Best Ph.D. in Cybersecurity Programs


Updated May 23, 2024

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Interested in a tech career keeping computer systems and valuable data safe? Consider earning a Ph.D. in cybersecurity. Learn about this degree and careers for graduates below. is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.

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A cybersecurity doctorate or Ph.D. is the highest degree you can earn in the field. You can earn a Ph.D. to prepare for university-level teaching and research, or other doctorates, which emphasize applied skills and help qualify you for leadership roles in cybersecurity.

Pursuing a Ph.D. in cybersecurity can help you pursue advanced employment and increase your earning power. Now is an excellent time to get a cybersecurity degree — the field continues to grow, and the demand for skilled cybersecurity professionals outpaces the supply.

Keep reading to learn about why you should consider a Ph.D. in cybersecurity. This guide explores what to expect from a typical cybersecurity program, including popular classes, admission requirements, tuition costs, and potential careers for graduates.

Popular Online Programs

Learn about start dates, transferring credits, availability of financial aid, and more by contacting the universities below.

Top Ph.D. in Cybersecurity Degrees

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 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%

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 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%

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%

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%

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Why Get a Doctoral Degree in Cybersecurity?

As a subspeciality of computer science, cybersecurity is an interdisciplinary field incorporating computer science, data science, the law, and social science. Cybersecurity professionals use computing knowledge and technical skills to secure computer systems and digital data. They also respond to and minimize the effects of data breaches and cyberattacks.

The cybersecurity field offers various jobs ensuring the safety of computer systems, including in education, research and development, and business/industry. Some potential cybersecurity jobs include information security analyst, security systems administrator, cybersecurity professor, and computer and information research scientist.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) does not collect data specifically for cybersecurity jobs but projects that computer and information technology occupations (which include cybersecurity roles) will grow much faster than average from 2022-2032.

Common employers include the computer systems design, finance, insurance, and IT industries. Government agencies and educational institutions also employ cybersecurity professionals.

Students who earn doctorates in cybersecurity can look forward to the following benefits.

  • New Skills: Cybersecurity doctoral students learn advanced computer science theory and skills, including risk management, software and network security, digital forensics, and cryptography.
  • Increased Earning Power: Earning a graduate degree in cybersecurity can help you earn higher salaries and/or qualify for promotions.
  • Better Jobs: A Ph.D. in cybersecurity can help you pursue leadership roles, such as director of cybersecurity and professor.
  • More Job Security: Cybersecurity is a growing field. The demand for skilled cybersecurity professionals is higher than the current supply, so graduates with Ph.D. degrees in cybersecurity can anticipate plentiful jobs now and in the future.

What to Expect From Cybersecurity Doctorates

Cybersecurity doctoral degrees seek to prepare graduates for advanced research, teaching, and management careers. These programs focus on cybersecurity theory, research, and applied skills.

Coursework covers areas like threat and risk assessment, cybersecurity policy and ethics, computer system vulnerabilities, and incident response. Other important areas of the field include artificial intelligence, cryptology, ethical hacking, and legal issues in computing and cybersecurity.

Some cybersecurity doctoral programs offer a Ph.D. in cybersecurity, while others offer a D.Sc. in cybersecurity. Computer science Ph.D. programs may also offer cybersecurity as a concentration. Some cybersecurity programs offer specialized concentrations in areas like cloud computing or network security.

Common courses include principles of cybersecurity, advanced risk management, and qualitative research. To graduate, each student must also complete a research dissertation paper and presentation. These programs typically take 4-6 years to complete.

Admission Requirements

Admission requirements for cybersecurity Ph.D. programs vary by school. Applicants typically need master's or bachelor's degrees in cybersecurity, computer science, or other related fields.

Students with master's degrees in cybersecurity usually receive credit toward Ph.D. programs, allowing them to graduate in less time. Some programs allow those who enter with just bachelor's degrees to earn master's degrees while progressing toward the Ph.D.

Typical admission requirements include a minimum GPA, GRE scores, letters of recommendation, and a resume or CV. Other requirements may include a statement of purpose and an in-person interview. Each prospective student typically must submit an online application and fee online.

Degree and Specialization Options

Cybersecurity programs offer various options, including the type of degree, concentrations, and learning formats.

Degree options may include a Ph.D. in cybersecurity or a D.Sc. in cybersecurity. Ph.D. programs in cybersecurity usually focus on research and theory, preparing students to work in university-level research and teaching. D.Sc. programs in cybersecurity prepare students for management roles and focus more on applied skills, policy, and technology.

Cybersecurity doctoral programs rarely offer concentrations, but doctoral students can still narrow their focus by completing dissertation projects. Potential concentrations include:

  • Secure cloud computing
  • Governance, risk, and compliance
  • Global strategy and operations

Cybersecurity programs may occur completely online or in person. Some programs offer hybrid degrees combining online and in-person learning.

Popular Ph.D. in Cybersecurity Courses

The type and variety of courses offered by Ph.D. in cybersecurity programs varies by school. Most offer core and elective/specialization classes. Students also complete credits while working on their dissertations. Keep reading to explore some popular cybersecurity Ph.D. courses.

  • Advanced Risk Management: Students learn to assess risk and protect organizations from threats. Topics include risk strategy, enterprise risk management, and global protection.
  • Software Security: This course looks at safeguarding applications with a focus on protecting software from cyberattacks.
  • Dissertation Proposal: Students write proposals for their dissertation projects and explore various research methods, requiring approval from faculty.
  • Information Assurance and Security: This course focuses on the fundamentals of information assurance and security, including management, policy, and legal issues.
  • Human-Computer Interaction: Topics in this course include user-centered design, prototyping, and evaluation of interfaces.

How Much Will a Doctoral Degree in Cybersecurity Cost?

The cost of earning a doctorate in cybersecurity varies by school. Factors that affect tuition include school prestige, learning format (online or in person), and type of college (public or private). Attending a public university where you can pay in-state tuition usually makes a degree much more affordable.

Consider other expenses you may incur during your studies besides tuition and required fees, such as costs for textbooks, technology, and living expenses.

You can look for money to help pay for your degree in many places. Financing options for a Ph.D. in cybersecurity include state and federal financial aid, student loans, grants, and scholarships. Many graduate departments offer fellowships and research or teaching assistant positions to doctoral candidates.

Careers for Cybersecurity Ph.D. Graduates

With a Ph.D. in cybersecurity, you can pursue various high-paying jobs in education, technology, and research. Some of the positions listed below may require additional experience.

Computer Science Professor

These professors work in community colleges and four-year universities, teaching computer science to college students. They plan lessons, teach classes, evaluate student work, and conduct research. A Ph.D. is required to teach at a four-year university, but a master's degree is sufficient for some community colleges.

  • Required Education: Ph.D.
  • Median Annual Salary: $84,380
  • Job Outlook (2022-32): +8%

Computer and Information Systems Managers

Computer and information systems managers work in the computer systems and design, information, finance, and insurance industries. They oversee their employers' interconnected computer systems and help meet organizational technology goals.

  • Required Education: Bachelor's degree
  • Median Annual Salary: $169,510
  • Job Outlook (2022-32): +15%

Information Security Analyst

Information security analysts help companies keep their computer systems and networks safe from security threats. Typical duties include identifying network vulnerabilities, tracking new IT security tools, and writing reports about security incidents.

  • Required Education: Bachelor's degree
  • Median Annual Salary: $120,360
  • Job Outlook (2022-32): +32%

Computer and Information Research Scientist

Computer and information research scientistsstudy computing and find new ways to use technologies to solve problems. They design experimental studies, analyze research, write reports, and give presentations. These scientists may work for the federal government, the computer systems design sector, in research and development, and for higher education.

  • Required Education: Master's degree
  • Median Annual Salary: $145,080
  • Job Outlook (2022-32): +23%

Choosing the Right Cybersecurity Ph.D. Degree

A list of the top cybersecurity in Ph.D. programs can provide a great place to start your research, but the best overall program meets your specific personal and professional needs. Below, we've highlighted some important considerations.

  • Accreditation: Make sure that any prospective Ph.D. in cybersecurity program is offered by an institutionally accredited university. Accreditation is essential for receiving federal financial aid and signals that the school can offer a high-quality education. The Council for Higher Education Accreditation provides school accreditation information, including a searchable database.
  • Staff Credentials/Diversity: Graduate students usually work closely with faculty members on research and teaching. Before enrolling, see if any professors who teach in the program focus on your intended field. You might also want to prioritize a program that employs a diverse staff.
  • Location: Location is a logistical consideration, but it can have a big impact on your life. Some students do not mind relocating to pursue the best Ph.D. programs, but others prioritize earning a degree near family or their current job.

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FAQ About Cybersecurity Graduate Degree Programs

Is a cybersecurity Ph.D. worth it?

A Ph.D. in cybersecurity can help you get the skills and knowledge you need to qualify for some of the top-paying leadership jobs in the industry. However, your career goals and personal finances will dictate whether these programs are a worthwhile venture for you.

How long does it take to finish a Ph.D. in cybersecurity program?

Length varies by program. However, a Ph.D. in cybersecurity can take 4-6 years to complete. If you already hold a master's degree in cybersecurity, it might take you less time to graduate.

What can I do with a Ph.D. in cybersecurity?

It depends on your previous education and experience, along with your chosen specialization. However, a Ph.D. in cybersecurity can help you qualify for various advanced teaching, research, and management roles in cybersecurity and the wider tech field.

Will a graduate degree in cybersecurity increase my salary?

No degree can guarantee you a specific job or salary, but a graduate degree in cybersecurity can likely increase your salary. Payscale data from May 2024 indicates that graduates with bachelor's degrees in cybersecurity earned $77,000 on average. Payscale doesn't have enough data on Ph.D. in cybersecurity degree-holders, but individuals with cybersecurity master's degrees earned $96,000 on average, in contrast.

Page last reviewed April 23, 2024.

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