A Step-by-Step Guide to Pursuing a Ph.D. in Cybersecurity


The number of new programs open to students interested in pursuing a Ph.D. in cybersecurity is one predictor of the industry’s growth and development. The different types of Ph.D. offerings are evolving and expanding as the breadth of skillset for professionals in the cybersecurity space continues to develop and expand. Beyond computer science, cybersecurity practitioners are also receiving training in fields such as law, policy, management, and strategy, among others.

This guide is intended to provide a general overview of available cybersecurity Ph.D. programs to prospective cybersecurity Ph.D. students. It will also go through some of the things to think about when choosing a Ph.D. program, such as course requirements and tuition costs.

phd in cyber security engineering

Until recently, cybersecurity Ph.D. programs, like those in other cutting-edge technology fields, were mostly used to train for niche roles in applied science, mostly for government agencies (such as the CIA, NSA, and FBI) or closely related research organizations or institutions.

Today, as the cybersecurity sector becomes more pervasive and consumer-oriented, cybersecurity Ph. D.s can find work at public-facing companies such as startups and well-known financial, tech, infrastructure, and digital service firms.

One emerging trend in the cybersecurity sector is the need for cybersecurity experts to be well-versed in a wide range of emerging threats. There are a range of new attack vectors and prospects for cybercrime and related problems if recent stories regarding cybersecurity breaches are any indicator. Committing cybercrime has traditionally needed resources and a degree of sophistication that necessitated advanced training or abilities. However, because of the widespread use of the internet, cybercrime is becoming more prevalent. As a result, a cybersecurity Ph.D. program allows students to specialize in one aspect of a rapidly expanding and multi-layered field.

Indeed, cybersecurity graduate schools are now offering advanced master’s degrees, and several businesses and professional organizations provide cybersecurity certifications that concentrate on specific issues related to cybersecurity technology, law, digital forensics, policy, or related topics, reflecting the trend of having well-trained yet adaptable cybersecurity professionals.

Traditional research-oriented cybersecurity positions, on the other hand, remain in high demand in academia and elsewhere, and this trend is likely to continue.

One fascinating aspect of the cybersecurity sector is attempting to forecast potential cybersecurity threats and then developing tools and frameworks to defend against them.

When new technology and services emerge, and as more people around the world use the internet for everything from healthcare to banking, new methods of securing those services will be needed. Academic researchers are often called upon to think ahead and analyze different threats as well as ways to mitigate such threats.

Another important trend emerging from academia is that cybersecurity students are becoming more multidisciplinary. Academic programs designed to train the next generation of cybersecurity professionals are becoming more prevalent as cybersecurity hacks affect more aspects of people’s daily lives. This new trend opens up a world of possibilities for students with a wide range of interests who want to pursue a career path that isn’t conventional.

What is required to get a phd in cyber security engineering?

First, the good news: obtaining a Ph.D. in an area relevant to cybersecurity would almost certainly lead to a plethora of exciting and dynamic job opportunities.

The bad news is that obtaining a Ph.D. necessitates a significant time and energy commitment, as well as a significant opportunity cost (meaning you must spend four to five years, or longer, or pursue other opportunities to receive a doctoral degree).

Here’s a short rundown of the requirements for obtaining a Ph.D. in cybersecurity. Specific degree requirements can, of course, differ by program. Students can now receive degrees in a number of formats, including conventional on-campus programs, online degree programs, and hybrid graduate degree programs that incorporate both on-campus and online learning. This is a growing trend in the industry.

Frequently asked questions about cybersecurity Ph.D. programs

How many credits are required for a phd in cyber security engineering?

To earn a degree, both conventional and online cybersecurity graduate programs require a certain amount of credits to be completed.

A Ph.D. in cybersecurity takes an average of 71 credits to complete, which is almost twice the time it takes to complete a conventional master’s degree program. Many Ph.D. students have study and teaching duties in addition to coursework, which can be both challenging and excellent career training.

What is the core cybersecurity curriculum?

Acknowledgment A cybersecurity doctoral program’s foundation is You’ll be expected to learn a variety of skills in a data science doctoral program, as well as how to apply them across domains and disciplines. The core curriculum will vary by program, but almost all will have a base in statistics.

What kinds of exams are required during a Ph.D. program?

During the lengthy Ph.D. process, all Ph.D. applicants will be required to take a series of tests that will serve as checkpoints. The exact exam process and timing varies by university and program, but in general, cybersecurity Ph.D. candidates must take a qualifying exam early in the program (usually in the winter or spring of the second year of study), a preliminary exam to demonstrate readiness to begin the dissertation or research portion, and a comprehensive exam.

What is a doctoral dissertation?

A doctoral dissertation in cybersecurity is the culmination of a doctoral program. The dissertation is a systematic paper that describes the results of the original research performed by the Ph.D. candidate during the program under the supervision of faculty advisors. The following are some examples of cybersecurity research subjects that could be transformed into dissertation ideas:

    • Login policies and best practices are discussed.
    • Ways to Defend Against Bots’ Ascension
    • Encryption and privacy regulations
    • Employee protection is a corporate obligation.
    • Ad targeting and privacy on the internet
    • Attacks on the modern frontier of social engineering
    • Strategy and procedure for operational protection (OpSec).
    • Protection and network infrastructure
    • Cybersecurity legislation and policies
    • Biometric security flaws
    • The significance of ethical hacking
    • Forensics and regulation of cyber-security

Preparing for a Ph.D. in Cybersecurity

Despite the fact that cybersecurity is a relatively new formalized technology area, there are a variety of ways for students or prospective Ph.D. candidates to get interested or explore the field before and during graduate school. Here are a few examples of how to begin networking and looking for opportunities:

Join cybersecurity organizations with professional networks

Professional organizations that specialize in specific fields are a good place to go for the most up-to-date job advice and guidance. They often distribute newsletters or other types of information that provide insight into emerging developments and issues that affect cybersecurity professionals. Here are a number of examples:

The Center for Internet Security (CIS) is a non-profit organization dedicated to cybersecurity professional development and collaboration. The company also publishes data and research on the most recent cybersecurity threats and problems facing professionals.

The SANS Institute offers a variety of student courses (including credential programs), as well as continuing advanced cybersecurity education and training for those in the sector. Webinars, online training, and live in-person workshops are among the resources available to the company. SANS also publishes newsletters and hosts forums for cybersecurity professionals to communicate and exchange knowledge.

Leverage your social network

LinkedIn and Twitter are good places to start if you want to learn about what’s going on in the industry, who the key leaders and influencers are, and what kinds of jobs and opportunities are open.

It’s also a good idea to start a professional network when you’re young. Professionals and members of the industry are often able to provide advice and assistance to students who are truly interested in the sector and seeking employment.

Cybersecurity competitions

Cybersecurity contests are an excellent opportunity to gain practical experience working on real-world cybersecurity issues and problems. Cybersecurity competitions sponsored by industry associations are a great way for a Ph.D. student or prospective student to meet other cybersecurity professionals while working on projects that will help flesh out a resume or become talking points in later job interviews.

For example, the US Cyber Challenge is a series of competitions and hackathon-style events organized by the Department of Homeland Security Science and Technology Directorate and the Center for Internet Security with the aim of training the next generation of cybersecurity professionals.


Internships remain a tried-and-true method of gaining professional experience. Internships in technological areas, such as cybersecurity, can be quite lucrative. Internships in cybersecurity, like the industry itself, are accessible in a variety of industries and can range from academic study to corporate work.

Things to consider when choosing a cybersecurity Ph.D. program

When considering any type of graduate degree, there are a variety of factors to consider, but in order to obtain a doctoral degree, careful preparation is needed. It’s also worth noting that these are just suggestions; each graduate program will have its own set of criteria, so double-check.

What you will need before applying to a cybersecurity Ph.D. program:

    • Transcripts from both undergraduate and graduate programs
    • Scores on the GRE
    • A declaration of purpose, which functions similarly to a cover letter and expresses interest.
    • Letters of recommendation
    • The cost of the application
    • Application through the internet
    • A resume or curriculum vitae highlighting professional and academic achievements

What does a cybersecurity Ph.D. program cost?

Obtaining a Ph.D. is a significant financial and time commitment. Clearly, cybersecurity Ph.D. students are balancing the cost of becoming an expert in the field against the potential for exciting and lucrative job opportunities on the other hand.

The majority of conventional on-campus doctoral programs cost between $1,300 and $2,000 per credit hour. Since degree requirements are typically completed in 60-75 hours, a doctoral degree will cost well into the six-figure range.

The good news is that by the time students reach the doctoral level, they have a variety of funding choices, including certain graduate programs that are fully funded by the university or academic departments. Students interested in cybersecurity studies may also apply for funding in the form of research grants and other types of scholarships.

The CyberCorps: Scholarships for Service program is one example. Ph.D. students studying cybersecurity are eligible for a $34,000 per year grant from the National Science Foundation, as well as a $6,000 educational stipend to attend conferences, in return for committing to work for a government agency in the cybersecurity space after completing the Ph.D. program.

A complete listing of cybersecurity Ph.D. programs

A list of cybersecurity Ph.D. programs is given below. The listing is meant to serve as a high-level index with enough basic details to allow for fast side-by-side comparisons.

Specific information about each school’s requirements (such as a GRE score or previous academic work), as well as the number of credits needed, projected costs, and a link to the program, should be available.

SchoolLocationLink to the program website
Arizona State UniversityTempe, ArizonaPh.D. in Computer Science – Cybersecurity
Carnegie Mellon UniversityPittsburgh, PennsylvaniaPh.D. in ECE: Mobility Research Center
Colorado School of MinesGolden, ColoradoDoctor of Philosophy in Computer Science – Cyber Security
Indiana University BloomingtonBloomington, IndianaPh.D. in Computer Science – Minor in Security Informatics
Indiana University BloomingtonBloomington, IndianaPh.D. in Informatics – Security Informatics Track
Iowa State UniversityAmes, IowaPh.D. in Computer Engineering with a focus on Information Assurance
Iowa State UniversityAmes, IowaPh.D. in Computer Science with a focus on Information Assurance
Iowa State UniversityAmes, IowaPh.D. in Math with a focus on Information Assurance
Mississippi State UniversityMississippi State, MississippiPh.D. Computer Science – Computer Security Concentration
Naval Postgraduate SchoolMonterey, CaliforniaPh.D. in Computer Science (may elect Computer Systems and Security specialization)
Northeastern UniversityBoston, MassachusettsPh.D. in Information Assurance
Purdue UniversityWest Lafayette, IndianaInterdisciplinary Ph.D. Program in Information Security
Purdue UniversityWest Lafayette, IndianaPh.D. in CS with an Info-Security Focus
Rochester Institute of TechnologyRochester, New YorkPh.D. in Computing and Information Sciences – Computing Security Focus
Sam Houston State UniversityHuntsville, TexasPh.D. in Digital and Cyber Forensic Science
Stevens Institute of TechnologyHoboken, New JerseyPh.D. program in Computer Science – Computer Security
The University of TennesseeKnoxville, TennesseePh.D. in Computer Engineering – Cybersecurity
The University of TennesseeKnoxville, TennesseePh.D. in Computer Science – Cybersecurity
University of ArizonaTucson, ArizonaPh.D. in MIS with Emphasis in Information Assurance
University of California-DavisDavis, CaliforniaPh.D. in Computer Science – Information Assurance Focus
University of Colorado Colorado SpringsColorado Springs, ColoradoPh.D. in Engineering – Concentration in Security
University of IdahoMoscow, IdahoPh.D. in Computer Science – Information Assurance
The University of Illinois at Urbana-ChampaignChampaign, IllinoisJuris Doctor Degree – Illinois Cyber Security Scholars Program
University of Missouri-ColumbiaColumbia, MissouriPh.D. in Computer Science with a focus in Information Assurance
The University of North Carolina at CharlotteCharlotte, North CarolinaPh.D. in Computing and Information Systems
Virginia TechBlacksburg, VirginiaPh.D. in Computer Science with Cybersecurity Track
Worcester Polytechnic InstituteWorcester, MassachusettsPh.D. in Computer Science – Cybersecurity Focus
Jennifer Thomas
Jennifer Thomas is the Co-founder and Chief Business Development Officer at Cybers Guards. Prior to that, She was responsible for leading its Cyber Security Practice and Cyber Security Operations Center, which provided managed security services.