Online Cybersecurity Master’s Degree Available in Illinois

“By increasing community cyber security awareness and resilience, we will enhance the protection and recovery of our critical information systems.”

-Rafael Diaz, chairman of the ITTF Cyber Security Committee in Illinois (Illinois.gov, 2012).

Illinois’ tech market has been steadily growing over recent years, with a cybersecurity job market that has leapt 163% from 2010-2014, according to a 2015 report by Burning Glass Technologies. Many of the state’s cybersecurity jobs are concentrated in Chicago, which is home to many cybersecurity firms and large corporations which staff cybersecurity teams. In 2015, Chicago was actually fifth on a list of the 25 top cities for cybersecurity job openings (Burning Glass Technologies.) However, Chicago isn’t the only place in Illinois with cyber resources. Illinois State University in Normal is home to the Center for Information Assurance and Security Education, a resource for students and professionals alike.

Here’s how Illinois’ cybersecurity industry has grown over the past several years:

  • Launched in 2011, the Central Illinois High School Cyber Defense Competition allows high schoolers to learn valuable ethical hacking skills and is expected to create interest in the cybersecurity field in the state.
  • In 2012, the Illinois Emergency Management Agency was awarded a one million dollar grant to develop a cyber security training initiative for incident responders in both the public and private sectors.
  • In 2015, the University of Illinois received a $28-million-dollar award for a five-year initiative to develop cyber-resilient energy delivery systems for the electric grid and oil and gas industry through the Cyber Resilient Energy Delivery Consortium, a collaboration of universities and laboratories (Transmission & Distribution, 2015).
  • In 2015, The Leadership Council Southwestern Illinois launched the Midwest Cyber Center of Excellence, a non-profit to assist the cybersecurity industry in military, finance, healthcare, and government and offer cybersecurity certifications.
  • In 2015, the Illinois National Guard created a new cybersecurity squadron in order to help the guard defend against cyber-attacks.

Cybersecurity analysts and specialists in Illinois have the opportunity to work for companies such as Chicago-based Uptake, a data analytics firm best known for its work with construction giant Caterpillar, Inc. Uptake has built complex systems that allow Caterpillar to store and protect client information. Illinois cybersecurity specialists may also work for companies such as cybersecurity solutions provider Nexus, Inc., also based in Chicago, or Prescient Edge, a security service company.

According to a 2015 report by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Illinois information security analysts can expect to make an average annual wage of $90,130. Master’s-prepared cybersecurity analysts are prepared to earn an even higher wage, as well as fill senior roles within cybersecurity teams.

Earning a Master’s Degree or Post-Bachelor’s Certificate in Cybersecurity in Illinois

Graduates of cybersecurity master’s programs will have a thorough understanding of how to architect secure networks and systems and update existing systems. Students will study policies and ethics of hacking and understand how to safely conduct penetration testing and risk assessment. Through database management, system administration, and threat intel, courses, graduates will learn about current trends in cybersecurity and their applications in real-world situations.

Both online and traditional master’s programs are made up of approximately 30 credits, with 15 credits of core classes and 15 credits focusing on electives.

Rather than a master’s degree, some cybersecurity professionals choose to pursue a post-bachelor’s certificate, a 15 credit program which trains students in network security and management, current operating systems and programming languages, malware analysis and threat intel.

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

Minimum requirements 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 expect the following scores:

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

Core Courses and Electives 

Core coursework will typically include:

  • Computer and Network Security
  • Database Design and Programming
  • Algorithms and Analysis of Algorithms
  • Applied Cryptography
  • Computer Forensics
  • Cyber Policy, Ethics and Law

Elective topics may include:

  • Cloud and Internet Law
  • Cybersecurity and Terrorism
  • Malware Threat Analysis
  • Website Design and Management
  • Disaster Recovery

NSA and DHS Designated National Centers of Academic Excellence in Illinois

The National Security Agency and Department of Homeland Security offer designations specific to two classifications of schools that offer graduate programs in 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)

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:

DePaul University

  • Master of Science in Computer, Information, and Network Security

Illinois Institute of Technology, Center for Cybersecurity and Forensics Education

  • Master of Science in Cyber Forensics and Security
  • Certificate in Cybersecurity Management
  • Certificate in Cybersecurity Technologies
  • Certificate in Information Security an Assurance

Illinois State University, Center for Information Assurance and Security Education

  • Master of Science in Information Systems/Security
  • Information Assurance and Security Certificate

Lewis University, Department of Computer and Mathematical Sciences

  • Master of Science in Information Security

University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, Cyber Security Scholars Program holds the NSA/DHS National Center of Academic Excellence in Cyber Defense Research (CAE-R) designation and offers:

  • Computer Security Certificate

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

Although the tech scene in Illinois is highly concentrated in Chicago, there are opportunities for cybersecurity specialists all throughout the state. Illinois has experienced extreme job growth in the cybersecurity sphere in recent years, and almost every industry, from retail and manufacturing to finance and banking to insurance and healthcare have the need of qualified cybersecurity professionals to protect sensitive information.

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 Illinois, and are shown for illustrative purposes only.

Cyber Security Engineer—RK Management Consultants, Inc. in Chicago

Requirements:

  • Bachelor’s degree in a related field required; master’s preferred
  • 3-10 years of cybersecurity experience

Responsibilities:

  • Provide malware analysis to clients
  • Develop training initiatives on security threats
  • Develop malware analysis tools
  • Track indicators of compromise and threat
  • Perform static and dynamic program analysis of binary executables

Data Loss Prevention Analyst—Make Corporation in Oak Brook, IL

Requirements:

  • 2-5 years of experience in a related position
  • Bachelor’s degree in information security or a similar field at minimum; master’s preferred

Responsibilities:

  • Review incidents and identify threatening trends
  • Use existing technologies to protect data
  • Identify remediation of misconfigurations
  • Create metrics, policies and procedures
  • Provide review and documentation

Cyber Defense Professional—Motorola Solutions in Schaumburg

Requirements:

  • Bachelor’s degree in a related field at minimum; master’s preferred
  • 5-10 years of experience in cybersecurity

Responsibilities:

  • Lead detection and response efforts to address cybercrime and espionage
  • Perform aggregation, normalization, and processing of network traffic
  • Perform risk assessments and penetration testing
  • Assess and deploy emerging IT technologies

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