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Doctor of Philosophy in Cybersecurity (PhD-CY)

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Doctor of Philosophy in Cybersecurity (PhD-CY)

In today’s data-dependent world, every organization needs senior-level experts with the knowledge and training to monitor its networks for vulnerabilities and security breaches and use tools like firewalls and data encryption programs to protect sensitive information. National University’s online Doctor of Philosophy of Cybersecurity (PhD-CY) degree program takes an applied approach to cybersecurity theory and research. 

NU’s curriculum challenges you to explore advanced topics, learn the very latest concepts, and prepare for anticipated risks in the field of cybersecurity. The Cybersecurity doctorate is designed to prepare researchers with technology strategies that are applicable to leading positions in both the private and public sectors. Our program offers four specializations that allow you to tailor your studies and research to match your interest in a specific area of cybersecurity.

Prepare for a Leadership Role Protecting an Organization’s Computer Networks and Systems

In this rigorous curriculum, you’ll explore governance, compliance, leading frameworks, models, and standards to reduce threats and vulnerabilities. You’ll also create a portfolio of valuable capabilities, addressing internal and external issues through the intelligent manipulation of data while completing your doctoral studies.

The Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC) accredits public and private schools, colleges, and universities in the U.S.

Course Details

Degree and Course Requirements

The PhD program requires a minimum of 60 credits. Additional credit hours may be allowed as needed to complete the dissertation research. If granted, additional courses will be added to the student degree program in alignment with the SAP and Academic Maximum Time to Completion policies. Students who do not complete their program in accordance with these policies may be dismissed.

The PhD in Cybersecurity requires eight foundation/core courses, five specializations, two research, a pre-candidacy prospectus, and four dissertation courses for a total of 60 credit hours. 

*Students select one pair of research methods and directed research courses based on their own research proposal. 

The PhD in Cybersecurity requires the following courses for every specialization:

Course Name

In this course, students will explore emerging issues in computer network design and management. Of particular attention will be topics on how mobile computing has changed the way networks are designed and managed.

This course will consolidate a foundation of concepts relating to security and cybersecurity, enabling the successful examination of greater detail and complexity in later courses. You will examine the full range from governance through compliance with laws, through people risks, to technology. Various mitigation options are considered to reduce vulnerabilities, counter threats, and to protect an organization’s data and system assets. You will study the need to protect organizations from future exposures and apply critical thinking and synthesis to motivate the resources needed to defend an organization.

Cybersecurity has the primary objective of averting losses and restoring proper operations should there be a loss. During this course you will study the foundations of risk and the opportunities to reduce cybersecurity losses for organizations. Risk assessment abilities and research options form the base of cyber defenses and determine the need for subsequent resources. The course continues with measuring risk and events leading to the identification of potential incidents and solutions. Learning about contingencies consider the needs of the organization, maintaining operations, and preparing for the best recovery should there be a loss.

Tracking and responding to cyber events requires massive databases integrating content from all devices at every location. Cyber threat analysis and response implies long term access and complex manipulation of event databases. In this course you will learn techniques to capture and display relevant data and leverage automation to reduce losses. Data manipulation, automated sense-making, appropriate fast reactions, machine learning, data analysis, and presentation are rapidly developing cybersecurity techniques. You will also leverage required capabilities for the defense of the organization, respond to enhanced threat complexity and capabilities, and address the need to counter data poisoning by threat actors.

Risk management is the foundation of defending organizations from information security, cyber threats, compliance, audit, and privacy exposures. To address risk and assurance, this course builds an integrated approach solution leading to the prioritization of resources for an organization. You will extend your knowledge and skills for global protection within and beyond the perimeter. This course positions the importance of risk management within a cybersecurity program and its role within Enterprise Risk Management (ERM). You will also assess theories and practices concerning risk management, compose a risk strategy, and leverage maturity models to improve the protection of organizations.

This course serves as an extensive exploration of statistics for the technology leader. Included in the course, is an advanced examination of statistical analyses commonly used for information systems and technology research. During this course, you will use different statistical tools to enhance your advanced analytical skills. These statistical analysis skills are required to plan, conduct, and interpret quantitative data to inform enterprise decisions. You will also learn to illustrate and produce technical output reports.

Global integration and broad alliances between criminal elements and nation-states frequently lead to rapidly changing and significant threats to all nations, organizations, and citizens. During this course, you will study current and predictable threats, target critical infrastructure, and determine risks implied in new technology. You will also learn to recognize the risks originating from cybercriminals, terrorism, hacktivism, and nation-state, and other significant threat actors. You will devise and work to get funding for viable strategies to defend critical infrastructures, organizations, and the citizens of the nation.

This course provides a survey of the different methods used to conduct technology-based research. During this course, you will learn about the research principles and methodologies that guide scientific inquiry in order to develop an understanding of the effects of research on individuals and organizations. Specifically, you will study the scientific research lifecycle, data collection methods, and research design methodology. You will finish the course by selecting a research design methodology to support your research interests through the remainder of your program.

The results of technical research are frequently used to support informed management decisions. This course provides technology leaders and professionals with the skills needed to design and conduct quantitative research studies to support specific types of data. During this advanced course in research, you will explore and apply different types of quantitative research methods and statistical techniques. You will also explore instrumentation, data collection, and data analysis tools and techniques to create aligned, ethical, and substantive research designs.

A quantitative research design includes objective analysis using experimental, quasi-experimental, and related techniques. Technical quantitative research involves statistical analysis of data collected from a larger number of participants to determine an outcome that can be applied to a general population. During this course, you will work through the scientific research process and apply your knowledge of quantitative research design to develop a technical research proposal in which you can use to support your research interests through the remainder of your program.

The results of qualitative research are frequently used to support informed management decisions. This course provides technology leaders with an in-depth introduction to qualitative methods for studying human behavior, including grounded theory, narrative analysis, and case studies. During this advanced course in research, you will apply qualitative research methods to an information technology-based study. You will also deepen your research knowledge and skills by conducting interviews, collecting and coding data, producing ethical data conclusions, and creating objective research reports.

A qualitative approach to research of a technical nature integrates theoretical, conceptual, and empirical constructs with common practices and experience to gain an understanding of performance and functionality, develop an applied and testable model for improvement, or provide insights into problems to develop new ideas. During this course, you will work through the scientific research process and apply your knowledge of qualitative research design to develop a technical research proposal to support your research interests through the remainder of your program.

The results of technical research are frequently used to develop new products and services. This course provides technology leaders and professionals with the skills needed to design and conduct constructive research studies based on theory. During this advanced course in research, you will examine the methods and measurements used to design constructive research studies to develop sound technical solutions or prototypes. You will also explore software and security testing tools and user acceptance testing methods in order to create aligned, ethical, and substantive research designs.

Technical constructive research focuses on models, frameworks, tools, and software used by industry to improve value creation. A constructive approach to research of a technical nature integrates theoretical and empirical constructs with common practices and experience to develop an applied and testable model to improve the fields of computer science and information technology. During this course, you will work through the scientific research process and apply your knowledge of constructive research design to develop a technical research proposal in which you can use to support your research interests through the remainder of your program.

The Pre-Candidacy Prospectus course is intended to ensure students have mastered knowledge of their discipline within cybersecurity prior to doctoral candidacy status and are able to demonstrate the ability to design empirical research as an investigator before moving on to the dissertation research coursework. During this course, you will demonstrate the ability to synthesize empirical, peer-reviewed research to prepare for the dissertation sequence of courses. This course should be completed only after the completion of all foundation, specialization, and research courses.

Students in this course will be required to complete Chapter 1 of their dissertation proposal including a review of literature with substantiating evidence of the problem, the research purpose and questions, the intended methodological design and approach,  and the significance of the study. A completed, committee approved (against the minimum rubric standards) Chapter 1 is required to pass this course successfully. Students who do not receive approval of Chapter 1 to minimum standards will be able to take up to three supplementary 8-week courses to finalize and gain approval of Chapter 1.

Students in this course will be required to work on completing Chapters 1-3 of their dissertation proposal and receive committee approval for the Dissertation Proposal (DP) in order to pass the class. Chapter 2 consists of the literature review. Chapter 3 covers the research methodology method and design and to includes population, sample, measurement instruments, data collection and analysis, limitations, and ethical considerations. In this course, a completed, committee-approved Chapters 2 and 3 are required and, by the end of the course, a final approved dissertation proposal (against the minimum rubric standards). Students who do not receive approval of the dissertation proposal will be able to take up to three supplementary 8-week courses to finalize and gain approval of these requirements.

Students in this course will be required to prepare, submit, and obtain approval of their IRB application, collect data, and submit a final study closure form to the IRB. Students still in data collection at the end of the 12-week course will be able to take up to three supplementary 8-week courses to complete data collection and file an IRB study closure form.

In this dissertation course students work on completing Chapters 4 and 5 and the final Dissertation Manuscript. Specifically, students will complete their data analysis, prepare their study results, and present their findings in an Oral Defense and a completed manuscript. A completed, Committee approved (against the minimum rubric standards) Dissertation Manuscript and successful Oral Defense are required to complete the course and graduate. Students who do not receive approval for either or both their Dissertation Manuscript or defense can take up to three supplementary 8-week courses to finalize and gain approval of either or both items as needed.

Program at a Glance

Total Credit Hours: 60 Credit Hours
Courses: 20 Courses
Recommended Completion Time: 40-44 Months
Next Start Date: Every Monday
Classroom Size: One


The Doctor of Philosophy in Cybersecurity (PhD-CY), General and Technology specialization degree builds on the core computing principles and cybersecurity best practices, frameworks, and models. The degree provides a broad overview, adding governance and strategic views to compliment forensic, software development cloud, and systems certification content. Students use firsthand experience, explore advanced topics, learn the latest and anticipated concepts, consider the evolution of risks and mitigation, learn advanced threat detection, and propose their own research. The degree is designed to prepare researchers, consultants, and technology strategists capable of leadership roles and executive positions in private and public sectors. 

Specialization Courses – 15 Credit Hours Total. Each course is 3 semester credits and runs 8 weeks.

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The Doctor of Philosophy in Cybersecurity (PhD-CY), Global Policy and Operations specialization builds on the core program general principles, best practices, frameworks, and models. The specialization adds specific global solutions through an integrated strategy and leadership capabilities to establish global operations. 

The focus is on solving challenges of multi-time zone, multi-continent, and a range of laws, languages, and cultures. Specific considerations include diverse technologies, challenging support structures, and cyber target domains. The complication of widely distributed infrastructure, diverse political influences, and complex supply chains form part of the predictive strategy and the creation of operational excellence.

Specialization Courses – 15 Credit Hours Total. Each course is 3 semester credits and runs 8 weeks.

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The Doctor of Philosophy in Cybersecurity (PhD-CY), Governance, Risk, and Compliance specialization combines the four knowledge areas to complete research or synthesize cybersecurity solutions for enterprises subject to national exposures and global threats. The combined resolution of risk, compliance, audit, and privacy will enable graduates to create enhanced solutions while limiting the need for resources. 

The specialization investigates current and anticipated needs and solutions within all four areas, addressing key issues for larger organizations while providing improved strategic alignment. It includes important access control, and threat discovery across complex environments. The specialization includes an emphasis on preempting future losses.

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The Doctor of Philosophy in Cybersecurity (PhD-CY), Secure Cloud Computing specialization builds on best practices, frameworks and models to synthesize unique solutions that optimize organization outcomes. The specialization investigates current and anticipated needs and solutions emphasizing the cloud computing. Learning and research adds practical and strategic insights to enable reduced risks for cloud computing and multi-cloud cybersecurity solutions. 

The degree is designed to prepare researchers, consultants, and technology strategists capable of leadership roles and executive positions in private and public sectors where advanced or complex cloud computing is important. Competencies include complex secure data communications, identity management, and access controls.

Specialization Courses – 15 Credit Hours Total. Each course is 3 semester credits and runs 8 weeks.

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Program Learning Outcomes

As a graduate of National University’s Doctor of Philosophy in Cybersecurity (PhD-CY), you’ll be able to:

  • Advance theory and practical applications of cybersecurity
  • Formulate cybersecurity governance, policy, risk, and compliance
  • Assess internal and external threats and vulnerabilities to reduce organizational cyber risk
  • Evaluate tools, data, and processes to enhance protection and foster resilience
  • Facilitate the protection of critical information resources from current and future loss

The most demanding jobs in the field of cybersecurity require experienced professionals with advanced, industry-current knowledge and skills to develop security standards and best practices for their organization. It’s also a career that’s in high demand. For example, about 16,300 openings for information security analysts are projected each year, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, and they’ll be well compensated for their expertise – the BLS also states the median annual wage for IS analysts was $102,600 in May 2021, with the highest 10 percent earning more than $165,920.*

NU’s online PhD in Cybersecurity incorporates technical and organizational strategy, architecture, and data science, as well as important areas within artificial intelligence (including machine learning and deep learning). Our curriculum also offers a choice of career-focused specializations, allowing you to focus your studies on a specific area of interest, including:

  • General and Technology 
  • Global Strategy and Operations 
  • Governance, Risk, and Compliance 
  • Secure Cloud Computing


NU’s Doctor of Philosophy in Cybersecurity opens the door to a wide range of important, in-demand careers for dedicated professionals with polished skills in communication, management, operations, leadership, and infrastructure. Some of the top job titles* posted in this field include:

  • Information Security Analysts
  • Systems Engineers
  • Security Engineers
  • DevSecOps Engineers
  • Cloud Security Engineers
  • Solutions Architects
  • Systems Administrators 
  • Postsecondary Teachers
  • Postsecondary Administrators

Employers of senior-level cybersecurity professionals are spread across every industry, including: professional, scientific and technical services, finance and insurance, manufacturing, information services, healthcare, and administrative support services.

*Positions may require additional experience, training, and other factors beyond successfully completing this degree program. Depending on where you reside, many positions may also require state licensure, and it is the responsibility of the student to ensure that all licensure requirements are met. We encourage you to also review program-specific requirements with an NU advisor. Any data provided on this page is for informational purposes only and does not guarantee that completion of any degree program will achieve the underlying occupation or commensurate salary.

**SOURCE: Emsi Labor Analyst- Report. Emsi research company homepage at (Report viewed: May 13, 2022). DISCLAIMER: The data provided is for Informational purposes only. Emsi data and analysis utilizes government sources to provide insights on industries, demographics, employers, in-demand skills, and more to align academic programs with labor market opportunities. Cited projections may not reflect local or short-term economic or job conditions and do not guarantee actual job growth.  Current and prospective students should use this data with other available economic data to inform their educational decisions.


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PhD in Cybersecurity Program FAQs

A PhD dissertation is a scholarly documentation of research that makes an original contribution to the field of study. This process requires care in choosing a topic, documenting its importance, planning the methodology, and conducting the research. These activities lead smoothly into the writing and oral presentation of the dissertation. At National University, faculty members assist every doctoral student with a systematic process designed to ensure the completion of a high-quality dissertation. 

A doctoral candidate must be continuously enrolled throughout the series of dissertation courses. Dissertation courses are automatically scheduled and accepted without a break in scheduling to ensure that students remain in continuous enrollment throughout the dissertation course sequence. If additional time is required to complete any of the dissertation courses, students must re-enroll and pay the tuition for that course. Continuous enrollment will only be permitted when students demonstrate progress toward completing dissertation requirements. The Dissertation Committee determines progress.

National University is dedicated to assisting students in the achievement of their academic aspirations and helping them become valuable contributors to their community and profession. To accomplish this, we now offer a dissertation completion pathway for students who have successfully completed their doctoral coursework and achieved doctoral candidacy at a previous institution but were unable to complete their dissertation.  

Our Dissertation Completion Pathway (DCP) offers a unique opportunity for students to complete their doctorate in one of the doctoral programs offered at NU (excluding the PhD in MFT, DMFT, DNP, and DHA). Students successfully meeting the entrance and application requirements will complete a minimum of 23 credit hours to earn their doctorate.

The vision for the Dissertation Completion Pathway is to provide “all-but-dissertation” or ABD students a structured approach for completing their dissertation and help them achieve their academic goals in obtaining their doctorate. This pathway provides a student-centered, high touch, and structured pathway that recognizes past academic coursework while providing the student with the preparation and guidance to earn their doctoral degree.

National University allows 7 years to complete all doctoral programs of 60 credits or less. The median time to completion for this program is 44 months.

Time to completion varies depending upon the pace in which a student completes courses and the number of transfer credits accepted. As most NU students are working adults, balancing educational, professional, and personal commitments, our academic and finance advisors will work with you to develop a program schedule that works best for your needs.

Students following the preferred schedule designed by the Dean for this program, and applying no transfer credits, can expect to finish in as little as 40 months.

The highest degree for cybersecurity is typically a Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) in Cybersecurity or a related field. This degree typically requires several years of advanced coursework and research, and is designed for individuals who want to pursue careers in cybersecurity research, academia, or leadership positions.

Whether a PhD in cybersecurity is worth it depends on your career goals and personal interests. If you want to pursue a career in cybersecurity research or academia, a PhD can be a valuable asset that can lead to more job opportunities and higher salaries. However, if you’re primarily interested in working in industry, a PhD may not be necessary or worth the time and cost.

The salary for someone with a PhD in cybersecurity can vary depending on several factors, including the individual’s job title, experience, and location, but you can expect to earn a comfortable living in this field. According to, the average base salary for someone with a PhD in Cybersecurity is around $172,000 per year in the United States. However, some positions such as chief security officer or director of operations could earn more.

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National University degrees do not guarantee employment or salary of any kind. Prospective students are strongly encouraged to review desired job positions to review degrees, education, and/or training required to apply for desired positions. Prospective students should monitor these positions as requirements, salary, and other relevant factors can change over time.