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Learning more about online infosec degrees

I am considering getting a Master's degree in computer information systems. How do you feel about the computer-related degrees offered by the online universities such as University of Phoenix and Capella University? If you like them, which ones and why? Are degrees from online universities considered as equivalent to going to a local school?

Maintaining secure systems and guarding company information are critical. There is a tremendous need for skilled professionals who can plan and implement security measures as well as develop and manage security policies related to organizations' IT systems. But how do they get trained? Is a higher education degree the answer? This professional thinks online could be a good way to go.

Online education is gaining momentum. Recently online degrees have many re-thinking how to get a higher education degree without moving or changing their lifestyle to earn that degree. There are 50 Centers of Excellence in Information Assurance Education Programs that a network professional may be interested in attending. Determining which program best fits their needs is going to up to the individual. However, look for the institutions that the NSA (National Security Agency) has granted a Center for Excellence in Information Assurance Education designation. The NSA grants designations only after a rigorous review of university applications against published criteria based on training standards established by the National Security Telecommunications and Information Systems Security Committee (NSTISSC).

Not all programs are created equal. Some of those centers offer an online degree and are worth looking at. It's up to you, so ask good questions like, "What is this degree going to provide? How will I benefit? How will my company benefit? What are my expectations from earning this degree?" If your plan is to use this degree for employment in information security, you should understand what is accepted today might not be accepted in three years. There will be many reasons: the school no longer offers the program, they might not survive due to lack of attendance, lack of grants, greater risk, etc.

NSA's establishment of the Centers for Academic Excellence program was spurred by the growing demand for professionals with information assurance expertise in various disciplines. There are other university programs that are not designated Centers for Academic Excellence.

For example, the University of Phoenix online has a Masters of Science in computer information systems, but it is not a Center of Academic Excellence; however, their subjects covered in the curriculum range from configuration management and ISO 9000 to fair-use practices and all aspects of information technology security. The same applies for Golden Gate University. Also, CTU (Colorado Technical University) Online has a Masters of Science in management for information systems security that is aimed at educating IT professionals in systems security management, including methods to combat threats to corporate technical resources. The same goes for Capella University's program that has a specific online Web security program. It's designed for educating professionals about firewalls and gateways, authentication and encryption techniques, Web application development, programming and analysis.

You can view the 50 universities designated as Centers of Academic Excellence in Information Assurance Education are listed here.

For more info on this topic, check these SearchSecurity.com resources:
  • Best Web Links: Infosec training, careers and events
  • IT Career Expert: Picking the right recruiter
  • Career and Certification Tip: Vendor-neutral certification update, spring 2003

  • This was last published in July 2003

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