Good news for information security professionals in Massachusetts: the state is an ideal place for cybersecurity specialists seeking advanced education and a fulfilling career. The state boasts some of the country’s most state-of-the-art security teams—a 2015 Silicon Valley report claimed that Massachusetts is home to 35 of “the world’s most innovative cybersecurity firms”—and Boston is ranked seventh on Burning Glass Technologies’ 2015 list of US cities with the highest number of cybersecurity job postings. Cybersecurity specialists in Massachusetts have the opportunity to work with some of the greatest technical minds in the field, and it seems there is no shortage of opportunities.
Massachusetts has excelled in the information security sector for several years. In 2013, the Boston Globe reported that Massachusetts’s network of cybersecurity professionals was the second most skilled in the nation. In the wake of recent cyberattacks on big name companies—Target, Staples, and J.P Morgan, to name a few—the demand for highly skilled cybersecurity analysts is higher than ever. In 2016, The Boston Business Journal reported that 50% of all companies they surveyed throughout six major markets in the state had experienced extreme cyberattacks. This number has continued to increase as almost all sensitive data in both the public and private sectors is now stored in virtual locations.
In 2015, The Boston Business Journal named RSA the largest cybersecurity company in Massachusetts. Arthur W. Coviello Jr., retired executive chairman of the company, was quoted by Survive and Thrive Boston as saying, “[Cybersecurity] is a place where we have a critical skills shortage. That’s why I’m so enthusiastic and so encouraging of all of these programs that are developing across the country at colleges and universities training the next generation of cyber warriors.” In addition to RSA, the Boston area is home to other well-known cybersecurity firms, including defense contractor Raytheon and Sqrrl, a security intelligence company.
Master’s-prepared cybersecurity professionals in Massachusetts may choose to work for big names such as RSA and Raytheon, which employ a large base of cybersecurity specialists to architect, engineer, and protect secure systems. Information security professionals may also seek employment in the public sector by providing defense of government systems, state-run websites, and information such as government background checks. Smaller companies also hire cybersecurity professionals in the interest of protecting the companies’ digital assets.
Wherever Massachusetts-based cyber security specialists choose to work, the job market in the state is booming and the future looks promising. A 2015 BLS analysis reported that information security analysts in the state make an average of $94,190 annually, and the earning potential for professionals with master’s degrees is even higher. In the same year, Burning Glass Technologies reported that the cybersecurity job market in Massachusetts grew by 92% from 2010-2014, and the state is still hungry for qualified “cyber warriors.”
Earning a Cybersecurity Master’s Degree or Graduate Certificate in Massachusetts
Graduate programs in cybersecurity seek to produce graduates familiar with programming languages, database structures and the engineering of secure systems who are capable of defending integral infrastructures. In addition, graduates will be well-versed in system protection techniques, malware detection, system assurance and risk assessment.
There is no shortage of in-state cybersecurity graduate programs in Massachusetts designated by the National Security Agency (NSA) and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) as Centers of Academic Excellence. Still, many elect to pursue designated online programs for the greater level of flexibility and program options they offer.
The NSA and DHS offer designations for two classifications of schools that offer graduate programs:
- CAE-CDE – National Center of Academic Excellence in Cyber Defense Education (qualifying colleges and universities offering bachelor’s, master’s, and graduate certificates)
- CAE-R – National Center 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)
Another option for IT professionals seeking advanced education is a post-bachelor’s certificate. All designated schools in Massachusetts offer post-bachelor’s certificates, and select designated universities also offer online certificate programs.
Standard Admissions Requirements for Cybersecurity Master’s Programs
Master’s programs in cybersecurity require candidates to demonstrate an excellent educational history, high GRE scores, and knowledge of relevant material, including advanced mathematics, data structures, and programming languages.
Minimum requirements typically include:
- Bachelor’s degree in a related discipline, such as computer science, engineering, or applied mathematics.
- Minimum 3.0 GPA in bachelor’s coursework
The requirement for entrance exams may be waived for those with a high GPA in undergraduate studies.
When required, admissions departments look for the following scores:
- GRE verbal score of 150 or higher
- GRE quantitative score of 155 or higher
- GRE analytical score of 650 or higher
In addition, applicants must be required to enter into programs that build on the foundations of mathematics and programming. Admissions departments expect applicants to possess the following skills:
- One year of calculus and one mathematics course beyond calculus: discrete mathematics, linear algebra, or differential equations
- A Java or C++ programming course
Core Courses, Electives and Program Objectives
NSA and DHS designated cybersecurity programs must follow standard core requirements for cybersecurity programs. Designated schools will cover the following topics within core courses:
- Algorithms and Analysis of Algorithms
- Operating Systems
- Network Security
- Cyber Law and Ethics
- Cyberspace Technology and Applications
- Software Vulnerabilities and Security
Electives may include the following:
- Digital Forensics and Investigations
- Managing Information Security
- Directed Study in Cryptography
- Discrete Structures
- Terrorism and International Crime
NSA and DHS National Centers of Academic Excellence in Massachusetts
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:
Boston University, Department of Computer Science (Also holds the NSA/DHS National Center of Academic Excellence in Cyber Defense Research (CAE-R) designation.)
- Master of Science in Computer Engineering, specialization in Cybersecurity
- Master of Science in Computer Science, specialization in Cybersecurity
- Graduate Certificate in Information Security
Northeastern University, Information Assurance and Cybersecurity (Also holds the NSA/DHS National Center of Academic Excellence in Cyber Defense Research (CAE-R) designation.)
- Master of Science in Information Assurance
- Graduate Certificate in Information Security Management
Additionally, the following schools hold the NSA/DHS Center of Academic Excellence in Cyber Defense Research (CAE-R) designation:
Worcester Polytechnic Institute, Cybersecurity
- S. in Computer Science—Specialization in Security
- Graduate Certificate in Cybersecurity
- Information Security Graduate Certificate
University of Massachusetts, Lowell
- Master of Science in Security Studies: Cybersecurity
Career Opportunities for Master’s-Prepared Cybersecurity Specialists in Massachusetts
Master’s-prepared cybersecurity specialists possess a critical group of skills, including the ability to architect computer system security and implement safe network practices when planning security strategies, threat mitigation, and cyber law and policy. Home to some of the country’s most innovative information security firms, Massachusetts is hungry for skilled specialists well-versed in the current trends of cybersecurity.
The following job opportunities, sourced in May 2016, are shown for illustrative purposes only and are not meant to guarantee employment. These vacancy announcements represent the types of opportunities that may be available to master’s-prepared cybersecurity professionals in Massachusetts.
Cybersecurity Solutions Engineer–Solidus in Lexington
- Bachelor’s degree required; master’s degree preferred
- At least five years of experience in the information technology field
- Monitor and control company’s information
- Gather requirements, develop and test possible solutions
- Act according to standard operating instructions and create maintenance documentation
Network Cyber Security Technologist—MIT Lincoln Laboratory in Lexington
- Master’s degree in computer science, computer engineering or related field
- Enables DoD, IC, and government operations within the cyber domain
- Research and develop novel techniques and toolkits for the detection of threats
Cybersecurity Engineer—Applied Memetics LLC in Braintree
- Bachelor’s degree in related field at minimum; master’s preferred
- 10 years of experience
- Uses cyber security tools, network topologies, and intrusion detection to monitor company data
- Engineers solutions to possible threats and provides remediation services
- Implements cyber security regulations