Online Cybersecurity Master’s Degree Available in Georgia

“Cybersecurity is no longer just a computer science problem for programmers; this is an issue that now touches every area of society. It involves new policy considerations, better initial product design, and more training for the professionals involved. We are doubling down to discover, connect, and solve modern cybersecurity threats.”

-Wenke Lee, a professor in Georgia Institute of Technology’s college of computing (AJC, 2015).

Home to the U.S. Army’s Cyber Command in Augusta, the Cyber Center of Excellence, and over 115 cybersecurity companies, Georgia is a hub of excellent cybersecurity resources and innovative systems, and an excellent place for cybersecurity professionals to pursue advanced education.

Here’s what Georgia has done in recent years to enhance the state’s cybersecurity empire:

  • In 2015, Georgia Tech formed a new cybersecurity institute, The Institute for Information Security and Privacy, bringing together 200 researchers from 4 different colleges. In the same year, the institute became a leader in the educational sphere by becoming the first academic institution to join the Messaging, Malware and Mobile Anti-Abuse Working Group.
  • In 2016, The Technology Association of Georgia formed a new trade group in Atlanta, the National Technology Security Coalition, to help in the fight of digital disruption of US companies (Government Technology, 2016).
  • In 2016, Georgia Governor Deal signed a proclamation to make May 18th “Business Cybersecurity Day” in order to promote awareness of the necessity of cybersecurity (Metro Atlanta CEO, 2016).

There’s never been a better time to be a cybersecurity specialist seeking employment in Georgia. A 2015 report by Burning Glass Technologies revealed that the cybersecurity job market in the state grew by a staggering 121% from 2010 to 2014, culminating in an enormous influx of jobs in 2015, when Atlanta was named the top city for cybersecurity job postings. The US Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that information security analysts in Georgia make an average annual wage of $87,470. According to the Augusta Chronicle in 2015, “Jobs are so critical that cybersecurity salaries in Georgia earn a $15,000 premium above the already hefty pay in the rest of the information-technology field.”

In addition, Atlanta’s corporate cybersecurity market accounts for 25 percent of the global security revenue market, adding up to about $4.7 billion. The state is home to 115 cyber companies, and Georgia is considered a top-five state in information technology in the financial services, health care, and security industries (Government Tech, 2016). Master’s-prepared cybersecurity specialists in Georgia have the opportunity to work in finance and banking, health care, cybersecurity firms, retail chains, nonprofits, or tech startups, and with such a booming cybersecurity industry, there is no shortage of opportunities for master’s-prepared professionals.

Earning a Cybersecurity Master’s Degree or Graduate Certificate in Georgia

Georgia is home 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 confer advanced degrees in information security and cyber defense:

  • 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. Many professionals choose to pursue online degrees because of the variety of program options and the flexibility these programs provide. Online curriculum is made up of problem modules, virtual simulations of cyber threats and threat mitigation, and discussions among professors and students.

In lieu of a master’s degree, IT professionals interested in gaining more advanced training may also pursue a post-bachelor’s certificate. Certificate programs are typically 15 credits long and focus on malware analysis, fundamentals of cyber systems, penetration testing, risk management, digital forensics, and big data analytics.

Standard Admissions Requirements for Cybersecurity Master’s Programs

In order to apply to a cybersecurity master’s program, students must be prepared with an excellent education history, high GRE scores, and prior knowledge of basic programming languages and applied mathematics.

Minimum requirements for admission include:

  • Bachelor’s degree in a related discipline
  • One year of calculus and 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.

Admission departments look for the following scores:

  • Verbal score of 150 or higher
  • Quantitative score of 155 or higher
  • Analytical score of 650 or higher 

Core Course, Electives and Program Objectives

NSA and DHS designated cybersecurity programs follow a standard curriculum. While courses may vary slightly from program to program, core coursework will typically include:

  • Data Communications
  • Wireless and Computer Networks
  • Information Assurance
  • Distributed Systems
  • Server-Coded Computing
  • Algorithm Design Analysis
  • Computer Forensics

Elective topics may include the following:

  • Artificial Intelligence
  • Threat Management and Intel
  • Current Trends in Cybersecurity
  • Cloud Computing
  • Operating Systems Design

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 National Centers of Academic Excellence in Georgia

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:

Augusta University, Cyber Institute

  • Master in Information Security Management

Columbus State University, Center for Cyber Defense Education

  • Master of Science in Applied Computer Science – Information Assurance

Kennesaw State University, Coles College of Business, Center for Information Security

  • Master of Science in Information Systems
  • Graduate Certificate in Information Security

Additionally, Georgia Institute of Technology, Institute for Information Security and Privacy holds the esteemed NSA/DHS Center of Academic Excellence in Cyber Defense Research (CAE-R) designation and offers:

  • Master of Science in Information Security
  • Cyber Security Certificate

Opportunities Available to Master’s-Prepared Cybersecurity Analysts and Specialists in Georgia

Georgia is an excellent state for cybersecurity professionals seeking employment. With a cybersecurity job market that has grown immensely over the past few years, businesses throughout almost every industry are in need of qualified cybersecurity teams to protect sensitive data and architect secure systems.

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 Georgia, and are shown for illustrative purposes only.

Senior Security Engineer–Equifax in Alpharetta, GA

Requirements:           

  • Bachelor’s degree in a related discipline at minimum; master’s preferred
  • 3-5 years of experience in a cybersecurity position

Responsibilities:

  • Provide security systems engineering and architecture
  • Monitor and review systems events
  • Produce documentation for IT events

Cyber Threat Intel Analyst—Coca Cola Company in Atlanta

Requirements:

  • Bachelor’s degree in a related discipline at minimum; master’s preferred
  • CISSP certification preferred

Responsibilities:

  • Collect and analyze security intelligence data
  • Create communications and bulletins relevant to threats and exploit techniques
  • Develop use cases and identification frameworks

Senior Information Systems Security Analyst—Lockheed Martin in Marietta, GA

Requirements:

  • Bachelor’s degree in a related discipline at minimum; master’s preferred
  • CISSP certification preferred

Responsibilities:

  • Evaluate IT security mechanisms
  • Conform processes to industry and government standards
  • Review auditing logs and monitoring tools
  • Interface with internal and external entities
  • Architect secure tools to protect networks and systems

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