As businesses of all sizes increasingly transition into the use of cloud services, the need to protect data from external threats continues to grow. Software company Symantec’s recent survey on internet security found that 60% of all cyber attacks targeted small or medium-sized organizations. The proliferation of ransomware, viruses, and worldwide hacking campaigns make cybersecurity a vital aspect of any business plan.
Given these statistics, it’s no surprise that network security professions expect major growth in the coming decade. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects the field will grow by 28% and that the demand for computer systems designers alone will experience an incredible 56% increase as businesses work to redesign their networks. By earning a network security degree, you can gain the expertise necessary to enter this rapidly-growing job market and pursue its many opportunities.
While many professionals enter the field of data protection with an associate degree in network security, career advancement generally remains tied to earning an advanced degree, often a four-year degree. According to the BLS, field entrants require a bachelor’s degree in computer science for most information security roles (although experience often also plays a role in hiring decisions).
An online associate degree in network security may qualify workers for roles such as computer support specialist. However, a BS can lead to greater opportunities and higher earnings. AAS degree-holders earn an average salary of $63,871, while professionals with a BS in computer or network security make more than $15,000 more ($79,035).
- Bachelor of Science, IT: Earning a BSIT develops competence in the basics of software development, network design, and cybersecurity, including how to identify vulnerabilities and mitigate threats. Areas of focus include networking and cloud infrastructure.
- Bachelor of Science, CS: This broad degree prepares graduates for various careers in CS, including information security analyst or consultant. Students learn real-world applications of theoretical concepts, such as external attack protection.
- Bachelor of Technology: Graduates who hold this STEM degree gain the knowledge necessary to work in many areas of the tech industry, and can tailor their studies to pursue careers in, for example, healthcare or government security services. Aspiring network security analysts/managers may focus on cybersecurity or information systems.
Online Associate in Network Security Degree Program Ranking Guidelines
We selected the degree programs based on the quality of program and range of courses provided, as well as school awards, rankings, and reputation.
The Best Online Associate in Network Security Programs
1 Dakota State University
Madison, South Dakota
Dakota State University in Madison, South Dakota, offers an online associate degree in network and security administration. The school’s state-of-the-art virtual and physical lab environments give students a distinct advantage for two reasons: they facilitate safe yet intensive simulations of online security threats and cyber attacks, and they allow students to build critical response and remediation skills that translate seamlessly to practical situations.
DSU’s network security degree online features small class sizes (25 students or fewer) and a low student-instructor ratio. What’s more, many professors who teach in the program have partnered with cybersecurity industry leaders to assist students in locating internships and other school-to-career transition opportunities. Finally, DSU’s associate program in network security and administration has a high graduation rate, currently around the 80% mark.
DSU’s program is affordable. Out-of-state students pay a modest premium compared to costs incurred by South Dakota residents, and DSU’s tuition model for its online programs bills by the credit-hour. This ensures students pay only for classes they take rather than charging preset, lump-sum fees that do not take course loads into account. Students who elect to further their education by pursuing a bachelor’s degree in network security can also apply their completed coursework here directly toward their BS program.
Dakota State University is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC).
2Minnesota West Community and Technical College
Granite Falls, Minnesota
Minnesota West Community and Technical College’s associate of applied science in information security and assurance is a two-year program that consists of 60 course credits. First-year classes cover operating systems, networking, data security awareness, and information security. Second-year courses include information security management, computer forensics, routers and switches, and the ethics of hacking.
Minnesota West participates in the Minnesota Transfer Curriculum (MnTC), which allows all students who complete associate-level coursework to apply credits toward bachelor’s-level programs at any public degree-granting institution in the state. Online students at Minnesota West can also take advantage of the school’s advising and registration program, which provides resources to improve student outcomes and facilitate academic success. Additionally, student service advisors are available for online meetings with participants who are unable to travel to the school’s physical campuses in southwestern Minnesota.
Tuition rates at Minnesota West are the same for both in-state and out-of-state students. For a flat rate of $20.00 per credit plus fees (and space permitting), the school also offers enrollment to in-state residents age 62 and up.
Minnesota West Community and Technical College is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC).
3Georgia Military College
Based in Milledgeville, Georgia, Georgia Military College offers an online associate of science in cyber security that prepares students either for a bachelor’s degree in network security or a career in the same. Although GMC is known for its strong support of military students, this program is also open to applicants with civilian backgrounds.
Coursework for GMC’s online network security degree is divided into four areas. First, desktop programming introduces students to object-oriented Java frameworks and languages. Second, networking provides detailed instruction on network components and architecture models, security infrastructure, troubleshooting, and network diagnostics. Third, data structure helps distance learners develop practical Python program skills. Finally, cyber information security offers proven strategies for protecting sensitive and proprietary digital assets.
Because GMC is associated with U.S. Armed Forces, graduates are well-positioned to work with military and national security applications. The school’s tuition rate is the same for both in-state and out-of-state students.
Georgia Military College is regionally accredited by the Commission of Colleges of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS).
4 University of Maine at Fort Kent
Fort Kent, Maine
Located in Fort Kent, Maine, The University of Maine at Fort Kent is currently the only school in the state to offer an online associate of science in information security. The program covers 60 credits with core requirements including introductions to computer science, information security, and networking. Then, students take on advance topics like network and operating system security, cyber defense, computer forensics, and cryptography.
The University of Maine at Fort Kent delivers its online associate degree in an asynchronous format so students can balance their current job and/or family commitments while training for an in-demand career in network, computing, and systems security.
In-state students enjoy affordable tuition rates and low fees while out-of-state and international students pay a modest premium. This makes the University of Maine at Fort Kent a reasonable choice for Canadian and other non U.S.-based applicants who wish to earn academic credentials from a leading American institution.
The University of Maine at Fort Kent is regionally accredited by the New England Association of Schools and Colleges (NEASC).
5Palo Alto College
San Antonio, Texas
Located in San Antonio, Texas, Palo Alto College prepares students for careers in computer network design, implementation, and security through its online associate of applied science in information security and assurance. This 60-credit online associate degree is delivered in five semesters across two academic years. The first year’s curriculum covers foundational courses in networking, routing, operating systems, technology security, and digital forensics. The second year comprises advanced topics in LAN and WAN networking, incident response, and other specialized areas.
While out-of-state and international students are billed at higher rates than their in-state counterparts, these students still enjoy outstanding value for their investment. What’s more, military tuition assistance, military spouse assistance, and veterans’ education benefits are offered to qualified applicants to this asynchronous online program.
The U.S. Department of Education recognizes Palo Alto College as an Hispanic-serving Institution, as over three-quarters of the student body originates from an Hispanic background. The school also successfully serves part-time students who work full-time jobs and juggle other commitments.
Palo Alto College is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACS).
6Central Texas College
Based in Killeen, Texas, Central Texas College offers an online associate of applied science in information security. This degree is built on a fundamental philosophy that positions cyber security managers as essential to the protection of commercial assets, online privacy, and national security.
Asynchronous courses at Central Texas College total 60 credit hours and are delivered over four semesters. This program is unique in that it requires second-year students to complete a course in IT security for U.S. homeland security specializations. This gives graduates attractive qualifications for future careers with the U.S. government, one of the nation’s leading employers of network security specialists.
Another advantage of attending Central Texas College is its low tuition rates not only for in-state residents, but also for out-of-state and international students. Finally, Central Texas College boasts a long list of articulation agreements with postsecondary institutions across the country, making it easy for graduates to pursue further studies at the baccalaureate level.
Central Texas College is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACS).
7Lake Superior College
The online associate of applied science in network administration and cybersecurity is among the top-rated programs at Lake Superior College in Duluth, Minnesota. Committed to preparing students to pursue four-year programs, Lake Superior College’s online associate degree in network security leads graduates to job opportunities in one of the country’s fastest-growing career paths.
Once completing Lake Superior College’s network security online degree graduates are well positioned to excel on examinations leading to CompTIA, Cisco CCENT, Microsoft MCP, and EC-Council Certified Ethical Hacker (CEH) certifications. The school also prepares students to meet demanding needs of businesses looking to mitigate risk in today’s hyper-connected, high-tech environment.
Distance-learning students at Lake Superior College enjoy full access to the school’s Center for Cybersecurity, which offers opportunities for students looking to enhance their real-world skills through placements in private- and public-sector businesses and organizations. LSC also has a transfer agreement with St. Cloud State University that allows associate-level graduates to pursue baccalaureate-level studies at SCSU.
Lake Superior College is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC).
8St. Philip’s College
San Antonio, Texas
Located in San Antonio, Texas, St. Philip’s College offers an online associate of applied science in information security and assurance that prepares students to meet the ever-changing nature of digital threats. One notable strength of this online program is that federal agencies including the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the National Security Agency (NSA) have approved several of its courses.
Fully online, St. Philip’s College’s information security and assurance program is divided into two years. The first year consists of introductory courses covering operating systems, networking technologies, and cybersecurity technologies. The second year covers intrusion detection, forensics, and incident response. Students new to virtual learning will also benefit from enrollment in OLRN 0001, a free, self-paced course that introduces novices to the virtual classroom environment.
While in-district Texas residents qualify for the lowest rates, out-of-district, out-of-state, and international students still enjoy reasonable tuition costs. Last, because St. Philip’s College is one of the few associate-level institutions to accept international students into online programs, it serves as a unique opportunity for non-Americans to earn credentials with DHS and NSA endorsements.
St. Philip’s College is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACS).