Doctoral Degrees in Cybersecurity 2022

| ComputerScience.org Staff Modified on March 21, 2022

Doctoral Degrees in Cybersecurity 2022
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A doctoral degree in cybersecurity is the highest academic credential in the discipline. Students can earn a Ph.D., which focuses on theory and prepares future educators, or a D.Sc., which focuses on applications of theory for emerging marketplace leaders.

Though almost 50 years old, cybersecurity recently emerged as a major field of employment, adding numerous profitable jobs over a short time window. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects 16,300 information security specialist jobs will open annually between 2020 and 2030. These positions command a median annual salary of $103,590 as of 2020.

Cybersecurity attracts math-oriented creative thinkers. These professionals help protect vulnerable citizens from some of today's most dangerous threats.

Why Get a Cybersecurity Doctoral Degree?

Cybersecurity began in 1971 when a computer scientist named Bob Thomas created the first computer worm and called it "Creeper." Ray Tomlinson, the inventor of email, developed a program he called "Reaper" — the original antivirus program — to delete Creeper.

Modern cybersecurity experts face more complicated challenges. These professionals develop security strategies, create firewalls, simulate cyberattacks, and manage security teams. Information security specialists work across almost all industries, including government, healthcare, finance, and retail.

Cybersecurity experts have to think like black-hat hackers to combat the growing threat of data breaches. This means curious, analytical people who can work efficiently under pressure may find cybersecurity a rewarding field.

Earning a degree in cybersecurity can open entry-level jobs in this lucrative, fast-growing profession. A coding bootcamp can provide another quick and affordable pathway to a fresh career in cybersecurity.

A degree may require more time and money upfront than a bootcamp, but it may also offer more breadth and insight into the discipline for future cybersecurity specialists. A doctorate especially can lead to exciting research opportunities and the chance to shape the sector's future.

The high demand for cybersecurity specialists shows no signs of pausing. Employers are scrambling to hire qualified professionals to help them avoid expensive data breaches or even major threats to national security. Jobs in cybersecurity are among some of the highest-paying careers in the U.S. Information security specialists, for example, earned a median salary of $103,590 per year as of 2020, according to the BLS. In states like California, New York, and Virginia, information security professionals earn even higher wages. Cybersecurity experts are a crucial line of defense against threats to national security, healthcare facilities, corporations, and vulnerable citizens. By blending creativity with analytics, these professionals protect people and communities from digital threats.

What To Expect From A Doctoral Degree in Cybersecurity

Cybersecurity doctorates offer two programs — the Ph.D. (doctor of philosophy degree) or the D.Sc. (doctor of science degree). The Ph.D. focuses on research and theory while the D.Sc. emphasizes application and action.

Students who earn a Ph.D. generally want to add to the body of research or teach at the postsecondary level. The D.Sc. prepares cybersecurity professionals to lead security teams in complex technological environments. Some schools offer a doctorate of information assurance, which is a professional degree similar to the D.Sc.

The Ph.D. requires an average load of 60 credits beyond the undergraduate degree and takes 3-7 years to complete. The D.Sc. demands a similar level of work but may operate in a cohort model, concluding in as few as three years.

Both doctoral programs offer research opportunities in subject areas such as artificial intelligence, cloud computing, and public policy. Like other doctorates, a cybersecurity degree concludes with a dissertation or a doctoral project.

The cost of a doctoral degree in cybersecurity depends on many factors. In-state public schools generally charge less than private or out-of-state institutions, and prestigious schools may cost more than their peers. On-campus cybersecurity Ph.D. programs sometimes offer assistantships that cover most or all of the cost of a doctorate.

Admission Requirements

Some doctorates in cybersecurity welcome applicants with only a bachelor's degree in a related field. Others require a master's degree for admission. An applicant's highest degree should always come from an accredited institution.

Cybersecurity doctoral programs often demand a minimum 3.0-3.5 undergraduate GPA. Some schools require GRE scores, but others admit applicants on the strength of their academic and professional backgrounds alone.

In addition to an undergraduate or graduate degree, prospective students need to submit an application, an essay, a resume, and letters of recommendation. Applicants usually pay an application fee ranging from $50 to $100.

Degree Options

Prospective students can consider several options when looking at a doctoral degree in cybersecurity. For instance, online programs offer flexibility and study-life balance, but an on-campus doctorate in cybersecurity provides face-to-face time with professors and peers.

A degree's curricular focus varies by program. Ph.D.s in cybersecurity emphasize designing and completing a research project with a goal of producing researchers and teachers. D.Sc. degrees elevate technical leadership with a goal of producing technical specialists and organizational leaders.

Even within cybersecurity Ph.D. programs, different universities have carved out their own areas of expertise. Subdiscipline specialties may include cybersecurity policy, emerging threats, or enterprise risk management.

Popular Cybersecurity Courses

Courses vary by school. A standard curriculum includes core courses in information security, information governance, and risk management. Students may also take concentration courses in areas like digital forensics or blockchain. A doctoral degree in cybersecurity concludes with a research sequence leading to a dissertation or capstone project.

This course explores the theories, development, and impacts of national and international public policies as they affect information technology. Enrollees learn the skills required to lead organizations through disruptive policy initiatives that establish new regulations. The distinct threats and the application of cybersecurity countermeasures vary according to domain. Enterprises, for example, face different threats and require different resources than the military. In this course, learners explore current trends and learn to solve security problems using new technologies. Students learn to view human-computer interaction (HCI) from several complex social and organizational perspectives and to understand the breadth of HCI's impact. This course looks at advanced concepts of design, evaluation, implementation, and application for interactive human-computer experiences.

How Much Will a Doctoral Degree in Cybersecurity Cost?

Several factors help determine the cost of getting a doctoral degree in cybersecurity. Things like state residency, degree format, available funding, and school prestige can all affect tuition prices.

According to the National Center for Education Statistics, in the 2019-20 academic year, the average public institution tuition was $12,410, while private institutions charged $26,597. Nonprofit, private colleges and universities charged an average of $28,430 while for-profits charged $14,289.

Students may incur other costs during their studies. Whether living on campus or studying from home, degree-seekers still need to budget for housing expenses, food, transportation, healthcare, insurance, and other expenses. Some institutions also charge technology fees or graduation fees.

Learners may not have to shoulder all the burden of a doctorate in cybersecurity alone. Applicants should explore financial aid options, including employer reimbursements, scholarships, fellowships, grants, and graduate assistantships. Many schools also offer tuition reductions for military personnel or teachers. Learn more at the link below.

Careers for Doctoral Graduates

Graduates with a bachelor's or master's degree can gain entry-level careers in computer science professions. Securing a position in corporate computer science research or as a professor at a university, however, often requires a graduate degree.

According to the BLS, computer information researchers earn a median annual salary of $126,830. The BLS also projects this field will grow 22% between 2020 and 2030.

Computer Science Professor


Computer science professors teach courses at the college/university level. Part-time professors or those who serve at small or community colleges often spend most of their time teaching. Tenured professors at research institutions may also engage in research, serve on academic committees, direct graduate student research, or make presentations at conferences and symposia.

Required Education: Doctorate

Job Outlook (2020-30): +12%

Median Annual Salary: $80,560

Computer Information Researcher


Computer information researchers solve complex problems in the computer science field. These professionals follow the scientific method: forming a hypothesis, designing an experiment, and recording their findings. They may study existing technology to improve its efficiency, or develop new tools and methods for computer programmers.

Required Education: Master's degree

Job Outlook (2020-30): +22%

Median Annual Salary: $126,830

IT Architect


IT architects organize and manage a company's technological components. They focus on business technology or security architecture. IT architects also help corporations, public agencies, or nonprofit organizations maintain compliance with computer security regulations. While IT architects do not have to hold a graduate degree, additional education may lead to management jobs in the field.

Required Education: Bachelor's degree

Job Outlook (2020-30): +5%

Median Annual Salary: $116,780

Data Scientist


Data scientists use data to solve problems. These professionals create mathematical models that corporate decision-makers can use to address real-world situations. Data science requires knowledge of analytics, computer languages, and machine learning. A Ph.D. in computer science often explores these concepts in depth.

Required Education: Bachelor's degree

Job Outlook (2020-30): N/A

Average Annual Salary: $97,000

Software Developer


Software developers design and build computer programs. They may write a new piece of software from scratch, or they might modify an existing piece of technology. A software developer's daily activities depend on their focus, and professionals who hold advanced education may qualify for software leadership roles.

Required Education: Bachelor's degree

Job Outlook (2020-30): +22%

Median Annual Salary: $110,140

Choosing the Right Cybersecurity Doctoral Program

Of all cybersecurity programs, a doctorate requires the most commitment to the discipline. Prospective students should review several factors before pursuing a doctorate. The most important of these factors is accreditation.

Regionally accredited schools offer credibility, marketplace utility, transfer options, and financial aid opportunities that may not extend to unaccredited institutions. One program accreditor, ABET, accredits bachelor's degrees in cybersecurity, but their accreditation does not cover doctorates.

Other decision-making factors include:

  • Faculty Interest: At the doctoral level, students should consider whether an institution's faculty interests align with their own research pursuits.
  • Ph.D. vs. D.Sc.: These two programs each create pathways to distinct outcomes. Prospective researchers and teachers should look at cybersecurity Ph.D. programs, while aspiring corporate leaders may want to consider D.Sc. options.
  • Location: On-campus programs in other states may require learners to relocate and pay higher tuition. Some online programs may also require in-person meetings that involve periodic travel.
  • Alumni Network: At top universities, a robust alumni network can help boost graduates' professional contacts.

Other Educational Paths

Educational options other than a doctorate can also lead to meaningful, lucrative careers in cybersecurity. Nevertheless, more education often equals more income.

For example, research at the Center on Education and the Workforce at Georgetown University revealed that workers with a doctorate earn a median salary of $4 million over their lifetime, compared to median lifetime earnings of $2.8 million for workers with only a bachelor's degree.

Individual experiences may not reflect these trends, however. The cost savings of a bootcamp or the benefits of a master's degree could prove sufficient for some students' goals.

Explore other cybersecurity education paths

Top Five Cybersecurity Doctoral Degrees 2022

There's never been a better time for a career in cybersecurity. Information security analysts enjoy buoyant job prospects and pay well above the national average. A doctorate in cybersecurity provides advanced training for leadership and academic positions. This ranking takes a look at five of the nation's best cybersecurity schools.

Capitol Technology University true

Located in Laurel, Maryland, Capitol Technology University specializes in STEM programs. The institution is one of only two colleges authorized to provide cybersecurity training to NSA security engineers. The school's location gives graduates access to a high concentration of defense contractors and high-tech companies.

D.Sc. in Cybersecurity

Students can earn a D.Sc. in cybersecurity from a nationally recognized cyber defense college.
The doctorate requires 54-66 credits that students complete online with low residency requirements. Enrollees explore information assurance research literature and engage in formal research. 

A course focuses on the research design process. Elective courses cover topics such as software assurance assessment and information assurance implementation. Enrollees culminate the cybersecurity doctorate with a dissertation. Capitol Tech operates a training center where students can practice cyber defense techniques and secure internships. 

All students pay the same tuition regardless of residency status. Capitol Tech is a Veterans Administration-approved institution and offers tuition discounts for active duty military personnel.

Applying to Capitol Tech

Admission requires a master's degree in a related field and at least five years of related work experience.

Program at a Glance

  • Accreditation: Institutional: Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE)
  • Tuition: $933/credit
  • Program Length: N/A
  • Delivery Format: 100% online with residency requirements
  • Percentage Awarded Loans: 53%
Carnegie Mellon University true

Carnegie Mellon University is a renowned research college located in Pittsburgh. The school enrolls about 16,000 students. CMU manages a renowned robotics engineering center and conducts classified research at the software engineering institute.

Ph.D. in Information Systems and Management

Students in the Ph.D. in information systems management study various technical and organizational facets of information systems. They engage in innovative research that addresses challenges in areas such as design and management. Participants study in classrooms with a small cohort of 6-8 peers. 

The cybersecurity Ph.D. requires coursework in social and policy sciences. Students complete quantitative methods coursework in statistics, machine learning, and econometrics. Learners engage in research in an area such as the economics of digitization or information security and privacy. 

Participants use a concentration area component to combine research and courses that support their research agenda. Doctoral students culminate the cybersecurity degree with a dissertation.

Applying to CMU

Admission requires a bachelor's degree in a related field and all school transcripts. Applicants must also submit GRE or GMAT scores and an essay describing a potential research project.

Program at a Glance

  • Accreditation: Institutional: Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE)
  • Tuition: N/A
  • Program Length: Unknown
  • Delivery Format: On campus
  • Percentage Awarded Loans: 38%
Dakota State University true

Founded in 1881, Dakota State University is a small college located in South Dakota. The public college administers programs through four colleges. DSU holds several accolades for cybersecurity education from the National Security Agency and Department of Homeland Security.

Ph.D. in Cyber Defense

Students can earn DSU's Ph.D. in cyber defense without sacrificing their careers. Enrollees complete this 72-credit cybersecurity degree mostly online. The curriculum blends technical skill development, research, and managerial competency. Students attend three on-site research seminars held at the Madison campus.

A required core covers subjects such as data privacy, incident response, and computer forensics. All students complete a research core in preparation for the dissertation. Enrollees can use elective credit to further develop their managerial or technical skills. They can also pursue an optional internship.

Online learners receive access to resources, researchers, and peers through the Madison cyber labs. Full-time students with a master's degree can complete the cybersecurity degree in three years. 

Applying to DSU

Applicants must have a bachelor's or master's degree in cyber, computer science, or a technology-oriented field, a minimum undergraduate 3.0 GPA, and GRE scores.

Program at a Glance

  • Accreditation: Institutional: Higher Learning Commission (HLC)
  • Tuition: $470/credit in-state; $580/credit out-of-state
  • Program Length: 3-7 years
  • Delivery Format: Hybrid
  • Percentage Awarded Loans: 43%
Marymount University

Marymount University is a private Catholic college located in Virginia. The region boasts robust employment opportunities and a hub for cybersecurity. Graduates can seek employment at various governmental agezancies in the Washington, D.C., metro area focused on cybersecurity initiatives.

D.Sc. in Cybersecurity

The D.Sc. in cybersecurity enrolls learners with a bachelor's or master's degree. Students complete 36-72 credits depending on their education level. Degree-seekers can choose an online, hybrid, or on-campus format. 

The D.Sc. in cybersecurity builds on students' prior computer networking education or experience. Those without this knowledge may need to complete a prerequisite course to level up their knowledge. The cybersecurity curriculum covers areas such as computer security, managing cybersecurity risk, and digital forensics and incident response. 

All students engage in applied research in cybersecurity and develop a dissertation they must defend. Marymount is designated a center for excellence in cyber defense education by the National Security Administration and Department of Homeland Security. 

Applying to Marymount

Admission to the D.Sc. in cybersecurity requires a bachelor's or master's degree, school transcripts, and writing samples. Applicants must have also passed a college-level statistics course.

Program at a Glance

  • Accreditation: Institutional: Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges
  • Tuition: $1,140/credit
  • Program Length: N/A
  • Delivery Format: 100% online, on campus, or hybrid
  • Percentage Awarded Loans: 48%
Northcentral University

Located in La Jolla, California, Northcentral University develops programs with working professionals in mind. Students complete all of NCU's programs online. The college offers rigorous and accredited programs students can afford. 

Ph.D. in Technology Management - Cybersecurity

The Ph.D. in technology management offers a cybersecurity specialization. The program cultivates change leaders who can use their knowledge to foil hackers and security breaches. Students complete 60 credits in 39-50 months. The degree requires no on-campus residency requirements. 

Enrollees learn how to develop solutions to address cybersecurity problems. They explore the impact of cybersecurity technologies at the local and global levels. Required courses explore topics such as databases and business intelligence, cyber forensics, and secure software development. 

Participants complete quantitative and qualitative research for the dissertation. NCU awards six full-tuition scholarships to eligible graduate students.

Applying to NCU

Admission requires a master's degree in a related field, school transcripts, and no GRE or GMAT scores.

Program at a Glance

  • Accreditation: Institutional: Western Association of Schools and Colleges Senior Colleges and University Commission (WSCUC WASC)
  • Tuition: $1,094/credit
  • Program Length: 39-50 months
  • Delivery Format: 100% online 
  • Percentage Awarded Loans: 34%
Nova Southeastern University

A private institution in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, Nova Southeastern University serves about 24,000 students. Seventeen NSU Sharks teams compete in Division II of the National Collegiate Athletic Association.

Ph.D. in Cybersecurity Management

Designed for working professionals, Nova Southeastern University's Ph.D. in cybersecurity management program is part of the National Security Agency-recognized Center for Information Protection, Education, and Research. 

The computing and engineering college offers the hybrid degree, which combines online and in-person classes. Students attend once-a-term, four-day sessions on campus and complete research, assignments, and online activities between sessions. 

The 67-credit curriculum requires classes like information security risk management, human-computer interaction, and information protection. Students complete at least two doctoral research classes and a doctoral research dissertation. NSU's College of Computing and Engineering offers six fellowships for Ph.D. candidates pursuing a cybersecurity management or computer science degree.

Applying to NSU

Admission requirements include a relevant master's degree from a regionally accredited institution and a minimum 3.25 GPA. Applicants must submit transcripts, a resume or CV, an essay, and three letters of recommendation.

Program at a Glance

  • Accreditation: Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC)
  • Tuition: $1,282/credit
  • Program Length: 67 credits
  • Delivery Format: Hybrid
  • Percentage Awarded Loans: 49%
St. Thomas University

A private Catholic school, St. Thomas University was founded in 1961 in Miami Gardens, Florida. The school offers a robust program catalog, including 11 doctoral programs.

Executive Doctorate of Business Administration in Information Security

St. Thomas University's Gus Machado College of Business offers a practice-focused executive doctorate of business administration in information security (EDBA-IS). The program adopts the engaged scholarship model. Students learn to apply current research to information security problems. 

Designed for executives with 7-10 years of cybersecurity management or consulting experience, the EDBA-IS is a three-year, part-time program. Students can transfer up to 12 graduate credits to the first-of-its-kind degree. 

The curriculum includes classes in research design in business administration and information privacy. The program does not require a comprehensive exam. The limited residency EDBA-IS program features nine weekend meetings each year.

Applying to STU

The no-GRE/GMAT program requires applicants to submit a completed online application and transcripts. The application is free. 

Program at a Glance

  • Accreditation: Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC)
  • Tuition: $1,025/credit
  • Program Length: 3 years
  • Delivery Format: On campus (limited residency)
  • Percentage Awarded Loans: 19%

What Else Should I Know About a Doctoral Degree in Cybersecurity?

Is a Ph.D. in cybersecurity worth it?

A Ph.D. in cybersecurity can prepare learners for lucrative and meaningful careers as leaders in a dynamic field. The degree can also equip students for roles in research, teaching, or public policy leadership.

What is the difference between a D.Sc. and a Ph.D.?

The D.Sc. prepares seasoned cybersecurity professionals to lead teams that address complex problems. The Ph.D. prepares aspiring academics who plan to conduct research or teach at a college or university.

How long does it take to get a D.Sc. degree?

Earning a D.Sc. can take 3-7 years depending on whether a student has earned a master's degree prior to enrollment. Some D.Sc. programs operate on a strict cohort model, wherein learners may graduate more quickly.

Which is better, a Ph.D. in cybersecurity or a D.Sc. degree?

These two doctoral degrees in cybersecurity help learners achieve different goals. The Ph.D. works better for learners planning careers in research or postsecondary teaching. The D.Sc. may prove more effective for students who aspire to lead cybersecurity teams.


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