Wondering how long does it take to get a cybersecurity degree?
As you’re reading this, you already know why cyber security is necessary, but you might be asking yourself is a cybersecurity degree worth it?
The answer is, “it depends”!
While you can perform quite well without a degree, you’re automatically putting yourself at a disadvantage.
If you’re on the fence, you can always enroll in a course just to see if you want to pursue it any further.
Cybersecurity is a good degree to have which can get you a job with a great starting salary, and it can open the doors to endless career opportunities.
The median salary for an entry-level Information Security Analyst averages around $66K, and goes all the way up to $78K with a bit of experience…not bad for just starting out!
In addition to a decent starting salary, a cybersecurity degree is beneficial for companies and governments that require educated professionals to fulfill positions, which is good for job security.
Continue reading as I discuss college credits, your options between a traditional classroom setting vs. online classes, various accelerated programs, and whether it makes sense to also pursue a Master’s degree.
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How long does it take to get a cybersecurity degree? Click below to find out!
Factors That Make a Difference
A traditional bachelor’s degree, no matter which major you decide on, requires approximately 120 semester credits, and takes four years to complete, which is also true of students majoring in cybersecurity.
However, the duration for completing a cyber security degree may vary depending on factors such as:
Course Credits: Instead of completing four years of physical coursework, you can save time by testing out of courses and receiving college credit.
Transfer Credits: If you’ve already completed credits from another institution, some of those credits may be transferable to your new college or university to further reduce the completion time of your degree.
Schedules: Some degree programs offer part-time or full-time tracks to help students balance work, life, and school. While part-time programs require less of an up-front commitment, they can also increase the time it takes to earn a degree.
Degree Program: Graduation requirements are university specific, resulting in course loads that may differ slightly. Additionally, several universities offer various cyber degree programs depending on your pace and aptitude, such as competency-based or accelerated programs.
Receive College Credit for a Quicker Graduation
Still in High School?
If you’re in high school, you can shorten the time you spend in college by receiving college credits.
While still attending high school, it’s worth your time to pursue college credits using one of three methods: by either participating in your school’s Advance Placement (AP) courses, Concurrent Enrollment (CE) in college while still attending high school, or enrolling in your school’s International Baccalaureate (IB) program.
Depending on the program and if it’s accepted, you can shave off as much as a year from your college degree.
No Longer in School?
If you’re no longer in school, you can still receive college credits by taking the College-Level Examination Program (CLEP) to receive up to 30 hours of college credit.
The great news is that CLEP is accepted by over 40% of all college institutions, so it’s worth checking out.
A good place to start is by using CLEP’s College Credit Policy Search to determine each university’s policy regarding granting college-level credit.
While none of these programs has anything specifically to do with cybersecurity, if you’re seriously considering a cybersecurity degree, this is sure to turn a 4-year degree into a 3-year degree.
At this point, all you need to do is research which college or university would accept your credits and is also aligned with your cybersecurity educational goals.
Is a Cyber Security Degree Online or On-Campus Faster?
Certainly, there are benefits of attending courses on campus.
You get to interact with your peers, have in-person face-to-face exposure with your professors, and there’s always help when you need it because professors (or their teaching assistants) are usually available off-hours.
Unfortunately, the biggest downside of being in a classroom environment is that you’re stuck with the professor’s curriculum; there’s no skipping past topics you already know, or feel are easier to whiz past.
That’s where online learning really shines; it can be beneficial if you have the mindset and are dedicated to self-paced learning.
With online learning on the rise, many educational institutions are now offering online cyber security degrees, which provide increased flexibility, accessibility, and even speed!
This means that you can obtain your degree by completing more coursework in a shorter amount of time.
While there are downsides to an online program, the biggest advantage is the speed at which a course can be completed.
That’s Not Fast Enough!
If you’re ready to learn at an even faster pace, there’s also another option that you might not have heard of called a “competency-based degree program.”
A competency-based education (CBE) is a non-traditional educational model wherein you learn at your own pace.
It’s very different than most students are accustomed to because there’s no instructor teaching you face-to-face.
Depending on your learning style and how dedicated you are, a CBE model might work in your favor.
Many institutions will charge a flat fee per term during which you may register for as many courses as you can handle, offering a tremendous cost and time savings.
Instead of studying during semester-long courses, a CBE course is completed as soon as you’ve demonstrated mastery of the program by successfully passing an exam or an assigned project.
The downside with CBE is that it’s pass/fail, so you do not receive a letter grade; if you procrastinate or fail, you don’t get credit.
Which Cyber Security Program is Faster?
When deciding upon a degree program, it’s important to understand which courses you’ll be expected to take.
You might find some overlap in the concepts between one degree program and another, so it may not matter too much which program you choose. In other cases, there could be significant differences.
For instance, if we take a look as USC’s cybersecurity program, they require up to 22 hours (or 17%) of cyber security coursework out of the 128 hours required to obtain a bachelor’s degree in “Bachelor of Arts in Intelligence and Cyber Operations”.
On the other hand, UMGC on the opposite coast of the country looks a bit different. This university requires 33 hours (or 28%) of cyber security coursework out of the 120 hours required to obtain a bachelor’s degree in “Computer Networks And Cybersecurity”.
That’s a total difference of eight credit hours, which can amount to an additional half semester of coursework. However, that alone really shouldn’t be the deciding factor when making such an important choice.
Something else to consider is that universities may have multiple types of cybersecurity programs.
If we again look at UMGC’s cybersecurity program, you’ll see three distinct cyber offerings with different coursework requirements to graduate from each.
One university offers a single degree with courses covering a wide range of cybersecurity while the other has three distinct majors with more specialized courses.
I’m not saying one program is better than the other; however, I am saying that in choosing an institution, it should be based upon how their program best fits your needs.
Should I Pursue a Master’s Degree?
Advanced degrees, such as a Master’s in Cybersecurity, typically require an additional 30-36 credits, can take up to two years to complete, and generally require prerequisites that are more rigorous than those offered in a bachelor’s degree.
If you decide to pursue a master’s degree, then the fastest way to move forward is with an accelerated program that some universities offer.
In an accelerated program, you effectively receive a bachelor’s and a master’s degree in one program and in a shorter amount of time, assuming you stick with the same university. Think of it as “killing two birds with one stone.”
Here’s an example of one such program offered by Purdue University Global, “Accelerated Master of Science in Cybersecurity Management”, which in effect waives three courses and speeds up your graduation time by nearly a semester.
Words of Wisdom
Although you may be able to find creative ways of doubling up on these programs to save time and money, the university will only let you go so far. For instance, many institutions won’t let you utilize any CLEP credits if you’re going to opt for the CBE program.
Conversely, on an accelerated program you may be able to use some college credit towards a master’s.
Again, each university has specific requirements, so it’s best to check with them prior to enrolling.
How long is a cyber security degree? If done correctly, you may be able to complete a bachelor’s degree in about 2.5 years, and if you’re smart enough, you can kick in a master’s degree for an additional year.
Of course, the question of how long does cyber security take ultimately depends on college credits awarded, your status as a full-time or part-time student, and the level of personal commitment and motivation you possess.
Once you’ve finished your degree, the next step would be to get that resume polished for your new career!