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Earn Your Cyber Security Degree Online: Explore Top CAE-Accredited Programs

The quality of your cyber security degree depends on the right accreditation. Keep reading to learn about CAE accreditation and the top programs that have earned it.

Author: James Mielke
Editor: STEPS Staff
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A person's hands typing on a laptop with digital graphics of cybersecurity and data protection icons floating above, symbolizing online security measures.

If you’re relatively tech-savvy and are curious about a growing and vital career field, cyber security might be a solid fit for you. In addition to offering higher-than-average wages, Bureau of Labor Statistics data projects that jobs for information security analysts will grow by as much as 32% over the next decade. An accredited online cyber security degree can be your ticket into this booming field.

If cyber security catches your attention, the next logical question is this: How do you choose the right cyber security program? Thankfully, the answer is simple. Accreditation from the National Centers of Academic Excellence in Cybersecurity (CAE) sets the standard for a quality cyber security program. In a CAE-accredited program you’ll receive a cutting-edge education from expert instructors. Additionally, graduating from an accredited program shows future employers that you have the skills necessary to transition into professional roles.

Throughout this page, we highlight five schools with CAE-accredited programs. We also dive into the ins and outs of CAE accreditation and why it matters. Finally, we answer some common questions our readers have about accredited cyber security degrees. Keep reading to learn more about cyber security programs and what they can do for you.

Top CAE-Accredited Online Cyber Security Degree Programs

The best accredited cyber security degree programs offer outstanding instruction and experienced faculty, laying the foundation for a lifelong professional network. In the following section, we highlight five schools that are home to various online and campus-based cyber security programs. Keep reading to see what top schools offer and how they can help you jumpstart your cyber security career.

Auburn University

Logo of auburn university featuring the initials "au" in orange with a blue outline, accompanied by the full name "auburn university" in blue above and orange below.

Established in 1856, Auburn University is an Alabama-based public research institution. Among the university’s long list of standout academic schools is the McCrary Institute for Cyber and Critical Infrastructure Security. This interdisciplinary institute boasts faculty from various fields, combining their expertise in both STEM research and policy to address cyber security challenges.

As part of Auburn’s mission to provide standout cyber security education, the school offers an online master’s in cyber security engineering. Throughout this 33-credit graduate program, students complete core classes such as secure cloud computing, digital forensics, software reverse engineering, and advanced computer and network security. The school also offers undergraduate and graduate-level online certificates in cyber security.

Prospective cyber security grad students considering this accredited online cyber security degree must hold a bachelor’s in a field such as computer science or software engineering. Students graduating from this standout cyber security program earn the National Centers of Academic Excellence in Cybersecurity-Cyber Defense designation.

Dakota State University

The logo of dakota state university, featuring a stylized blue and turquoise shield with the letters 'dsu' and the words 'dakota state university' in white.

Based in Madison, South Dakota, Dakota State University dates back to 1881 and is a public institution that serves over 3,000 students. Dakota State’s Beacom College of Computer & Cyber Sciences is home to various undergraduate- and graduate-level cyber security programs that boast CAE designations for cyber security and research.

In addition to campus-based programs, Dakota State offers 100% online cyber security graduate programs and certificates. Dakota State’s online master’s in cyber defense comprises 30 credits, and students tackle core classes such as digital forensics, cryptography, malware analysis, and wireless security. Master’s students must pass a comprehensive exam during their final semester.

Alongside more traditional degree options, Dakota State offers online graduate certificates in areas such as banking security, cyber security, data privacy, and ethical hacking. Prospective students must hold a bachelor’s degree in a field such as computer science, computer engineering, or software engineering. Applicants must have a minimum 3.0 undergraduate GPA and submit GRE scores for admission.

George Mason University

Logo of george mason university featuring stylized green text “george mason university” with a golden feather-like design to the right.

Established in 1949 in the Virginia suburbs of Washington, DC, George Mason University is a public research institution that serves nearly 40,000 students. George Mason’s cyber security programming includes degrees for both undergraduate and graduate students, including a 100% online bachelor’s in applied science with a cyber security concentration.

Throughout this 120-credit online program, cyber security students tackle a blend of general education classes and classes focused on their major. Cyber security concentration classes include topics such as IT architecture fundamentals, information security principles, IT in the global economy, and security accreditation of information systems. Before graduation, online learners complete an applied sciences capstone course.

As online students work through this program, they can expect most courses to be delivered asynchronously. Successful applicants typically hold an associate degree in cyber security or information systems technology from a Virginia community college. Students considering this accredited cyber security degree can apply online and must include transcripts from all post-secondary institutions previously attended.

Mississippi State University

Based in Starkville and established in 1878, Mississippi State University is a public research institution that’s home to over 22,000 students. While Mississippi State has roots as an agricultural and mechanical (A&M) institution, the school also offers undergraduate and graduate cyber security programs, including a 100% online master’s in cyber security and operations.

Throughout this 31-credit online master’s program, students choose between a thesis and nonthesis pathway. Online learners complete a mix of electives and core classes, including cryptography, secure software engineering, network security, and advanced cyber operations. Students choosing the nonthesis track complete a directed project and comprehensive exam before graduation.

Prospective students must have a strong background in computer science and the skills to analyze and develop software. While this accredited cyber security degree doesn’t require GRE scores as part of the application, students must demonstrate strong computer and mathematical fluency through their undergraduate coursework.

Texas A&M University

Based in College Station, Texas A&M University is the flagship institution of the Texas A&M system. The school’s more than 72,000 students have access to a diverse catalog of degree options, including an engineering master’s specializing in cyber security. Additionally, Texas A&M’s Cybersecurity Center offers graduate certificates and standalone online courses in various CompTIA cyber security specialization areas.

Throughout the school’s 30-credit engineering master’s, students complete core classes such as foundations of cyber security engineering, software security, hardware security, cyber security law, and computer networks and security. In addition to core classes and electives, students have the option to complete a professional internship to gain vital hands-on learning experience.

Prospective students should hold a bachelor’s degree in an engineering discipline with a minimum 3.0 GPA. Alongside an online application, students must include a personal statement, three letters of recommendation, transcripts, and a resume. GRE scores aren’t required for admission into this accredited cyber security degree program.

NCAE Cyber Security Program Designations Explained

The National Centers of Academic Excellence in Cybersecurity is overseen by the National Security Agency’s cryptologic school and creates the accreditation guidelines for cyber security programs. Whether at a community college or in a graduate-level program, CAE accreditation not only lays the foundation for cyber security curricula, but it also develops professional competencies and trains the next generation of cyber security leaders.

In the following section, we dive into the various types of CAE accreditation, what they are, and what students can expect. From cyber defense to research-centric programs, these accreditations guarantee the tools you need to jumpstart or enhance your cyber security career. Keep reading to learn more about these important programs.

CAE-CD

These CAE-accredited programs focus on cyber defense, which involves protecting systems against risks and threats. Throughout these programs, students tackle vital topics such as risk management and network security best practices. CAE-accredited programs at undergraduate and graduate levels prepare students for a long list of growing careers in the public and private sectors.

CAE-R

The CAE-R designation refers to accredited programs that support and expand cyber security research. Research topics vary by program, but it’s common for students to dig into vital areas such as cryptography, artificial intelligence, and malware. Most common for PhD programs, CAE-R programs promote research into cutting-edge tech that can address the newest threats in an expanding digital world.

CAE-CO

CAE-CO programs focus on cyber operations, offering an interdisciplinary pathway for students to hone the skills they need to become competent cyber security professionals. Throughout their cyber operations program, students encounter disciplines such as computer science, computer engineering, and electrical engineering. Students also become familiar with non-STEM topics including law, policy, and business. This CAE-accredited option aims to facilitate a well-rounded education that allows graduates to thrive in the cyber security landscape.

CAE-2Y

The CAE-2Y designation refers to two-year programs in which students develop foundational cyber security skills, often at affordable public community colleges. Students typically encounter cyber security topics that include network security principles and computer systems forensics. In addition to preparing graduates for entry-level cyber security roles, students can seamlessly transfer to four-year institutions to complete their bachelor’s degrees.

Why Does Accreditation Matter for Your Cyber Security Degree?

Because CAE accreditation is the industry standard, you’ll definitely want to prioritize accredited cyber security degree programs when searching for the right option. Accreditation impacts everything from faculty quality to financial aid eligibility, plus it makes you a more marketable candidate on the job hunt. Read on as we discuss why a program’s accreditation is so vital.

Alignment with Industry Standards

One of the most practical and essential elements of a CAE-accredited cyber security program is that it aligns with industry standards. As a result, graduates have the knowledge and skills necessary to thrive in professional settings. Industry standards not only influence what you learn in the classroom but can also help facilitate professional development and experiential learning opportunities through internships.

Eligibility for Financial Aid

Your accredited cyber security degree inevitably requires a significant investment of both time and money. Thankfully, accredited programs regularly offer numerous financial aid opportunities. Scholarships, grants, loans, and work-study programs help cut costs and make your college experience more affordable. Robust financial aid options also expand access to higher education, ensuring a diverse student population.

Employment Opportunities

Graduating from a CAE-accredited program is a solid way to enhance your career options. These standout programs not only reveal to prospective employers that you’ve completed the program, but also that they can feel confident in your abilities. Accredited cyber security degree programs boast curricula aligning with industry standards and best practices, providing graduates with the tools and competencies necessary to thrive in cyber security roles.

Faculty Quality

The best accredited online cyber security degree programs boast rosters of experienced instructors who are leaders and experts in various cyber security disciplines. What results is an environment in which students learn straight from the source. A high-quality team of cyber security faculty can also help direct students toward appropriate specialization areas and even internship and employment opportunities.

Global Recognition

Cyber security often exists outside the formal boundaries separating countries. As a result, cyber security is a global endeavor and involves navigating the risks and relationships between countries. CAE accreditation prepares students to tackle cyber security issues on a worldwide scale and take on job opportunities around the globe.

Answering FAQs About Accredited Online Cyber Security Programs

If you’re considering an accredited online cyber security degree, most likely you have a few questions. From career choices and online options to networking and financial aid, in the following section we answer some of our readers’ most pressing questions about cyber security programs.

What career opportunities can I pursue with a degree from a CAE-accredited program?

Career options for cyber security graduates vary based on the program, specialization, and degree level. Still, common careers for cyber security graduates include roles from network security to digital forensics. And while graduates from a CAE-accredited program often secure roles in the public sector, it’s just as common for them to work in the private sector.

Is financial aid available for CAE-accredited online cyber security programs?

Like other accredited programs, students enrolling in a CAE-accredited program have access to a long list of financial aid opportunities that can help fund their education. In addition to federal loans, grants, and work-study programs, students in accredited cyber security degree programs can also apply for public and private scholarships.

Can I pursue a CAE-accredited online cyber security program while working full-time?

Many of the best CAE-accredited online cyber security degrees are designed to accommodate the needs of the working student. Asynchronous online options offer a flexible format, allowing students to complete coursework independently and at their own pace. As a result, flexible online options allow students the chance to find a balance between personal, professional, and academic obligations.

Do CAE-accredited programs provide support for industry certifications?

Yes, many standout CAE-accredited cyber security degree programs allow students to secure industry-specific certifications. Common certifications include CompTIA Security+, Certified Information Systems Security Professional, Certified Ethical Hacker, and more. Obtaining industry certifications helps students hone new competencies and enhances their job options and earning potential.

Do CAE-accredited programs offer online networking opportunities with industry professionals?

The best CAE-accredited online cyber security degrees not only allow students to develop essential skills but also offer networking and career opportunities as students approach graduation. It’s common for programs to hold virtual events with industry leaders and various workshops that offer career insights and networking opportunities. Standout online programs also provide career counseling and professional development tools.