“I have said often that Colorado Springs has what it takes to become the cybersecurity capital of the nation. With our concentration of technological experts, both military and civilian, our outstanding educational institutions in UCCS and the Air Force Academy and our available workforce, we are ready to embrace this opportunity and look forward to the positive impact that such a designation will have on our city’s economic vitality.”
-Colorado Springs Mayor John Suthers (KRDO, 2016).
The cybersecurity sphere in Colorado is growing, particularly in Colorado Springs. According to The Denver Post, Colorado has always been technologically progressive. As far back as the Cold War, Colorado was the first state to log into what later would become the World Wide Web through the Cheyenne Mountain Air Force Station. This advancement paved the way for early information security professionals to flock to the Colorado Springs area. According to a 2016 article by the Denver Post, The Colorado Springs Regional Business Alliance says that the city’s cybersecurity force includes over 80 businesses, five military installations, and five nonprofits.
Here’s how the cybersecurity field has boomed in Colorado:
- In 2010, the Information Systems Security Association held its first annual cyber security training and technology forum (CSTTF) to train and educate cybersecurity professionals through cyber sessions, panel discussions, and hands-on industry demonstrations.
- In 2016, according to The Gazette, a National Cybersecurity Intelligence Center in Colorado Springs was opened to help businesses and government agencies learn about cybersecurity threats and threat mitigation. The Colorado Technology Association and governor’s office are responsible for the details of the center.
- In 2016, the Joint Interagency Combined Space Operations Center at Schriever Air Force Base began operational testing in order to provide communication among the national security space (CSBJ, 2016).
From 2010-2014, Burning Glass Technologies reported that the cybersecurity job force in Colorado grew by 111%. In 2015, the US Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that information security analysts in Colorado can expect to make an average annual wage of $99,730, which is on the higher end of national average cybersecurity wages.
Cybersecurity analysts in Colorado have the opportunity to work for a multitude of companies, from cybersecurity firms to defense contractors to retail chains to nonprofits. All throughout the state, companies in almost every industry have the need for trained professionals to architect and defend secure cyber systems. For instance, Azorian Cyber Security is a cybersecurity firm in Denver that provides clients with proactive approaches to cyber security. Security Pursuit, a Denver-based cybersecurity firm that specializes in enterprise information security services, also hires cybersecurity specialists. In 2016, Built in Colorado published a list of seven key players in Colorado’s cybersecurity sphere, including Colorado Cyber, SecureSet, ProtectWise, LogRhythm, WebRoot, Absio, and Red Canary.
With such a variety of potential employers and a job market that has grown significantly over the past few years, master’s-prepared professionals can confidently step into Colorado’s cybersecurity workforce.
Earning a Master’s Degree or Certificate in Cybersecurity in Colorado
Colorado is home to a number of National Security Agency (NSA) and Department of Homeland Security (DHS) designated schools that offer cybersecurity master’s programs and post-bachelor certificates.
The NSA and DHS offer designations for two classifications of schools that offer graduate programs in cyber defense and information security:
- 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)
The NSA and DHS also recognize several universities throughout the country that offer online cybersecurity master’s programs. Online programs offer curriculum which can be completed remotely, including online problem modules and forum discussions with professors and fellow students. NSA and DHS designated online programs are highly respected by employers throughout the country.
Both online and traditional master’s programs are made up of 30 credits, with 15 credits of core classes and 15 credits focusing on electives in cybersecurity.
IT professionals interested in gaining more advanced training in information security may also pursue a post-bachelor’s certificate. Post-bachelor’s certificate programs are generally 15 credits and can be completed in about a year. The programs focus on information security management, system defense, threat intel and mitigation, and current trends in cybersecurity.
Standard Admissions Requirements for Cybersecurity Master’s Programs
Applicants to cybersecurity master’s programs are expected to have a bachelor’s degree in a related discipline, an excellent educational history, and prior knowledge of basic information security concepts such as applied mathematics and programming languages.
Minimum requirements for admission include:
- One year of calculus
- One year of a mathematics course beyond calculus
- A course in data structures
- A course in Java or C++
- A course in computer organization
If the applicant has less than a 3.0 GPA in bachelor’s coursework, the school may require GRE scores. Admissions departments look for:
- Verbal scores of 150 or higher
- Quantitative scores of 155 or higher
- Analytical scores of 650 or higher
Core Course, Electives and Program Objectives
Core coursework for NSA and DHS designated cybersecurity master’s programs will typically include:
- Web Enabled Information Systems
- Computer and Physical Security
- Network Security
- Database Design and Programming
- Applied Cryptography
- Cyber Forensics
Elective topics may include:
- Website Design and Management
- Disaster Recovery and Ops Security
- Information Systems Security in Healthcare
- Cybersecurity and Terrorism
- Cloud and Internet Law
Using a combination of IT technology and innovative strategies, graduates of cybersecurity master’s programs will have a thorough understanding of the technological building blocks that make up secure networks and systems. Through database management, system administration, and threat intel courses, graduates will learn about current trends in cybersecurity and their applications in real-world situations.
NSA and DHS Designated Research and Education Institutions in Colorado
As of 2016, the following schools have met the rigorous criteria required to earn the NSA/DHS National Center of Academic Excellence in Cyber Defense Education (CAE-CDE) designation for their master’s and post-bachelor’s certificate programs:
University of Colorado, Colorado Springs, College of Engineering and Applied Science
- Master of Engineering in Information Assurance
- Graduate Certificate in Security Intelligence
University of Denver, Daniel Felix Ritchie School of Engineering and Computer Science
- Master of Science in Cybersecurity
- Master of Science in Information Systems Security
- Information Security Certificate
The following school holds the original NSA/DHS Center for Academic Excellence in Information Assurance Education (CEA-IAE) designation for its master’s degree and graduate certificate programs. The NSA/DHS requires all current CAE-IAE designated institutions to reapply for the new CAE-CDE designation no later than January 2017.
Regis University, School of Computer and Information Sciences
- Master of Science in Information Assurance, Cybersecurity specialization
- Master of Science in Information Assurance, IA Policy Management Specialization
- Graduate Certificate in Cybersecurity
- Graduate Certificate in IA Policy Management
Opportunities Available to Master’s-Prepared Cybersecurity Analysts and Specialists in Colorado
Colorado’s cyber security force continues to grow in both the public and private sectors. With the opportunity to work on military bases or for government offices, nonprofits, or corporate chains, Colorado cybersecurity specialists are in an excellent position.
The following job opportunities, sourced in May 2016, are not meant to provide any assurance of employment. They represent the kind of employment opportunities that may be available to cybersecurity specialists in Colorado, and are shown for illustrative purposes only.
Cyber Info Assurance Analyst—Qualis Corporation in Colorado Springs
- Bachelor’s degree in a related field at minimum
- 8 years of experience in IT and information security
- Ability to obtain DoD clearance
- Provides evaluations, compliance audits, and vulnerability assessments
- Establishes program control processes and obtains accreditation of systems
- Performs analyses and recommends additional security measures as necessary
Information Security Analyst—Hitachi Data Systems in Englewood
- Bachelor’s degree in a related field
- Minimum of seven years of experience in information security
- Plans control assessments of existing systems
- Implements information security controls
- Analyzes and identifies information security weaknesses
Cyber Security Analyst—Decisive Analytics in Colorado Springs
- Bachelor’s degree in a technical field
- Six years’ experience in a related field
- Conducts risk assessments and evaluates systems and networks
- Performs penetration/vulnerability assessments
- Briefs leadership on vulnerabilities
- Architects secure systems