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Information security in academia: Training options abound

SearchSecurity certifications expert Ed Tittel surveys training options in academia.

Given that information security is currently such a hot topic in IT, it's no wonder that the subject is also getting a fair amount of attention in academia. Current and prospective students interested in information security have numerous options to consider when selecting academic programs. In the paragraphs that follow, I've outlined the different approaches taken by various institutions to incorporate information security in their programs.

Within each of the following categories, I provide names of institutions whose offerings meet the criteria associated with that category. Because the overall population of institutions is so huge, however, I limited the scope to two kinds of institutions:

  1. Those that have appeared in the National Security Agency's designations of Centers of Academic Excellence in Information Assurance Education (last announced in May, 2003). There are 50 such institutions in all.
  2. Those that have forged alliances with various e-learning companies to offer online training that includes security-oriented topics. See the sidebar entitled "e-Learning and Academia Partner Up" for more information on the e-learning companies I uncovered.

Infosec degrees and degrees with certification

Some institutions integrate information security certification training and exam preparation directly into their curriculum. In some cases, institutions may even require candidates to earn specific information security certifications (such as Security+ or CISSP Associate) to complete degree requirements.

Institutions offering infosec degrees

Infosec degree program with certification

Infosec degree programs with optional certification

Other academic programs offer classes that serve dual roles: They teach information security topics, concepts, tools and technologies to meet certification program and degree requirements at the same time. Because their offerings prepare students to meet certification credentials, they can opt to take exams and get certified.

Infosec degree and academic certificate programs

Still other academic programs steer clear of industry certifications like Security+, CISSP and so forth, and instead design curriculums with associated certificates of their own making and design. These programs normally do not require an additional exam to prove a candidate's knowledge, skills or abilities, but rely instead on an assigned curriculum where individual courses each have their own exams, labs and so forth. By passing the courses in the certificate curriculum, students can earn that certificate.

Academic certificate-only programs

Various other security programs

Reading the tea leaves: Tales these lists tell

It's interesting that when academic institutions cover information security certifications, they tend to stick to tried-and-true offerings. Of those institutions that play in this arena (either inside or outside degree plans), more than 95% offer either CompTIA Security+, ISC2's CISSP or both. Also, of the schools that NSA spotlights, only about 60% go beyond that recognition to feature specific degree plans, their own certificates, special information assurance or security minors, and so forth. While all these schools research the subject matter and most offer courses in the area, not all offer degrees in the subject matter. Deeper coverage is more common at the graduate level, usually in Master's programs of one kind or another.

Above and beyond the institutions listed in this story, if you find yourself shopping for a degree and/or security certification, don't overlook your local community college. Though requiring or enabling information security certs along with degrees is not yet common practice, low-cost, high-quality avenues to security certification training and information security degrees or certificates are available at many community colleges. Be sure to check them out as you ponder the best pathway to academic and certification success in infosec!


Looking for cert coverage in academia

The following resources do as good a job of mentioning nationally branded or vendor-program based associate, bachelor or graduate degree programs that incorporate IT certification (or offer it side-by-side conventional curriculum elements) as anything available online:

e-Learning and academia partner up

Numerous e-learning companies crop up as you dig online for the intersection between academia:

  • House of Education
  • Kaplan Higher Ed Online Programs
  • College for Success The first two items mentioned have apparently been successful in recruiting academic partners. Houseofedu works with institutions in nearly 40 states, Kaplan in 15 states and College for Success has up to 10 partners (including multiple locations of same-name colleges).

About the author
Ed Tittel is the president of LANWrights, Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of Ed has been working in the computing industry for more than 20 years and has worked as a software developer, manager, writer and trainer. As an expert on, he answers your infosec training and certification questions in our Ask the Expert feature.

This was last published in March 2004

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