Pennsylvania Highlands Community College
An Associate of Applied Science in Information Technology has various concentrations to choose from, including Cyber Security. This program prepares individuals to perform network administration tasks and penetration testing to ensure that the network can handle potential attacks and unauthorized access attempts. Various certifications through CompTIA, Microsoft, and the EC-Council Certified Ethical Hacker is available.
In addition to gaining the technical skills needed for a career in cybersecurity, students will also explore the ethical and legal aspects that must be followed. It is also important for professionals to have strong communication skills in order to report any problems found in network security accurately and recommended potential upgrades.
22 to 23 credit hours are needed to fulfill general education requirements, while the remaining 41 credit hours are part of the core component of the discipline. For general education, students will take courses such as public speaking and English composition, with electives in a science and social science course. Examples of core courses include Visual Basic Programming, Linux Operating System, and Windows Server Management.
Students can complete the IT program with Cyber Security focus at the Blair and Richland campus locations. This program has been accredited as a CAE in Cyber Defense for two-year colleges. Graduates have gone on to become professionals as a network security specialist, penetration tester, and cybersecurity analyst.
Great Falls College – Montana State University
Students can pursue the Associate of Applied Science in Cybersecurity, which requires 64 total credit hours to complete over a span of two years. Graduates will gain the ability to lead a team within the information technology sector and be able to identify and eliminate unauthorized access to an organization’s network and infrastructure.
All courses must be completed with a C- grade or higher in order to graduate from the program. Throughout the first year, students will be completing general education and introductory coursework in computer science and both the operating systems and hardware they will use. The second year focuses on security concepts, such as enterprise security and digital forensics, along with ethics and social responsibility.
In addition, students will have preparation in receiving the professional certification for CompTIA A+. The program culminates with a capstone project where students will apply what they have learned throughout their studies into projects that deal with troubleshooting and how to present their findings to other members of the organization.
The program utilizes the Desire2Learn learning management system to organize class lectures and materials for students. For a flawless online experience, users will need to have a recent Windows or Mac operating system, the Google Chrome or Mozilla Firefox web browser, and high-speed internet access. Access with mobile devices may work for certain features, but not all materials will be available in this format.
Typical Coursework for an Associates Degree
College Writing and Technical Writing
These courses set up the foundation for being able to identify and comprehend technical writing when researching information systems and cybersecurity. Skills include how to create a variety of documents, such as filling in reports or creating a research paper that details recommendations or identifies potential vulnerabilities within the systems or networks that are being used by the organization.
A common general education course that students take to fulfill mathematics requirements is college-level algebra. Topics may include linear and quadratic equations, polynomial and rational functions, and more along this type of mathematical studies. Students may take an equivalent course during their high-school studies and could pass out of the course, but they will likely have to replace it with another general education course.
Social and Behavioral Sciences
Colleges will have a number of options to satisfy requirements for social and behavioral sciences in the general education curriculum. Economies, political science, sociology, psychology, and anthropology are examples of core subjects that fall into this category. For example, studying microeconomics and macroeconomics, or exploring children development through the lens of mental health, are popular topics in social and behavioral sciences.
Introduction to Cyber Security
Along with general education courses, programs will also include foundational topics in computer science, information technology, and/or cybersecurity. Specific to cybersecurity, this will give an overview on what this particular discipline covers, such as forensics activity, penetration testing, what vulnerabilities can exist within a company network, and the evolution of this subject over time.
Abilities gained in these courses include how to implement and administer an operating system within a network, completing tasks such as troubleshooting any connecting problems, creating and managing an account for employees, and fully understanding security tools. Courses will often consist of Linux and Windows-based operating systems, but availability will vary based on the program selected.
One of the foundational courses within cybersecurity, which explores all the security tools used in securing networks and servers within an organization. Students can explore theory and evolution within this topic, including what has evolved and ongoing development of threats in the world. Specific tools explored may consist of firewalls, cryptography, and intrusion detection.
Another security-focused topic that is popular within information technology are the applications that are given access to the network and server. This includes what security measures can be added to eliminate program access that may have been manipulated or holds vulnerabilities that can threaten private information. In these courses, further study can include similar concepts for mobile devices and other hardware accessing the network.
Examining digital storage in computers and other devices is one of the concepts of forensic science. This process is part of identifying criminal activity by being able to recover evidence that may have been deleted or damaged in a digital setting. Results are then converted into a shareable and presentable format, and can be used within a court of law to convict those committing the crimes.
Ethics and Legal Issues
An important aspect of cybersecurity are the legal and ethical aspects of handling sensitive information. Organizations must follow rules and regulations themselves when storing and transferring this type of data within a network. This is valuable in many different industries, especially within health care and managing electronic medical records.
Many associate degrees will have preparation for vendor certifications with a number of companies that will prepare them for different situations at an organization they work at. After completing a course that specializes in a certification, students should be able to take an examination to receive that certification. Common vendor certifications through CompTIA include the core subjects with A+, Security+, and Network+.
Tuition Costs for an Associates Degree in Cyber Security
An associate degree for information technology and cybersecurity requires two years of education for a full-time student. This is typically spread out in 60 credit hours, which varies depending on the program selected. Prospective students can select an associate program at a community college or smaller university, which is significantly cheaper than pursuing a Bachelor’s degree at a bigger institution directly.
Estimated tuition costs for an associate degree will often be found in the range between $5,000 to $30,000 for the entire program. There are likely additional student fees, such as a technology fee requirement for online students and resource fees for those studying on campus. Additional costs for room and board, or commute, may also be needed for students that are studying on campus or in a hybrid format.
Ways to Save on Higher Education
Courses are often billed per tuition hour. For example, for an institution that offers $350 per credit hour, full tuition for a 60 credit hour program will be $21,000 before additional fees. This also offers the ability for students to lower their tuition expenses if they are transferring any college-level credit into the program. In addition, lower costs are offered when a student stays within the state they reside in as out-of-state tuition can double or triple the tuition costs.
Since an associate degree is cheaper to complete overall when compared to a Bachelor’s degree, students may have the option to pay for their studies when pursuing them. Completing the courses on a part-time basis will lower overall tuition costs in each term, but could increase the overall costs with additional fees given out annually. Individuals could opt for student loans if they are studying on a full-time basis.
Completing an associate degree can lower the overall cost for a full, four-year undergraduate program. Students can get some general education and foundational topics in cybersecurity and information technology from their associate degree, which would be equivalent to one-half of a Bachelor’s degree. Costs for an associate degree at a community college is significantly cheaper than taking a full program at a larger university.
Scholarship Options for an Associates Degree
While limited, it is possible to apply and receive scholarships for an associate program in computer science, cybersecurity, and related technical disciplines. These often provide a discount in tuition rates at the community college or university that a student decides to study at. Scholarships may be offered through the school or an association that focuses on increasing cybersecurity education.
Scholarships can help lower tuition cost to the point where additional financial aid may not be necessary, or can pay for the full tuition altogether. These are often aimed at students that show great potential in the cybersecurity field, but may not have the funding to pursue higher education. A way to boost women and minority representation within the information technology sector is offering scholarships specifically for them.
In order to qualify for a scholarship, students should submit an application showing high academic merit, the need for financial assistance, or other requirements that the opportunity recognizes. An essay that details why the student is pursuing cybersecurity, or showcases what accomplishments they already have in the field, is a common requirement for the scholarship award.
Examples of Cyber Security Scholarships
The Armed Forces Communications and Electronics Association (AFCEA) War Veterans Scholarship is open to undergraduate students taking an associate or Bachelor’s degree. Full-time or part-time enrollment is needed in at an accredited institution with a cumulative 3.0 GPA or higher. Eligible students include those on active duty or veterans that have been honorably discharged.
Submission items for the War Veterans Scholarship includes submitting official transcripts that show current completion and enrollment into an undergraduate program, at least two letters of recommendation from professors, supervisors, employers, or commanding officers, and verification of serving in a branch of military.
CyberVirginia offers a $20,000 public service scholarship for residents that live in the state of Virginia. In order to receive this award, a student must be committed to working at a government agency or a public institution for the amount of years that they have received the scholarship. There is a limit of receiving the award for up to two years, including the full length of an associate degree.
What Can You Do With an Associates Degree in Cyber Security?
An associate degree in cybersecurity and information assurance opens up the door for individuals looking for entry-level opportunities in computer and network security. This type of education does not prepare students for advanced or comprehensive positions within information technology, such as developing the architecture for an information system. However, assistant or associate positions in computer science are more attainable with foundational education.
Many associate degrees provide enough education to prepare students for certification with a specific vendor or association dedicated to improving cybersecurity. In some cases, these programs provide a voucher to sit and take the exam, which is already paid for through student tuition. Students should review an associate degree’s capability to gain these credentials and the criteria that needs to be met.
The CompTIA Security+ is a popular example of this type of certification, preparing individuals to become security consultants or junior-level IT auditors. The EC-Council offers the Certified Ethical Hacker designation, which gives professionals the capability to understand vulnerability issues in security solutions and can remain steps ahead of attempted attacks on information systems.
At the vendor level, Cisco has a number of certifications available, including the Cisco Certified CyberOps Associate. This replaces the previous CCNA Cyber Ops option. Students completing this certification can showcase their competency in using security systems with Cisco products.
An education provided in an associate degree can replace the guided training modules that are given by the associations to help individuals prepare for the exam. However, those that have not received their associate degree recently may consider taking the training sessions to have a refresher on foundational cybersecurity topics and be informed on new innovations in the field.
Additional Education with Associate Degree
Students looking for a larger-scale cybersecurity opportunity in the future can use an associate degree to transfer into a full undergraduate program, such as a Bachelor’s degree. An associate degree typically has early general education and foundational content in cybersecurity that matches with half of a Bachelor’s degree in a similar discipline.
Already holding an associate degree can lead to a graduate program in some circumstances. Combining the completion of an associate degree with multiple years of work experience in the information technology sector may be enough to enter some Master’s degrees in the cybersecurity and information assurance disciplines. These topics can also be explored as concentrations in a different discipline, such as business administration or health informatics.
Cyber security specialists, also known as information security specialists, are professionals that focus on protecting the operations and data itself within the information technology sector of an organization. This is one of the more common jobs to obtain with an associate degree, especially when looking to gain certification with a certain vendor, or association such as the CompTIA Network+ or Security+ designation.
Duties will range widely depending on the size of organization and type of security that is being implemented. Ultimately, the main tasks will be to identify potential vulnerabilities within an information system and ensuring that no unauthorized access has been able to enter into the network. This also requires implementing new solutions to keep security up to date and helping other employees adapt to new hardware and software features.
According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, information security analysts make a mean annual wage of $102,4270 when estimating salaries across the country. Professionals with an associate degree will likely not be making these figures at an entry-level specialist opportunity. They usually find their salary in the bottom 10 to 25 percentile of these estimates, which ranges from $56,750 to $73,890 annually.
Web development is another position that only requires entry-level education within an associate degree. These professionals build websites on the internet and applications that can interact with an organization’s network and cloud-based solutions. Security is imperative for individuals to be protected when browsing the internet and entering sensitive information to purchase and use goods and services.
Specific to cybersecurity, web developers will generally be within the backend of the process to ensure the structure of the website is secure. Having strong protection within the framework avoids attackers from gaining access to the website database and stealing or leaking any private information. They work with other aspects of web development to verify that access to the website and its servers are stable while being protected.
When looking at computer system design within web development, the average salary for these positions sit at approximately $72,050 annually according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics. Job outlook is also fairly positive, raising eight percent between the years of 2019-29, which is twice as much as total job occupations combined.
The largest amount of positions available in web development and digital interface design as designated by BLS is in the state of California with over 20,900 employed. The highest concentration of positions can be seen in states such as Colorado, New York, Virginia, and Washington. The state of Washington has the highest concentration overall, along with top salary estimates at $134,310 annually.