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A degree in information security and assurance can open the door to many possible careers. Almost every company and organization depends on computer systems to connect to other entities, store sensitive information, and manage proprietary data. Organizations are legally required and practically compelled to take every necessary step to protect this communication, information, and data. This is why information security and assurance jobs are in high demand. If you want to work in computer technology, help safeguard sensitive data, and command a strong salary, an information security and assurance degree might be the path for you.

A degree in information security and assurance teaches you to develop, implement, and operate computer systems that protect an organization’s operation, information, and communication. The fields of information security and information assurance are distinct. Information assurance specialists manage information transmission, processing, and storage. Both degrees familiarize you with information technology concepts, the primary ethical and legal concerns of the field, and management best practices.

As computer technology advances, and the risks associated with this technology grow, jobs in information security and assurance will continue to be in high demand. Companies in both the public and private sectors require information security analysts and assurance specialists to design, manage, and operate their data systems. A degree in information security could put you on the path to many exciting job prospects. If you enjoy looking for clues and solving puzzles, you might want to be a computer forensics investigator who mines the web for digital clues and preserves evidence that can be used in a court of law. Or you could become an ethical hacker who uses their skills to break into their client’s systems in order to expose vulnerabilities. If you have strong analytical and logistical skills, you might be suited as an information technology analyst or risk assessment specialist who investigates a company’s operation, identifies potential problems, and devises solutions. Whatever job you want to pursue, a degree in information security and assurance can help you get started.

The “What Can You Do With This Degree?” Series

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What Kind of Accreditation Should My Degree Program Have?

Accreditation is the process by which colleges and universities are evaluated and validated . Colleges and universities that have earned accreditation have met the standards set by accrediting organizations. These organizations are comprised of faculty from various accredited colleges and universities. Legitimate regional and national accrediting organizations are recognized by the U.S. Department of Education (ED). Typically, the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA) recognizes the same institutions, although CHEA recognition isn’t mandatory. A college or university must be accredited by a Department of Education-recognized accreditor in order for its students to receive federal financial aid.

For a detailed look at the differences between regional and national accreditation, check out What Do I Need to Know About College Accreditation?

What is Regional Accreditation?
Regional accreditation is the signifier of quality education; this includes the currency of curriculum, credentials of educators, and credibility of degrees. Regional accrediting agencies only accredit institutions in their geographical area.
The Six Regional Accrediting Agencies

To find out if a college or university on your list is regionally accredited, check the Department of Education’s Database of Postsecondary Institutions and Programs.

What Is National Accreditation?
National accreditation is often perceived as a less rigorous standard than regional accreditation and is governed by educational accreditors agencies that are not restricted by region or geography. This means that one such agency can provide accreditation to any college or university in the U.S. that meets its criteria. National accreditation is commonplace among trade schools, religious schools, and for–profit colleges.
Most regionally–accredited colleges do not accept or recognize credits or degrees earned from colleges that lack regional accreditation. However, national accreditation may be a useful indicator of quality for students pursuing vocational training, competency-based education, or other education models that operate under a for-profit model.

To learn more about National Accreditation, check out Understanding National Accreditation.

For help safely navigating the For–Profit Sector, check out our Guide to For–Profit Colleges: What You Need to Know.

What is Programmatic Accreditation?
Programmatic accreditation certifies that an institution’s program, department, or college has met the standards of the programmatic accrediting agency. While programmatic accreditation agencies often have national jurisdiction, programmatic accreditation is not institutional national accreditation. In fact, programmatic accreditation often coexists with regional accreditation. In some disciplines, a degree with programmatic accreditation may even be required to earn a license or enter professional practice.
When it comes to information security and assurance degrees, the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology (ABET) provides the most pertinent programmatic accreditation. ABET accreditation denotes that relevant degree programs are meeting certain standards of quality and credibility in the field of information security. If your program does not have this accreditation, it may be harder to transfer schools or find a job in your field. Be sure your school’s information security and assurance program is ABET–accredited before you enroll. To find out if your preferred school is accredited by ABET, check out their list of ABET–accredited programs.

The easiest way to determine accreditation status is to contact your school of choice, or visit the website for any of the above accreditation agencies. Each provides a searchable database of accredited institutions and degree programs. You can also look at the Department of Education’s database of all recognized accreditors within its purview.

Or, to learn a little more about navigating the tricky accreditation landscape, check out Accreditation of Colleges and Universities: Who’s Accrediting the Accreditors?

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What Kinds of Information Security and Assurance Degrees Are There?

Associate Degree in Information Security and Assurance

An associate degree in information security and assurance is a 60 credit program that usually takes about two years to complete. You’ll receive a grounding in computer forensics, networking, and data security. This degree also tends to be interdisciplinary. In addition to basic liberal arts courses such as English, mathematics, and science, you will also likely take some introductory classes in computer engineering, computer science, and management. Most information security jobs require at least a bachelor’s degree. However, an associate degree could allow you to work in some entry–level positions as a computer support specialist. An associate information security degree can also be a good way to jump–start your bachelor’s degree. Just make sure that your school is accredited and that your credits will transfer to your four–year program.

What Information Security Courses Will You Take in Associate Program?

  • Computer Forensics
  • Data Security Awareness
  • Ethics of Hacking
  • Information Security
  • Networking
  • Operating Systems

Bachelor of Information Security and Assurance

A bachelor of information security and assurance degree requires 120 credits and traditionally takes a minimum of four years to complete, although some schools may offer accelerated programs that only take two years. With a bachelor’s of information security degree program, you will deepen your knowledge of computer systems and how to transmit, process, and store virtual information safely. Bachelor of information security programs usually cover subjects such as data protection, software security, hacking, e–commerce, and telecommunication systems. You may also be required to complete an internship or capstone project. With a bachelor’s degree in information security, you’ll be qualified to work as a computer forensics investigator, ethical hacker, information security engineer, or network administrator. If you decide to obtain a master’s in information security, you will need to complete your bachelor’s degree first.

What Information Security Courses Will You Take in Bachelor’s Program?

  • Computer Compliance, Regulations, and Investigations
  • Cryptography and Access Control
  • Ethical Issues in the Workplace
  • Information Security and Risk Management
  • Introduction to Computer Science
  • Telecommunications and Network Security

Master’s in Information Security

A master’s in information security and assurance degree generally takes about two years to complete. Your master’s in information security program will cover advanced courses in network security and information assurance principles. You’ll also choose a specialization in an area such as cybersecurity or telecommunications. Most graduate information security degree programs require around thirty hours of advanced coursework, and some programs also end in a capstone project. With a master’s in information security, you will be able to work as a chief information assurance officer, an information assurance analyst, an IT security manager, or a security liaison, among many other possibilities.

What Information Security Courses Will You Take in Master’s Program?

  • Computer Systems Security Foundations
  • Internet Security Architectures
  • Network Security
  • Security Management
  • Software Information Assurance
  • System Security Certification and Accreditation

To get started, check out these online program rankings:

Doctorate in Information Security

A doctorate in information security and assurance is a terminal degree. Typically, this information security degree will require approximately 90 hours of coursework, individual research, and a dissertation. In some programs, you may also build a portfolio or pass a comprehensive exam. All programs will further your knowledge of information security and assurance issues such as computer programming fieldwork, data analytics, and research methods. The Ph.D. in information security and assurance also tends to focus on applied research that can be used on real–world problems. You can use this training to become a chief information officer, a computer network architect, or a network and computer systems administrator.

What Information Security Courses Will You Take in Doctoral Program?

  • Cryptography
  • Enterprise Security Architecture
  • Governance, Quality, Compliance, and Ethics
  • Information Assurance
  • Information Retrieval
  • Security Management
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What Kind of Licensing or Certification Do You Need?

As you apply for a job in information security and assurance, your certifications could play an important role in demonstrating your qualifications. Your certification(s) will depend on your area of concentration and the type of job you are seeking. Below are some noteworthy options:

The Certified Ethical Hacker Training Program
The Certified Ethical Hacker Training Program is offered by EC–Council and teaches you how to build strong security systems by finding their weaknesses. Ethical hacking allows you to pinpoint an organization’s IT vulnerabilities and identify strategies to redress these security gaps. This program covers five phases of ethical hacking: reconnaissance, gaining access, enumeration, maintaining access, and covering your tracks, as well as the most current and ubiquitous security domains and 340 attack technologies. To earn your certification, you will need to complete a Certified Ethical Hacker exam. EC–Council charges a non–refundable $100 application fee for the exam. The exam itself takes about four hours to complete.
The Certified Information Security Manager
CISM covers managing, developing, and overseeing information security systems in enterprise–level applications. The CISM credential demonstrates that you have advanced and proven skills in security risk management, program development and management, governance, and incident management and response. To obtain this certification, you will have to pass the CISM exam, agree to the ISACA code of ethics, and have at least five years of information security work experience. Once you’ve passed your licensing exam, you will have to apply for CISM certification, which requires a $50 processing fee.
CompTIA Security+
CompTIA Security certification demonstrates your expertise in areas such as threat management, cryptography, identity management, network access control, and security infrastructure. This credential is also approved by the U.S. Department of Defense. To achieve the Security+ certification, you must have at least two years of experience in IT administration and you must have already earned Comp TIA’s Network+ credential. You will also have to pass a 90–minute exam, which costs $339.
The Certified Information Systems Security Profession
CISSP is highly recommended for students serious about their career in information security. To achieve this certification, you must pass an exam covering eight subjects: security and risk management, asset security, security engineering, communications and network security, identity and access management, security assessment and testing, security operations, and software development security. This exhaustive exam will require about six hours to complete. The cost is $699, with each CISSP concentration costing an additional $599.
The GIAC Security Essentials Certification
GSEC certifies that you have real–world technical skills and knowledge of information security. Topics covered by this certification include identifying and preventing common and wireless attacks, authentication, DNS, cryptography fundamentals, ICMP, IPv6, and network protocols. To achieve the GSEC, you will have to pass a 5–hour proctored exam. If you are taking the exam as part of a coding bootcamp, the cost is $769. If you take the test without undergoing training first, the cost is $1,899.
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What Can You Do with an Information Security and Assurance Degree?

If you are wondering, “What can I do with an information security and assurance degree?” there are plenty of options. Your information security and assurance degree can be the key to a challenging and exciting job in Computer and Information Technology. For more details, check out a few of these top information technology degree jobs:

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What Kind of Salary Can You Earn with an Information Security and Assurance Degree?

Your information security and assurance degree could open the door to a career in computer and information technology. Read on to learn more about what it takes to pursue jobs in the best IT fields in 2020. To find the best college programs for each career, visit our accompanying rankings page. The Bureau of Labor Statistics provides median annual salary information as of 2020 for these top information security and assurance degree jobs:

Computer and Information Research Scientists

Computer and information research scientists use technology to solve complex problems in fields like business, science, and medicine. Tasks include inventing new tools and methods to improve technology, designing experiments and analyzing results, collaborating with others, and publishing findings in academic journals.

These skilled professionals typically need a master's degree in computer science or computer engineering.

Median BLS Salary (2020) $115,740
Job Growth (2018-2028) 19%
Median Salary: $115,740

Computer Network Architects

Computer network architects design and build data communication networks such as local area networks, wide area networks, and Intranets. Job tasks include creating plans and layouts, discussing designs with management, and upgrading hardware and software to support existing networks.

A bachelor's degree in computer science, information systems, engineering, or a related field sufficiently prepares graduates for entry-level work. However, some employers prefer candidates with an MBA in information systems.

Median BLS Salary (2020) $120,930
Job Growth (2018-2028) 6.5%
Median Salary: $120,930

Software Developers

Software developers create applications and systems that operate devices, control networks, and allow users to complete specific tasks. Job responsibilities include identifying customer and user needs, determining how new applications will function, and working closely with programmers and other specialists.

A bachelor's in computer science typically satisfies education requirements for software developer jobs, although some employers prefer candidates with a graduate degree. Software developers must be creative and have interpersonal and problem-solving skills.

Median BLS Salary (2020) $71,360
Job Growth (2018-2028) 30.7%
Median Salary: $71,360

Information Security Analysts

Information security involves planning and executing security measures to protect computer networks and systems from cyberattacks. Tasks include monitoring an organization's networks, investigating violations and security breaches, conducting penetration testing, and recommending enhancements.

Most information security analysts hold at least a bachelor's degree in computer science, information assurance, or programming. An MBA in information systems may be preferred for some positions.

Median BLS Salary (2020) $71,980
Job Growth (2018-2028) 28.5%
Median Salary: $71,980

Information Systems Managers

Computer and information systems managers plan, coordinate, and direct the computer-related activities and goals of an organization. Tasks include analyzing technology needs, assessing costs and benefits of new projects, supervising other IT professionals, and negotiating with vendors.

Professionals working in this essential IT field need at least a bachelor's degree and several years of experience in an IT job. Many organizations seek out information systems managers who hold a master's degree.

Median BLS Salary (2020) $88,010
Job Growth (2018-2028) 12%
Median Salary: $88,010

Hardware Engineers

Computer hardware engineers research, develop, and test computer systems and their individual components. Tasks include creating schematics of computer equipment, modifying designs according to test results, and updating existing equipment to work with new software.

Entry-level hardware engineers typically hold a bachelor's degree in computer engineering, electrical engineering, or computer science. Students should select a program with ABET accreditation.

Median BLS Salary (2020) $87,350
Job Growth (2018-2028) 5.4%
Median Salary: $amount

Database Administrators

Database administrators handle the storage, organization, and security of data, including financial records or customer information. Tasks include performing backups to prevent data loss, identifying user needs, and completing database maintenance tasks and updates as needed.

Most professionals working in this information technology field hold a bachelor's degree in computer science or a related subject. Employers with large databases may seek out candidates with a master's degree.

Median BLS Salary (2020) $73,920
Job Growth (2018-2028) 11.5%
Median Salary: $73,920

Operations Analysts

Operations analysts use advanced analytical methods to solve problems and improve performance in organizations. Tasks include collecting and organizing information and data, determining the best methods to analyze problems, and advising managers on possible solutions.

Operations analysts use sophisticated computer software in their day-to-day work, so a bachelor's degree in computer science, engineering, or analytics is ideal.

Median BLS Salary (2020) $56,318
Job Growth (2018-2028) 27.5%
Median Salary: $56,318

Computer Systems Analysts

Computer systems analysts study computer systems and procedures and devise solutions to increase organizational efficiency. Tasks include consulting with managers about IT needs, analyzing costs and benefits, and designing and implementing new computer systems.

Entry-level positions in this IT field require a bachelor's degree with courses in both technology and business. Some employers prefer candidates with an MBA in information systems.

Median BLS Salary (2020) $68,610
Job Growth (2018-2028) 9.1%
Median Salary: $68,610

Web Developers

Web developers design and create both the technical and visual aspects of a website. Tasks include meeting with clients to discuss needs, writing code using programming languages like HTML, and integrating graphics, video, or audio into the site. Web developers may choose to specialize in front-end or back-end development.

Education requirements for web developers vary, but an associate degree is the most common entry-level credential in this IT field. Specialized developers typically earn a bachelor's in computer science or programming.

Median BLS Salary (2020) $59,510
Job Growth (2018-2028) 14.9%
Median Salary: $59,510

Are There Professional Information Security and Assurance Associations or Societies You Should Join?

Professional associations are a fantastic way to make connections in your field, learn about valuable seminars or certifications, and improve your own credentials. The association or associations you choose to join will depend to an extent on the career path you take. Look for information security and assurance associations that correspond with your academic or professional concentration.

When it comes to the field of information security and assurance, the list of associations is quite extensive. For a more comprehensive list, check out these Cybersecurity Industry Associations, or check out a few of the most noteworthy organizations here below:

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What Can You Do With a Cyber Security Degree?

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