Tech industry staffing firm Burning Glass Technologies reported that from 2010 to 2014, the number of job postings in Arkansas for IT security analysts grew by an unprecedented 117%. With such a massive increase, employers are more than ready to welcome master’s-prepared analysts onto their cybersecurity teams.
2015 was an important year for cybersecurity in Arkansas. Let’s take a look at what happened:
- Arkansas took a step towards better cybersecurity strategies when governor Asa Hutchinson promoted Mark Myers to Chief Technology Officer in the state. Myers has named cybersecurity as a key focus for the state’s IT and information security team over the next several years, saying that the team plans to improve technological aspects of current systems and upgrade the physical security of the technical infrastructure, according to State Scoop.
- In the same year, engineering researchers at the University of Arkansas announced that they would use a 12.2-million-dollar grant from the U.S. Department of Energy to fund the development of a new research center devoted to providing cybersecurity for electric power utilities throughout the state. Cybersecurity specialists will specifically focus on protecting core power grid controls as well as communications infrastructure. The threat of external control of Arkansas’ electric power sources is a key issue in the state, and cybersecurity specialists may work in many different avenues to build the same solutions.
For instance, Arkansas Electric Cooperative Corporation (AECC) is a power generation and transmission cooperative that hires cybersecurity specialists. Cybersecurity team members work together to secure the electric power grid, working with specialists from research centers such as University of Arkansas’ new center. But working with electric power utilities isn’t the only opportunity for Arkansas cybersecurity professionals, who also fill positions in public administration, manufacturing and defense, professional services, educational services, finance and insurance, healthcare, social assistance, and much more.
Cybersecurity specialists who hold master’s degrees expand their earning potential, as well as their ability to transition into leadership positions within IT teams.
Earning a Master’s Degree or Graduate Certificate in Cybersecurity in Arkansas
As of May 2016, Arkansas was home to a number of post-bachelor’s options for aspiring and advancing cybersecurity professionals:
- One university with a master’s program in cybersecurity
- One university with a post-bachelor’s certificate in cybersecurity
The National Security Agency (NSA) and Department of Homeland Security (DHS) designate schools that offer cybersecurity graduate programs in the US under two classifications:
- CAE-CDE – National Centers of Academic Excellence in Cyber Defense Education (qualifying colleges and universities offering bachelor’s, master’s, and graduate certificates)
- CAE-R – National Centers of Academic Excellence in Cyber Defense Research (schools that participate in research initiatives and that integrate a strong research component into the curriculum of bachelor’s and graduate programs)
Many students seeking post-bachelor’s education in cybersecurity choose an online program. DHS/NSA-designated online programs are hosted through a number of top universities throughout the country. Students of online programs would complete virtual problem modules and have the opportunity to watch filmed lectures and interact live with professors.
Whether online or traditional, master’s programs in cybersecurity are generally made up of 30 credits—15 credits of core courses and 15 credits of electives. Post-bachelor’s certificates are half the length of a master’s program, consisting of 15 credits.
Standard Admissions Requirements for Cybersecurity Master’s Programs:
Admissions departments for cybersecurity programs look for competent professionals who have a wide range of skills, an excellent GPA, and high entrance exam scores. Admission departments look for candidates who have:
- A bachelor’s degree in a related discipline
- High GRE scores: (verbal 150 or higher, quantitative 155 or higher, and analytical 650 or higher) – GRE exam requirements are often waived for those with a 3.0 or higher GPA
- One year of calculus
- One mathematics course beyond calculus, such as discrete mathematics, linear algebra, or differential equations
- Java or C++ Programming course
- Course in data structures
- Course in computer organization
Program Objectives, Core Courses and Electives
Graduate cybersecurity programs seek to develop skilled professionals who will be prepared for the challenges of working in information security. Graduates will be prepared to design new, secure systems, protect web, mobile, and critical infrastructures, and provide systems assurance. Graduates will also learn to provide proactive risk assessment, detect malware, and identify potential vulnerabilities in systems. Graduates of these programs will be well-versed in the rapidly progressing technology and software used in systems security, and be competent in data mining and programming.
NSA/DHS-designated universities will offer the following topics:
- Information Assurance and Security
- Cyber Crime and the Law
- Data and Information Security
- Computer Forensics
- Computer Ethics
- Local Area Networks
- Database Management and Concepts
Elective courses will vary among programs. Some selected topics may include:
- Security Issues and Advanced Topics in Network Technologies
- Quantitative Analysis
- Applied Cryptography
- Operating Systems
- Physical Characteristics of Digital Systems
- Big Data Analytics and Management
- Privacy Enhancing Technology
NSA and DHS Designated Research and Education Institutions in Arkansas
As of 2016, the following school has met the rigorous criteria required to earn the NSA/DHS National Center of Academic Excellence in Cyber Defense Education (CAE-CDE) designation for its master’s program:
University of Arkansas at Little Rock, ASSURE
- Master of Science in Computer Science
Opportunities Available to Master’s-Prepared Cybersecurity Analysts and Specialists
With a job market that has grown by 117% from 2010 to 2014, cybersecurity professionals in Arkansas are entering a high-demand field. Master’s-prepared professionals often fill senior roles, which can include managing defense teams, directing risk analysis programs, and training junior members of information security teams.
The following job opportunities, sourced in May 2016, are not meant to provide any assurance of employment. However, they do represent the kind of employment opportunities available to cybersecurity specialists in Arkansas, and are shown for illustrative purposes only.
Cyber Security Analyst with Walmart in Bentonville
- Minimum of a Bachelor’s degree in related field
- 3 years of experience in information technology or a master’s degree
- Provides data assurance, troubleshooting problems, reviewing problem resolutions
- Develops change procedures to protect data and communicates status updates to customers
Information Security Manager with Atos IT Solutions in Wide
- Minimum of a bachelor’s degree; master’s preferred
- 10 or more years of experience with security compliance
- Manages IT and information security team
- Coordinates development, implementation and propagation of defense strategies
- Manages follow up response with clients
Security Specialist with Simmons First in Little Rock
- Minimum of bachelor’s degree; master’s preferred
- Five years of experience in an information security position
- Configure and monitor security tools
- Develop and maintain IT systems
- Provide risk assessment