University Options for Learning Cybersecurity

By Andrew Lancaster

Universities and colleges are expanding their range of cybersecurity courses every year. A survey of online programs shows that educators are working hard to keep up with the demand for cybersecurity training and bridge the skills gap.

Whether you’re an industry newbie or experienced professional, there’s probably a university study option to help advance your career. Here are the different types of programs available for gaining or upgrading cybersecurity skills.

Online Short Programs for Anyone

Universities and colleges offer some online short programs. Often, these are non-professional programs intended for people who want to be introduced to cybersecurity management. But some specialized, advanced courses are also available.

Short programs suit people encountering cybersecurity issues who want to fill knowledge gaps. A student’s goal could be, for example, to better understand the job functions of cybersecurity professionals or better communicate security requirements to staff.

An example is “Cyber Security: Managing Risk in the Information Age”, from GetSmarter in association with Harvard University. The online program consists of eight weekly modules, each requiring around 8-11 hours of study. Topics include business risk, identifying threats and at-risk assets, leadership, mitigation strategies, accountability and response protocols.

Cybersecurity Management Bachelor Degrees

Online bachelor degrees in cybersecurity management are available for people who don’t necessarily want to do serious coding. These can be general degrees that contain plenty of units from other disciplines, such as business or the liberal arts.

By completing enough cybersecurity management units, you qualify for a major and earn some industry certifications. It can be the start of a career focussing on the “soft skills” side of cyber protection for organizations.

For example, the University of Maryland University College offers a “Cybersecurity Management and Policy” major as part of its Bachelor of Science Program. Compulsory courses to qualify for the major include: cybersecurity for leaders and managers, fundamentals in networking, evaluating emerging technologies, and cybersecurity processes and technologies.  

Fast-Tracked Bachelor Degrees for Professionals

Fast-tracked bachelor programs are for cybersecurity professionals who want to earn a degree qualification with minimal time and effort. A combination of methods are available to reduce study requirements, including (i) college credit for existing experience and certifications (ii) the ability to go at your own speed and study year-round and (iii) competency-based progression (meaning you can finish a unit and move on as soon as you are ready).

An example is the Bachelor of Science (Cybersecurity and Information Assurance) from Western Governors University. On average, each student starts with 37 college credits for work history and certifications. Almost three-quarters of graduates finish within 18 months and many finish much quicker than that. Graduates also come away with automatic industry certifications. Subjects include data management, digital forensics, hacking countermeasures, networks and web development.

Traditional Computing Bachelor Degrees

Traditional 4-year computing degrees are available to prepare students for a future career in cybersecurity. With these degrees, students learn cyber security as part of a technical program. The security concentration may be connected to fields such as applied computing, computer science, computer systems engineering, computer networking and information technology.

For example, Arizona State University offers a Cybersecurity major in its BS in Applied Computing. Students gain technical knowledge for securing networks and applications. They also study cybersecurity governance models, risk management and how to implement cybersecurity controls in different organization types.

Postgraduate Cybersecurity Management Programs

Cybersecurity management programs are suitable for graduates of any discipline. You could be a business manager with little technical knowledge or an experienced IT professional. The aim of such programs are to improve your ability to manage cybersecurity in coordination or executive roles. To illustrate, you can major in Cybersecurity while studying for an MBA.

Generally, postgraduate courses are part of a masters program. You don’t have to do the full masters degree however. You can do some of the units and qualify for a graduate certificate for example. Some programs allow you to do units individually.

Professional Masters Courses

If you are an IT professional, you can enrol in a masters program that teaches advanced cybersecurity skills. To be admitted, you are normally expected to have a computer science or similar degree, or equivalent professional experience. The programs are ideal if you want to break into the industry or just want to boost your professional skills and knowledge.

A good course should have a wide array of subjects to choose from. That way, you can tailor your studies to fill particular skill gaps. Whether you are doing the full masters or just part of the program, universities give you options to specialize in the way you want.

Andrew Lancaster is a Director at