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Cyber Security vs. Information Assurance: Which One is Right for You?

A degree may open the door to a variety of opportunities and diverse career paths. The degree programs offered at AIU will not necessarily lead to the featured careers. This collection of articles is intended to help inform and guide you through the process of determining which level of degree and types of certifications align with your desired career path.

If you’re exploring information technology professions, you may ask what the difference is between cyber security and information assurance. While the names of each are often used interchangeably by those outside the IT field, each profession is very different. Just ask Andrew Mahaney, an information technology faculty member at American InterContinental University.

Mahaney, who works full-time for a defense contractor and was formerly employed by the National Security Agency and the FBI, says cyber security refers to the ability to defend against cyber-attacks, protect resources, and prevent cyber-attacks. "So we are defending our computers, networks and our internal and external communication links via cyber security," says Mahaney. In contrast, Mahaney notes that someone who works in information assurance assesses risks and vulnerabilities and puts together a management plan for minimizing issues.

What is Cyber Security and Information Assurance?

The term "information assurance" was first used by the U.S. government, but has since made its way into common usage as a term that covers the technical and managerial aspects of information, particularly maintaining control over it and ensuring it’s only accessible to those who have authorization.1

While the term cyber security may be more familiar to those outside the computer security world, it is less broad and is considered a subset to the definition of information assurance. Cyber security is specifically concerned with protecting systems and data within networks that are connected to the Internet.2

Job titles for people who work in information assurance and cyber security include:3

  • Information Security Analyst
  • Computer Security Specialist
  • Data Security Administrator
  • Information Security Analyst
  • Information Security Specialist
  • Information Systems Security Analyst
  • Information Technology Security Analyst

How Are Information Assurance Degrees Different From Cyber Security Degrees?

Degree programs for information assurance and cyber security can be similar. An IT security degree program is designed to help students:

  • Apply best practices and effective procedures to current and relevant information security and assurance problems and challenges
  • Create and implement computer and system network defense, both in basic forms and in detail
  • Evaluate existing security programs and systems for threats and learn how to fix those threats
  • Develop solutions and practices that can be applied to network security maintenance and integrity
  • Understand the components and requirements of system security procedures, as well as professional industry expectations

If you are interested in pursuing the IT security field, then you may consider an information assurance degree program or concentration. Yet while both career paths may be favorable, Mahaney says he believes a degree in information assurance is the way to go. "Both are very strong," says Mahaney. "But information assurance focuses on risk assessment, which is what corporations and the government are very interested in right now."

The U.S Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that employment of information security analysts will grow 28 percent through 2026 – a rate that’s much faster than the average for all occupations.4

Earn Your Information Assurance Degree at American InterContinental University

As the employment of information security analysts is projected to grow, earning a degree may prove beneficial.4 Request information online to learn more about AIU’s degree programs.

Ready to learn more? Explore IT degrees at AIU.

1. “Definition of: information assurance.” Encyclopedia, PC Magazine. Retrieved from: (Visited 09/11/18).
2. “Definition of: cybersecurity.” Encyclopedia, PC Magazine. Retrieved from: (Visited 09/11/18).
3. “Summary Report for: Information Security Analysts.” O*NET OnLine. Retrieved from: (Visited 09/11/18).
4. “Information Security Analysts.” U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Retrieved from: (Visited 09/11/18). This data represents national figures and is not based on school-specific information. Conditions in your area may vary.

American InterContinental University cannot guarantee employment or salary. For important information about the educational debt, earnings, and completion rates of students who attended these programs, go to
The presence of specific potential jobs on this list does not guarantee availability of career opportunities. All statistics referenced are national historical averages and the figures in your area and at the time of your job search may be different.
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