Information Assurance, PhD

A research-based, interdisciplinary PhD in Information Assurance combines a strong security technical foundation with a security policy and social sciences perspective. It seeks to prepare graduates to advance the state-of-the-art of security in systems, networks and the internet in industry, academia, and government. The interdisciplinary nature of the program distinguishes it from traditional doctoral degree programs in computer science, engineering, or social sciences and makes it unique in the Boston area.

Students who choose the PhD in Information Assurance program have a strong desire to purse academic research solving critical cyber security challenges facing today’s society. The PhD program is a natural path for students in the college’s Master of Science in Information Assurance and Cyber Security program who want to pursue research and students with bachelor’s degrees and an interest in research-focused careers. Students who pursue careers in advancing the state-of-the art of cyber security have an opportunity to  gain:

  • A strong technical foundation in cyber security and an interdisciplinary perspective based on policy and social science
  • A path to a research-focused career coupled with depth in information assurance research at a leading institution, one of the earliest designees by NSA/DHS as a National Center of Academic Excellence in Information Assurance Research, Information Assurance/Cyber Defense, and Cyber Operations

  • The opportunity to work with and learn from faculty who are recognized internationally for their expertise and contributions in information assurance, from Northeastern’s College of Computer and Information Science, the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, and the College of Social Sciences and Humanities

  • Access to research projects at Northeastern’s research centers focused on security:

    • The Institute of Information Assurance (IIA) an interdisciplinary research center overseen by both the College of Computer and Information Science and the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering in the College of Engineering and the recipient of a National Science Foundation grant to train the country’s next generation cyber corps

    • The International Secure Systems Lab, affiliated with Northeastern, a collaborative effort of European and U.S. researchers focused on web security, malware and vulnerability analysis, intrusion detection, and other computer security issues

    • The ALERT Center, where Northeastern is the lead institution, a multiuniversity Department of Homeland Security Center of Excellence involved in research, education, and technology related to threats from explosives

The benefits of the Boston area:

  • World renowned for academic and research excellence, the Boston area is also home to some of the nation’s largest Department of Defense contractors and government and independent labs such as MIT Lincoln Lab, MITRE, and Draper Lab

Degree Requirements

The PhD in Information Assurance degree requires completion of at least 48 semester credit hours beyond a bachelor’s degree. Students who enter with an undergraduate degree will typically need four to five years to complete the program, and they will be awarded a master’s degree en route to the PhD.

Doctoral Degree Candidacy

A student is considered a PhD degree candidate after completing the core courses with at least a 3.400 GPA and either publishing a paper in a strong conference or journal or passing an oral exam that is conducted by a committee of three information assurance faculty members and based on paper(s) written by the student.


One year of continuous full-time study is required after admission to the PhD candidacy. During this period, the student will be expected to make substantial progress in preparing for the comprehensive examination.

Dissertation Advising

The doctoral dissertation advising team for each student consists of two information assurance faculty members, one in a technical area. When appropriate, the second faculty advisor will be from the policy/social science area.

Dissertation Committee

A PhD student’s dissertation committee consists of the two members of the dissertation advising team plus two others: One is a member of the information assurance faculty, and the other is an external examiner who is knowledgeable about the student’s research topic.

Comprehensive Examination

A PhD student must submit a written dissertation proposal and present it to the dissertation committee. The proposal should identify the research problem, the research plan, and the potential impact of the research on the field. The presentation of the proposal will be made in an open forum, and the student must successfully defend it before the dissertation committee after the public presentation.

Dissertation Defense

A PhD student must complete and defend a dissertation that involves original research in information assurance.

Awarding of Master’s Degrees

Students who enter the PhD in Information Assurance program with a bachelor’s degree have the option of obtaining a master's degree from one of the departments participating in the program. To do so, they must meet all of the department’s degree requirements.

Bachelor’s Degree Entrance

Complete all courses and requirements listed below unless otherwise indicated.


Qualifying exam and area exam
Annual review
Dissertation proposal
Dissertation committee
Dissertation defense

Course Requirements

CS 5700Fundamentals of Computer Networking4
or EECE 7336 Digital Communications
CS 5770Software Vulnerabilities and Security4
Security and Cyberlaw
IA 5200Security Risk Management and Assessment4
CS 6740Network Security4
or CS 6750 Cryptography and Communications Security
IA 5240Cyberlaw: Privacy, Ethics, and Digital Rights4
Electives and Specialization Courses
Consult faculty advisor for other acceptable courses.
Complete 28 semester hours from the following:28
Track 1: Network/Communication Security
Wireless Network
Digital Signal Processing
Track 2: System Security
Computer Systems
Computer Architecture
Foundations of Formal Methods and Software Analysis
Software Security Practices
Track 3 Policy/Society
Terrorism and International Crime
Security Management
White-Collar Crime
Security and Resilience Policy
General Electives
Managing Software Development
Machine Learning
Information Retrieval
Applied Probability and Stochastic Processes
Fundamentals of Computer Engineering
Information Theory
Testing and Design for Testability
Software Engineering 1
Software Engineering 2
Fault-Tolerant Computers
Research Methods
Empirical Research Methods


Upon achieving PhD Candidacy, complete the following repeatable course two semesters:
IA 9990Dissertation4
For the remaining semester(s) complete the following repeatable course:
IA 9996Dissertation Continuation0

Program Credit/GPA Requirements

48 total semester hours required
Minimum 3.000 GPA required, 3.400 in core courses