Different Types of Cybersecurity Graduate Programs

Full-Time vs. Part-Time Online Master’s in Cybersecurity Programs

There are several factors to consider when determining whether a full-time or part-time program is the right fit. Time commitments, personal learning style, finances, and personal career trajectory should all be weighed in the process of deliberation. Earning an online master’s in cybersecurity can be quite demanding as students study in depth about programming, network defense, laws & policies, and information security systems. It is important that you choose the type of enrollment that will maximize your chances of success. Both part-time and full-time students receive the same course content, professors, academic resources, and level of education, so one thing you don’t have to worry about is whether this decision will impact the quality of the program you choose.

Here are some considerations when determining whether to enroll as a part-time or full-time student:

  • How much time can I invest in the program?
  • What is my preferred time-frame for finishing my master’s degree?
  • Is it financially possible to work part-time or not at all while I’m in school?
  • What are the tax implications of returning to school at this time?
  • What are any professional/family obligations that I am not willing to give up, and how much time do they require to uphold?

Full-Time Online Master’s in Cybersecurity Degrees

Enrolling in an online master’s in cybersecurity program full-time may grant you the focus to give all your energy to your studies.

Benefits of Full-Time Enrollment

  • Full-time programs can often be completed between 18 months and two years.
  • Some forms of financial aid require that you be a full-time student.
  • Some programs charge by the semester or quarter rather than by the class, so full-time may enable you to save money if you are enrolled in one of those programs.

Part-Time Master’s in Cybersecurity Degree Programs

Students enrolled in a part-time online cybersecurity program may have greater flexibility and can possibly work a full-time job while completing their degree.

Benefits of Part-Time Enrollment

  • May grant flexibility for students with family obligations, careers, or both.
  • Part-time programs may lessen the financial burden of tuition and course materials, making it possibly more affordable.
  • If you continue to work while attending a program part-time, you may be able to apply what you are learning to your career whether it be by implementing or strengthening security systems, optimizing networks, or developing skills as a programmer.
  • Full-time enrollment can be overwhelming and enrolling part-time offers a smoother transition into the world of graduate studies.

Drawbacks of Part-Time Enrollment

  • It may take a year longer to complete a part-time online master’s in cybersecurity program
  • The longer it takes you to complete the more susceptible you are to increases in university tuition.
  • Part-time students may have to work harder to stay focused and dedicated as classes will be spread out over a longer period of time.
  • Oftentimes part-time students qualify for less financial aid than full-time students.

Synchronous vs. Asynchronous Online Cybersecurity Programs

As you look for online cybersecurity schools you may want to ask yourself whether your learning style lends itself to working independently and on your own schedule or in sync with other students on a set curriculum. The answer to this will let you know whether a synchronous or asynchronous program would best suit you and ensure the quality of your experience in an online master’s program.

Synchronous Online Programs

Asynchronous Online Programs

Hybrid Programs

Many programs offer a hybrid option. For instance, some programs require students to attend a single online lecture at a predetermined time every week. These programs may be suitable for students seeking flexibility who are still able to attend a small number of scheduled class activities.

Which type is better for you?

Deciding which program type is better for you is a personal choice you should give a considerable consideration. If you are more productive when working within the parameters of a formal routine, you may want to focus on a school with a synchronous program. If you are prefer the ability and freedom to create your own schedule, or if your schedule outside of school is difficult to predict, an asynchronous program may be right for you. If you have varying amounts of flexibility in your schedule, a hybrid program might give you the camaraderie of a peer experience without the rigidity of a fully synchronous program.

Cybersecurity Program Accreditation

What is Accreditation?

Accreditation of a university is a process whereby endorsement from the U.S. Department of Education is obtained for their academic programs. In obtaining accreditation at the program or university level, higher education institutions must meet a specific set of standards. Each type of accrediting agency will have their own set of requirements such as requiring that universities offer associate, baccalaureate and master’s degrees. Other agencies may require that programs follow a set curriculum that has been researched to provide a foundation for careers, post-grad. Accreditation is voluntary process initiated by a school and is administered by independent agencies. There are several different agencies and each one maintains their own standards for accreditation through rigorous analysis of the university and its program.

Different Kinds of Cybersecurity Program Accreditation

When looking at schools for a master’s program in cybersecurity that is offered online, it is important to pay attention to whether a school has regional or national accreditation.

Regional accreditation agencies are often considered to be more prestigious. The independent regional agencies are overseen by either the Department of Education or Council of Higher Education Association. Usually, nationally accredited programs will accept credits for regionally accredited schools, but regional institutions will not accept credits from national programs.

National accreditation agencies will often focus on and award accreditation for specific disciplines. There are national agencies for business and nursing schools and other programs.

Center for Academic Excellence (CAE)

The National Security Agency (NSA) sponsors accredited recognition for two types of Centers of Academic Excellence (CAE) programs: Cyber Defense (CD) and Cyber Operations (CO).

With the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), the NSA sponsors the CAE-CD program which grants accreditation and recognition to programs who:

  • Are accredited by regional institutions as outlined by the Department of Education
  • Meet required curriculum standards to include Foundational, Core Technical and Non-Technical, and Optional Knowledge Units
  • Demonstration of cyber defense program outreach, collaboration and education
  • Maintaining active status as a CAE-CD program in continuous review and maintenance of related coursework
  • Participation in multidisciplinary efforts within the cyber defense field
  • Practice of CD at the university level and involvement in CD efforts of students and staff members

Designation as a Center for Academic Excellence – Cyber Defense Education (CAE-CDE) program last for five academic years, at which point all programs will need to re-apply and meet any new criteria.

The criteria for CAE-CO or CAE-Cyber Operations designation required programs to be based within a computer science, electrical engineering, computer engineering or related technical depth department. In order to become a CAE-CO fundamental or advanced designated and accredited program, universities must meet the following:

  • Academic content requirements
  • Cyber operations must be included as a focus area or specialization within the degree program
  • Cyber operational concepts should be an integrated aspect of the foundational curriculum
  • Maintaining active status as a CAE-CO program in continuous review and maintenance of related coursework
  • Faculty member involvement in cyber operational research
  • Student participation in cyber operational learning activities
  • Commitment to support the CAE-CO program in graduating students
  • Minimum number of faculty member involvement in cyber courses

CAE-Accredited Online Cybersecurity Programs

There are several options for pursuing a CAE-Accredited online cybersecurity program. Other accreditations for programs may be as valuable for students as a CAE accreditation. Specific CAE designations may also help students seek programs that provide different tracks for different career paths such as cyber defence (CAE-CD) or cyber operations (CAE-CO). Enrollment and course instruction styles may vary as well. Choosing the right online cybersecurity program for you may depend on a variety of factors. Take a look below to learn more about how cybersecurity online programs may vary.

Other Accreditation for Cybersecurity Programs

In obtaining accreditation at the program or university level, higher education institutions must meet a specific set of standards. Each type of accrediting agency will have their own set of requirements such as requiring that universities offer associate, baccalaureate and master’s degrees. Other specific agencies may require that programs follow a set curriculum that has been researched to provide a foundation for careers, post-grad.

Why is Accreditation Important:

A master’s degree could be a significant commitment of time and money. There are many reasons why you should attend only accredited schools:

  • It ensures that the education offered by a program is held to a standard of excellence as recognized by an independent agency and the US Department of Education.
  • Federal loans and financial aid are only available for accredited programs.
  • School credits earned through an accredited program are transferable to other accredited programs.
  • Professional licensure exam prerequisites often include attending an accredited school.

If you’re ready to review some cybersecurity programs, check out our degree guide on earning your online master’s degree in cybersecurity.