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Getting a master’s degree in information assurance can help open up career opportunities in the growing fields of cybersecurity and information technology. Information assurance professionals work to protect digital and physical data for individuals and organizations.
Information and data security are an increasingly large concern for organizations, so the demand for qualified professionals is quite high. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects a 33% job growth rate for information security analysts, a role that people with a master’s in information assurance can pursue. This growth rate is much higher than the average 8% for all other occupations.
A master's degree in information assurance can help current IT or cybersecurity professionals expand their skill sets. An information assurance degree may also be suitable for those looking to change careers or explore a different subset of the IT or cybersecurity field.
This guide will explain what students can expect from in-person vs. online information assurance master's degree programs. It will provide information on admission requirements, common courses, and possible career paths.
Why Get a Master's Degree in Information Assurance?
A master’s degree in information assurance can help students prepare for a variety of cybersecurity jobs . Obtaining a master’s degree can help job seekers stand out against the competition. It can also improve advancement opportunities, as many of the higher-paying roles in the field do require a master’s degree or cybersecurity certification .
A master’s degree is best-suited for students with prior education or experience in information technology or a related field. However, you can enter some information assurance master’s programs with an unrelated bachelor’s degree.
Those looking for more entry-level, hands-on training for specific information assurance roles may find cybersecurity bootcamps or cybersecurity certificate programs a better fit. These certificate programs take 3-6 months compared to the two years that master’s students typically spend on their degree.
The following are some key benefits of obtaining a master's degree in information assurance:
Positive career outlook: Many cybersecurity and information assurance professions are experiencing strong growth. A master’s in information assurance can give you the skills that you need to excel in various IT and cybersecurity jobs. Having a master’s degree can also open up opportunities in management.
Advancement opportunities: It is quite possible to break into the field with a certificate or bachelor’s degree. However, a master’s degree will unlock greater advancement opportunities.
Higher earning potential: Earning a master’s degree can help job seekers qualify for higher-paying roles. It can also help them negotiate higher salaries in roles that don’t require a master’s degree. Companies may pay more for the value that a candidate with a master’s brings to the workplace.
Career support: Master’s programs may also offer students career support services. The school’s career center and alumni network can help students find new job opportunities and advance their careers.
What to Expect From a Top Information Assurance Degree Program
A master's degree in information assurance provides students with advanced tools and education on how to protect and manage sensitive company or customer data, including health records, financial data, and internal communications. Students often take courses related to risk management, cyber forensics, and data governance.
Information assurance is often a concentration offered within a broader master’s degree. Some information studies, information systems, and cybersecurity degrees offer a concentration or incorporate coursework on information assurance. However, there are plenty of dedicated information assurance programs.
Masters-level information assurance students typically earn a master of science degree rather than a master of arts. Many schools offer combined degrees in cybersecurity and information assurance. The typical information assurance master’s degree will require the completion of 24 to 30 credit hours. In most cases, completion will take two years, but accelerated programs are available.
Admission to an information assurance master's program requires a bachelor's degree. Some programs prefer applicants with prior coursework in computer science or information assurance. Applicants with unrelated bachelor’s degrees may benefit from a cybersecurity or IT certificate course. They can also consider taking relevant coursework from a local community college before applying.
The application process may require students to submit several documents to show their prior academic and professional achievements. Applicants will need to fill out an online application. Many schools will request additional documents such as:
Letters of recommendation
A personal statement
A resume detailing work experience
GPA requirements for information assurance master's programs vary. Typically students need a GPA of 3.0 or higher. Students applying to highly competitive programs may need a GPA of 3.5 or higher. Students applying to prestigious schools or those with small class sizes may need a high GPA to be competitive for admission.
Degree and Concentration Options
Information assurance master’s programs may not offer concentrations. However, students can sometimes find the following specializations:
Digital forensics: Digital forensics focuses on identifying and analyzing data related to cybercrimes. Students learn how to recover data involved in hacking, security breaches, and other cybercrimes.
Network security : This concentration focuses on security and privacy issues in different computer systems and networks. Students learn about network security concerns with wireless networks and mobile devices and how to secure those networks.
Industry-specific concentrations: Some schools offer industry-specific offerings for those that want to use their information assurance skills to work in healthcare, government, or financial institutions.
Students can choose from online, hybrid, and fully in-person information assurance degree options. Online programs may offer more flexibility for students who want to work while attending graduate school.
Some online programs use synchronous learning with a fixed schedule of live classes over a video conferencing tool. Other online programs offer asynchronous learning where students can access pre-recorded course material independently to fit their schedules.
Popular Information Assurance Courses
A master’s program in information assurance includes a mix of core and elective courses. Many programs end with a capstone project that allows students to show what they’ve learned with a large final project.
Risk Management: This course provides students with an overview of the risks that organizations face. Students learn about how organizations can manage different risk levels and protect data.
Ethical Hacking: Students in this course learn to hack in an ethical manner. The class teaches the techniques and tools that cybercriminals use to hack. Students then learn how to use these strategies to protect a business's computer network.
Computer Forensics: A computer forensics course teaches students how to collect and analyze cybercrime-related data that may be used as evidence. Students learn about industry tools and forensic investigation techniques.
Information Security Standards: This course typically covers the security standards and information assurance best practices. Students learn about malware, security breaches, and proper network security measures.
Average Cost of Getting a Master's Degree
The cost of getting a master's degree in information assurance will vary depending on a variety of factors including school prestige, the number of credits required, and geographic location.
According to the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), a master’s degree costs about $19,800 on average for the 2019-2020 school year. Students that qualify for in-state tuition at a state school may pay less, around $12,400 for that same year. Those who choose an accelerated degree program may also pay less for their degree overall if the school charges per term instead of per credit.
Students should also factor in other costs like course materials, textbooks, or additional fees. Expenses for attending in-person may include commuting costs and living expenses. For online information assurance degree programs, students will need to factor in software or computer equipment costs.
To minimize the out-of-pocket costs of a master's degree in information assurance, students can apply for grants and scholarships. Many graduate students teach or work as research assistants to help offset the costs. Government and private loans are also available.
How Much Do Online Information Assurance Degrees Cost?
Online degrees in information assurance may or may not be cheaper than in-person programs. Schools that offer both in-person and online programs often charge similar tuition for both degree options. However, online programs may offer lower tuition. Online students also save on relocation and commuting costs.
Learners can expect to pay between $30,000-$40,000 for an online master’s degree program in information assurance, depending on if they enroll in a public or private school.
Jobs for Master's in Information Assurance Graduates
A master’s degree in information assurance can lead to various jobs within the information security and cybersecurity fields. Depending on previous experience, master’s degree graduates may qualify for entry-level, mid-level, or managerial roles. Many of these roles have higher than average earning potential and job growth.
For example, the BLS projects 33% job growth for information security analysts and 11% for computer and information system managers from 2020-2030. These projections are both higher than the average for all occupations.
Information Security Analyst
Information security analysts detect and mitigate security breaches and create data recovery plans. Candidates typically need a bachelor’s degree and related experience or internships for this role. Supervisory or high-level roles often require a master’s degree.
Required Education: Bachelor’s degree
Job Outlook (2020-30): +33%
Median Annual Salary: $102,600
Computer Network Architect
Network architects help organizations build data communication networks and digital infrastructures including intranets and cloud-based networks. They can work on large and small network projects. Many different businesses hire computer network architects, including technology companies, consulting firms, government organizations, universities, and healthcare companies.
Required Education: Bachelor's degree
Job Outlook (2020-30): +5%
Median Annual Salary : $120,520
Risk Management Specialist
Risk management specialists identify and control risks such as network weaknesses and data breaches. They manage security systems, data recovery processes, and prevent security breaches. Those looking to get into risk management will need a solid understanding of cybersecurity and risk prevention protocols.
Required Education: Bachelor’s or master’s degree
Average Annual Salary: $71,281
Computer and Information Research Scientist
Computer and information research scientists develop new ways to use computing technology and explore current technology problems. They typically need a master’s degree in information assurance, computer science, or a related field.
Required Education: Master’s degree
Job Outlook (2020-30): +22%
Median Annual Salary: $131,490
Information Systems Manager
Information systems managers plan, coordinate, and direct information systems activities within an organization. Their role may include hiring IT personnel, recommending upgrades, and overseeing computer system installation and maintenance. They often need experience in entry-level IT roles.
Required Education: Bachelor’s degree (organizations may require a master’s degree)
Job Outlook (2020-30): +11%
Median Annual Salary: $159,010
- Explore more jobs in cybersecurity
- Consider working in the government sector
- Find a certificate program to boost your career
- Read about cybersecurity certifications
Selecting the Right Master's in Information Assurance Program
When evaluating information assurance master’s degree programs, there are several factors to weigh, including:
Accreditation: Choosing an accredited school is critical for many reasons. Accreditation lets you know that the school meets high education standards. It also improves job prospects and financial aid opportunities .
The school’s reputation: In some fields, the school's reputation makes a big difference. Some employers frequently hire from specific colleges due to the positive reputation built by previous graduates they’ve hired.
Cost: The costs between public, private, and not-for-profit schools vary greatly. Some schools may also provide better financial aid and scholarship opportunities. If you want to attend classes in-person, consider the cost of living near the campus.
Alumni Network: Find out about the alumni network at each school. Alumni can be a great resource for obtaining internships and jobs.
Should Get Your Information Assurance Degree Online?
Online learning has become increasingly popular among students. Graduate students in particular often choose an online degree program for more flexibility. These learners often have full-time jobs or family obligations that they need to juggle, which can make in-person attendance more difficult.
Of course, not all majors are ideal for online learning. Some disciplines require hands-on research in a lab environment. However, information assurance master's degrees are particularly suited to the online learning experience since it's a computer-based field.
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Top Master's in Information Assurance Programs
You can explore our list of the top information assurance master's degree programs below. All of the schools on the list hold institutional accreditation. We have included both online and in-person programs to help students find the program that best matches their learning styles.
|Percent Online Enrollment||
Mississippi College educates degree-seekers online and at its Clinton campus. The private institution's 54 available master's programs include 23 options for online students. Online and on-campus master's degree-seekers can attend the school's top-ranked graduate programs, available in a variety of fields.
Learners who want to excel in information assurance can enroll in the institution's master's in cybersecurity. While earning the master's degree, enrollees complete a rigorous curriculum comprising core and specialized coursework. Master's students gain specialized knowledge during elective classes and apply skills during experiential learning opportunities. Faculty advisors help graduate students explore complex issues facing professionals in the field. After earning a master's degree in information assurance, graduates can launch a new career in the field.
At the accredited institution, students who demonstrate financial need can qualify for federal aid. Learners enrolled in the school's master's programs can access support services such as academic advising and career counseling. An admissions advisor can provide specific application details, including requirements and deadlines.
Jacksonville State University
|Percent Online Enrollment||
Jacksonville State University offers a respected master's-level program. A public institution, Jacksonville State University offers in-person programs, such as the master of science in computer systems and software design. The master's degree can qualify graduates for promotions to leadership positions.
The program's rigorous curriculum features core and specialized classes that foster field-specific and transferable skills. By blending theoretical and practical knowledge, the program emphasizes industry-focused knowledge and skills. Learners also benefit from faculty mentorship and career resources.
Students enrolled full time typically need 1-2 years to graduate with a master's in information assurance. Degree-seekers at the accredited institution can receive federal financial aid.
Jacksonville State University Numbers :
Total Master's Programs : 27
Online Master's Degrees : 14
Students Receiving Aid : 95%
Students Receiving Loans : 61%
Transfer Credits Toward Degree : No
Florida Institute of Technology
|Percent Online Enrollment||
Located in Melbourne, Florida Institute of Technology delivers academic programs online and on campus. The private institution delivers a total of 63 master's programs. Online and on-campus master's degree-seekers benefit from the school's top-ranked graduate programs.
Learners in the information assurance master's degree complete high-level classes. Enrollees complete a rigorous curriculum and gain field-specific training. Experiential learning opportunities help graduate students bolster their resumes and gain practical skills. Master's students can work with faculty advisors to explore complex issues and prepare to enter the field. After earning the master's degree in information assurance, graduates can launch a new career in the field.
The institution holds accreditation, which means students can submit the FAFSA and determine whether they qualify for federal financial aid. The school delivers in-person and virtual student support services, such as tutoring and career counseling. Admissions advisors provide prospective students with program-specific application details.
Western Governors University
|Location||Salt Lake City, Utah|
Located in Salt Lake City, Utah, Western Governors University offers a variety of programs, including a master's in cybersecurity and information assurance. Master's programs feature high-level courses in the student's respective field. While earning a master's, degree-seekers gain the knowledge and skills necessary to secure roles. While completing requirements, degree-seekers explore field-specific topics and prepare for careers.
The institution delivers student support services and offers peer and professional tutoring.
Western Governors University Numbers :
Student Enrollment : 136,139
Graduate School Tuition : $7,500 in-state; $7,500 out-of-state
Western Governors University has been accredited by the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities, an independent accrediting agency.
University of Arizona
|Percent Online Enrollment||
Learners at University of Arizona can pursue a variety of respected degrees, including a master's in information management information systems. A public institution, University of Arizona delivers academic programs from its campus in Tucson, Arizona. After earning the master's degree in management information systems, graduates can launch a new career in the field.
The master's degree uses a rigorous curriculum that meets high academic standards. Specialized electives and experiential learning opportunities allow students to customize the program based on their goals and interests. The school delivers faculty mentorship and career counseling for graduate degree-seekers.
The master's program generally takes full-time students 1-2 years to complete. Degree-seekers with financial need can apply for federal aid, including grants and loans.
University of Arizona At a Glance :
Per-Credit Tuition : $1,050
Total Master's Programs : 149
Distance Learning Master's Degrees : 27
Students Receiving Aid : 91%
Students Receiving Loans : 36%
Transfer Credits Toward Degree : No
FAQ About Master's in Information Assurance Degrees
What can you do with a master's in information assurance?
Information assurance graduates can find work opportunities in industries that store sensitive information, including healthcare, finance, and insurance. Common job titles for information assurance specialists include information security analysts, network architects, and information systems managers.
What's the difference between a master's in information assurance and a certificate?
A master’s in information assurance provides a more thorough and well-rounded curriculum than a certificate. Earning a certificate can be a great way to build practical knowledge and skills in a shorter period of time. However, a master’s degree may be ideal if you wish to move into management or leadership positions.
How do I get into information assurance?
Careers in information assurance typically require a bachelor’s degree and relevant experience. Some employers may prefer or require a master’s degree or industry certification.
Are any top information assurance degrees online?
Yes. There are many top information assurance degree programs offered online, including the University of California, Berkeley, Syracuse University, and Capella University. Students should prioritize schools with accreditation and instructors with experience working in the field.
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