Earning an Online Ph.D. in Information Systems Security

Earning an online Ph.D. in information systems security opens graduates up to a variety of high paying career opportunities. These programs feature a variety of elements that differ depending on the university or college including course topics, enrollment types, tuition structures, and scholarship opportunities. Holding a doctoral degree allows individuals access to the widest variety of careers in their field along with the highest earning potential, making the degree particularly valuable in the current job market.

Why Get a Doctorate in Information Systems Security?

Pursuing Specialization

Some doctoral programs offer specialization opportunities that allow information systems security students to focus their degree, providing them with the highest skill level in their desired area. Specializations enable students to cater their program and subsequent coursework to their career aspirations.

Career Advancement Opportunities

Holding a Ph.D. in information systems security unlocks the most prestigious careers in the field. Graduates can enjoy opportunities to advance within their current company, or pursue higher levels of employment at an outside organization.

Online Learning Technology

Online programs allow students access to high-end online learning technology and tools. This technology gives students the ability to navigate online learning in an accessible, easy way.

What's the Difference Between a Ph.D. and a DBA in Information Systems Security?

The Ph.D. in information systems security is commonly recognized as a theoretical research degree designed to train students for careers in higher education. Students in these programs can pursue new research efforts or build upon existing findings, often working with tenured faculty members.

DBAs typically exist as applied research degrees within the study of management. These programs prepare students to think strategically, apply management theories, and learn to use practical research to identify and solve problems in the field. Typically, information systems security students studying at the doctoral level focus their degree on a Ph.D., exploring a variety of high paying careers after graduation. Although these programs place an emphasis on higher education, they do not confine graduates to one type of career path.

Prerequisites for Online Doctorate in Information Systems Security Programs

Before gaining admission to an online Ph.D. in information systems security program, applicants must satisfy a variety of prerequisites. These requirements include proof of prior work experience, minimum GPAs, previous relevant coursework, and supplemental materials such as resumes, essays, and letters of recommendation.

  • Work Experience: Some programs require applicants to demonstrate prior relevant work experience, typically around two years. These programs often require applicants to provide their professional resume with their admissions application.
  • Exams and Test Scores: Most Ph.D. in information systems security programs do not require applicants to submit test scores. Rather, these programs evaluate students with a holistic approach, taking prior education into consideration.
  • Coursework: Most doctoral programs require applicants to hold a minimum 3.0 GPA. Additionally, many programs outline specific course requirements that applicants must satisfy before enrolling.
  • Recommendations: Most doctoral programs require students to provide letters of recommendation with their application. These letters should be professional in nature and come from a professional contact or a prior higher education program. Programs typically outline how many letters they require applicants to obtain and submit.
  • Essays: Many programs require applicants to submit an essay with their application. Programs that require this typically outline a topic requirement and any formatting guidelines that students need to follow.
  • Interviews: Some colleges and universities require applicants to participate in an admission interview. In these interviews, admissions teams ask questions and get to know applicants better.
  • International Students: International students must meet the same admissions requirements as other applicants. Additionally, they must provide proof of English-speaking proficiency, typically by submitting TOEFL scores.

How Much Can I Make With a Doctorate in Information Systems Security?

Graduates can pursue a variety of careers in the information systems security field, enjoying high salary opportunities across professions. On average, professionals in the field make around $110,000 each year. Graduates can deviate from the traditional career path and choose to pursue other careers in information technology, adapting their skills to a new environment.

Traditional Careers for Information Systems Security Graduates

Careers Stats Description

Computer and Information Research Scientists

Median Salary: $118,370

Job Growth: 19%

These scientists are responsible for completing information and computer-related reports and overseeing research efforts. Computer and information research scientists harness their organizational skills and ability to pay close attention to detail to process data and complete investigative tasks.

Senior Software Development Engineer

Median Salary: $119,348

Job Growth: N/A

Senior software development engineers upgrade and develop application software and computer operating systems. Often performing lead roles in software development projects, they play vital roles in software development projects, working for specific software publishers and creating applications for business, educational, and personal users.

Senior Programmer Analyst

Median Salary: $87,214

Job Growth: N/A

Responsible for maintaining and developing databases and software applications, senior programmer analysts use computer programming language to program computers, and develop software systems. Senior programmer analysts analyze client needs, develop systems to meet those needs, and update and create procedures and policies to coincide with the software they develop.

Information Security Manager

Median Salary: $111,385

Job Growth: N/A

Information security managers execute and create policy and audit plans, identifying operation needs and security risks. They also lead security trainings and communicate policies to other professionals in their organization.

Sources: Bureau of Labor Statistics / PayScale

Nontraditional Careers for Information Systems Security Graduates

Graduates holding their online Ph.D. in information systems security can consider a wide variety of jobs outside of the typical occupations for their degree. These jobs allow professionals to adapt their unique skill sets to environments in information technology.

Career Stats Description

Information Technology Manager

Median Salary: $87,186

Job Growth: N/A

Information technology managers oversee the processes and resources needed to design, plan, and support all types of information services and products. Additionally, they supervise, hire, and train information technology professionals.

Skills Overlapped: Network management and administration

Information Technology Director

Median Salary: $117,408

Job Growth: N/A

Responsible for building relationships with service providers and external information technology vendors, information technology directors prepare their organizations for security audits and investigations.

Skills Overlapped: IT security, infrastructure, and network management and administration

Information Technology Operations Manager

Median Salary: $90,027

Job Growth: N/A

In charge of scheduling and budgeting maintenance and upgrades for high end operational performance, information operations managers provide hands on support during emergencies, outages, and service changes.

Skills Overlapped: IT security and infrastructure, information technology, and leadership

Source: PayScale

Paying for an Online Doctorate in Information Systems Security

Each college or university features a different tuition rate and schedule. Additionally, enrollment type can impact tuition costs. To help pay for tuition, students can apply for financial aid and explore an array of scholarship opportunities. Students should thoroughly review their eligibility for scholarships before they apply.

Scholarships for Online Information Systems Security Students

Students earning their online Ph.D. in information systems security can explore a variety of scholarship opportunities specifically intended for doctoral students studying information systems security. Listed below are some examples of scholarships students can consider.

What to Expect from an Online Information Systems Security Program

Graduates who earn an online Ph.D. in information systems security must pass major milestones before they earn their degree. These milestones include seminars, dissertation seminars, and internships. During their program, students also experience varying program lengths depending on the college or university, and enrollment type. Each program features its own unique format for students to explore.

Major Milestones

  1. Dissertation Seminars

    Throughout their time at their college or university, doctoral students participate in dissertation seminars to conduct the research and drafting necessary to produce their final dissertation.

  2. Dissertation

    Students work on their dissertation throughout their program, completing and presenting it at the end of their senior year, typically as their last requirement before graduation.

  3. Seminars

    Many programs require students to complete certain seminars in order to gain an understanding of how to apply their subject matter in their actual career after graduation. These seminars occur at varying points in the curriculum depending on the program.

  4. Internships

    Some programs feature internship requirements, or offer them as optional. Many students choose to participate in internships during their doctoral program to relate the content of their coursework to in-the-field practices.

  5. Intent to Graduate

    At the end of their program, students complete intent to graduate paperwork, and register to complete their program, ensuring they have satisfied all the necessary requirements.

  6. Certification Preparation

    Just before graduation, many students begin to pinpoint what certification opportunities they'd like to pursue once they earn their degree and start preparing themselves for the certification process.


Subject matter can vary depending on the college or university, and students enjoy a variety of useful courses in online Ph.D. in information systems security programs. Below are some examples of common courses found in these programs.

Network Security Advances

In the network security advances course, students learn to effectively help decision makers accurately gauge, examine, and estimate the impact of implementing a variety of network security protection methods.

Enterprise Security Risk Management

Students in the enterprise security risk management course examine research in information security risk management, reviewing scholarly literature in the field, risk modeling, and assessment.

Security Governance and Management

The security governance and management course teaches students to examine governance principles and their application to information security management in order to align them with an organization's long term goals.

Assurance Controls and Compliance Management

Providing an overview of the management processes and organizational controls needed to ensure data protection, the assurance controls and compliance management course allows students to review federal, state, and other governmental and industry standards.

Degree Timelines

Students can pursue differing program timelines depending on their schedules and their plan for graduation. Students who want to graduate as soon as possible can explore accelerated formats, while students with obligations might consider enrolling part-time.

Enrollment Status Time to Complete Description


4-5 years

Part-time students complete fewer credits each semester. Therefore, they take longer to satisfy their graduation requirements and usually do not complete the program until four to five years after their start date.


2-3 years

Full-time students participate in standard enrollment plans, completing the amount of credits each semester that the university or college structures their degree plans and tuition layouts around. These students typically graduate within two to three years, depending on dissertation completion.


1.5-2 years

Some programs feature accelerated formats to allow students to satisfy their graduation requirements as quickly as possible. These students often earn their degree in two years or less.

Licenses and Certifications

Students interested in earning an online Ph.D. in information systems security can explore a variety of certification opportunities after graduation. Holding certification in a particular area helps demonstrate a professional’s abilities. Additionally, some positions require certain certifications, making them vital for some career paths.

  • Global Information Assurance Certification: Information systems security professionals can look to the Global Information Assurance Certification to explore a variety of certification opportunities including industrial control systems, cyber defense, and penetration testing.
  • Certified Ethical Hacker: The Certified Ethical Hacker certification exists as an intermediate-level credential from the International Council of E-Commerce Consultants. To earn the certification, professionals must pass an exam and complete a comprehensive five-day training course.
  • Certified Information Security Manager: A top credential for information technology professionals, the Information Security Manager certification holds validity for three years. Certified professionals must complete continuing education requirements and pay annual fees to maintain certification.
  • Certified Information Systems Security Professional: An advanced-level certification for information technology professionals interested in pursuing information security professions, the Information Systems Security Professional certification offers concentrations to target specific information technology areas including engineering, management, and architecture.

Professional Organizations and Resources

Students pursuing their online Ph.D. in information systems security can pursue membership at a variety of professional organizations. Organizations allow members to participate in events and seminars that provide networking opportunities that can lead to lasting professional relationships and job references.

  • Information Systems Security Association: A not-for-profit international organization of information security practitioners and professionals, the Information Systems Security Association provides members with publications, educational forums, and peer interaction opportunities.
  • ISACA: Incorporated in 1969 to create a centralized source of guidance and information in the auditing controls and computer systems field, ISACA serves 140,000 professionals across 180 countries.
  • International Association of Privacy Professionals: The International Association of Privacy Professionals functions as a resource for professionals interested in developing and advancing their careers by helping their organizations manage risks and protect data.
  • (ISC)²: An international, nonprofit membership organization, (ISC)² helps information security professionals learn, grow, and thrive in the industry. The organization serves more than 140,000 members.
  • EC-Council: Formed after the attack on the World Trade Center, the EC-Council functions as the world's largest cyber security technical certification body, operating in 145 different countries.
  • CompTIA: Functioning as the world's leading technical association, CompTIA boasts leading certification programs and unparalleled industry standards. The organization boasts more than 2,000 members, and 3,000 academic training partners.
  • InfraGard: A nonprofit organization that serves as a public-private partnership between the Federal Bureau of Investigation and U.S. businesses, InfraGard shares information and analysis efforts to serve the interests of government members.
  • Institute of Information Security Professionals: Serving as a focal point for the information security profession, the Institute of Information Security Professionals works to raise the standards for professionalism in the industry, and provide certification opportunities.
  • High Technology Crime Investigation Association: Formed to provide collaboration and education focused on the prevention and investigation of high tech crimes, the High Technology Crime Investigation Association provides members with collective partnerships, extensive information, and education.
  • SANS Institute: Established in 1989, the SANS Institute functions as the most trusted source for security certification and information security training in the world, developing and maintaining the largest collection of research documents.