Online Ph.D. in Cybersecurity – A Guide to Finding the Right Program


Online cybersecurity Ph.D. programmes are gaining popularity as a degree choice for students and a viable option for schools looking to train more experts in the sector.

Programs aimed at raising public awareness of the issue and attracting promising young minds to the field are becoming more popular and are beginning to bear fruit. Certificate, preparation, and education services are in high demand as the number of willing candidates grows. The number of degree programmes available at universities, in particular, is increasing.

In recent years, bachelor’s degrees have become almost a requirement for new cybersecurity practitioners. A master’s degree is also required for higher-level positions, such as chief information security officers (CISOs).

However, the need for doctorate degrees in cybersecurity is currently becoming apparent. Demand for high-level management vacancies, higher-education faculty positions, and advanced research programmes is rising much faster than the number of candidates available to fill them.

In general, most doctoral candidates will work as educators, consultants, or scholars, all of which are increasingly evolving and vital roles. These positions include Ph.D.s (doctor of philosophy degrees) and DScs (doctor of science degrees).

The emphasis of a Ph.D. is on theory and science, while a DSc is on research and technological competence. With a greater emphasis on technical knowledge, DScs can continue to work in the field on practical applications. DPS degrees, on the other hand, are almost exclusively dedicated to the highest levels of training in hands-on practical experience and skills, rather than theory and science.

Many wishing to progress their careers to the pinnacle of the cybersecurity sector can now pursue all three forms of doctoral programmes. However, at the moment, the Ph.D. is by far the most common doctoral cybersecurity degree, followed by DScs and DPSs. There is a vital need for information security professionals around the world, but our educational institutions still need to increase their capacity to train new practitioners. We also urgently need advanced, creative, and strategic thinkers to perform cybersecurity research.

Obtaining an Online Cybersecurity Ph.D.

There are six steps to selecting an online cybersecurity Ph.D. programme.

So, with all of these choices and a the number of colleges offering these programmes, how do you determine the path is best for you? Here’s a fast six-step process to get you started.

1. Self-evaluation: Those seeking a Ph.D. in cybersecurity have undoubtedly already obtained several degrees and certifications, as well as many years of work experience. The education, combined with hands-on experience, provides an excellent overall picture of the information security environment. All of that experience would be crucial in determining which path to take in the next step of one’s career. There are two forms of major decisions.

  • Are online Ph.D. programmes the best option, or is traditional college a better option?
  • Should you pursue a career in science, education, or consulting? Is it easier to function in a real-world setting? It will take some introspective analysis to determine the right answer to both questions. And no decisions should be taken without first conducting a detailed self-examination.

2. Admissions requirements: As with any college degree, each institution that offers it will have its own ideas of what a good Ph.D. applicant might look like. All require a BS degree, with some requiring an MS. However, there are often ambiguous requirements for what discipline the degrees must be in, such as STEM or computer science. Other requirements could include a minimum GPA of 3.0 or higher, as well as GRE test scores.

For applicants with good academic or technical credentials, waivers for the GRE tests are often given. A personal goal statement, personal and job references, a current resume, and college transcripts are usually all that is needed. The main point here is to pay attention to the requirements of each school under consideration and determine if these demands would necessitate additional time, classwork, certifications, and so on.

3. Tuition and scholarships: Whether a Ph.D. candidate comes from a family with a lot of income, money will still be an issue. Obviously, the first number to search is tuition. But don’t just stop there. Financial aid is almost always available from the school, private scholarship outlets, and sometimes government entities seeking to expand the cybersecurity workforce. Of course, there are also government-sponsored and private education loans available.

4. School reputation, course quality, and availability: It’s always best to choose from schools with the best reputation among cybersecurity practitioners to get the most out of an investment of time and money in education. Specific courses and concentrations are different from one school to the next. As a result, students must ensure that the special course offerings at a specific school meet their expectations and preferences.

5. Academic Centers for Cyber Defense Excellence: US government intelligence agencies are probably the most involved in developing the science and expertise required to perform the most extensive, sophisticated, and comprehensive cybersecurity operations anywhere. The National Security Agency (NSA) and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) are co-sponsoring an initiative called National Centers for Academic Excellence in Cyber Defense to support cybersecurity education (CAE-CD). The National Security Agency (NSA) performs rigorous reviews and evaluations of colleges that offer cybersecurity degrees, and only a few are granted CAE clearance. Choosing an NSA-approved organisation ensures a high degree of assurance that the curriculum provided is of the highest standard. Graduates would also have a better chance of landing a job with one of the federal government’s intelligence agencies. The National Security Agency (NSA) recently released a fact sheet listing 272 CAE-CD authorised institutions across the world.

6. Faculty and study options for dissertations: The dissertation is an essential part of every master’s or doctoral degree. It is not necessary to decide on a specific subject and emphasis before beginning the programme. It should, however, be possible to know the faculty members and other available resources have the most experience, technology, and other resources for the student’s specialty.

What to Look for in an Online Ph.D. Cybersecurity Programme

Enrolling in an online programme that offers the best and most numerous courses within the cybersecurity specialisation sought could be at the top of any doctoral candidate’s priority list. It’s also a good idea to look at the school’s information security faculty and see who has experience in that area and how many of them there are.

A opportunity to meet these professors, if possible, might be very instructive. Requesting to audit one or more lessons would also give you useful insight into how the courses are organised and how well the tutorial style suits you. When it comes time to find a post-doctoral position, choosing a Ph.D. programme with the best possible reputation among cybersecurity practitioners will help open doors.

An institution that fosters innovation and provides cutting-edge technical capabilities can help students get the most out of their education. Attending a college that encourages consultative cooperation between students and faculty would also be beneficial educationally. Tuition costs and the availability of school-provided financial aid, especially scholarships, grants, and other offsets to student expenses, are probably the easiest variables to ascertain.

Online Ph.D. Cybersecurity Programme Timeline

Obtaining a doctorate in cybersecurity usually takes between three and seven years of hard work. The exact timeline will be determined by each institution, as well as the degree of testing and certification needed for each student to be accepted into a programme. Coursework can take up to three years, based on credits received and transferred prior to enrolling in the programme. Following the completion of the classes, the next step is to plan a research project for the dissertation.

With a well-thought-out concept in hand, enlist the help of a faculty mentor to fine-tune the scope before accepting the research outline. The remainder of the process consists of doing intensive research and then writing the dissertation, all while working with a faculty mentor. This process may last two or three years, and in some cases even longer.

The amount of time it takes to complete a dissertation is partly determined by the candidate’s ability to commit to the requisite study. After completing their dissertation, students may schedule a board review and present their thesis to faculty members in order to receive their doctoral degree.

Online Ph.D. Cybersecurity Scholarships, Grants, and Fellowships

Tuition rates at any school do not deter you. Choose the best academic environments for the desired degree and specialisation first, then see what can be done to reduce costs. Almost always, there are many choices to consider. Some schools offer work-study programmes, which enable students to take classes for a semester or two before working in the industry. This offers a good mix of academia and practical experience, as well as income to help pay for tuition. Many that are already working and attending school will, of course, be unable to take advantage of this opportunity.

Scholarships, grants, and fellowships are often the most available financial aid vehicles. Many scholarships seem to be geared toward undergraduate and graduate students at the moment, with less scholarships available for Ph.D. students. This is likely to change in the coming years, as the market for Ph.D.s is expected to skyrocket. Individual colleges, corporate sponsors, and government organisations currently offer the majority of scholarships available to Ph.D. candidates.

Cybersecurity Ph.D. Career Path

Because of the design of doctoral programmes, those who complete one would be better equipped for academic or theoretical applications of their cybersecurity knowledge. However, there are times when Ph.D. holders can find very interesting industry jobs, especially in research-oriented companies.

These individuals may typically occupy the highest levels of information security management positions, such as CISO, information security officer, information security manager, and so on. However, several will be destined for specialised forensic studies into cutting-edge cybersecurity concepts and innovations that are being explored and discovered. Others will want to work in higher education as academics. Others will work as contractors for large companies and/or high-level government departments who haven’t been able to recruit enough cybersecurity staff to meet their needs, or simply don’t have the advanced skills that a Ph.D. provides.

School Listings for Online Ph.D. in Cybersecurity

Attending school via an online college provides full versatility for students with busy lives, as it does with any course of study. A flexible online doctoral programme allows Ph.D. applicants to work on a target on their own time, regardless of whether they are limited by work, family, health constraints, or other factors.

Below is a detailed list of schools that offer online Ph.D. programmes, complete with current and comprehensive information for easy comparison.

SchoolLocationLink to Program Website
Capitol Technology UniversityLaurel, MarylandDoctor of Science in Cybersecurity
Dakota State UniversityMadison, South DakotaDoctor of Philosophy in Cyber Operations
University of FairfaxFairfax, VirginiaDoctor of Science in Information Assurance (DSc)
University of FairfaxFairfax, VirginiaDoctorate in Information Assurance (DIA)
University of Rhode IslandKingston, Rhode IslandPhD in Computer Science – Digital Forensics
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.