How We Rank Cybersecurity Programs

Learn about our process for ranking cybersecurity programs. We explain how we weigh factors like academics, affordability, reputation, and program availability.
Person swiping on tablet Credit: Klaus Vedfelt / DigitalVision / Getty Images uses a custom methodology to rank schools. Our primary considerations focus on key factors for prospective students: academics, affordability, reputation, and program availability. These elements also divide into subfactors.

In each of the rankings featured on, we weigh these factors and subfactors to assess a school's ability to provide a high-quality educational experience. We consider student priorities like a program's expected return on investment (ROI), the percentage of enrollees receiving financial aid, and the ease or difficulty of admission. We apply different weights to each factor, depending on the program type.

The data we use for ranking computer science universities comes from the National Center for Education Statistics, a federal agency that collects, analyzes, and publishes education statistics in the U.S.

We pride ourselves on publishing independent rankings that help students find their ideal cybersecurity program. Outside organizations and interests do not influence or affect these rankings. Although our website partners with advertisers, we do not consider those relationships when we compile rankings — schools can not pay us to receive a higher spot on our rankings.

Discover a detailed explanation of our ranking methodology for cybersecurity degrees and schools with this guide. Learn how we get our data, assign weight to different factors, and decide how often to update our rankings.

About the Data We Use to Rank Cybersecurity Programs

The National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) is part of the Department of Education and the Institute of Education Sciences. The NCES fulfills a congressional mandate to collect, analyze, and publish complete U.S. education statistics through its Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS). We use this source to obtain data for ranking cybersecurity programs.

IPEDS comprises several interrelated surveys. These surveys gather information from every college, university, and technical and vocational institution that participates in federal financial aid programs.

School participation in these surveys is mandatory, which ensures comprehensive reports on enrollment, program completion, graduation rates, faculty, and financial aid.

IPEDS data offers an impartial look at U.S. colleges and universities, making NCES and IPEDS ideal sources for ranking cybersecurity programs. To further ensure the reliability and comprehensive nature of our rankings, our independent quality assurance team checks each school, excluding those without sufficient data.

We strive to update our rankings at least once a year to provide new groups of prospective students with the most timely information. We may also update rankings when NCES releases significant new data.

Our most popular cybersecurity rankings may receive updates more often than once a year. Niche areas of education may receive less frequent updates.

We are currently updating our major cybersecurity rankings. Before program rankings for any current year go live, we start from scratch by examining new NCES and IPEDS data for re-evaluation. We never rebrand old rankings to make them appear current.

As of November 2022, IPEDS has released provisional data for the 2020-2021 school year. Our rankings on this site use the most current data available — not necessarily the most finalized — at the time of publication. Both current and finalized data sets undergo all NCES quality control procedures.

Our Approach to Ranking Cybersecurity Programs

Our rankings focus on academics, affordability, reputation, and program availability. These factors help us rank degrees according to key student priorities like return on investment, academic rigor, and the flexibility to study online.

We weigh each factor according to program type. Review the charts below to understand our weighted considerations for undergraduate degrees, graduate degrees, and online graduate degrees.

Subfactors to our Cyber Degrees Ranking System

Ranking programs can reveal insights to help prospective cybersecurity students make informed education choices. We chose factors and subfactors based on relevance and the elements students care about the most.

Our cybersecurity ranking system weighs these factors as a whole rather than individually. When choosing a school, there is no one universally important factor. While affordability may be the primary driver for one person, others may prioritize academic rigor.

We use a holistic approach because most students likely consider several factors together to choose the right school. By giving more weight to some factors and subfactors than others, we can emphasize the most relevant facets of each area.

Explore the subfactors we consider important for each category below.

Subfactors for Academics

  • Retention Rate: For the retention rate metric, IPEDS counts all full-time, first-time undergraduate students who enrolled in both the previous fall semester and the current fall semester. To rank cybersecurity programs, we use IPEDs data from fall 2021 regarding full-time retention rates.
  • Graduation Rate: For the graduation rate metric, IPEDS divides the number of students who graduate within a certain amount of time by the number of students who started the program.
  • Robust Faculty: To determine our robust faculty metric, we look at IPEDS data for student-to-faculty ratios and the proportion of full-time faculty at a school. Student-to-faculty ratio divides the number of full-time students by the number of full-time faculty members.

Subfactors for Affordability

  • Price for Students With Grants or Scholarships:College students often pay less than the publicly listed price for tuition. Learning the true price when adjusted for funding from grants and scholarships can help students find schools that prioritize affordability.
  • Students Getting Financial Aid: Universities that emphasize affordable access usually enroll high percentages of students who receive financial aid that does not require repayment, like scholarships and grants.
  • Students Getting Federal Aid: This metric includes the percentage of undergraduate students borrowing federal loans and the average amount of those loans. We measure this using IPEDS data points from 2020-21 for undergraduate students.
  • Post-Graduation Student Debt:This metric evaluates school affordability beyond tuition rates. We calculate this metric with 2017-18 IPEDS data for average debt for students one year after graduation and the average loan default rate of students who completed degrees.

Subfactors for Reputation

  • Percent of Applicants Admitted: The most prestigious schools usually maintain competitive admissions policies. They receive large numbers of applicants and only admit a fraction of those who apply to attend. For this metric, we use IPEDS data for 2020-2021 admission rates.
  • Admissions Yield: This metric looks at the percentage of admitted undergraduate students who actually enroll in the fall. Schools with good reputations usually have high admission yields, as few students turn down their spots.
  • Return on Investment: The ROI of a college education compares the cost of earning a degree to a student's expected salary after graduation.

Subfactors for Program Availability and Online Flexibility

  • Percent of Online Students Enrolled: Students interested in online courses can research online enrollment data to understand how a college prioritizes distance education. Schools with larger percentages of online students may invest more resources and funding in distance learning.
  • Percent of Relevant Degree Level Offered: Not all schools offer the same degree levels. For example, four-year universities more commonly feature graduate programs. Technical schools, on the other hand, may prioritize certificate programs and associate degrees.

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